Have your cake and veg it

Carrot cake is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to baking with vegetables, try parsnips, chickpeas and courgettes and expand your veg cake repertoire.

I know that when I deliver our veg boxes to customers, they are already planning the soups, stews, curries and casseroles the contents inspire them to cook. For me and my sweet tooth, however, there’s always a little voice which whispers “ooh, you could make a cake with that”.

Most popular in the veg cake hall of fame is, of course, carrot cake, but the same sweetness and moisture in your cake can be achieved with other root veg. Parsnips can be used in a similar way to carrots, (see this parsnip, lime, ginger and coconut cake recipe), but my absolute favourite has to be a beetroot chocolate cake. Not only does it taste divine, the colour when you mix together the puréed beetroot and the cocoa powder is a sight to behold. Beetroot works well in other sweet recipes, such as this chocolate beetroot mousse cake, or beetroot brownies.

Parsnip cake
Parsnip, lime, ginger and coconut cake is a great alternative to carrot cake.

Then there’s the cocoa courgette muffins or courgette cake, which from a nutrition point of view, are bound to be better for you than a standard chocolate cake. For the really veg adverse, peel the green skins from the courgettes before adding them to the cake mixture. For the most part, guests have to be told afterwards, “oh by the way, that chocolate and orange cake had potato in it!”

Cake and veg
Making cakes is a great way of using up veg if you have a sweet tooth.

A few years ago, we spent the day running the ‘Veg Cake Express’ as part of the Newcastle EAT! Festival, an event which encourages wacky food-based activities, such as eating a three-course meal suspended above the Tyne, or building a cityscape of the North East entirely from cake. 

At the event, we baked up a huge amount of veg-based cakes, dashed Anneka Rice-style to streets in across our area, set up a trestle table and sold them to residents.  All the proceeds went to charity, it was a super fun day and I think we converted a few people to the joys of a beetroot brownie.

Cake and veg
The Veg Cake Express rolled into Newcastle in time for the city’s EAT festival. 

So, do all vegetables lend themselves to cake baking? I have done the work so you don’t have to: the answer is a categorical no. Some years ago I wanted to enter a recipe competition and decided red peppers had the qualities to make a great cake ingredient – they are after all very sweet.  The resulting cake was, and I can say this because I made it, absolutely atrocious.

This past weekend I have found out that there’s a new cake ingredient on the block. Beans and seeds are now turning up in cookies, muffins and brownies. Inspired by my new cookbook, written by Izy Hossack, I made Lemon Poppy Seed Oaty Snack Cake and one of the ingredients was an entire can of drained chickpeas.

The cake was true to Izy’s promise of no chickpea flavour, however she did also mention it may stop me reaching for that second slice due to the protein and fibre making me feel fuller. Nice try, but as we all know when it comes to cake, there’s always room for more.

Gwen Young has been the local Riverford franchisee for Newcastle, along with her husband Ian, ever since she joined the company on Valentine’s Day 2007. She has been interested in all things sustainable for the last 18 years, coinciding with the birth of her first child, when she began using cotton nappies before they were ‘trendy’.


Leave a Reply

  1. Hi Diana, many thanks for your query. My go-to Choc beet cake recipe is below. It’s easy to adapt as it’s just the eggs you need to swap out. I have done this once using the flax seed and water substitute. Alas I cannot remember the proportions but I should imagine a quick internet search would do the trick. Happy baking 🙂

    Chocolate Beetroot Cake

    200ml Corn or Sunflower Oil (plus extra for greasing)
    75g Cocoa powder
    180g Plain flour
    2 tsp Baking Powder
    250g Caster Sugar
    250g Beetroot (approx)
    3 Large eggs
    1tsp Vanilla extract
    Icing sugar to dust

    1. Boil the beetroot with the skin on for about an hour. Allow to cool. The skin will then peel off easily.
    2. Preheat the oven to 180oC / fan 160oC / gas mark 4.
    3. Lightly grease a deep 20cm round cake tin
    4. Sift the cocoa powder, flour and baking powder into a large bowl, and then stir in the sugar.
    5. Puree the beetroot in a food processor, and then add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.
    6. Add the vanilla and oil and whiz until smooth. Make a well in the centre of the bowl of dry ingredients, add the beetroot mixture and lightly mix.
    7. Pour into the tin and bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean (cover the cake with foil for the last 10 minutes if it darkens too much). Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 15 minutes.
    8. Remove the chocolate cake from the tin and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
    9. Dust with icing sugar to serve.


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