Cucumber Cake

 Photos by  Zachary Cross

Photos by Zachary Cross

We were discussing my husband Jeffrey’s birthday a few weeks ago and talking about how to celebrate. Green tomato cake has been a favorite in the past so we asked him if he wanted that. He replied, “how about a cucumber cake?” I think he was mostly joking, but I looked it up and found several recipes.

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Vegetable-based desserts are nothing new. It seems odd at first, but most vegetable desserts use a fruit that we eat as vegetables, such as in zucchini bread. Others use roots or leaves - carrot cake is possibly the most common and popular, while sneaking spinach into brownies is a relatively new and possibly less appealing idea. On the market blog there are recipes for Swiss Chard TartSquash BarsPumpkin Bars, and our family favorite, Green Tomato Cake.

Cucumbers are another fruit that we usually eat as a vegetable. They’re in the Cucurbitaceae family with squash and pumpkins, so why not put them in cake? Appropriately the recipe I ended up using is from Veggie Desserts, a site full of vegetable dessert and other veggie recipes. There’s a cookbook now, too, Veggie Desserts + Cakes.

The recipe is pretty simple, simpler than other veggie cakes I’ve made. No sugaring or salting the veggie to drain excess water. I was surprised since cucumbers are so watery but the final cake was not wet at all. Lemon juice and zest complement cucumber’s light flavor. We did not have the elderflower cordial for the icing so used the recommended substitute, lemon juice. If you want to try the elderflower flavor in the icing, Wildflower Tea Shop & Apothecary has dried elderflowers you can use to make the cordial. There’s a version of the cucumber cake on Veggie Desserts with a gin icing  as well.

Since I have a wheat allergy our older daughter volunteered to make the birthday cake as written. She found the cucumber hard to blend completely but ended up liking the green flecks and texture. She also decorated it with icing made with natural colors.

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The cake was well received so I decided to make a grain-free version and try it out. The cucumber is a subtle flavor but is definitely present. I found the cucumber hard to blend as well and eventually added the eggs to the blender to give it more liquid to blend with. It worked! I like the contrast of the light green color and the white frosting. I used lemon as the flavor in my frosting as well and added some zest for more flavor. Unfortunately, I mixed up the two cake recipes and added too much butter. That’s one reason my cake is thinner. I made two layers as well - more room for icing! 

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I’m inspired now to try more vegetables in desserts and in other new ways, too.

Cucumber and Lemon Cake with Elderflower Icing

From Veggie Desserts
Serves: 8
Ingredients
200g cucumber (about half a cucumber) Zest and juice of half a lemon
115g (1/2 cup) butter, softened
150g (3/4) granulated sugar
11⁄2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
150g (11⁄8 cups) self raising flour
For the Elderflower Icing:
75g (1/3 cup) butter, softened
150g (11⁄8 cups) powdered icing sugar
1 tablespoon elderflower cordial (or lemon juice if elderflower isn't available)

Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F. Lightly grease 2 x 7in sandwich tins or a 9 inch round cake tin.
2. Leave the skin on the cucumber and de­seed it by cutting it in half lengthways and scraping the seeds out with a teaspoon. Cut into chunks and puree until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice.
3. Cream the butter, lemon zest, sugar and vanilla together for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating each one in well.
5. Stir in 1⁄3 of the flour, then add 1⁄3 of the cucumber and continue until it is all combined.
6. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes. Allow to cool slightly in the tin and turn out on a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

For the Elderflower Icing:
1. Beat the butter, icing sugar and cordial together until smooth and fluffy. Keep in the fridge until ready to ice the cake.

Heather Cross