Friday, 3 December 2010

Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache

For years now, it has been so, that a carrot seems to be the only real vegetable that we put in cakes and i still know people who find it odd! Carrots!! In Cakes?? Oh thats disgusting! - Yeah weird I know as carrot cake is probably my favourite cake out there. I was having a little mooch round a bookshop one ridiculously wet afternoon and needed some kind of soul revival due to the horrific weather and I saw Harry Eastwood's "Red velvet and Chocolate Heartache". Harry is part of the team behind the brilliant "Cook Yourself Thin" series which I was already a fan of. I was instantly brought in by the cover and had to have a good instore inspection and was won over and bought it immediately. I had heard a great deal about the book already that promises to supply bountiful bucketloads of flavour via a delivery van of vegetables. Yes, It has been deemed that it is not simply carrots that we can use in our cakes but a delectable host of veggies. So to the look, firstly for a girly girl like myself the book is heaven. The pictures are a smorgasbord of pink and glitter and flowers and fun and the cakes are beautifully, if not whimsically presented. Each chapter is colour coded and she works her way through a "who's who" of the stars of the book namely Aubergine, Beetroot, Squash, Courgette and Parsnip and each ones virtues. My first run out with the book was when "The Manfriend" was going away to work so I wanted to make him a sweet treat to send him on his way. The one that called out to me, for it's simplicity and quick construction as much as the taste was "Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cupcakes". Described by Harry as "that photograph of your sister or son, who, aged two and a half, is hiding in a corner of the birthday party with chocolate smeared all over their face". For as indulgent as this description is, It is actually completely correct. Its the shock as you bite into it, the surprise of the taste and the insistence that anyone watching you would remove themselves so you can return back to your chocolate universe undisturbed. The surprise punch in this knock-out cake is the vegetable itself. Possibly an obvious choice to substitute the carrot for, for its similar sweetness is a butternut squash. So here is my attempt, which for the evening was re-named the "Goodbye for Now Cupcake"

Makes 12
100g unsalted peanuts (if you don't have a food processor to grind down the peanuts, simply replace them with ground almonds, they work just as well)
3 medium free-range eggs
200g light muscavado sugar
200g peeled and finely grated butternut squash
                                   (or pumpkin)
100g white rice flour
40g of best quality cocoa powder
                         (I like green and blacks...)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

For the icing:
60g smooth peanut butter
2 tbsp of golden icing sugar, sieved
2 tbsp cocoa powder
pinch of salt
5tbsp boiling waters 

For the top:
small handful of roughly chopped peanuts or some grated dark chocolate

  • preheat your oven to 180°C. Line your muffin tray with 12 paper cases
  • blitz the peanuts in a food processor until totally ground into a fine, even powder 
  • whisk the eggs and sugar for 5 minutes until a pale coffee colour and beautifully fluffy
  • next whisk in the grated pumpkin, followed by the flour,cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and peanuts until everything is completely combined and lusciously covered 
  • congratulate yourself on a thoroughly excellent whisking! step not hers, but completely necessary
  •  spoon the mixture into the paper cases so that it comes four fifths of the way up the sides then place in the oven for 30 minutes. Just as a note- my cakes took only 22 minutes so i would suggest checking them after the 20 mark by giving them a good prodding with a wooden skewer
  • remove the cakes from the oven and cool for 10 minutes in the tray and then transfer to the fridge and leave to cool completely
  • To make the icing, mix the peanut butter, icing sugar,coca powder and salt with the back of a spoon to form a paste. Next slowly and gently incorporate the boiling water with a balloon whisk, one spoonful at a time. You get a smooth and delicious paste. Ice the cupcakes when completely cold and decorate with some roughly chopped nuts or some grated chocolate

To me though, the proof was in the pudding and the happy look on the man's face was enough for me, though getting him to let me photograph him was another story....

I was ridiculously happy with the cookbook which is just a joy to devour. It may be a bit self indulgent for some but I like self indulgent, I mean isn't that what this type of cooking needs to be; spoiling yourself and whoever it is your cooking for?! Where this book is indulgent in verse, it makes up for it in the shrewdness off calories and for a cupcake with chocolate and peanuts and icing all for less then 200 calories- I don't need to say anymore except for buy this book and treat yourself; your waistline will thank you! 


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