I love cakes. I love baking. But even I sometimes get concerned by the many pounds of butter that literally melt into the baking vortex. I think butter is so important in the diet, but in its more “raw” form (I have just read “Cure Tooth Decay” by Ramiel Nagel. He espouses the use of Cod Liver Oil and Butter Oil: but this is a conversation for another day. Anyway, the book is Utterly Brilliant, I would strongly recommend everyone read it, it will revolutionise your life. And teeth!)
Anyway! (Before I feel a lecture coming on)
I recently bought “Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache” by Harry Eastwood. My mind has been completely blown by the premise: These recipes use no fats, just root vegetables. I was fascinated, and even more so, since the results have been outstandingly good. I made these chocolate cupcakes this week with grated carrot rather than butter, and one of my sons (who will remain nameless), who would rather hack off a limb than consider a vegetable, thought they were THE NICEST cupcakes ever tasted. And when I told him about the carrot? He had to go off and have a think, but came back and said that they were still the best and would I make more… Yes!
My beloved husband who would be teetering on the Vegetable Are To Be Feared side of the room, was enormously sceptical, but after having an apple cake made with parsnip:
(mad, I know, but pretty fabulous), the aforementioned cupcakes;
a currant cake with butternut squash and courgette and
a delectable chocolate cake with squash, he is entirely convinced.
I even made the chocolate cake the last time I was home in my parents house and everyone ate it willingly and no one realised (they are now reading this in horror: “What?! I ate what?!”) Yes, they ate chocolate cake made with butternut squash (my mother is chucking to herself saying “not I!! I knew it looked suspect!!”) (some of my family would be slow to the point of not moving where eating different food is concerned)
The only caveat is that you have to grate the veg finely, and I frankly hate grating anything. But I will persevere for the sake of my cake career
So… A recipe. I think I will share the chocolate cake here: I have made it a few times and it has been perfect every time. When I plan to make this cake, I have other recipes lined up for the rest of the butternut squash, like Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s North African Squash & Bean stew, or roast butternut squash, or spicy butternut squash soup (I use this recipe, substituting the sweet potato for the squash) as you only need 200g of squash for the cake, and my squash tend to be approximately 1kg (and I hate waste)
3 medium free-range eggs
160g caster sugar
200g peeled and finely grated butternut squash (author recommends hand grating, as in not in a food processor)
120g white rice flour (you can use plain, but rice flour makes it fluffier)
3 tbsp good- quality cocoa powder
80g ground almonds
1tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
50g unsalted butter
200g icing sugar, sieved
50 g mascarpone
4 tsp cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
Finely grate the butternut squash just before making, don’t leave it grated hanging around the kitchen as it doesn’t like that!
Preheat Ben to 180′C, 350′F, gas 4. Line the tin with baking parchment and brush a little oil over the base and sides.
Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl for a full four minutes until pale and fluffy. Beat in the grated squash, followed by the flour, cocoa powder, ground almonds, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Add the buttermilk before beating again to make sure the ingredients are well mixed together. Pour the mixture evenly into both tins, then place in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes.
Once cooked, remove from the oven, unmould, peel off parchment and let them cool down completely on a wire rack.
You can make the icing while the cake is cooking but do not ice until completely cold or the icing will melt and run off.
Beat the butter with 100g of sugar until they turn into a lovely rich paste (takes a bit of time and effort it eventually comes together.
Once you reach this stage, beat the paste vigorously to loosen the butter even further. Add mascarpone, cocoa powder and salt as well as the remaining sugar. Beat once to combine.
Refrigerate for 15 minutes, give a good beating before icing the middle and top of the cake. Decorate the top before serving.
I really urge you to buy this book, healthy and delicious (low G.I., uses ground almonds and rice flour, low sugar because the vegetables are relatively sweet, no butter or fats!) I bought mine from Kennys.ie, who ship worldwide for free, and have the most wonderful selection of unusual books to peruse (should you ever be in Galway, a visit to it is an absolute must. A day would pass quickly I can tell you!)