This cake tastes nothing like aubergine and everything like a super rich dark chocolate mousse cake. It's from Harry Eastwood's "Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache" cake book, which uses vegetables to replace fats (like butter and oil) and rice and spelt flour instead of wheat flour. In Harry's words, this is the ultimate feel-good book of natural cakes that taste naughty. These are recipes for healthy cakes which don't compromise on taste and are low in fat. Unlike similar 'healthy' cakes you can buy, these also have food benefits of vegetables rather than mystery chemical-laden ingredients. It's a truly inventive book, using ingredients like butternut squash, courgette, carrot and potatoes as the foundation of cakes and there's no lack of imagination in the variety: orange and rosemary drizzle cake, ginger sticky toffee pudding, peach and poppy seed muffins and caramel swiss roll with passion fruit cream are some of the delicious sounding options.
Using this cookbook will mean you'll become great pals with your grater, blender and microwave as the vegetable need to be pureed or grated before use, however once this is done most of the recipes are quite straightforward. This chocolate aubergine cake has all of the ingredients mixed in one bowl, after the aubergines have been pureed and chocolate melted within. There's no trace of aubergine taste and it's worth using good quality dark chocolate as the flavour will really shine through. Baking the cake made the house smell absolutely divine with its dark chocolate and honey scent. The recipe itself says "your kitchen will sing with the smell of hot chocolate." Which brings me to my only negative about the book. The language used is simperingly twee to the point of irritation. Each of the cakes has a 'personality' so for instance, here is the description for this Chocolate Heartbreak cake: "This cake is sad. It's dark and drizzling down the window panes. She puffs her chest in hope when she goes into the oven; she then breaks, like a chest heaving a sob. This is why Aubergine (the Eeyore of the vegetable world) is the right kind of friend to hold your hand." Perhaps I'm made of cynicism, but I can't help but cringe at thinking of a sad old donkey aubergine trying to hold my hand. The ingredients in this recipe include "salt (or tears if you have them in the kitchen)" and "brandy (for moral support)". I've tried to edit out the worst of this from the recipe itself, but sadly it infects pretty much every page. But if you ignore all the twee nonsense, it's a beautifully photographed book with interesting recipes for guilt-free cakes that you won't find the like of anywhere else.
Chocolate Heartbreak Cake
2 small whole aubergines (weighing roughly 400g)
300g best dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), broken into squares
50g good quality cocoa powder
60g ground almonds
3 medium eggs
200g clear honey
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp brandy
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degree C. Line a 9"/23cm loose bottomed tin with baking parchment and lightly brush the base and sides with a little oil.
2. Cook the aubergines by puncturing the skins here and there with a skewer, then placing them in a bowl covered in cling film. Microwave on high for 8 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and limp. Discard any water at the bottom. Leave the aubergines to stand in the bowl until they are cool enough to handle.
3. Next, skin and puree the aubergines in the blender. Note: I peeled the aubergines before microwaving them with a regular peeler, or you can use the tip of a knife once they are cooked. Once the warm aubergine is pureed and smooth, add the chocolate, which will mingle and melt slowly. Set aside, covered once again in cling film, until all the chocolate has melted. Note: I need to microwave this again for 1 minute covered in cling film, on the lowest setting on the microwave, for the chocolate all to melt.
4. In a large bowl, whisk up all the other ingredients for a minute until well introduced to each other and slightly bubbly. Fold the melted chocolate and aubergine mixture into the bowl with all the other ingredients.
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and place it in the bottom of the oven for 30 minutes by which time your kitchen will just sing with the smell of hot chocolate.
6. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in its tin for 15 minutes before turning it out on to a wire rack and peeling off the parchment. Quickly turn it the right way up again and sit it on a plate to avoid any scars from the rack.
7. Sieve a little cocoa powder over the top of the cake before cutting yourself a slice.