The Musette: butternut squash and sweet potato cake

During Lockdown II, I’ve re-started my cake delivery service to my elderly neighbours. This one is obviously healthy as it contains not one but two vegetables! Of course, many of you already know that the sweet potato is your friend when it comes to baking cakes. It’s sweet, it’s moist, it’s filling and it’s easy to work with – what’s not to like? It gives cakes a lovely fudgy texture. Appropriately, it has a bit of a Thanksgiving vibe!

Of course, I never let on how healthy my cakes are and this one will blow your mind. No one can tell its not the real deal. It’s moist, sweet, spicy, fudgy and absolutely delicious. It can sit in the fridge for a couple of days  – as if that’s going to happen – and be as good if not better than the day you baked it.

Ingredients (makes 1 large cake or 8-10 muffin-sized cakes)

  • 250g (2 cups) sweet potato, cooked
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp organic honey
  • 2 tbsp any nut butter
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp vanilla sugar
  • 25g (1 oz) coconut flour
  • 30g (1 oz) rolled oats
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp grated orange zest
  • 150g (1 cup + 2 tbsp) butternut squash, cooked
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Orange glaze

  • 85g (3/4 cup) powdered icing sugar
  • 1tbsp fresh organic orange juice
  • organic orange zest to decorate (optional)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan). Line your baking tin(s) with muffin cases or greaseproof (parchment) paper.

2. In a food processor, process all the ingredients into a smooth batter. It should easily drop from the spoon.

3. Pour the batter into the tin or tins. It should come 2/3rds of the way up the tin.

4. Bake in the oven for 30-55 minutes depending on the size of your cake(s). A toothpick should come out clean when inserted to the center of the cake.

5. Let the cake(s) cool for minimum of 30 minutes before glazing them. Just mix all the ingredients together and drizzle over the cake.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1.Make the cake vegan by substituting 2 flax or chia seed eggs (2 tbs of seeds plus 6 tbsp water for 2 eggs) or medium sized banana for the two eggs. Use coconut, brown rice or date syrup instead of the honey.

2. If you don’t have some of the ingredients, then here’s is a list of easy substitutes:-

  • Any nut butter: Coconut oil or butter
  • Rolled oats: tapioca flour, polenta
  • Coconut flour: Almond flour, hazelnut flour, or process unsweetened dessicated coconut until it’s fine

3. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

4. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the cake(s) in the oven, put the timer on for 5 minutes less than it should take to cook and then check regularly.

5. If you think the cake(s) is browning too much at the edges, cover it with an aluminium foil tent.

6. The cakes look a bit craggy. To make them more visually attractive I either use an orange drizzle icing as per above although this time I used some left over white chocolate and mango ganache. But there’s loads of glazes, icing etc that you can happily use. Just use your imagination!

The Musette: Choco-coconut dream cake

I made my crack cake tasting team a danish cake called “drømmekage” which means dream cake which is famous for its baked caramelised coconut topping atop a rich vanilla sponge. It’s delicious and decadent and was well received but I wondered whether I could make a healthier more cyclist friendly version. I decided to go all bounty bar on it and combine cocoa with coconut.

After some trial and error, and important feedback from my willing volunteers, I adjusted the sweetness of the batter with an extra banana to come up with a cake that’s free of gluten, dairy and refined sugar. Plus, it tastes deliciously dreamy!

The cake is baked in two steps, first the base cake, and then you add the topping to finish it. You will NOT be disappointed with this recipe.

Ingredients (makes 12 large cup cakes)

Cake

  • 300g (1 1/2 cups) baked sweet potato
  • 2 medium ripe bananas
  • 4 large organic eggs
  • 45g (1/2 cup) rolled oats
  • 7 dates (pitted)
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup (or honey)
  • 100 ml (just under half a cup) almond milk
  • 75g (3/4 cup) dutch cocoa powder (any unsweetened cocoa will do)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 heaped tsp espresso coffee powder
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 100g (1/2 cup, less 1 tbsp) melted coconut oil

Topping

  • 100g (1 1/2 cup) unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 50g (1/4 cup, less 1 tbsp) melted coconut oil
  • 75g (1/4 cup, less 1 tbsp) maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan) and bake whole sweet potatoes on a baking tray with the skin on until they are completely tender. Cool them down before step 2.

2. Blend all the cake ingredients EXCEPT for the coconut oil until smooth. Then add in the cool melted coconut oil whilst blending at low-medium speed.

3. Grease and line your cake or muffin tins. Pour the batter into the tin(s).

4. Bake for 20 minutes turning the cakes twice during the baking time to ensure an even bake.

5. Heat up all the topping ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for about 2-3 minutes.

6. Take the cake(s) out of the oven and spread the hot coconut topping evenly on the top, then bake it for another 10 minutes until the coconut is toasted golden. Watch it so it doesn’t burn.

7. Remove the cake(s) from the oven and cool on a rack – you don’t need to wait until it’s completely cool – because it tastes sooooo good when it’s still warm.

8. The cake keeps for up to five days in the fridge, that is if you haven’t eaten it all by day two.

9. It also freezes well, however the topping may fall off once defrosted. If it does, just put it back on the cake, slap a dollop of cream on the top and pretend like nothing happened.

The Musette: tangerine and almond cake (gluten-free)

This gluten-free tangerine and almond cake is simply sensational! Moist, nutty and with a strong tangerine flavour this cake is also flourless, dairy and oil free. Serve simply with coffee or with whipped cream for an indulgent dessert.

I’ve come across various iterations of this recipe on numerous occasions. This particular cake is generally known as Passover dessert across the Mediterranean.

