This week the Great British Bake Off was all about unconventional baking – using flours that are wheat- or gluten-free, and using no dairy ingredients (like butter or milk). The final round saw the contestants bake a showstopper cake that was completely dairy free and contained a vegetable. They went for butternut squash, carrot or beetroot between them.
As we had a courgette in the veg box this week, and as I’ve been meaning to bake a courgette cake for some time now, I decided that this would be a great time to do it! We also had some cooking apples given to us by one of Tom’s work colleagues who has a glut of them in her garden, so I thought I’d combine the two in a cake with some spices too.
I googled some courgette cake recipes and adapted one from BBC Good Food (I never follow a recipe exactly, and I wanted to add apple anyway). It came out very well, and actually rose more than I thought it might, given that vegetable cakes can be quite stodgy. It tastes like a fruit cake, but is lovely and moist from the grated courgette and apple. My boys all approved!
- 2 large eggs
- 125ml vegetable oil
- 85g soft brown sugar
- 1 medium courgette, grated
- 1 cooking apple, grated
- (combined weight of courgette and apple around 350-400g)
- 300g plain flour
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 150g sultanas
- Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC (fan) and prepare a cake tin (grease and line if necessary – I use a silicone mould that doesn’t need this).
- Mix the oil, sugar and eggs together in a bowl, then add the grated fruit and veg.
- In another, larger bowl, mix the flour, spices, baking powder and sultanas until evenly distributed.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until well combined.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tin/mould and bake for about an hour (vegetable cakes, according to Mary Berry herself, take longer to bake than ordinary cakes), until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and let it cool.
- Eat as fresh as possible – you can also freeze this.
This might sound a bit wacky, but I promise you it works. Baking cakes with parsnip is no different really from carrot cakes. The cupcake recipe in my calendar for this month was simply a ginger one, but I’d been meaning to have a go at parsnip cake after the success of my chocolate beetroot cake, and I thought the flavour combination of parsnip and ginger would work well. With all the chocolate hanging around at the moment (that makes it sound like the chocolate needs an ASBO – I can assure you that it doesn’t!), these provide a lighter and different alternative.
Apart from the addition of parsnip, I changed the recipe quite a bit from the calendar one: I only put a small amount of sugar in, a third of what it says on the calendar, as the parsnip adds sweetness and I wanted to make some smaller ones to be toddler-friendly as well as some big adult-sized ones with icing on; I added some stem ginger, because in my opinion, if you’re going to have ginger, you might as well have proper chunks of fiery ginger rather than just ground stuff; I used honey instead of syrup, as usual; I made a few other changes too – so it’s nothing like the original really!
The instructions on the calendar said use a cake mixer. I don’t usually bother with one when baking, unless I’m whisking egg whites (I don’t enjoy the muscle ache afterwards when I do it by hand!), mainly because I don’t have one of those super duper fancy gadgets they have on the Great British Bake Off, just a small handheld one that cost about a fiver from Wilkos when I was a student many years ago. But as the calendar put the idea into my head, I was curious to see how the cakes worked out, particularly as I was guessing it would be quite a dense, moist mixture and therefore any extra air I could beat into it would not go amiss. As I suspected, even with the aerating skills of the electric mixer, the cakes didn’t rise massively, but I like the sticky, moist texture anyway, as is often the case with carrot cakes. I would say it’s fine to use either hand or machine in this recipe – whatever mood you happen to be in.
I think that’s all I wanted to waffle on about, so here’s what you do if you want to have a go yourself. Enjoy! Tom’s verdict: de-scrump-tu-licious!
Cakes – makes 10-12 big plus 10-12 small
- 250g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 175g margarine
- 120ml milk
- 40g brown sugar
- 4 tbsp honey
- 1 large parsnip
- 50g stem ginger, plus extra for decoration
- 50g margarine
- 100g icing sugar
- splash of ginger syrup from the stem ginger jar
- Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC (fan) and prepare a muffin tin with cupcake cases and a fairy cake tin with cases.
- Grate the parsnip, and chop the stem ginger into small chunks.
- With a spoon, mix the flour and ground spices in a large bowl.
- Put all the other ingredients apart from the parsnip and stem ginger into the bowl and mix with a mixer until well combined.
- Add the parsnip and stem ginger and fold in with a spoon until evenly distributed.
- Fill the cake cases to about three quarters full.
- Bake for about 25 minutes until golden on top and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
- Meanwhile, mix the ingredients together for the icing until smooth.
- Put into a piping bag and pipe onto the cooled cakes (big ones only!) in whatever design you wish.
- Finish with a small chunk of stem ginger on top. Perfect!