Baking Inspiration from the Garden

Kristina’s Bookshelf

Sticky Fingers, Green Thumb: Baked Sweets that Taste of Nature
By Hayley McKee
(Hardie Grant Books, 2018)

I love earthy recipes that let you pick your ingredients directly from the garden. Flowers, herbs, and edible plants abound in Hayley McKee’s cookbook, looking like they were just brought in from the yard (as they probably were). As bakery owner McKee says in her Introduction, “For me, baking and the garden are inseparable.”

Sticky Fingers, Green Thumb includes 60 inventive recipes that are lean on sugar and long on intense, infused flavor. McKee’s baked goods taste and smell like items from the garden. Even the colors come from the plants she uses. Intriguing flavors, as McKee says, create a “mysterious undertone [that] can be hard to pin down.” McKee’s Beetroot and Rose Truffle Cake, which alternates layers of chocolate cake with pink cream, is decorated with garden greenery. Burnt Orange and Smoked Lavender Almond Tea Cakes are filled with bitter, chewy orange pieces and served with a smoky side of cream. Raspberry, Orange and Basil Oil Loaf has a light crumb that shows pale green when sliced, with shades of pink throughout from the raspberries, and scents of orange peel and basil. A peach cake gets its complex flavors from sweet and sour rose petals and brown sugar. And you won’t want to pass up trying the Apple and Fennel Galettes. Each section of the book includes a handy flavor wheel and gardening tips. Cakes and sweet snacks are decorated lavishly with fresh flowers and herbs and are well-illustrated in lots of beautiful photographs. This lovely book will inspire both your gardening and baking.

Left to right: Hayley McKee’s Tea Pea Cake; Raspberry, Orange and Basil Oil Loaf; Vines Cake; and Mexican Garden Cookies. Photos courtesy of Hayley McKee and Hardie Grant Books.

Hayley McKee’s Tea Pea Cake

Matcha green tea has a bitter edge that balances beautifully with grassy garden peas. Add to them a subtle splash of tangy buttermilk and a little menthol-fresh peppermint, and the result is this creamy, robust little number. This cake is very easy to make and contains no butter—so you can get away with generous servings of the garden pea cream.

Recipe excerpted with permission from Sticky Fingers, Green Thumb by Hayley McKee, published by Hardie Grant Books March 2018, RRP $29.99.

Serves 10–12

¾ cup finely chopped peppermint leaves
¾ cup boiling water
1¾ cups caster (superfine) sugar
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons matcha green tea powder
1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons pink Himalayan salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup grapeseed oil
1 vanilla bean, split lengthways and seeds scraped
1 teaspoon almond extract
Pea tendrils and flowers to decorate


3 cups (1 pound) garden peas
3 cups whipping cream
3–4 tablespoons confectioners sugar

Preheat the oven to 345°F. Lightly grease and line a 9-inch ring (Bundt) pan with baking paper.

Add the peppermint leaves to a bowl, cover with the boiling water, and set aside to steep for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, green tea powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, and salt.

In another bowl, lightly whisk the eggs together with the buttermilk and oil to combine, then whisk in the vanilla seeds and almond extract. Slowly fold the mixed dry ingredients into the egg mixture.

Strain the peppermint leaf water, discarding the leaves, and fold the water into the cake batter. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly in the pan for 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

While the cake is cooling, make the garden pea cream. Add the peas to a blender and pulse briefly to a smooth, fine purée. In a bowl, whisk the cream to medium peaks, then fold in the pea purée. Add the confectioners sugar to taste.

Top with generous dollops of the pea cream and decorate with pea tendrils and flowers.

Note: While frozen peas are super convenient, they’ll never beat a naked pea squeezed straight from a pod. Peas are perfect for tiny patches because they grow upwards, not outwards. Pot your seedlings in a sunny spot on your balcony or in your courtyard and, once sprouted, guide the sprawl of tendrils through trellises, nets, ladders or an inventive canopy of string. Most pea varieties will grow up to 6 feet 7 inches tall, so think ahead.

Edible East Bay’s book editor Kristina Sepetys is eager to share her ideas and book recommendations with
our readers.