Ruth from Makey-Cakey was our March 2013 Daring Bakers’ challenge host and her challenge was to bake a sweet cake, biscuit or confectionery with a “hidden” vegetable ingredient. She encouraged us all to get experimental in the kitchen and sneak some hidden veggies into our baking, with surprising and delicious results. These recipes have been tested on half a dozen people and none could identify the surprise veggie in the finished taste. Indeed they couldn’t hazard a guess at anything weird at all!

Ruth started experimenting with sneaking unexpected vegetables into her cakes to encourage Mini-M to eat that least popular of toddler foods…. spinach! Since then she has baked her way through carrots, beetroot, parsnips, kidney beans, mashed potato, more spinach, kale – the list goes on. But the amazing thing is that the results have tasted fantastic. The recipes, while not being conventionally healthy, do pack a little extra nutritional punch. One added benefit of using vegetables is that they add moisture and texture, help the finished baked goods keep well, and often take the place of some of the fats or egg within a recipe so can be a useful substitute to bear in mind in a pinch!

The three recipes provided are the result of her kitchen experimentation and the good news for those baking with allergies this month – all are dairy free. The internet is a boundless source of recipe inspiration; any vegetable you can think of, someone somewhere has probably baked with it before: chickpea blondies, tomato soup cake, cauliflower muffins, swede halva – the mind boggles!

CASHEW KIDNEY BEAN CHOCOLATE BROWNIES

Ingredients:

400gm (14 oz) tin of kidney beans (in water, not salted water), drained

1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) unrefined caster (superfine) sugar (can use regular white granulated sugar)

2 tablespoons (30ml) maple syrup

½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) of plain all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder

½ cup (120 ml) (60 gm) (2 oz) cocoa powder

½ cup (120 ml) flavorless oil like canola or vegetable

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract

½ cup (120 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) raw cashew nuts (can use roasted cashews, but unsalted is best)

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 and grease and base line your baking tin.
  • Drain, rinse and puree the kidney beans until smooth. If in doubt, blend it some more.

  • Combine all the ingredients apart the nuts and beat well until mixed in a food processor or mixer.
  • Stir in the nuts. Pour into the prepared tin, and bake for about 25 minutes until just firm to the touch.

  • Cool in the tin, then cut, serve, allow people to enjoy, and then surprise them with the secret ingredient.
  • Keeps for 3-4 days in an airtight tin. Freezing untested; it may affect texture because of the beans.

BANANA AND SPINACH MUFFINS

Ingredients:

1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) whole-meal (whole wheat) plain flour

1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder

1 pinch of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

1 pinch of salt

1 large egg

1/4 cup (60 ml) (125 gm) (4½ oz) unrefined sugar

2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil

1 teaspoons (5 ml) vanilla extract

1 ripe medium banana

4 tablespoons (60 ml) yoghurt (I used soya, but any kind of yoghurt would work)

1 cup (240 ml) (30 gm) (1 oz) of packed spinach (with the tough stalks removed first)

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 (160°C fan) and line your tin with paper cases.
  • Sieve the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a mixing bowl.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the egg and sugar vigorously, then add the oil, vanilla extract and yogurt.

  • Mash the banana and stir that into the egg mixture too.
  • Blitz the spinach leaves to a puree with a hand blender or regular blender, then add them to the egg mix.
  • Stir the wet ingredients into the flour, and mix well. Spoon into the prepared cake cases.

  • Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until firm to the touch, lightly browned on top, and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  • Cool on a wire rack. Makes 6 large or 12 small muffins. Keeps well – 3-4 days in airtight tin or bag.
  • Cool completely the freeze in box or freezer bag for up to 3 months. Individual muffins can quickly be defrosted as required.

PARSNIP AND CARAWAY CAKE

Ingredients:

1 medium parsnip grated (approx 200gm/7 oz)

1-1/4 cup (300 ml) (180gm) (6-1/3 oz) plain all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking powder

½ teaspoon (2 ½ ml) bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

6 tablespoons (90 ml) (80gm) (2-3/4 oz) soft brown sugar

Zest and juice of 1 medium sized orange

1 teaspoon (5 ml) (2 gm) caraway seeds

½ cup (120 ml) (120 gm) (4-1/4 oz) margarine

2 large eggs

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 (160°C fan) and grease and base line a 8in (20cm) cake tin.
  • Cream margarine and sugar until fluffy in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs, one by one.
  • Stir in the flour, orange zest, juice, caraway seeds, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda).
  • Once combined, mix in the grated parsnip. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth surface.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes. Cool in tin for 5 minutes before turning out. Makes 1x 8in (20 cm) round cake.
  • Best eaten fresh but keeps 2 days in airtight tin. Cool completely, wrap well in foil. Freeze for up to 3 months.
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