Food & Drink

A Sweet Spring Cake with a Surprising Secret

The Kentucky chef Sara Bradley’s veggie-infused dessert

Photo: Courtesy of Freight House

Oftentimes, the best desserts require just a touch of something savory to balance out the sweet: sea salt sprinkled on a warm chocolate chip cookie, French fries dipped in a milkshake, chicken and waffles drizzled with maple syrup. That’s the kind of harmony Sara Bradley and her mother, pastry chef Bebe Bradley, of Paducah, Kentucky’s Freight House aimed for with their springtime sweet pea cake, a delicate blend of sugar, vanilla, lemon—and English peas. 

“There’s actually not a ton of vegetal flavor to it,” Bradley says. “The pureed peas give the cake a nice sweetness and beautiful color.” Bradley also utilizes both butter (to enhance the texture) and oil (to keep the cake moist). The key, though, is to not mix the batter too much. “Cake is the exact opposite of bread,” she says. “You don’t want it to develop gluten or it will be too dense and won’t rise.” 

Another tip Bradley extends to all her cakes: “If you want a crispy crust on a Bundt cake or pound cake, use butter and flour in the pan to keep it from sticking,” she says. “But for this cake you want a more delicate crust, so spray or use light oil. That’ll make it easier to ice.”  


  • Sweet Pea Cake with Lemon Butter Cream Icing (Yield: 3 nine-inch pans)

  • For the cake

    • 425 grams (3 cups) fresh or frozen peas

    • 300 grams (1⅓ cups) unsalted butter, softened

    • 250 grams (1¼ cups) granulated sugar

    • 5 eggs

    • 3 tsp. vanilla extract

    • 1 lemon, zest and juice

    • 375 grams (3 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted

    • 1 tbsp. baking powder

    • 1 tsp. kosher salt

  • For the icing

    • 340 grams (3 cups) unsalted butter, softened

    • 800 grams (7 cups) powdered sugar

    • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice

    • 3 tbsp. heavy cream

    • 1 tbsp. lemon zest

    • ½ tsp. kosher salt


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray the cake pans with cooking spray and dust with flour.  

  2. Boil a pot of water. Cook peas in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes or until soft. Shock peas in ice water, drain well, and blend in food processor until smooth. Set aside.

  3. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the pea puree, vanilla extract, and lemon juice and zest. 

  4. In a separate bowl, mix the sifted flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer in two batches. Scrape down the sides between each addition. 

  5. Divide the mixture between the three prepared pans. Bake for 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pans.

  6. To make the icing, use the mixer with the paddle attachment to beat the softened butter for 2-3 minutes on medium speed until creamy.  

  7. Add the powdered sugar, lemon juice, heavy cream, zest, and salt while the mixer is running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Ice cake.