Avocado chocolate fudge cake (vegan)

Avocado chocolate fudge cake

As this was the final cake to be made with my lovely vegetables from Riverford, I was glad to have the opportunity to take a couple of slices to Lynn and Steve, the couple who run the Cornwall Home Delivery franchise, so they could see what I’d been doing with their produce.

I was a little nervous, as when I was making this it seemed impossible that I would end up with anything even half resembling a cake .

It may well be the strangest recipe I’ve ever tried – when I was at the point of having a mixing bowl filled with what was essentially sweet green water, that apparently was going to become a beautiful sponge cake, it was quite hard to keep the faith, but by some sort of magical baking chemistry it actually worked!

The sponge was a little different in texture to a regular sponge, slightly more chewy, but definitely edible and for my first vegan sponge I was very happy. The icing was a revelation – swapping butter for avocado creates an incredibly rich, fudgy, almost saucy chocolate icing that I’m sure is healthy enough to just eat by the spoonful…

Lynn and Steve seemed to like the cake, and I definitely think we should strike some sort of deal where they give me vegetables and I return with cake – that’s a fair swap I think?!

Lynn very kindly agreed to a short Q&A so I could find out more about the home delivery service, and her own experiences of baking with vegetables. This is how it went…

Q. So, you’re from Nottingham originally – what made you decide to up sticks to Cornwall? (Other than it being the best county in the UK of course…)

A. We moved here to take on the business, but we did already have a love for Cornwall as we both used to holiday here every year.

Q. How did you first discover Riverford, were you a customer before you took on the business?

A. Yes, we were Riverford customers for about 8 years and we were really interested in their business, so it was a natural choice to choose Riverford when we were thinking of running our own business.

Q. Have you ever had veg boxes from any other companies, and if you have how do you think Riverford compares?

A. We tried a few other box schemes local to where we used to live, but found that the breadth of choice of produce was extremely limited and the quality just wasn’t as good.

Q. And how does the home delivery service in Cornwall differ to a regular order from Riverford?

A. We’re extremely lucky, as we’re be based so close to our head office and main growing farm in Devon so have access to all of the produce from there, but we are also able to supply both veg and meat directly from Cornish farmers, so our customers are getting more very local produce.

Q. Ok, let’s talk veg – what’s in season right now, what should people expect to see in their boxes in July?

A. Over the next couple of months we’ve got strawberries, kohl rabi, Cornish new potatoes, UK salads, and homegrown herbs – lots to look forward to!

Q. And have you done any baking with vegetables, or do you tend to stick savoury dishes?

A. I use beetroot for beetroot brownies, the Riverford recipe is my favourite (and I’ve tried a few, including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and BBC Good Food), I’ve also made lots of different carrot cakes, and chocolate courgette cake in the past.  That’s probably as far as my baking skills go, but it does surprise me how many sweet recipes there are using veg.  It can make something a little bit naughty into something a little more healthy – great for kids.

So thanks once again to Lynn and Steve for my lovely box of veg, and I hope you enjoyed the cake!

Avocado chocolate fudge cake (vegan) (adapted from Joy the Baker and Blissful Eats)

  • 90g avocado (approximately 1 medium)
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 20ml white vinegar
  • 30ml vegetable oil
  • 375ml water
  • 35g natural yoghurt (edit: soy yoghurt if you need it to be vegan!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 270g plain flour
  • 35g cocoa powder
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the icing:

  • 90g avocado (approximately 1 medium)
  • 225g icing sugar
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp brandy (optional)
  • pinch sea salt

Start by mashing the avocado into a smooth puree – I found a stick blender was the best for this. Whisk the sugar, white vinegar, vegetable oil, water, yoghurt and vanilla extract into the avocado, until it’s well mixed and looks like slightly scary swamp water. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and bicarb and fold whisk this into the wet mixture, stopping when no lumps remain. Pour into two 7″ greased and lined cake tins and bake at 180 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until risen and a skewer comes out clean.

To make the icing, puree the avocado as with the cake, then gradually sift in the icing sugar and cocoa powder, beating until smooth. Add the brandy when the mixture starts to get too thick to beat, then continue adding the sugar and cocoa powder – you should end up with a thick, fudgy frosting. Add salt to taste, then spread a thick layer of icing onto the top of one of the cakes, then sandwich with the other. Finish with a dusting of cocoa, then slice and serve.

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Courgette Mojito Cake

Continuing my mini-series of vegetable bakes, using the fab produce sent to me by Riverford Home Delivery Cornwall, is a recipe using one of my favourite vegetables, courgettes.

I cook with courgettes in my savoury meals usually once a week, but I’ve only ever used them once for baking, in a fairly basic chocolate cake.

When I received the box of veg from Riverford (full selection of veg above!), I was excited to have the chance to try something a little more adventurous, and pretty quickly an idea came into my head that just wouldn’t go away – courgette mojito cake.

