From the looks of this cake you’d never guess that a full two cups of raw vegetables go into the batter. From the taste of it you’d never suspect the presence of beets and zucchini either. But grated raw vegetables aren’t reason enough to bake this cake; it’s more a nutritious perk. Do it because it’s fun to bake a bundt cake and because displaying it on your countertop in all its glossy gorgeousness will make you feel like the proud mama you are. Oh, and because it tastes delicious.
The recipe is from Jennie Schacht’s inspiring cookbook Farmers’ Market Desserts. The vegetables lend moisture and sturdiness to the cake while helping to maintain a tender crumb. I suspect back in the day, vegetables went into cake batter when there was a surplus in the garden. I can’t think of a more decadent way to use up the overgrown zucchini teaming in my vegetable boxes at the moment.
When I served the cake to my kids, I didn’t tell them about the beets and zucchini, at least until they’d gobbled it down and asked for seconds. There’s a lot of debate about the pros and cons of sneaking vegetables into kids’ food. I know some moms who’ve given up the notion of getting a vegetable into their offspring unless it’s in disguise. Entire books are devoted to the subject such as Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious and Missy Chase Lapine’s The Sneaky Chef. Both authors suggest going to great lengths to work vegetables into dishes so they go undetected. On the flip side are plenty of moms and food experts vehemently opposed to such practices, saying vegetables need to be up front and center, otherwise kids will never learn to develop a taste for them.
Although I’ve been known to stir pureed carrots into my mac cheese and lord knows have worked chopped kale anonymously into more dishes than I can count, I tend to be a more ‘up front and center’ kind of a cook. I wonder what kind of a message it sends if healthy foods need to be camouflaged. Plus, it’s tough to get in adequate quantities when they must disappear within another dish.
That all said, there’s no harm in a little of both. Have the bowl of veggies and the green salad on the table, but toss those dark leafies into the chili when the kids aren’t looking.
On the “serve ‘em naked” end of the spectrum, here are a few tips that may help:
• Provide options — Try for at least a couple of vegetable dishes at meals, it will up the chances that they will at least opt for one of them.
• Let them choose – Take kids to the market and let them have a say in what vegetables you are going to make that day or week.
• Get them cooking – Give them jobs in the kitchen related to the salad or vegetables: Making a dressing, grating cheese over broccoli, and so on.
• Serve veggies first – I’m always surprised by how quickly the kids can down a plate of vegetables set out before dinner, when they are good and hungry.
• Garden – Growing and harvesting a couple of vegetables is a great way to up the interest.
• Eat them yourself – Let your kids see you eating and loving a variety of vegetables.
• Don’t push it – Put the food out there, encourage them to try it, then leave it alone.
• Be patient – Some kids take time (a long time) to adopt new foods. There is an excellent article by Charity Ferreira in the September issue of Yoga Journal about one mom’s trial (and triumph) with her picky son.
Now, I’m off to the garden….I’ve got a cake to bake.
FARMER’S SECRET CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not dutch processed)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup gently packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup plain whole-milk or low-fat Greek-style yogurt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup gently packed peeled and grated raw zucchini
1 cup gently packed peeled and grated raw red beets
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream or milk
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with a rack in the lower third. Generously butter a 10-cup Bundt pan. Dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess. (Alternatively, use a 9-by-2-inch square baking pan.)
To make the cake, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon into a bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a handheld mixer), beat together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until light and creamy, about 5 minutes. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, beating well and stopping and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Mix in the yogurt and vanilla. On low speed, add the flour mixture and beat until nearly combined but still streaky. (The batter will be thick.) Use a wooden spoon or a spatula to stir in the zucchini, beets, and chocolate chips.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes and then test to see if it’s done by inserting a long toothpick or thin wooden skewer midway between the inner and outer edges of the pan. If no wet batter appears on the skewer, it’s done. If it doesn’t come out clean, continue to cook another few minutes and test again. Don’t overcook the cake or it will be dry.
Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Using oven mitts if needed, invert a flat serving plate over the pan and invert the pan and plate together to release the cake. Lift off the pan and let cool completely.
To make the glaze, heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until steam begins to rise and bubbles form along the edge of the pan. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate, and let stand for 1 minute, then stir until smooth. Let the glaze stand until thick but still pourable, about 10 minutes. (Rewarm if it gets too thick).
Pour the glaze in a circular motion over the top of the completely cooled cake, allowing some to drip down the center and sides. Allow the glaze to set for about 1 hour before serving.
Store leftover cake, tightly covered, at room temperature for up to 1 day. Or, refrigerate for up to 5 days, then let stand at room temperatures for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.
Makes 12 generous servings, 16 to 20 “kid size” servings
Reprinted with permission from Farmers’ Market Desserts, Jennie Schacht, Chronicle Books, 2010