My spinach cake with lemon is a super simple version of le gâteau vert or green cake and it tastes delicious too. I was inspired after seeing this week’s episode of Great British Bake Off. I’ve made it with wholemeal spelt, but you can use whatever flour you prefer. The batter is made with spinach puree and the icing is coloured with spinach too. I’ve filled it with lemon ricotta and topped it with pistachios.
Kale may not be the most obvious thing to put in a cake, but as many of you will know, I’m all for adding nutritious ingredients to my bakes. Flavour and texture are massively important, but I do derive quite a bit of pleasure from a naturally colourful cake. This kale apple cake with apple icing hits the spot on all counts.
Carrot cake is one of our nation’s favourite cakes, apparently. Who would have thought something as healthy as carrots would appeal to such an extent? As I was dreaming autumn thoughts the other day, I had a sudden urge to try making carrot cake in flapjack form. It worked beautifully and these carrot cake flapjacks are just the best.
For years I’ve raged against the invasion of the very American Halloween and associated trick or treating; in the UK, we have All Hallows Eve, from which Halloween is derived. Just five days later we have our very own Guy Fawkes Night, with its pagan effigy burning associations – OK Guy Fawkes was a Catholic, but never mind. Well, finally I’ve come to the conclusion that if you can’t beat them you’d better join them and this chocolate pecan pumpkin cake seemed like a good start. In fact I had no choice; this month’s We Should Cocoa theme is Halloween.
It’s the last day of National Cupcake Week and I’m just getting in by the skin of my chinny chin chin. With the Great British Bake Off in full swing everyone seems to have gone baking mad. Home Bargains is one such and they have given me a helping hand with my cupcakes by sending a box full of baking goodies. Their brief was to create a Home Bargains showstopper.
There is no doubt about it, nettles are jam packed full of goodness and there seems no end to their health benefits. Be wary of their sting when raw by all means, but once cooked, they make an excellent spinach substitute. At a time of year when there is not a lot ready to be harvested in our gardens, plots and fields, they fill a handy gap. Some of the nicest home brew I have tasted was nettle beer. We use them to enrich our compost heap and make a tea for both ourselves and the garden. Recently I noted in a guest post by Urvashi Roe over at Fuss Free Flavours that toasted nettle seeds are good scattered over salads or even porridge. That’s a new one on me and I can’t wait for the nettles to start seeding so I can try it. Despite my love of this stinging weed, nettles were not something I had ever thought of adding to cakes. I was quite startled when I saw a recipe for nettle and lemon cake over on Veggie Desserts. I really shouldn’t have been too surprised, however. Kate incorporates all sorts of interesting vegetables into her bakes and desserts and if you haven’t yet come across her blog, I urge you to take a look.
My love of nettles and my experimental inclinations very soon got the better of me and it wasn’t long before I was having a go myself. Over Easter, I met up with some old school friends for a fabulous walk along the south Devon coast near East Prawle (just love that name). I suspected they would be intrigued rather than aghast at the thought of eating nettle cakes, so I took them along to picnic on after our walk. I sort of followed Kate’s recipe, but reduced the quantities somewhat and adapted it in order to add white chocolate. I also topped it with a mascarpone icing.
This is how I made:
Nettle, Lemon and White Chocolate Cupcakes
- Picked 100g of young nettle tops (top 4 leaves). Washed them, then simmered with a little water until they were cooked – about 5 minutes.
- Drained off any excess water and pureed with a hand blender.
- Melted 50g white chocolate in a large bowl over a pan of hot water.
- Added 150g cubed unsalted butter and 115g vanilla sugar (golden caster).
- Grated in the zest of ½ an organic lemon (reserving the other half for the icing) and creamed until light and fluffy.
- Beat in 2 duck eggs (large hens eggs) and 1 tsp vanilla extract.
- Sifted in 200g flour (half wholemeal, half white) and 1 tsp baking powder.
- Squeezed in the juice of half a lemon.
- Added the nettle puree and stirred until just combined.
- Spooned into 15 cupcake cases and baked at 180℃ for about 20 minutes when the cakes were well risen and an inserted skewer came out clean.
- Turned out onto a wire rack to cool.
- Stirred the remaining lemon zest into 125g mascarpone cheese.
- Squeezed in the remaining lemon juice.
- Sifted in 100g icing sugar and beat well.
- Spread the icing on top of the cakes.
