It all started when O brought home a couple of courgettes (zucchini, for anyone who’s now googling ‘courgette’) that were near their sell-by dates. Unfortunately, they didn’t fit into my plans for dinner either that day or the next – the girls don’t like green bits in their spag bol and T just doesn’t like green at all yet. And so they sat in my fridge feeling very sorry for themselves.
The great green god of courgettes was smiling down on this lonesome pair, however. It just so happened that today, whilst I was finally getting around to adding Melinda’s Kitchen Diary to my blogroll (sorry it’s taken me so long, Melinda – blame the cat … or the weather … or … okay … my goldfish attention span), I was inexplicably diverted to a recipe for Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake. I dutifully bookmarked the page and gave a fleeting thought to my less than youthful courgettes. But no – their great green god had loftier intentions for them. Not only did I have exactly the right amount of courgette for the recipe, I also had every other ingredient in my cupboards, even down to the marmalade and walnuts (ah, the walnuts …).
My courgettes weren’t out of the woods (or the fridge) yet, though. M declared that nothing short of a chocolate cake would be acceptable to her this afternoon, and I’ve learned through bitter experience that it’s best never to attempt to argue with a three-year-old. Especially not when they’ve set their heart on chocolate cake.
Far from being daunted, the great green god of courgettes planted the idea in my mind that here was the perfect opportunity to slip one of those five daily portions of fruit and veg past my eagle-eyed three-year-old unawares. Maybe even T would be fooled – I mean, I know chocolate cake doesn’t look anything like his usual diet of sausages, but hey … chocolate! How could he refuse?
They were all there when I took out a loaf pan and oiled it. They watched as I weighed the walnuts and started breaking them into small pieces.
“What are you doing, Mum?” L asked.
“She’s making a chocolatecakecanIhelp,” said M. This was a statement, not a question. T started dragging heavy chairs across the kitchen floor to the worktop where he knew the Kenwood mixer would soon appear. He climbed up onto one of the chairs expectantly.
Together, somehow, the cake began to be made. Miraculously, everything seemed to be happening in the same mixing bowl. L cracked an egg; M cracked an egg. T put his fingers into the yolks. M sieved the flour; L weighed the marmalade. T gudgled about a bit in it all before turning the mixer on.
Somehow, among the chaos, someone forgot to add the toasted walnuts. Perhaps it was the great green god of courgettes – after all, L did say afterwards that she wouldn’t have eaten the cake if it had had nuts in it.
Chocolate-Orange and Courgette Cake (adapted from Elizabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson via Melinda)
9 oz plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
5 oz sunflower oil
5 1/4 oz caster sugar
4 oz marmalade
7 oz grated courgette
1 1/2 oz cocoa
3 oz boiling water
1/2 tsp sea salt
4 oz walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped (add only if you are unafraid of incurring the wrath of the great green god of courgettes)
2 tbsp caster sugar for topping
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Oil, flour and base-line a 9″x5″ loaf pan.
Pour the boiling water on the cocoa powder and stir. Cover with clingfilm and leave to cool to room temperature.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Set aside.
Mix eggs, oil, sugar and marmalade together in a large mixing bowl on medium speed.
Add the grated courgette, salt and cocoa/water mix (don’t be tempted to taste the cocoa as L and M insisted on doing this afternoon. It really doesn’t taste good. I told them so, but what do I know?). Beat. Scrape sides of bowl.
Add flour mix. Beat until just incorporated.
Add nuts (at your peril).
Scrape into the loaf pan, smooth the top with an offset spatula (well, that’s what Melinda said, anyway 😉 ). Sprinkle on the sugar (or, if you’re like M, dump it all in one spot).
Bake for 60 to 70 mins in the centre of the oven until the tester comes out clean. Cool for 20 mins before turning out on a wire rack.