I think my thought process started with pairing courgettes and lime, having seen a few recipes for lemon courgette cakes. Turning it into a mojito cake was jointly inspired by the fact that mojito cake has been on my to-bake list for a very long time, and by the fact that I might have drank one or two of the cocktails while on my travels and was having slight withdrawal symptoms…

I did a bit of research, and decided to combine two different recipes – a courgette and lime sponge on the River Cottage website, and the delicious sounding sugar syrup used in Lorraine Pascale’s mojito cake, from her book Baking Made Easy.

I wanted it to be easily shareable, so I made a flatter rectangular cake rather than a tall round cake, splitting it into two thin layers to soak with the sugar syrup and sandwich with a lime, rum and mint buttercream.

The cake turned out exactly as I had hoped – light zesty sponge with a real flavour of mojito, rather than just being lime and mint. It went down pretty well with everyone who tried it, and it’s a fabulously summery cake so I think I will definitely have to make it again!

baking with spirit

This cake is also perfectly timed to enter into June’s Baking with Spirit challenge, hosted by Cake of the Week. The challenge was to create something based on a cocktail, using spirits you already had in the house – I’m currently back living at my dad’s house, and one of the benefits of this is an exceptionally well-stocked alcohol cupboard with Bacardi among the many spirits available!

Courgette Mojito Cake (adapted from here and here)

  • 250g courgettes
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • zest ad juice of 1 lime
  • 60ml vegetable oil
  • 60ml fat free natural yoghurt
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

For the sugar syrup:

  • 40ml white rum
  • 20ml water
  • 75g light brown sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • half a bunch mint leaves

For the buttercream:

  • 50g butter
  • 150g icing sugar
  • zest and juice 1 lime
  • 3-4 mint leaves, very finely shredded
  • 1-2 tsp white rum

For the cake, start by grating the courgettes finely – it takes ages – then squeeze out any excess moisture. Whisk the eggs and sugar until trebled in volume, then add in the oil, yoghurt, lime zest and juice and whisk to combine. Sift together the flour and baking powder and fold into the mixture, then pour into a greased and lined 8×12″ rectangle tin. Bake at 170 degrees (fan oven) for around 30 minutes, or until golden and springy.

While the cake is cooking, make the sugar syrup. Add the rum, water, sugar and lime juice to a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and stir until the liquid thickens into a syrup, then remove from the heat, add the lime zest and mint leaves and leave to infuse.

For the buttercream, beat the butter to soften then add 50g of the icing sugar and beat until no lumps remain. Add the lime zest and juice, finely shredded mint and 1 tsp rum and the rest of the icing sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Taste and add more rum if necessary, or more icing sugar if it needs thickening.

Once the cakes are cool, use a sharp bread knife to slice through the sponge horizontally. Brush the cut side of the bottom layer with sugar syrup, and the cut side of the top layer with more rum, if you like. I like. Spread the buttercream over the bottom layer, then place the second layer back on top.

Cut into squares and serve, on a sunny day with a long glass of refreshing mojito on the side!

Naturally red velvet cake

Red velvet cake is definitely a dessert with the wow factor – who can fail to be impressed when the first slice is cut, revealing vivid red layers of sponge, sandwiched with sweet, smooth cream cheese frosting?

The only problem is the entire bottle of food colouring that’s used to achieve such a striking effect – I know I’m not the only baker out there who is more than a little hesitant to put that much artificial colouring into a dessert.

Food colouring was never used in the original red velvet cakes, so I decided to attempt a version using only natural ingredients.

In theory, the reaction between the cocoa powder and the buttermilk and vinegar should be enough to turn it red, but I didn’t want to leave it to chance.

As luck would have it, this week the lovely people at Riverford Home Delivery Cornwall sent me a fabulous box of veg specifically for baking, including two huge bags of beetroot – and so the idea of a beet-red velvet cake was born.

I’m obviously not the first person to come up with this idea, and I found what looked like the perfect recipe at Korena in the Kitchen for a 6 inch layer cake.

Instead of a cream cheese swiss meringue buttercream I went for a basic cream cheese frosting, and I kept the cake in two layers rather than slicing into four, but otherwise I followed the recipe pretty much exactly.

I wasn’t totally happy with how it turned out, as the sponge was a bit too dense and the colour was a bit on the purple side, but I think with a bit of tweaking it could work well. I still feel much happier eating this version than one with a whole bottle of food colouring!

