It was a glut of courgettes that did it – tipped me over the edge into reckless recipe researching. In a desperate attempt to use them up, I made a courgette cake and, despite being an unsettling green colour, it was delicious. The cake had a really good texture - moist, but not heavy, mingling well with the added pistachios and lime and cream cheese frosting. Its place in my heart was confirmed when one particular courgette despiser in the family asked for another piece.
So, inspired by the thought that if they would eat one cake made from veg, they might eat more, I started experimenting with lots of other unlikely sounding, but delicious tasting combinations. Roots and fruits work well, as they're naturally sweeter and have a much better texture than something like cabbage and, after all, eating cake should be a treat, not a test of nerve. You do have to add other flavours to help them along, too.
Ingredients like ginger and cinnamon, citrus or chocolate work well. Using vegetables in cakes has been a revelation that has completely transformed my baking. In fact, I seldom bake a cake now without a vegetable lurking in it somewhere.
The addition of beetroot to my standard brownie recipe has made them even fudgier somehow and without the cloying texture that you sometimes get in such a dense cake.
Pre-heat oven to 180C, (fan 160C, gas 4). Line a 20cm x 30cm cake tin with baking parchment. Melt chocolate and then butter, either in a bowl over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave (approx 2 mins), mix and allow to cool slightly. Beat eggs and sugar together. Grate beetroot finely (cooked or raw – it seems to make little difference). Beetroot bleeds its juices copiously – your hands will look like you've just murdered someone, so wash them quickly or wear rubber gloves! Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, then pour into the lined tin and bake in the oven for approx 30 mins. Cooking time is crucial with brownies – you don't want to over cook them, so check after 25 mins, as they need to be only just cooked – a little gooey in the centre is good.
If you're landed with the innards of a Halloween pumpkin, this is an impressive way to use up the pulp (but it's worth growing/buying a pumpkin specifically for the recipe too!). It is quite tricky to get the sponge to roll into shape - unless you make the texture of the cake really springy, but then it tastes like a bathroom sponge. So if it goes a little awry (as mine always does), just hide any cracks with a liberal covering of icing sugar and decorations...
Line a Swiss roll tin with baking parchment and pre-heat the oven to 180C (160C fan, gas 4). Whisk together eggs and sugar, then gently combine with other ingredients and pour into the shallow tin. Bake for 20 minutes until just springy to the touch. Mix together pumpkin pulp and dulce de leche. Whip cream until stiff, but spreadable. Lay out a sheet of baking paper and sprinkle with icing sugar (to stop any sticking), then invert the sponge onto the baking sheet and peel off the layer of baking paper from the baking tin. Spread toffee sauce over the sponge base followed by a layer of cream. Then take your life in your hands, a deep breath and roll it up. The icing sugar sprinkled on the parchment will stop it from cracking – sprinkle on some more, if needed, and decorate.