This recipe was inspired by a can of pineapple chunks I found at the back of the store cupboard, a surfeit of dates from some Moroccan friends and the remainder of the vegetable drawer in the fridge. No one ever believes me when I tell them what’s in the cake but I’m often asked for the recipe and it flies off the plates at cycling club events. I like to think that with all those vegetables, it’s got to be good for you, hasn’t it? I’m not 100% sure but I think a piece of this would qualify as one of your five a day. It proves that delicious goodies can be made without eggs, butter or sugar. It keeps well in the fridge, or freezer, and we often use it for mid-ride refuelling.
- 180g (1¾ cups) wholemeal flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3 tsps bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 360g (4 cups) pitted dates
- 150g (1 cup) pineapple chunks or approximately eight rings in own juice, drained
- 1 (preferably) ripe banana (approx 80g (3oz) with skin and 60g (2oz) without)
- 160g (1 cup) unsweetened apple puree
- 120g (1 cup) finely cubed or grated – cooked, not raw – beetroot (wear disposable latex gloves when you’re doing this otherwise you’ll have beetroot-stained hands for days!)
- 75g (¾ cup) grated carrot
- 50g (½ cup) grated courgette (zucchini)
- 75g (½ cup) raisins
- 75 g (1 cup) toasted and chopped walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4 (350°F/320°F fan).
2. Grease a baking tin and line the base with greaseproof (parchment) paper. I typically use a disposable tin-foil one 18cm x 23cm x 5cm (9” x 6” x 2″) – they’re easier for storing the cakes in the freezer – which I line with a couple of strips of greaseproof paper to facilitate removal.
3. Sift flour, baking powder, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and mix to combine.
4. In a food processor or blender, whizz together the dates, pineapple, banana and apple puree until it forms a smooth, thick puree.
5. Drain the grated carrots and courgettes in a sieve and dry in a tea towel or on kitchen paper to absorb the moisture. I find grating them in the food processor quicker but it renders them overly moist. Then add all the vegetables, raisins and walnuts to the flour mixture. Mix well to combine. You don’t want the vegetables to clump in the flour.
6. Then add the pureed mixture to the flour mixture and combine lightly with a spatula, ensuring no flour pockets remain. Once mixed it should have a soft dropping mixture. If not add a tablespoon of warm water.
7. Spread in the baking tin and bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
8. The cake will rise slightly then fall back as it cools. Allow to cool completely in the tin on a wire rack. I find it slices and tastes better after a couple of days storage in the fridge – wrapped in cling film (plastic wrap) still in the tin. It also freezes well for a month or two.
9. For serving, I cut the cake into 36 fat fingers. It’s a very moist cake, not dissimilar in texture to a brownie.
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 the cake should take to cook and then check regularly.
3. If you think the cake is browning too quickly, particularly at the edges, cover it with an aluminium-foil tent.
4. I like to leave the beetroot in small chunks rather than grated as I find it adds to the texture of the cake, plus people are fascinated by the jewel-like ruby chunks.
5. If you want to eat the cake immediately, I suggest adding a large beaten egg when you mix the puree into the flour, which makes it less fragile.
6. You can replace the dates wholly or partly with prunes. Or, like me in this instance, use date paste.
(Images: my in-house photographer and chief taste-tester, Richard Whatley)