For a birthday cake to celebrate five years of Wicked Leeks magazine, I investigated the possibility of using leeks in the mix, considering both savoury and sweet options. The former would be a bake rather than a cake, and the latter would just be unconscionable? However, true to form, we have included some veg here; sweet, earthy beetroot adds moisture and a whiff of worthiness. This recipe owes more than a passing nod to carrot cake, so feel free to use those instead. Grated courgette, squash or even parsnip would work too.
Beetroot, orange, pecan and poppyseed cake
Prep 15 mins | Cook 45 mins
If you’re feeling fancy, you can decorate the top with candied oranges. Halve two oranges and cut each half into 5mm thick slices. Heat a cup of water with half a cup of caster sugar in a large frying pan. Add the orange slices and simmer for about 20 minutes, turning the slices every so often, by which time the liquid should be a sticky syrup. Remove the slices and cool on baking parchment. You can add a thin slice of beetroot to the pan at the start if you’d like the orange to have a pinkish-red hue, or alternatively use blood oranges if they are season.
For the mix:
200ml sunflower/vegetable oil
250g light muscovado sugar
4 eggs, divided into yolks and whites
180g beetroot, grated
2 tsp poppy seeds
½ tsp ground mixed spice
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of sea salt
1 orange, zested & juiced
250g self raising flour
For the frosting:
50g soft butter
125g cream cheese
125g unrefined icing sugar
zest of 1 orange
Preheat oven to 180 degrees/Gas 4. Grease and line 2 x 20cm cake tins with baking parchment.
Place the oil and sugar into a large mixing bowl or food mixer and whisk together. When they look creamed and well mixed, whisk in the egg yolks, a little at a time. Stir in the beetroot, pecans, poppy seeds, mixed spice, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, a pinch of salt, orange zest and half the juice. Keep to one side.
In a separate clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until light, fluffy and just forming stiff peaks.
Sift the flour into the bowl of wet ingredients. Fold it in with a large spoon until no dry patches appear, taking care not to over mix. Next, fold one spoonful of egg white into the cake mix to loosen the mixture,
followed by the rest, folding until the mix is well combined. Do not beat the mixture, as you don’t want to knock the air out of the egg whites.
Split the mix evenly between the tins and bake for 35-40 mins or until a knife tip or skewer comes out just clean. When ready, cool in their tins for 15 mins and then transfer to a cake rack until completely cooled.
To make the frosting, put all ingredients in a bowl, making sure to sift the icing sugar, and beat until smooth. Keep chilled until needed.
To build, sandwich the layers with one third of the frosting and top with the rest. Garnish as you see fit (see cook’s notes).
Cut a slice and toast the future of sustainable food and the community that’s making it possible (that’s you!).
This recipe was created for the latest issue of Wicked Leeks magazine, out now. You can read the full magazine for free online.