Two elderly friends of my mother announced their visit this afternoon after lunch, so I looked around to see what would go happily into a cake. Eggs, butter, flour, sugar, margarine, dried fruit – all the usual suspects were there, but it struck me as boring to make yet another fruit or Madeira cake.
We seem to have a glut of vegetables at the moment, as one of our kind neighbours with an allotment is producing them as if he single-handedly intends to solve the world’s food shortage problems. A cauliflower, runner beans, parsnips, carrots, lots of beetroot and courgettes are in the pantry and all want eating asap. Vegetables can go into cakes – why not treat the ladies to something quite different?
A quick trawl of the net turned up a recipe for apple, parsnip and raisin muffins that made my mouth water, but I must confess that I don’t have wholemeal flour and we had eaten the last apple. Beetroot and chocolate cake also sounded tempting but I had no plain chocolate so that was out. However, I frequently enjoyed courgette cake at my daughter’s in the past when the children were still all at home, and as the courgettes in the fridge were numerous and beginning to outstay their welcome, I plumped for that. Daughter’s reply to my request for her recipe was that she no longer had it, but it also included chocolate so I should go back to the Web.
Googling “Courgette cake” doesn’t turn up as many recipes on the Internet as a search for “Zucchinikuchen” does, although courgettes have been available in the UK for a long time now. (I do remember when they were considered rather exotic, and I had difficulty in the early seventies trying to find the ingredients for ratatouille). Carrot cake is popular here, so why not courgette cake?
German-language sites provided far more variations on the theme, so after perusing several I plumped for the simplest. Age has brought a little wisdom, and I learned years ago that if you are going to try out a new recipe on visitors it’s best to go for the least complicated version. Visitors will virtually always tell you that they have enjoyed whatever it is you have set before them, and honest souls who admit that they found your snail pancakes* disgusting are few and far between. However, if a guest eats several pieces of cake and then asks for the recipe, you can safely assume it was a success. That’s what happened today, so I also feel safe in passing it on here.
My recipe was a German one, from www.chefkoch.de, which has several photos, though I used almonds instead of hazelnuts. I had no brown sugar so I used golden syrup and white sugar, and I doubled the amount of bicarbonate of soda and baking powder since half a teaspoon didn’t sound like enough. So this is how I made my Courgette Cake:
400 g brown sugar
150 g sunflower oil
300 g plain flour
1 teaspoonful bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoonful baking powder
1 -2 teaspoonfuls cinnamon
150 g ground almonds
300 g courgettes, peeled and grated (3 good sized courgettes)
Beat eggs and sugar together till they are light and foamy then add oil and nuts.
Combine flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon and fold gradually into the mixture.
Add grated courgettes last and mix well.
Pour into a greased and lined cake or loaf tin and bake at 200°C until a skewer comes out clean. Baking time will depend on the thickness of the cake (anything from half an hour to 2 hours). I used a loaf tin, and it took 2 hours.
Leave to cool in the tin.
Frost with chocolate icing, or sprinkle castor sugar over finished cake.
It seems suitable for freezing, so this is a good one to make and keep in reserve for an emergency.
I was very surprised to find that my cake had turned out dark brown, in spite of having been made with white sugar. It was moist and light, with a slightly nutty taste, and I served it with clotted cream, rather than frosting it. I can’t say how long it is supposed to keep, but I don’t think that will be a problem: this is one that will fly!
*Tarte flambée aux escargots is a delicious speciality in Alsace and well worth trying if you are visiting the region. Don’t tell Americans that you’re serving them snail pancakes, though.