The icing was a little on the runny side, so you might want to fiddle with the quantities. But it tasted most satisfactory as did the nettle cupcakes. There was some debate as to whether the nettles could be tasted or not, but all enjoyed them and loved the vibrant green colour. CT was aghast that anyone could fail to detect the flavour; thankfully he kept his thoughts to himself. The best bit of course, was feeling as though you were having a nutritious snack whilst tucking into a sweet indulgent treat. Maybe it was both?
As nettles were very much in season when I made these cakes and in fact still are, I am entering them into Simple and in Season with Ren Behan.
One of these cakes at least is being sent off to Emily of A Mummy Too for her #recipeoftheweek.
Spring is the time for nettles and I can’t think of a better veg to celebrate it with – well maybe I can, but it is one of my favourites. Celebrating Spring is the theme for this month’s Four Seasons Food which is being hosted by Lou of Eat Your Veg. Anneli of Delicieux hosted last month.
This was a bank holiday cake bake for taking on a picnic so qualifies for this month’s Calendar Cakes over at Dolly Bakes.
A friend recently passed on a recipe for me to chocolatify. He reckoned that not only was this cake unusual, with its inclusion of Jerusalem artichokes, but it was also possibly the best cake he’d ever made. I was intrigued. At this time of year we have no problem getting hold of this particular root vegetable as it grows, almost of its own volition, down on our plot. I adore the taste of artichokes, but do find them a real pain to clean, so I don’t use them as often as I probably should. The cake includes roasted hazelnuts and I could see how well these would work with the nutty flavour found in artichokes.
I had planned to follow the recipe as written, apart from adding chocolate and using my usual half wholemeal, half white flour mix of course, but things went a little awry. I didn’t have any raisins for a start, so had to substitute sultanas. But mostly, I didn’t read the recipe carefully enough. I ended up using a different method entirely and added all of the sugar (50g more than I should have) to the cake rather than reserving some of it for the icing – oops! I also didn’t think I needed to peel the artichokes, which I scrubbed well cutting out any bad bits.
Some time before Christmas, I was sent three lovely bags of Cacao Barry chocolate drops. This is a new range of high quality couverture chocolate they have introduced. It uses a new fermentation method which purportedly gives a more intense taste. The Q-Fermentation TM method uses natural ferments found in the plants and soil of the plantation which is said to give a purer bean with a fuller flavour. I’m looking forward to trying the chocolate out in a few sophisticated recipes where the flavour can shine through. However, I decided as there were so many lovely ingredients in this cake it would be good to use a special chocolate too. From previous experience, I’ve found that milk chocolate chips tend to work better in this type of cake as a very dark chocolate can sometimes take over rather than enhancing. The 41% Alunga milk chocolate seemed ideal. With its strong caramel notes and high cocoa content, I found it hard to stop dipping into the bag as I went along. I’m looking forward to trying the Inaya 65% and Ocoa 70% dark chocolates in due course.
This is how I made:
Jerusalem Artichoke Cake
- Added 1 tbsp brandy to a bowl filled with 120g sultanas and placed it on the heater to soak in for about an hour.
- Toasted 80g hazelnuts in a dry frying pan for a few minutes until the nuts had browned a little and the skins had loosened. Left to cool, then rubbed the nuts in a piece of kitchen towel to remove the skins. Chopped roughly.
- Grated 200g of well scrubbed and trimmed Jerusalem artichokes in food processor.
- Creamed 150g unsalted butter with 200g soft brown sugar (should have been 150g).
- Beat in the brandied sultanas.
- Beat in 3 large eggs, one by one and alternating with a little of the flour.
- Sieved in 200g flour (half wholemeal, half white), 1 level tsp baking powder, 1 scant tsp bicarbonate of soda, a large pinch of rock salt, 1 tsp cinnamon and a good grating of nutmeg (about 1/2 tsp).
- Stirred this in lightly together with the nuts and 50g chocolate drops (41% milk).
- Folded in the artichokes.
- Scraped mixture into a deep 8″ lined cake tin and baked for about 1 hour at 180°C (recipe stated 30 minutes, but mine was still almost raw at that stage) until well risen, brown and an inserted skewer came out almost clean.
- Allowed to cook in the tin for 15 minutes, then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Beat 180g cream cheese (should have been 200g, but that was all I had) with 40 light brown sugar.
- Grated in the zest of an organic lemon and squeezed in nearly half of the juice.
- Beat it all together then slathered over the top of the cake.
