I remember when I first told my friends I had made a parsnip cake..the look of horror on their face was incredible. However, once they got over the shock of being presented with a cake that inclued a vegetable they were only used to seeing in their Sunday roast dinner, they had a try and realised that the cake was actually pretty damn good!
Everyone knows that a carrot in a cake works well, but there are plenty of other vegetables that work really well in cakes and I have some extra tips of special pairings that will help to compliment your chosen vegetable superbly.
The right vegetables work not only to add an extra level of flavour to a cake, they have the added benefit of making your cake incredibly moist, in a way that can be difficult to achieve otherwise.
Carrots in cakes
Grated carrot added to a loaf cake or round cake adds texture as well as giving you a nice moist cake. Make sure you grate the carrot up in very thin strips. Carrots are traditionally mixed with dark spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Different recipes also call for the use of liquid oils like sunflower oil rather than hard fats.
For something different try adding coconut flakes and pineapple to your carrot cake to make it a bit tropical!
My favourite carrot cake recipes include this carrot and coconut cake, and this carrot cake with marscapone icing which I adapted from a recipe I found online – the mascarpone and lime frosting really work well to compliment the sweetness of the sponge.
Parsnips in cakes
Despite their strong and distinct flavour (I actually hate roasted parsnips!), when parsnips are used in baking a cake, you can’t really taste ‘parsnip’ in the way you would expect. The winner pairing for parsnip is hands down – white chocolate. Since the parsnip is some what bitter, and white chocolate tends to be very sweet, these two work really well together in a sponge. I tried parsnip and white chocolate in little cafe in Brighton a few years ago and has a go at recreating what I has eaten. If you want to have a go as well, feel free to try my parsnip and white chocolate cake recipe here.
Courgettes in cakes
Not only do courgettes work well in a loaf cake, they also give the cake a cool organic greenish tinge. Poppy seeds work really well with courgette, and the nuttyness of the seed goes really well with the courgette. You can add your poppy seeds by simply sprinkling them over the top of the cake, mixing them into a drizzle type glaze, or adding them to the mixture before baking. Courgettes contain a lot od water, and I have always found that my loafs work best when I grate the courgettes fairly thin and squeeze out as much of the water from the courgettes as I can. Have a go at this courgette loaf from bakingmad.com, but swap the pecans for poppies
Beetroot in cakes
This lush dark root veg goes perfectly with dark chocolate to make super rich, velvety sweet bakes. As with all of the other veggies, the addition of beetroot makes your bakes super moist, and had the added benefit of colouring a light sponge deep purple without having to use and nasty colouring. One of my favourite beet cake recipes is from good old Martha Stuart, and in this recipe she makes a beetroot puree rather than grated beets, meaning your baked sponge is lovely and smooth.
I like to add beetroot to cupcakes for the classic red velvet cupcakes which go perfectly with my creamy vanilla icing.
We all know that pumpkin works wonderfully in the traditional American pumpkin pie, but adding this Halloween vegetable to a traditional sponge can also be a winner. Pumpkin goes well with dark spices like nutmeg, mixed spice and cinnamon.
Using puréed pumpkin in a cake also means you don’t have to use as much flour or as many eggs so the result is a much lighter and ‘healthier’ sponge. Have a go at this deliciously light frosted pumpkin tray bake
Okay, so Kale in a cake sounds pretty weird and when I first came across a cake recipe using Kale I couldn’t imagine how it would actually taste any good…which is why I decided to have a go at making it!
Adding Kale to a cake has the same effect as the other veggies, it makes the sponge lovely and moist. The deep green colour of the kale also turns the sponge a lovely grassy green colour which might put some off, but I think it makes the cake look rather cool! Check out Kate Hackworthy’s recipe for Kale Cake, or just so as I did and stick a load of de-stalked kale leaves into your sponge mix and watch the magic happen!