It’s courgette season, and our garden produced so many this year that for a while we seemed to be eating them at every meal. Although we’re at the tail end of the glut now, I thought I’d experiment with ways to use up the healthy vegetable while they’re still in season. After all, there’s only so many times you can add it to pasta.
Although it isn’t a novel idea to add courgette to baked goods like cakes, loaves and brownies, it’s not something I’d ever tried before. Much as I love vegetables and advocate eating them in abundance, I’m not a fan of them sneaking in where they’re not welcome. In my experience, ‘healthy’ cake made with things like sweet potato/ beetroot/ spinach/ [insert vegetable here] just don’t taste right and the only people who think they do are those who haven’t eaten proper cake in a decade. Baked goods are never going to be superfoods, so if you’re going to indulge it should at least taste nice.
The one exception, however, is carrot cake; everyone likes carrot cake. Somehow, it just works. So I thought I’d be brave with the courgette, remodelling a Hummingbird Bakery recipe to make it a little more wholesome (and vegan friendly) and I’m pleased to repot that it operates far more according to the carrot cake model than the sweet potato brownie model — i.e., the courgette flavour is undetectable and it just contributes to making a beautifully moist, delicately spiced cake. I’m pleased to report that everyone who tried it loved it, and no one came close to guessing what was in it.
As for the icing, you should feel free to make a regular buttercream if you prefer. I wanted to keep it whole-foods based, and found that the whipped coconut cream worked perfectly. The cinnamon and vanilla masks the coconut flavour, and just gives a really nice sweet creaminess to balance against the moist sponge.
For the cake:
- 3 tbsp ground flaxseeds + 9 tbsp water
- 300ml neutral flavoured oil e.g. sunflower oil, melted refined coconut oil
- 300g coconut sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 300g wholegrain spelt flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 300g peeled and grated courgettes
- 100g walnuts, roughly chopped, plus more to decorate
For the icing:
- 3 x 400g tins of full-fat coconut milk
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 1 vanilla pod, deseeded
- Mix together the flaxseed with the water in a small bowl and leave to gel up for 5-10 minutes. Put the tins of coconut milk in the fridge to chill.
- Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C (150 fan) and grease three 8inch cake tins with coconut oil.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, and the spices.
- In a separate bowl, beat together the flaxseed mix, oil, sugar and vanilla. Slowly incorporate the flour mix. Lastly, stir in the grated courgette and chopped walnuts.
- Divide the batter evenly between the three cake tins and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden on top and springy to the touch. Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool for ten minutes before removing from tins and transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once the cakes are cool, make the icing. Remove the tins of coconut milk from the fridge, and spoon out the solid coconut cream. Transfer the cream to a bowl and beat with electric mixers until it is totally whipped and holding soft peaks. Be patient, this could take 10 minutes or so.
- Add in the seeds from the scraped out vanilla pod, the cinnamon and the maple syrup, and beat again for a minute or so until incorporated.
- Spoon a third of the icing onto each section of cake and spread, then layer up the cakes and decorate the top as desired.