Baking chocolate courgette cake
A comment by pastry chef Cyril Lignac in a recent (2017) episode of “Le meilleur pâtissier“, the French version of Bake Off, confirmed that in France baking with vegetables is seen very much as the English style.
In the early days of the salon de thé the idea of cake … with vegetables … was a hurdle we had to encourage our French customers to jump.
I sympathised with the cross-Channel culture shock.
I first met carrot cake in swinging nineteen-eighties London. Before that, cakes always meant bright yellow Victoria sponge and Swiss roll. Even in yuppie-gentrified North London I was sure carrot cake was just middle class code for dark sponge and rustic icing.
Now I live in more enlightened times.
Now I understand that the finely shredded courgette produced by our Kitchenaid Artisan food processor simply means a cake will be extra moist with a longer life in the mouth.
For the next salon de thé Jacqueline’s “gâteau de jour” will redirect attention from the courgette element with chocolate cake and chocolate flavour buttercream frosting.
First, Jacqueline squeezes all the excess “moist” out of the courgette with a muslin cloth.
The trusty Kitchenaid Artisan stand mixer makes light work of the cake batter.
When it reaches the oven you wouldn’t suspect this cake was anything out of the ordinary.
Thanks to all that extra “moist” it was an unexpectedly long bake. But the finished item is a beautiful, delicious, conventional looking chocolate cake!
Before the butter-cream filling Jacqueline applies a generous helping from our last jar of home made apricot jam.
The buttercream filling is next.
No calories are spared with the thick, luxurious outer frosting layer.
Our salon de thé customers expect a high quality of finish from native cake-makers. Jacqueline’s attention to detail has prompted regulars to call it the work of a “vrai pâtissier” – a real, French, artisan pastry chef.
To convince people to try the cake was surprisingly still an uphill struggle, if they knew about the courgette.
Our first visitor was a regular take-away customer who obviously trusts our brand, but when Jacqueline told her outright that it contained courgette she decided to take the alternative option.
Ironically, this was carrot cake.
For the rest of the morning Jacqueline took the approach mums have used with reluctant children through the ages. Anyone who showed interest was told, “It’s chocolate cake, with a SECRET ingredient, and I’ll tell you what it is when you’ve eaten it.”
Everyone was appropriately surprised at the reveal. But no one complained. The speed that slices began to disappear just increased all morning.
After a marathon bake the previous day Jacqueline thought we had enough cake to last through to the weekend. A victim of her own success, the afternoon had to be given over to more baking.