I am not a great fan of the humble courgette, or as the Italians and Americans call them, the zuchinni. Good in ratatouille, yes, nicely roasted with peppers, red onions and goats’ cheese, perhaps, but generally speaking the courgette… uninspires me. (Although the deep fried flowers are delicious, as they do them in Mexico, but then as a Scot I find anything deep fried delicious) My lackluster feelings towards le courgette is the principle reason we did not grow them in our vegetable patch this year. What an error. The kind gift of a great big courgette by my green fingered brother-in-law spurred me on to discover a wonderous thing: you can make cake with courgettes.
I am a great lover of baking (both the noun and the verb). As a child our mother would bake almost daily and if she dared to buy a cake or biscuits the goods would be met with a disdainful, ‘mummy, is this home made?’ It is quite miraculous we are not the size of houses, but it certainly instilled in my sisters and I a joy for butter, flour, sugar, baking powder and eggs. Baking shares with its cousin bread making a certain transformative wonder that simply isn’t there for, say, a roast chicken, however marvellous it may be.
Our nomadic lifestyle growing up lent itself well to recipe collecting, particularly as my mother was friends with so many expatriate Americans all over the world. Apologies to Delia, Jamie et al, but no one does baking quite like the Americans. Perhaps it is their rich and varied heritage, a blend of Jewish, Germanic, Scandinavian and eastern influences and recipes that crossed the Atlantic, tastes of home to comfort in a new land, which have evolved and ensured a proud tradition of home baking that stands today. My mother’s collection of recipes, calling as they do for cupfuls of oil, sticks of butter and ‘baking soda,’ have ensured that we all have both UK and USA cup measures, teaspoons, and scribbled conversions for temperatures and the aforementioned enigmatic sticks of butter.
I digress, easily done when thinking about food. I was at first sceptical of the courgette cake recipe, but its comparison to carrot cake encouraged me. Carrot cake, specifically my mum’s carrot cake, is my absolute favourite cake, and my steadfast birthday request. I still can’t get the icing quite as good as my mother’s, but the cake recipe, which blissfully fills not one but two loaf pans, is simple and gorgeous in its damp cinnamon warmth. Oooh I could eat some right now.
So if a carrot can be the most beautiful cake surely I should give the courgette cake a chance. I used the recipe from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be a Domestic Goddess, which she attributes to a rather talented Flora Woods (great name isn’t it!). Here are the results. What’s left of them…
The ‘before’ shot. The unassuming legume.
And during- the courgette is grated, skin left on, and mixed into the batter. Similarly to my carrot cake recipe, this one does not contain butter but vegetable oil- I used corn oil.
All ready to go into the oven:
They baked at 180C for 25 minutes, until firm to the touch and golden brown on top. I thought they might lose their bumpy texture but they didn’t!
The icing, as luck would have it, is the same one that the carrot cake is topped with and I happened to have some frozen. The two cakes are sandwiched together with a lime curd, which was easy to make on the stove top and happily left me with a jar of lovely lime curd for my toast. Impatience and greed got the better of me and I didn’t wait for the curd to set enough- hence the luxurious oozing in the ‘after’ shot below:
The interior of the cake was very springy and damp but light at the same time. Delicate flavour and so pretty all flecked with the dark green of the courgette rind. So you see: the courgette elevated to new heights of gastronomy. I will be planting some next year I think…