I secretly love vegetable cakes. This is a secret as often when you discuss courgette and lime cake or simple carrot you are greeted by groans and grumbles. “Why cant you just have a normal cake? What is wrong with butter, sugar, eggs and flour? ” Blah, blah, blah. Blah for bland. Courgette and lime did end up as our best seller during my summer at the tearoom but as a waitress you would constantly battle with the customer, pleading for them to try it – “I promise it is delicious, really truly yummy!… Oh. Whats that? Victoria Sponge? Yes I will get that for you right away…” Que dragging of feet and career as sales woman ruined. The people that did brave it however we always pleasantly surprised. They would taste tentatively before wolfing the lot leaving only lime curd or cream cheese icing stuck on their lips. The benefit of adding vegetables into cakes is not only their moistness but they also provide a much sweeter and earthier flavour. When vegetables are cooked at a fairly low heat the natural sugars, no matter how little there is, comes out and enhances everything. There is not one meal that cant be improved by a side of caramelized roasted vegetables whether that is honeyed carrots and parsnips, rosemary hasslebacks or crispy shallots. When veg is cooked low and slow you know your are on to a good thing.
Beetroot and chocolate cake is currently enjoying recognition similar to carrot cake. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, particularly in brownies when you have a dense dark slab of gooeyness (technical term) with an added richness from the veg. I do however think that more and more in cafes they are getting away with using as little beetroot as possible. The result is a very dry sponge with a bitter cocoa aftertaste and not nearly enough sweetness to compensate. I even read a recipe that contained only 40g of beetroot and food colouring –FOOD COLOURING!- to acheive the deep red colour the beetroot would bring. I wanted to weep. And so I decided to give beetroot a shining role and make a sponge with no cocoa or chocolate simply the gorgeous red veg egged on with a little lemon. These are very simple to put together and I do hope they convince you to give veg a chance.
They are also perfect for mothers day! Get baking tonight and treat her to them tomorrow alongside the brunch spread you will be putting on, and the bunch of flowers you have organised and the tickets to her favourite show and fancy meal out and horse and carriage ride… I get it the pressure for mothers day is ridiculous. Make her a cup of tea, give her one of these cakes and big cuddle, do some washing. All will be well and extra points for a homemade card. BEETROOT AND LEMON CUPCAKES
For the cakes:
300g caster sugar
175ml sunflower or vegetable oil
50ml hot water
250g self raising flour
1/4 tsp salt
zest of 1 large lemon and 2 tsp juice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
300g beetroot, cooked and pureed
For the icing:
75g softened butter
150g icing sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
For the crystallized petals:
A mixture of pink and yellow edible petals, for example rose. Avoid supermarket flowers as they could have been treated with chemicals.
1 egg white
50g caster sugar
Begin by crystalizing the petals. Brush each side with a little egg white and the coat in sugar completely. Lay on a wire rack and repeat. Allow to dry out at room temperature for a minimum of an hour, but ideally overnight.
Next bake the cakes. In a bowl whisk the eggs, sugar, oil and hot water until just combined. Fold in the remaining ingrediants until smooth. Spoon into a muffin tin lined with muffin cases for large cakes or fairy cake cases for smaller one. Try and fill them as evenly as possible. Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes or until springy to touch. Allow to cool.
To make the icing beat the butter until it is really soft and fluffy, around 2-3 minutes in a stand mixer. Add the icing sugar, lemon juice and vanilla and return to the mixer for a further 3-4 minutes until really light and fluffy and almost white in colour. You can add more lemon juice to loosen it if required. Spread on the cakes and sprinkle some petals on top.