Strawberry and pecan courgette cake

This courgette cake was a long time coming. Strawberry and pecan courgette cake // The Dinner BellThe cake stand in my kitchen had gathered dust. Perched atop the cabinets, it’s stood unloved since the Marvellous Night Circus cake, a state of affairs that 2012 me would never have predicted.

She also wouldn’t have predicted me being caught out with a cache of enormous courgettes that need eating.

Those ones went into courgette and Comté gratin (recipe tbc), but they got me thinking about courgette cake. When I said those words, people recoiled slightly, much like they did with avocado cake, but I’ve proven ’em wrong once and I’ll prove ’em wrong again.

This cake is perfect for this time of year, when strawberry season comes to an end, courgette gluts leave home gardeners desperately pressing the vegetable into the arms of visitors, and the clouds open to remind us that yes, we’ve had a delightful three days of summer but we are still in England, giving you just enough time to put the oven on and consider branching out into wearing sleeves again.

Strawberry and pecan courgette cake // The Dinner BellIn all honesty, preparing the courgettes to ensure your cake doesn’t end up soggy (see recipe notes) does take a little time, but it’s worth it. It should go without saying, but despite the slightly green tinge, this cake tastes like cake, not vegetables, with a hint of spice to provide a little warmth with the sweetness, while pecans give a nice bit of crunch amid fluffy cake and silky smooth frosting.

Recipe adapted from MBakes

Serves at least 14, and goes well with a side of rhubarb, if you can get your hands on the last stalks of the season.

Ingredients

85ml sunflower oil, or other flavourless oil
200g caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g pecans, chopped
60g ground almonds
3 average sized courgettes grated & squeezed*
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
225g self raising flour
75g plain flour

90g butter, room temperature
150g cream cheese
300g icing sugar (you might not need all this!)
A little vanilla extract, if you fancy it

A generous handful of strawberries, hulled and sliced

 Method

      1. Line and grease two cake tins**, and preheat the oven to 170C.
      2. Use an electric whisk to whisk the oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until pale and thick. Stir in the nuts (pecans and almonds), grated courgette, spices, and salt.
      3. Sift in the flours and bicarb, and stir until just combined. Divide between the two tins and bake for around an hour, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.
      4. While the cakes cool, whisk together the butter and cream cheese until just combined, and then gradually add the icing sugar, mixing by hand with a spatula until smooth and the desired consistency. Chill in the fridge.
      5. The cakes have probably domed a little during baking – to get flat tops just slice the domes off with a bread knife when they have cooled, ensuring you keep the knife parallel to the work surface to ensure an even cake layer height.
      6. Spread just under half the frosting over the first layer, and add half the sliced strawberries. Top with the second layer, placing the cut side downwards if you’ve sliced off domes, and repeat the frosting and strawberry arrangement, reserving a couple of tablespoons of frosting.
      7. Use a palette knife to cover the sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. The cake will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.***

Strawberry and pecan courgette cake // The Dinner BellNotes: *This is the laborious bit that will make your mind boggle at how wet courgettes are. Grate, squeeze in a sieve to get a whole bunch of water, and then spread it over two bits of kitchen roll, top with another two bits, and press down or weight with a heavyish object. Repeat with fresh kitchen roll on top until only a little water comes out when you press. This will take several rounds, It is astonishing.

** I used 8-inch tins, and the cakes took 1hr to bake. If using 6-inch tins, as in Em’s recipe, they’ll be deeper and take around 1hr20 to bake.

*** If preparing in advance, bake the cakes but do not frost or add the strawberry slices – the strawberries tend to leak a little juice so this is best done at the last minute.

The lady behind The Dinner Bell! I’m that person who doesn’t let you leave their flat without eating something, and will probably press a parcel of cookies or cake into your hands as you head to the door.

I’m a sub-editor by day, avid book-reader by night, and octopus fan always. I live in north London, but little bits of my heart still belong to Norfolk, where I grew up, and Sheffield, where I went to uni and finally lost my bumpkin accent.

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