This is one of those cakes that you’d see on a cake stand with a glass cover on the counter of a cafe where the baked goods are not at all ordinary. A place that seems to be effortlessly boho with mismatched tables and chairs and plants standing on retro telephone tables. (Do you remember them?) This is a cake that needs a vintage china plate and tea from a vintage china teacup and saucer. It’s also a cake that will be featuring in my next Brookford novel – but you’ll need to wait for months and months to find out more about that.
Whimsy aside, this cake began life as an inspiration from an Instagram post by chef Tom Kerridge.
It was so pretty I had to look up the recipe – which was when the disappointment kicked in. His recipe called for ingredients such as half-fat margarine and granulated sweetener. While I appreciate it would make the end result much healthier – and Tom Kerridge is a master at making the healthy taste great – I didn’t have any of that in my house.
By now disappointment had set in. I’d bought some zucchinis at the market this morning especially for the purpose and now? I did what I usually do in these circumstances – I deferred to Nigella. In How To Be A Domestic Goddess I found it – Flora’s Famous Courgette Cake.
There were, however, a couple of problems:
- I’m not a fan of raisins in cake and was going to have enough trouble convincing Grant to eat a zucchini cake without the raisins and
- I’d sort of become quite attached to the idea of the cardamom and lime that Kerridge had in his version.
So I combined the two – Nigella’s cake without the raisins, but with the cardamom and lime. Cue happy dance. And the result? Really really good. So good that Grant, who had originally had a slice to be polite, told me to go away and write it down quickly. So I did…and here it is.
Before we begin – in Australia we refer to courgettes as zucchinis so I’ll use the two words interchangeably.
What you need
- 250g courgettes (about 2-3 medium zucchini/courgette). Weigh them before you grate them.
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup (125ml) vegetable oil
- 150g caster sugar
- 225g self-raising flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp bicarb soda
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- finely grated zest of 2 limes
- 250g cream cheese
- 125g icing sugar, sifted (or I run it through the mini food processor to get all the lumps out of it)
- juice of 1-2 limes
- Extra lime zest for garnish
What you do with it
- Preheat your oven to 180C and grease and line a round cake tin – although this would work just as well in a loaf tin too. Nigella does hers in 2 x 21cm sandwich tins – which she later fills with lime curd before icing. Just a thought. If, however, you do go the sandwich tin option, you’ll only need to cook it for about 30 mins.
- Grate the courgettes (use the coarse side of an ordinary box grater) onto a clean tea towel, then bring the ends of the tea towel together and twist it into a garrotte and squeeze – preferably over the sink or into another bowl. You’ll be amazed at just how much water does come out of these and it will take more squeezing than you’d think, but if you skip this step you’ll have a very watery cake. Pop into a bowl and set aside.
- Put the eggs, oil and sugar into a bowl and, using either a stand mixer or hand-held beaters, beat them until creamy.
- Sift in the flour, bicarb, baking powder and cardamom and beat until well combined.
- Stir in the lime zest and zucchini, pour into the prepared tin and bake for around 40 minutes or until slightly browned and firm to the touch. Leave in the tin for 5-10 minutes and then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.
- To make the icing, beat the cream cheese in a bowl until smooth, add the sifted icing sugar and beat some more, and finally the lime juice to taste.
- Smear it thickly over the cake, spreading with a palette knife and grate over some lime zest to serve. (If you live in South-East Queensland or just need to firm the icing up a tad, pop it into the fridge for a bit before serving.