Ahem! Now, I know that the theme of tonight’s cookalong is actually autumn fruit and I know that a courgette isn’t exactly what you might call a fruit but as it grew in my garden and I’m turning it into a Very Good Cake, I thought I might get away with it. Besides, this is the kind of recipe that should need no apology although you will find yourself, all afluster, trying to justify it when people look and say, “Courgette Cake, really!” in a doubting tone of voice. Just tell them it’s a bit like Carrot Cake – that will convince many of the-you-can’t-put-vegetables-into-a-sweet-cake crowd – or simply cut them a little piece and try not to look smug when they come back for seconds.
Besides being such a fabulous, spice-rich, green-flecked cake, it is also a great way of clearing out the vegetable bed. At this winding down time of year, courgettes have long stopped looking appealing in the vegetable patch, get “forgotten” when doing the daily veg pick and start to turn into marrows. Now, I wouldn’t recommend that you let them get too big but, if they do get away from you or even if you have a glut of smaller courgettes, this is the recipe that will clear out your kitchen. I found the original recipe on Heidi’s 101 Cookbooks and, although unconvinced when first making it, have returned to the recipe so many times with so much success that it’s about time it gets an outing here.
Spiced Courgette Cake
Heidi’s original uses cup measurements and, while the recipe below is not a direct conversion, it is the one that works successfully for me. Although she also includes curry powder, I love it with just cinnamon and ginger but – especially if you need to use up lots of courgettes – it’s well worth trying out the original and Heidi also has lots of other variations.
Courgettes – 3 medium, enough to make approximately 3 cups or 360g of grated and squeezed courgette.
Walnuts – 100g, chopped
Zest of 2 lemons
Crystallised ginger – 6 knobs, finely chopped.
Plain flour – 450g
Bicarbonate of soda – 1½ teaspoons
Baking powder – 1 teaspoon
Pinch of salt
Ground cinnamon – 1 teaspoon
Ras el hanout – 1 teaspoon (optional)
Butter – 115g, at room temperature
Caster sugar – 185g
Muscovado sugar – 60g
Eggs – 3, large
Vanilla – 2 teaspoons
Preheat the oven to 180°C (both fan and regular ovens). Line 2 x 450g (1lb) loaf tins with greaseproof paper.
Grate the courgettes then, using your hands, squeeze some of the liquid out. Fluff up the grated courgettes and set aside.
Combine the chopped walnuts, lemon zest and chopped stem ginger in a bowl, mixing well.
Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, salt and ground cinnamon into a bowl and whisk together.
Cream the butter with the sugars until well amalgamated. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla and the courgette. Add the flour mixture in two batches, stirring well, then fold in the walnut-lemon-ginger mixture, reserving 2 tablespoons for the topping.
Scrape into the tins, sprinkling over the reserved topping, then cook in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes. Like Heidi, I like to remove it from the oven when ever-so-slightly-undercooked so that it remains moist and delicious.
Remove from the tins and allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing – if you can resist.
Makes 2 x 450g loaves.