Sometime last year two friends and I visited an emporium in Northampton called ‘A most marvelous place to shop’. It’s a shop that is almost too difficult to describe but is full of vintage and antique items, nearly new and lovingly made-by-hand bits and bobs which just cannot be found anywhere else. It is also the home of a super little café and, of course, we just had to stop and linger over cappuccinos and cake. To my credit I resisted the temptation of having a slice all to myself but happily tried just a small forkful of a rather good-looking dark and mysterious chocolate cake. It was really scrumptious with an intense flavour and really moist. My friends and I pondered over the possible ingredients and, finally, I summoned up the courage to ask the coffee shop owner whether she had the recipe. She did actually mutter something like “If all my customers made their cakes at home, I wouldn’t have anyone coming in here” but she did turn on her heels and reached up to a shelf and handed me the cookbook. It turned out to be ‘Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache’ by Harry Eastwood and the cake itself ‘Heartache Chocolate Cake’ contained a very special secret ingredient – aubergines!
About the same time of year, Lynn Hill – founder of the Clandestine Cake Club – asked members to submit original recipes for possible inclusion in a cookbook she was planning and it got me thinking about using other types of vegetables which could be included in cakes to replace the unhealthy fat content. So, after a bit of trial and error, I devised two cakes – Lemon, Parsnip & Hazelnut and Sweet Potato & Pecan – both of which I thought were worthy of submission. Time passed but, much to my amazement, many weeks later, I learned that both of my recipes had been chosen to be included. To say I was ‘pleased’ is a real understatement!
So, now several months later, on Valentine’s Day, the cookbook was published and I lovingly made both cakes for one of the many book launches being held at various Waterstone’s branches throughout the UK. The event in Abington Street, Northampton, was a huge success – at one time we had about 80 people gathered around us eating slices of cake with happy chatter playing alongside the ringing of the shop tills. Fellow members Carmela Hayes and Vanessa Kimbell were also recipe contributors and they joined me for the many obligatory photographs.
Other members also kindly baked for the event and, as usual a variety of cake containers, boxes and plates were hidden under the display table. (Oh yes, before I forget to mention it, daughter Laura has advised me that Tesco has on offer at the moment a cake carrier – see photo - at a bargain price of £3.90!) We also had many friends and family who came along to support us. What a day!
(Further photos of the event can be seen shortly at www.clandestinecakeclub.co.uk)
Lemon, Parsnip & Hazelnut - recipe
350g parsnips, peeled and grated (squeeze out any moisture)
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
250ml rapeseed oil
3 large eggs
85g roasted hazelnuts chopped plus 25g chopped to decorate
125g stem ginger chopped
250g self-raising flour
175g soft light brown sugar
125g butter (at room temperature)
250g full-fat cream cheese
2 tbsp lemon juice
125g icing sugar
Preheat oven to 190C fan 170C or gas mark 5. Grease and base line two 20cm round sandwich tins.
In a large bowl, combine the parsnips, lemon zest, oil, eggs, hazelnuts and stem ginger, then add flour and sugar. Mix well.
Spoon the mixture into the tins, spreading it evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting, beat the butter until smooth, then add the cream cheese and lemon juice and mix until combined. Finally, sift in the icing sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
To assemble the cake, place one of the cooled sponges on a serving plate and spread a third of the frosting over the top. Place the other sponge on top, then use the remaining frosting to cover the top of the whole cake. Decorate with the extra chopped hazelnuts.