Thanks to Riverford for sending me the beetroot – I also received some lovely looking courgettes and avocados, which I have some interesting experimental plans for over the next week or so…

Naturally red velvet cake (adapted from Korena in the Kitchen)

  • 115g butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 185g cooked beetroot, pureed*
  • 160g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 125ml buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1.5 tsp rice vinegar

For the icing:

  • 100g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g cream cheese (I used light)

*To prepare the beetroot, I washed and peeled about 10 mini beets, and roasted in a pan filled with water and covered with foil for 2 hours. They were still not soft enough after that long, so I gave them 10 minutes in the microwave and then pureed them in a food processor, before measuring out the amount I needed.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the beetroot and vanilla extract and beat again – it should turn an amazing shade of purple!

Combine all the dry ingredients in one bowl (flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa) and add the buttermilk, lemon juice and vinegar to another bowl. Fold in one third of the dry mix, then half of the liquid; another third of the dry mix, the remaining liquid, and finally the remaining dry ingredients.

Divide the cake batter between two 6″ cake tins and bake at 170 degrees for about 35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

To make the icing, beat the butter to soften, then add the icing sugar and beat until no lumps remain. Add the vanilla and cream cheese, then beat with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes, or until very light and fluffy. Chill in the fridge for an hour or so, until the icing has firmed up a bit.

Spread a layer of icing over one of the sponges, then place the other on top. Spread a thin layer of icing all over to crumb coat, then leave the cake in the fridge for half an hour to set. Finish by spreading the rest of the icing all over the top and sides of the cake, then cut into slices and serve.

tea time treats

I’ve just realised that this cake is suitable for the June Tea Time Treats Challenge, hosted by Kate at What Kate Baked and Karen at Lavender and Lovage – Kate chose layer cakes as the theme, and I didn’t think I’d make something in time but I’m pretty sure this counts!

Lunch at the Riverford Field Kitchen

Last week, I had the pleasure of enjoying an ‘intimate bloggers lunch’ at Riverford Field Kitchen near Buckfastleigh in Devon.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Riverford is a cooperative of organic farms, mostly in Devon, which delivers veg boxes to homes across the country. The place where it all started, Wash Farm, is owned by Guy Watson, and along with my fellow food bloggers I was treated to a tour of the farm before we sat down to lunch.

I won’t lie, it would have been a little more enjoyable if it had hadn’t been in the minus degrees and my hands and feet hadn’t turned into icicles, but it was very interesting to take the tour, see some of what’s being grown and find out more from Guy about the history of the farm, the problems they’ve faced with the horrific weather, and how the whole operation is managed.

We also saw where the veg is stored and packed, and had a little snoop at the boxes waiting to go out. Guy admitted that there was more important produce than he would have liked, but February is not the best time for British fruit and veg and I imagine customers still expect a bit of variety, even though the emphasis with the veg boxes is very much on locality and seasonality.

On to lunch, at the Riverford Field Kitchen – a rustic, casual dining room lined with long wooden tables serving a menu designed for sharing – using produce fresh from the fields, naturally.

The company for the lunch couldn’t have been better – along with Guy and Holly (Riverford’s digital marketing manager and organiser of the lunch) were Choclette and her CT, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting before at a couple of Clandestine Cake Club events; the Frugal Queen and her Dearly Beloved; Grazing Kate and Marcus from Country Woodsmoke. I really enjoyed having the chance to meet more fellow South West food bloggers and very much hope it won’t be the last time we meet in person.

To start with we were served a Cropwell Bishop blue cheese, celery and apple salad with hazelnuts and radish sprouts with some fantastic homemade bread, which on any normal day would have been enough on its own to satisfy me at lunchtime but I did my best to restrain myself so I could enjoy the rest of the meal.

Quite often, I’m put off from eating out by the fact that I know the vegetarian options will be limited and I could do a better job at home, but that is definitely not the case at Riverford.

The veg is the star of the show with one meat dish and four veggie sides, but I was still given a vegetarian alternative to the duck main of griddled aubergine and ricotta on butternut squash, lentils and spinach.

Served with it were carrots and beetroot, purple sprouting broccoli and cauliflower with mustard, spring greens and kale with wild garlic and my personal favourite, a celeriac, potato and mushroom gratin – I could have eaten the whole dish, it was so good!

Luckily for my waistline I didn’t, but you’ll see from the picture at the top of this post that my normal portion control went out the window with so many delicious dishes on offer…

For dessert diners are invited to the serving pass to choose from a selection of around 6 cakes and puddings. Decision making is not my strongpoint, and I feel I may have made a mistake choosing the lemon cheesecake instead of the pear and chocolate pavlova – I do love cheesecake but it’s something I often make for myself so I am very critical, and although the texture was spot on it could have done with a little more lemony zing for my liking.

A 2-course lunch at Riverford is normally £22.50 per person, which although a bit pricey is really excellent value when you look at the amount and the quality you get, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back again and pay that price.

Riverford has very kindly offered to send me a veg box to review as well, which will be coming later in the month when I return from a mini-holiday, so check back in a few weeks to see what I think of that!