A light and fresh courgette and lemon cake filled with lemon curd, and topped with lemon cream cheese icing and crunchy pistachios.
At the moment I’m really buying into the craze for swapping out the carby part of meals for vegetable alternatives. Once you start substituting you realise how many more vegetables you can pack into your diet by doing it, and it doesn’t take too long to feel the benefits. Better skin, better sleep, and a general feeling of virtuousness to name just a few.
The first real star of this process, for me, was the humble cauliflower. I’ve always liked cauliflower, but who knew the amazing things you could do with an otherwise not especially exciting vegetable! Cauliflower rice, cauliflower mash, cauliflower pie topping, cauliflower fish cake crumb, roasted cauliflower…. the list goes on.
Next up was the courgette. Now, unlike the cauliflower, I’ve never really been a fan of courgettes. I find they so easily become watery and bitter. Too many times I’ve pushed slimy pieces around my plate, or tried to mask them with mashed potato or gravy; anything to avoid that slippery texture.
Then, however, the spiralizer came into my life. Boiled, roasted or steamed, I’m not a courgette fan, but turn them into long twisting ribbons and fry with a little garlic, and something magical happens. One of my most hated vegetables becomes something rather lovely indeed. Crisp, flavoursome and the perfect base for sauce. Best of all your can eat a massive bowl full without feeling the least bit bloated or over full.
The success of the courgetti (thats courgette spaghetti, zoodles if you’re from the states!), set me thinking about the courgette and what else we could do with it. Of course, naturally my thoughts turned to cake.
I was still, however, a little dubious. Courgette? In a cake? Really? I love carrot cake, but then carrots are sweet and crunchy. I’ll happily nibble them raw everyday of the week. Courgettes on the other hand. Bitter, soggy things. I had visions of taking this cake from the oven and finding a slimy, undercooked, sloppy, harsh mess of a cake.
Oh, how wrong was I!
This cake is beautiful. Its light, its sweet, its fresh. Its oh so moist, but in the best possible way. The courgette’s natural dampness works entirely in our favour here. There’s a subtle hint of lemon zest running through the cake, giving way to a punch of lemon in the generous layer of creamy lemon curd sandwiching the cake together. Like the best carrot cakes its topped with a thick coating of tangy lemon cream cheese icing. The crunchy pistachios roughly chopped on top give the balance in texture needed to compliment the softness of the cake. The green helps to bring out the green of the courgette too, showcasing our star ingredient.
I love these pretty little green ribbons of courgette flecking the sponge. They make the cake look so vibrant and inviting.
This is such a homey, satisfying bake. A gorgeous weekend cake, perfect for sitting down with mid afternoon for a big slice and a cup of tea.
What other vegetables have you tried baking with?
Have you got any great recipes to share?
– Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson, via Chez Foti.
– Making your own lemon curd is incredibly easy. If you’d like to have a go, try this recipe.
- ----- for the cake
- 320g courgettes (approximately 2 medium courgettes)
- 2 large eggs
- 125ml vegetable oil
- 150g caster sugar
- 225g self-raising flour
- ½ a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
- ½ a teaspoon of baking powder
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 or 3 tablespoons of lemon curd, to fill the cake
- ----- for the cream cheese icing
- 200g cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 100g icing sugar
- juice of ½ lemon
- 2 or 3 tablespoons pistachios, roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ 350F.
- Grease and line 2 x 20cm sandwich tins.
- Coarsely grate your courgette. Place it into a sieve over a sink to let any excess moisture drain away. Covering the courgette with a paper towel, and sitting a heavy bowl on top can help the process, but you're not trying to get all of the moisture out so there's no need to squeeze the courgette.
- While the courgette drains, put the eggs, vegetable oil and caster sugar into a large bowl. Beat together until light and creamy.
- Sift in the self-raising flour, bicarbonate of soda, and baking powder. Mix until combined, then stir through the grated courgette.
- Divide the mixture evenly between the 2 prepared tins.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for approximately 30 minutes, or until the cakes are risen and golden, and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
- Meanwhile, make the cream cheese icing. Cream the cream cheese in a bowl until smooth. Sift in the icing sugar. Add the lemon juice and beat until the icing is smooth and light.
- Once the cakes are cool, turn one cake upside down on a plate. Cover with 2 or 3 tablespoons of lemon curd, and top with the other cake.
- Top with the cream cheese icing, and sprinkle the chopped pistachios over the top.