By Alyson Macdonald
Despite being fairly mainstream in North America, in this country, courgette cake is like an obscure indie band that nobody else has heard of yet – but that just makes it even more awesome. I made up a batch to take to the picket lines during the J30 strikes, which is when Alasdair persuaded me to give him the recipe for the blog.
This is one of my favourite cakes to make for other people because it always gets a good reaction. Some people are sceptical at first, but they usually end up asking for seconds. They’re amazed that something which sounds so utterly weird could taste so nice, and then they’re amazed again when they find out that it’s an entirely vegan recipe.
I’ve been a vegan for six years, and although I don’t like to push my views on other people, I’m quite enthusiastic about getting them to try the food I eat. It’s not because I’m sneakily trying to convert anyone; I just like to challenge the idea that vegan food is intrinsically awful, because a lot of it is good enough to be enjoyed on its own merits, even by people who are normally omnivores. If you’ve never tried baking a vegan cake before, this is a good place to start because it doesn’t need any expensive “specialist” ingredients. Vegetable oil takes the place of butter, and the eggs are replaced by a combination of mashed banana, which binds the mixture together, and bicarbonate of soda, which makes it rise. With an egg-less cake mixture, you can lick the bowl all you want without fear of food poisoning, and if it feels a little bit fizzy on your tongue, that’s just the chemical reaction which creates bubbles and gives it a nice, light texture. Mmm, science.
- 2 1/2 cups grated, peeled, fresh courgette (this is approx. two small courgettes, or one enormous one)
- 2 ripe bananas, mashed well
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 3 cups self-raising flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tsp. Bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. ginger
- 1 tsp. vanilla essence
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips, or about 50g of chocolate chopped into small bits.
Hint: some types of dark chocolate contain dairy products (usually butter oil), so remember to check the ingredients if this is going to matter to anyone you’re making the cake for. For clarification, cocoa butter comes from cocoa beans, and has nothing to do with cows.
Mix the grated courgette, bananas, oil, and vanilla essence together until it coalesces into a mass of sticky goo.
Put all of the dry ingredients except for the chocolate (flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, and spices) into separate bowl and give them a good stir, then add the sticky goo. It might seem like there isn’t enough liquid at first, but give it a minute or two and the flour will start to draw the water out of the courgette, adding more moisture.
Add the chocolate chips and stir until they are well distributed through the mixture.
Pour the mixture into a large, shallow tin lined with greaseproof paper (don’t be tempted to use a loaf tin because if you do this, the outside will be burnt by the time it’s cooked all the way through) and bake at 180C for 45-60 minutes, until it passes the knife/cocktail stick test. Let the cake cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack. Be patient, and wait until it has mostly cooled before cutting it into slices.
This makes quite a lot of cake, but it’ll stay fresh for ages in an airtight container.