Wild Pizza Sandwich Cake: Foraging As A Lens
Foraging wild foods is so much more than a hobby for me. It is a lifestyle, a way of thinking, a deeper connection to my landscape, and a lens for bountiful thinking.
When I’m in the woods, I notice the wild proliferation of edible plants that fills the landscape and draws me in further. It’s easy to notice the spruce tips, the wild roses, the chanterelles, and the huckleberries. But even in the city my perspective has changed. Going on walks through my neighborhood, I notice the big spires of yucca flowers and picture the marinated petals waiting for me in my fridge. I see huge banks of landscaped lavender and picture one of my favorite chocolate cakes, one with just a hint of lavender. I watch people weed out purslane and toss it aside, not knowing how delicious and nutritious it is, especially in the dry heat of summer! Sometimes, that “foragers mindset” means I have to remind myself that I can’t just go wandering into someone’s yard to pluck violets. But mostly, it gives me a pleasant sense of gratitude for just how much bounty surrounds me, bounty that others don’t necessarily notice in the same way I do.
When I first began foraging, I had no concept of just how many gifts this hobby would give me. I couldn’t imagine the proliferation of wild plants that I now recognize and delight in. I didn’t picture just how many gorgeous landscapes I would walk through in the pursuit of something tasty. And I definitely didn’t realize that foraging would gift me with a lens of plentiful gratitude to view the world through, no matter where I live!
In the warmer days of summer, it can be a little bit more challenging to find wild edibles than the proliferation that spring brings or the autumnal harvest season provides. It is the time of berries and herbs now, of culinary experiments and curious new flavor pairings.
Wild Pizza Sandwich Cake:
Four words that seem to have been plucked out of a hat at random. I promise there’s some logic behind them, though. When I first learned of the savory sandwich cakes (“Smörgåstårta”) that are popular in Scandinavia, I was completely enchanted. These savory cakes are just as pretty as the sweet counterparts. Layers of hearty bread hold fillings like smoked salmon, garden vegetables, egg salad, and seafood spreads. They are “frosted” in cream cheese and then decorated with more vegetables or salmon. What a pretty sight they are at a gathering or picnic!
I knew immediately that I wanted to make my own customized version of these savory treats, but I struggled to think what wild flavors are available in the middle of the summer here in the Pacific Northwest. Then, on one of my open-eyed walks through the neighborhood, I started noticing all of the fragrant bee balm, which is also known as ‘wild bergamot.’ It’s a popular landscaping plant for its showy lavender or red pom-pom blossoms and penchant to attract pollinators, but it’s also delicious as a wild flavoring, similar to oregano. Whether you find yours in the wilds of the Northwest or plant it in your own garden, I think you will appreciate just how tasty this plant can be! (The local bees will appreciate it too.)
While bee balm’s peppery, oregano-like flavor doesn’t really present itself as a good counterpart to smoked salmon, it’s pretty killer in pizza sauce (especially when paired with wild fennel!) And who said you can’t make pizza cake, anyways? Rules are made to be broken. We’re looking through that lens of bounty, after all. Layers of bee balm pizza sauce and wild greens pesto are accented by your choice of pizza toppings - I went with pepperoni and olives with some veggies for crunch. Then all of this is layered between slices of bread and decorated with herb-infused cream cheese. A slice holds all the delightful flavors of summer, without the heat of hot pizza. And it’s pretty.
Wild greens pesto
1 cup wild greens (such as purslane, lamb’s quarters, young mallow leaves, or wild mustard)
1 c. fresh basil
¼ c. finely-chopped shallots
½ c. pine nuts or chopped walnuts
1/3 c. olive oil
Juice from ½ lemon
½ c. grated parmesan or pecorino romano, optional
Rinse and pat dry the greens and herbs and put them in a food processor with the shallots, pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Pulse until it’s broken down into a green paste with some small chunks.
Add the optional grated cheese and pulse again to combine. Set aside.
Bee Balm Pizza Sauce
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
3 Tbs. fresh bee balm, finely chopped
1 Tbs. wild fennel, finely chopped
½ Tbs. garlic salt
½ Tbs. sugar
Mix everything together and let sit, covered, for at least half an hour to let the flavors meld. (Since the cake is prepared the night before, it will have a chance to further blend overnight.)
