When I was young, the cakes in our local bakers were doughnuts, buns, macaroons, madelines, cream horns, vanilla slices, meringues and the like. When did the ubiquitous carrot cake arrive on the scene? When I say carrot cake I use the term loosely, as it can be used to cover a multitude of forms some of which I would not even think of giving to a rabbit. The only thing in common is they allegedly contain carrots. There are the very elaborate ones with a creamy cheese topping and marzipan carrots which are pretty hefty and pricey too, simpler arrangements with just icing, and plain ones. Every cafe and coffee bar seems to stock them. The ones to be avoided are the prepacked ones with a sell-by date of two month's hence; any cake (except rich fruit cake) with a sell-by date greater than a week should be avoided - it's hydrogenated fats that preserve them and gives the long shelf life.
The thought then struck me as to why only carrots should be used in cakes, what about other vegetables? After doing some research this is what I have found:
1. Parsnip. Think about it, parsnip is really only a blonde version of our ginger friend, nice and sweet and readily available. I have two recipes, one from Jane Grigson's "English Food". This is an absolute delight and well worth the effort to make when the early parsnips come in. Another recipe I have is for a Parsnip Cake with a Creamy Orange Icing. I strongly suspect that parsnips can be substituted for carrots in any existing recipe you might have.
2. Beetroot. Yes really, again a naturally sweet veg but somewhat messy. I have two recipes using beetroot, one from Riverford which is a light fruit cake using grated beetroot. NOTE: DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TRY AND USE A FOOD PROCESSOR TO GRATE THE BEETROOT. For one thing beetroot is very hard and very red: you may well damage the processor and you also run the risk of turning the kitchen and the immediate vicinity into a recreation of the set of "Sweeny Todd". I don't have a food processor, Netty does, so you can see who discovered this. The second recipe is for a Chocolate and Beetroot Cake and is absolutely delicious, its very light and airy and not at all cloying like some chocolate cakes. Good to serve warm with mascarpone or ice cream.
3. Courgette/Zucchini. Mary Berry in her "Ultimate Cake Book" has a recipe for Courgette Loaf. It's ok and would be useful if you grow courgettes and have a glut to use up. Netty has made a Zucchini and Lime Cake, which is a nice madeira-type cake speckled through with green flecks. The lime makes it really refreshing. I also have a recipe for Harvest Cake which uses both carott and courgette. I have not made this yet but hope to do so in the near future.
4. Pumpkin/Squash. As you know these can be large items to deal with and if you are roasting some, do a bit extra, leave to cool an make a Pumpkin Loaf with an Orange Glaze. A nice and spicy crumbly cake.
5. Rhubarb. "But it's a fruit" I hear you cry. No. It's the stem of a large perennial plant thought to be native to Tibet and is technically a vegetable. There are many recipes for using Rhubarb in cakes usually with ginger and/or orange. Unfortunately I have not made any 'cos the rhubarb is always used in crumbles and compotes first, although today I made a Rhubarb Stresel Pie which looks good.
6. Others. Potatoes can be used in scones, usually cooked on a griddle. Have found a recipe for Bramley Apple and Olive Oil Cake, not sure about this.
Why go to all this bother? Well it cuts down on the amount of refined sugar used, it adds extra fibre and nutrition to cakes, it helps use up excess vegetables in time of glut, the keeping quality of the cakes is enhanced (no hydrogenated fats here) and also it's FUN! And makes a change from bloody carrot cake
Let the imagination go. Anyone for Swiss Chard Roll? Broccoli and Cauliflower Battenburg............