Courgette loaf – sweet not savoury

I read an article recently in which a ‘celebrity baker’ scoffed at those who include fruit and vegetables as a key ingredient in their cake. Well, I have to disagree, even though I’m not a professional baker! Some of my favourite bakes include a good helping of veg – sweet potato chocolate brownies, carrot cake and my new favourite, courgette loaf. They may have a different consistency to your traditional baked cake (watching Great British Bake Off, I’m in awe of their delicate crumb!), but I like a sweet treat that’s gooey, substantial and full of goodness, so veg in cake is just fine by me.

So as part of my mini-series on what to do with the mass of courgette around at the moment, here’s a great little cake to try for afternoon tea. Well, it’s more of a loaf, similar to banana bread than a Victoria Sponge, but nevertheless it’s still cake in my book! It is dense, but in a sticky, satisfactory way, reminiscent of bread pudding but a million times lighter!

The benefit of using veg or fruit in baking is added moisture; the potential problem with courgette is that they are 95% water, which could make your cake a soggy, heavy disaster. To prevent this, just squeeze some excess water out of the courgettes once they’re grated. You could do this through a clean tea towel, but it’s a bit messy and you can end up spending ages picking up bits of courgette from odd places (or maybe that’s just me….?). An easy way is to pack it into a measuring cup or small pot and press it down so the water rises to the top and then drain that off, holding your hand over the top. Don’t take off too much though, otherwise your cake will suffer.

This cake really is super healthy – it’s dairy free, can be gluten free, plant based, contains minimal refined sugar and is packed full of lovely nutrients and fibre. On top of that, it is also refined oil free, the apple sauce replacing the oil in this instance. Not that fat is bad, far from it, but refined oils such as sunflower or vegetable oils take their toll on our cellular health and so should be minimised as much as possible. To add a little fat into the mix, pop in some chopped walnuts or pecans – the flavour, texture and nutritional value will be happy if you do!

The downside of cutting out refined products in this cake is shelf life – oil and sugar act as preservatives, so best keep this loaf in the fridge and use it up within 3 days. Mind you, once you taste it, that won’t be a problem! Enjoy.

Yummy courgette loaf cake
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
6 tablespoons water
240g wholemeal/spelt/gluten free flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 medium courgette, grated (small)
100g coconut sugar (or other minimally refined brown sugar)
160g apple sauce
10mls lemon juice
50g raisins and/or chopped walnuts
Place the ground flaxseed and water into a bowl and mix well. Put to one side to thicken – this is your flaxseed ‘egg’.
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºc. Grease a 2lb loaf tin and line with baking paper.
Place the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into another bowl and mix well together. Add the sugar, lemon juice and apple sauce to the flaxseed mixture and stir well, then add the courgette and stir again. Pour the wet mix into the dry mix and quickly combine together – don’t over mix. Stir in the raisins and nuts (if using) and pour into the prepared loaf tin. Tap the tin on the worktop to level and stop the raising agent working too quickly, then pop in the oven.

Bake for 25 mins then check – the loaf should be slightly risen and lightly browned on top. Stick a skewer or cocktail stick into the cake – if it comes out coated with mixture, pop back into the oven for another few minutes until done. Remove from the oven, leave to cool for 10 minutes or so, then tip out onto a cooling rack, carefully peel off the baking paper and let it cool completely.