Loosely based on this King Arthur Recipe. This bread is extra hearty, thanks to the addition of flour made from curly dock seed heads. It gives the bread a whole wheat sort of texture, plus contributes added fiber and nutrients. You’ll need a tall 8” pan to make this recipe; I used parchment paper folded over a couple of times to form taller walls around the outside of my pan and that worked wonderfully.
2 ⅓ c. unbleached bread flour
½ c. curly dock seed flour (or whole wheat flour)
2 Tbs. potato flour
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Sugar
¼ tsp baking soda
2 ½ tsp. Yeast
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large egg
1 3/4 c. - 2 c. lukewarm water
Lightly grease an 8” pan that’s at least 3 ½” tall. (Or use a souffle dish.)
Add the flour, curly dock flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl) and stir until evenly mixed.
Add the egg, oil, and water and beat on medium speed with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 5 minutes.
Scoop the dough into the prepared pan. The dough will be sticky. Wet your hands and smooth the top of the dough to make it even in the pan.
Cover and allow to rise for about 1 hour, or until the top is just level with the pan. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F.
Bake for 15 minutes, then cover the top with aluminum foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes.
Let the bread cool for about 5 minutes, then run a butter knife around the edges and turn it out onto a rack to cool completely.
Once the bread is completely cooled, carefully slice the domed top to create a flat surface. Remove the crust from the outside of the bread, then slice horizonally into 4 layers.
Garlic Cream Cheese “frosting”:
You’ll need to make 2 batches of this frosting to have enough for the layers inside and the crumb coat, and then to frost and decorate more after filling. You can either make one batch to do the fillings and crumb coat and then mix the other batch later so that it’s fresh to frost the cake (for example, if you chill it in the fridge overnight) OR you can double the ingredients below and set some aside at room temperature while you chill your cake for 2 hours or so.
1 lb cream cheese, at room temperature
½ c. sour cream or yogurt
1 tsp. Garlic Salt
1 ½ tsp. Turmeric (or other colors)
Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix well until smooth and consistent.
Toppings and assembly:
This is really up to your own tastes! Plan to get roughly the same amount of ingredients as you would get for a large pizza. It’s also good to incorporate crunchy things like radishes and bell peppers in each layer to avoid the monotony of softness. You’ll also want to avoid sogginess by keeping wet vegetables like tomatoes or lettuce out of the cake. Here are the layers I used:
Spread top of the bottom layer with a thin coat of the “frosting”.
Add in order:
¾ c. grated or sliced mozzarella cheese
⅓ of the tomato sauce
2 green onions, sliced
4 mini bell peppers, sliced
Spread the bottom of the next layer with the cream cheese icing and place on top of the first layer. Then frost the top lightly.
Cover with a full layer of pepperoni
Spread on most of the pesto
Lay down sliced olives and radishes.
Put a couple extra dabs of pesto on top
Lay down another layer of pepperoni
Continue this process to do one more red sauce, cheese, green onion, and pepper layer, remembering to put a thin coating on both the top and bottom of each bread slice (this keeps things from getting too soggy.) Do a rough “crumb coat” with the remaining frosting, then leave in the fridge to chill and set up for at least 2 hours.
Once the cake has chilled and set up, you can finish frosting it with the remaining frosting. Use a large star tip to create rosettes, if designed. Decorate and garnish with savory herbs or vegetables of choice! I used parsley leaves and bee balm blossoms.
Love what you’ve read here? Don’t forget to Subscribe to get frequent updates of new posts!
Huge thanks to my Patrons that make sharing all of these lovely posts with you possible (without all of the pop-ups and ads that make browsing other blogs so annoying). If you’re feeling generous, you too can support the wonder with a monthly contribution of your choice. Even $1 helps a lot! Your donation will help to fund this blog as well as my surprise free events and gifts for strangers. Learn more about this program at the link below:
New to foraging? Learn more about ethical and safe foraging (plus how to get started) here!