- Shaved some dark chocolate over the top.
I couldn’t have told you there were Jerusalem artichokes in the cake, but wow, I’m sure they added to the overall nuttiness. This cake was truly delicious: chewy, crunchy, moist and abundant. The Alunga buttons left chocolatey hotspots throughout the cake which contributed nicely to the overall richness of taste. The sharp lemony icing offset the additional sugar I added by mistake and the cake, thankfully, wasn’t too sweet at all. It was similar to a carrot cake, only, dare I say it, much nicer.
How can I put this politely? I didn’t notice any, er, unfortunate consequences to eating the Jerusalem Artichokes in this way, so it got a double thumbs up from us.
This is my offering for this month’s We Should Cocoa. Linzi over at Lancashire Food is kindly hosting and has asked us to combine an ingredient we have never used with chocolate before. I was initially going to send over the paprika and cocoa roasted cauliflower that I made earlier in the month, but in the end decided this was a more unusual and worthy entry. I can honestly say, that I have never until now, eaten Jerusalem artichokes and chocolate together.
I am also using this as my entry to Family Foodies over at Bangers & Mash. The theme this month is Hidden Goodies. These artichokes are very well hidden and I suspect few would ever guess as to what the cake contained. This challenge is co-hosted by Lou at Eat Your Veg.
Not only made from scratch, but some of it grown from scratch too, I’m sending this off to Javelin Warrior for his Made with Love Mondays.
As this is the most exciting recipe I’ve posted this week, I’m entering it into Recipe of the Week with Emily of A Mummy Too.
Once you’ve cooked up some beetroot, these soft and gooey beetroot orange brownies are a cinch to make. They taste really good with a noticeable orange flavour and they have a delightful purple hue.
Having finally got around to digging up our parsnips, we needed to start using them fast – you can see by the photograph below how huge they were, but also somewhat manky. It seemed to me that parsnips would pair well with nuts as they have their own rather nutty quality, so I wanted to use one of the nut oils that I’d recently been given. I’d fancied making a parsnip cake for years and finally I got around to it. I had a trawl through my various cook books and surprisingly enough, I found quite a few recipes. I didn’t, however, find anything that seemed right to go with chocolate, so I got my thinking cap on and came up with my own parsnip cake recipe.
This is what I did:
- Spent ages cleaning parsnips and chopping out the bad bits!
- Grated 200g of clean parsnips.
- Chopped 100g milk chocolate (G&B 35%)
- Beat 150g cardamom sugar (caster) with 3 eggs until thick and pale.
- Added a pinch of salt and 125ml walnut oil and beat some more.
- Sifted in 200g flour (half wholemeal spelt, half white), 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda.
- Folded this in together with the parsnips.
- Gently stirred in the chocolate bits.
- Scraped into a 23cm round cake mould (in retrospect should have used my 22cm one, which would have given a deeper cake).
- Baked at 180C for 36 minutes.
- Spooned 60g cardamom (caster) sugar into a jug.
- Added 3 tbsp orange liqueur.
- Stirred and poured over the hot cake.
- Left in the mould to cool completely.
The cake rose well and had a very light but moist texture. I was surprised to find I couldn’t detect the parsnip at all, either by taste or by eye. I can see why this was a good way of bulking out expensive cake ingredients in the past. The cake had a lovely nutty flavour to it, but not distinctively and definitively of walnut; the parsnips no doubt played their part. The chocolate worked well as did the orange sugar topping which was delicious, though had a certain heady alcoholic quality to it. All in all, this was not bad for a first attempt.
If truth be told, I prefer my cakes to be a bit more substantial and I’m not a huge fan of using only oil in a cake. Next time, I think I’d use half butter and half oil. That way, I’d hope to get a better texture but keep the lovely nutty flavour. However, if dairy is an issue, these nut oils make for a good substitute and of course the milk chocolate can be changed to dark or, dare I suggest it, left out all together!
I am submitting this to Ren’s lovely Simple and in Season event found at Fabulicious Food.
Update 5 March 2012 – Charlotte of Go Free Foods adapted this quite significantly and came up with a pumpkin orange & cardamom cake which looks gorgeous.
Along with the current glut of courgettes here in the UK, there seems to be a corresponding glut of courgette cake recipes. Guess what? I’m not bucking the trend. It took a while for our courgettes to get going this year, but they are now coming thick and fast. It’s courgettes for every meal at the moment so using them in a cake is merciful relief.