I have a beautiful cookbook. It is a treasure trove of stunningly written baking recipes, and they all utilise the wonderful abundance of vegetables. Now, before anyone turns up their nose, can we all remember a time when carrot cake was thought of as weird and not-quite-wonderful? I know I can, but now it is such a part of our dessert scene that most people actually forget that it has carrot in it, focussing instead on the lightly spiced crumb or the creamy topping.
So. This book is about baking gorgeously naughty cakes made with vegetables but it really takes it that much further. Each vegetable is used because it imparts a particular quality to the cake or scone made. Butternut squash gives body, aubergine a soft silkiness. Harry has written has little headings for each recipe.
Lemon and Lavender Drizzle Cake
Lemon and Lavender might be the flavours of Provence, but this is an English summer garden with the tinkling of china cups and saucers, the creaking of wicker furniture, and hats like straw mushrooms. (pretending it's still 1912.)
Pistachio Chocolate Cake
Courgette and chocolate are an unlikely match, yet they are strangely made for one another since they combine sensible shoes with dark flashing eyes. As ever, Courgette has pre-booked the taxi at the end of the night to take Chocolate home. And Pistachio stands for Party.
I don't like Christmas Pudding. Its ominous countenance makes me sit up straight and mind my manners when it's brought in. Instead, the ingredients in this pudding are mellowed by a touch of Jamaican Calypso music and a dose of rum. This pudding is lighter, swings her hips when she walks, but still provokes the tingle of Christmas in the air.
This lovely book inspires, and I admit to dipping into it every now and again simply because it is so pretty to look at.
Last week I made the American Vanilla Cupcakes. They use finely grated courgette and are very light, very sweet but even though the recipe absolutely works, they didn't quite hit the spot for me. They were almost too eggy, but then again I have a bit of Thing about too much egg in recipes. I will try them again, but use some ground almonds next time to give them a little more body. However, not one to be put off, I decided to try again today and found a recipe for Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cupcakes. I had most of the ingredients, but I did have to make a few tweaks to make up for the things I didn't have.
They worked. Oh, they SO worked. So much so that I got very excited about blogging them so that other people can make them too. The cakes are that good that they do not need any icing. I will try a batch with the icing at some point but these are delicious, all on their nutty lonesome. Without further ado, the recipe. And a picture of grated butternut squash because it’s pretty.
Harry Eastwood’s Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cupcakes
100g unsalted peanuts (I used salted as it’s what I had but it works. Salt and sweet!)
3 medium free range eggs
200g light Muscovado sugar (I used 100g dark Muscovado and 100g golden caster)
200g peeled and finely grated butternut squash. (Yes, really. Squash.)
100g white rice flour
40g best quality cocoa (I used Green and Blacks)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt (I only used an 1/8 as there was salt on the peanuts)
1 tsp cinnamon (my addition)
1/2 tsp mixed spice (my addition)
1 tsp vanilla extract (my addition)
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350F/Gas 4 and line a 12 tin muffin pan with paper cases.
Blitz the peanuts in a food processor until finely ground. I then pounded them in a pestle and mortar to get them to a fine powder. Set aside.
Whisk the eggs and sugars for 5 minutes until pale coffee coloured and fluffy.
Next, whisk in the grated squash, then the flour, cocoa powder, salt, spices, baking powder, extract and ground peanuts. I used a spatula to make sure everything was combined.
Spoon the mixture into paper case lined muffin tins until they are 4/5 full.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes.
Take them out of the oven and leave to cool completely before icing them.
Icing (I did not do this, which is why there are no photos of iced cakes.)
60g smooth peanut butter
2 tbs golden icing sugar, sieved
2 tbsp cocoa powder
5 tbsp boiling water
Mix the peanut butter, icing sugar, cocoa powder and salt with the back of a spoon to form a paste. Next, slowly and very gently incorporate the boiling water with a balloon whisk, one spoonful at a time. You will end up with a smooth and delicious paste. Ice the cupcakes when completely cold.
They rise beautifully, and they taste gorgeous. Slightly salty, sweet but with a caramel hint from the dark sugar. The peanuts are there, but not overwhelming – even though I am tempted next time to put just a wee blob of peanut butter in the middle. Or YE GODS Nutella.
The words addictive and moreish can definitely be applied here.