One very popular thing about this cake is its use of entire citrus fruits (skin and all) which are boiled until soft and then pureed in their entirety. Most of the recipes I’ve come across don’t use any regular flour or fat (oil, butter) at all which makes this lovely cake naturally gluten and dairy free and with no added fat – a bonus for my cycling friends.

This cake (or my take on it) has been very popular with a number of celebrity chefs including Nigella whose recipe for Clementine Cake can be found in her book How to Eat. My recipe more closely resembles that of Claudia Roden’s in The Essential Guide to Middle Eastern Cooking.

Ingredients (serves 8)

  • 450g/3 large organic tangerines, (choose ones with unblemished skins as the whole fruit is used in this recipe)
  • 250g (approx. 5 large) organic eggs
  • 250g (1 1/4 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 250g (2 1/2 cup) ground almonds
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 tbsp Cointreau or other orange flavoured liquer (optional)
  • icing (confectioner’s) sugar to serve

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan). Grease and line the base of a 2-ltr (1 lb) loaf tin.

2. Place the tangerines in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer, covered, for about an hour, ensuring that they remain covered with water. Drain and cool.

3. Cut the tangerines into quarters, discard any seeds, then place the chunks into a blender and puree until smooth.

4. Beat the eggs with the sugar until thick, the whisk should leave ribbons. then add the orange puree, ground almonds, liquer and baking powder and mix well.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for an hour. Leave the cake to firm up in the pan for 20 minutes then turn out, remove the baking paper and turn over to finish cooling right way up.

This cake definitely mellows with a little time and can be prepared well in advance.

6. To serve, sift icing sugar on top and add a dllop of whatever your heart desires: chantilly cream, Greek yoghurt, creme fraiche, orange flavoured whipped cream.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the cake in the oven, put the timer on for 5-10 minutes less than it should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. You can use any citrus fruit, blood orange would be terrific, but something like grapefruit will require much longer cooking in water to sufficiently soften.

4. You can make these as cupcakes in which case they’d need around 40-45 minutes cooking time.

5. While this cake is perfect as is you could sprinkle on some toasted almond flakes.

6. The cake can be also prepared in advance as it keeps really well when chilled in the fridge, for up to 3 days.

7. Rather than boiling the citrus fruits, you could  do this quicker by using a microwave. Simply pierce your fruit a  few times with a fork (to prevent them from bursting) and put them in a large microwavable bowl with a little bit of water. Microwave on high for approx 10 minutes et voila!

8. To freeze, make sure your cake is completely cool before wrapping in clingfilm and then aluminium foil. Make sure to label it too if you don’t want to play “Freezer Roulette” later! Pop it in the freeze for up to 3 months. To defrost simply leave out on the kitchen worktop (counter) and once defrosted decorate as you wish.

The Musette: gluten-free chocolate cupcakes

My beloved expressed a desire for some chocolate cake and I decided to make a gluten and dairy-free version with some cooked basmati rice that I had in the fridge, using the same-weight method that one uses for pound cakes. I recall reading somewhere that you could substitute moist, cooked rice for butter.

Please note it makes a very liquid batter which you pour into the baking tin(s). This is what you need for cakes made with cocoa rather than melted chocolate otherwise they tend to be too dry. I speak from experience, bitter experience!  My beloved judged the cake(s) a success and this recipe will make a great addition to my arsenal of cyclist-friendly cakes.

Ingredients (makes 8 – 10 muffin-sized cakes or one loaf tin)

  • 250g (1 cup) cooked brown basmati rice, still nice and moist
  • 250g (1 cup) raw cane sugar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 6 medium-sized organic eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g (2 cups) ground almonds
  • 50g (1/2 cup) cocoa powder
  • 2tsp powered espresso coffee
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Chocolate ganache

  • 100g (4 oz) dark (bitter-sweet) chocolate 70% cocoa
  • 100ml (7 tbsp) double cream or plant-based cream to keep it dairy free

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan).

2. Grease the base and sides of a baking tin. I typically use a disposable tin-foil one measuring 18cm x 23cm x  5cm (6” x 9” x 2″) – they’re great for storing the cakes in the freezer – which I line with a couple of strips of greaseproof paper to make it easier to remove the cake. In addition, I find it’s an easy size and shape to slice into fingers for serving. The French prefer to have a small taste of everything on offer! But, as these were for home consumption, I made muffin-sized cup cakes.

3. Combine and mix all the dry ingredients: ground almonds, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and coffee powder.

4. Combine and mix all the wet ingredients: eggs, vanilla extract and maple syrup.

5. Put the rice and sugar into the food processor and process until totally smooth.

6. Add all the wet and dry ingredients and process again until everything is incorporated and the batter smooth. Remember, this cake has no gluten, so it won’t get tough.

7. Pour batter into cake tin or cupcake/muffin papers (3/4 full) and bake for 40-45 minutes for cupcakes/ 60 minutes for cake until a skewer or tooth pick comes out clean. Leave the cake(s) to cool.

8. Heat the cream in a small saucepan or a jug in the microwave until warm but not boiling. Take off the heat and add the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate melts. Once the cakes have cooled, spread the ganache over them and leave it to harden slightly – if you can wait that long – before eating.

9. These can be stored for a couple of days in an airtight container but they rarely last that long…………They’ll happily keep in the freezer for a couple of months without the ganache.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the cake(s) in the oven, put the timer on for 5-10 minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. You can use any type of rice (excl. wild rice), just so long as it’s still moist. If not, increase the amount of maple syrup, or equivalent.

4. For an even richer treat, spread a layer of salted caramel on the cake(s) before the ganache! This tends to work better on one large cake rather than the cupcakes.