Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Spiced winter root vegetable cake

Hmm, sounds appealing, huh? It's delicious, honestly! Basically you can make this with either carrots or parsnips. If you want to try other root veg, you're on your own (but let me know how it turns out if you're brave enough!) It's a lovely seasonal winter cake.

I got this from the Moosewood Book of Desserts, and they say it's originally a USA pioneer recipe, which is why you have no perishable ingredients like dairy, eggs or fat. This makes it vegan, and moderately healthy but remember fat-free can still be calorific... especially if you use the full whack of sugar. The recipe is very easy as long as you plan ahead (and maybe have a food processor to do the grating!). It's American, so all in cups - I reckon 2 cups of grated veg is about 3 large carrots or 2 med-large parsnips. I keep meaning to weigh the ingredients myself next time I make it, but always get halfway through before remembering... (1 cup = 8 fluid ounces in a measuring jug if you don't have any measuring cups, or try this site to convert to grams for specific ingredients.)

  • 2 cups (packed) finely grated carrots or parsnips
  • 0.75-1 cup packed brown sugar [original amount in the recipe was 1.5 cups but I found it too sweet]
  • 1.75 cups water
  • 1 cup sultanas or other dried fruit (chopped to sultana size). Sultanas are great, but I also like apricots with carrots, and cranberries seem to go well with parsnips, but you could use dates, figs, whatever you have lurking. A small amount of candied ginger, finely chopped, can be a nice addition.
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 0.25 tsp ground cloves
  • 0.5 tsp ground nutmeg or fresh grated
  • 0.5 tsp ground ginger, or 1-2 tsp fresh grated ginger
    [be a little heavy handed with the spices if you want more of a winter warmer gingerbread effect, but go easy on the cloves, tiger]
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Combine the carrots, sugar, water, fruit (plus fresh ginger, if using) and vanilla in a saucepan - bring this to the boil, simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat, cover, and let sit for >1hr or overnight. All the fruit plumps up and the flavours mingle. Yum!

Preheat oven to 300F / 150C / Gas 2. Grease and flour a 9-10" pan, or put cases in a 12x muffin tin.
Combine the dry ingredients (flour, spices, salt, baking soda and powder) in a bowl. Stir the carrot mix into the dry mix just until no dry traces are left. Pour the combined mix into the pan, and bake until firm/springy and a skewer comes out more or less clean (you want it to be moist, but cooked) - about 1 hr for a cake or roughly 30 mins for muffins I think (keep an eye on them).

Cool the cake in the pan for 10 mins, then on a rack. Optionally, poke a few holes in the cake while warm and drizzle a lemon/orange sugar syrup over the top. If you don't need the cake to be vegan, cream cheese based icing/frosting is decadent but occasionally called for :) (Cream cheese, icing sugar, citrus zest/juice or spices to taste - just make sure the cake is fully cool before spreading it.) But to be honest, this cake is good just as it is.

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