With the combination of warmth and rain in the last few weeks, our vegetable patch is turning into a bit of a jungle. We have been feasting on home-grown courgettes, cucumbers and green beans for the last couple of weeks and the tomatoes are just beginning to colour. With the promise of lots of other veg ahead, we are reaping the benefits of growing from seed and it is saving us money on the weekly shop.
Home grown vegetables always taste so much better than anything shop bought. The fact that they are straight off the plant means they can never be any fresher, so the flavours are more intense and as they were meant to be. It's fantastic when the crop comes good, but there are times when you get such an abundance of something, that there is a need to be inventive in using it.
Courgettes are one of those vegetables which require a bit of creativity. Once they start to harvest, they come thick and fast, but unlike many vegetables, they are difficult to store for long periods of time and they don't seem to freeze well. Thank goodness they are versatile!
This week I decided to use them to make cake. It is ages since I made cupcakes and as I haven't yet created a gluten free version of courgette cake, figured it was about time I did. Because they are not over-strong in flavour and are also full of moisture, courgettes grated and added to cake mixture help to create a really moist and wholesome sponge.
I made another trip to my favourite local orchard this week too, to get my weekly fix of cherries. For those of you who have read some of my recent posts, you will know that my favourite orchard is Terry's Cherries in Faversham, Kent....... very traditional and full of ripe juicy cherries sold straight off the trees. You can see pictures from the orchard which I posted last year here.
Laden with lots of delicious cherries, I wondered how they might pair with the courgettes in cake........ Well there's only one way to find out!
This sponge mix is enriched with some ground almonds and also gains extra moisture from the addition of apple sauce. Spiced up with a goodly dose of cinnamon, the cupcakes are amazing............ moist and succulent, run through with ribbons of juicy courgette and chunks of fruity cherry. If you have never eaten courgette cake, give these a try......... They are a real treat and anything but savoury. Great on their own without anything added, they make a wonderful breakfast cake too!
I am genuinely thrilled with the result. I even managed to get my daughter to eat courgettes without noticing! She knew the cakes contained cherries, but I sneakily didn't mention that there was also 'green' stuff in there, until after she had declared how much she liked them. And what did she say when I came clean? 'Oh no....... that means I can't eat any more of them!' Really??? Kids are so fickle.......
As the sponge is not over-sweet, I figured the cupcakes could take a bit of frosting as well. To compliment the theme of the cupcake, I made a cherry cream-cheese frosting which adds to the overall fruitiness and makes the cupcakes a little more decadent.
The frosting is lovely...... creamy and rich from the cheese and sweet from the sugar, but tempered by the cherry, making it a little more grown up. Unfortunately (and possibly due to the heat this weekend), my cheese and butter seemed to separate slightly on beating and I was struggling to get the icing to thicken up with the usual amount of icing sugar, so it was a little wetter than intended. Thank goodness the appallingly sloppy piping could be hidden by an extra fresh juicy cherry on the top. Oh well...... it tasted great and that's the main thing!
I am entering my courgette cupcakes into a whole bunch of challenges this month........ They are so wonderful, they need to be shared........
First up : Treat Petite - this month being hosted by Kat at The Baking Explorer (who co-hosts the challenge with Stuart at Cakeyboi). 'Summer' is the theme for July and these cupcakes are full of it! Cherries and courgettes, fresh as they come and full of summer sun.
Next : The Biscuit Barrel Challenge - the baby of Laura at I'd Much Rather Bake Than..... Laura's theme for the month is 'In Season Fruits'. Whether the courgettes count or not, those cherries definitely fit the bill!
Then we have a new challenge brought to us by Shaheen at Allotment2Kitchen : Vegetable Palette. Shaheen challenges us to make goodies with fruits and vegetables and anything goes as long as it is vegetarian. July's criteria is for the dish to incorporate 'Summer Reds'....... The cherries in these cupcakes are a beautiful deep, dark red......... Lovely!
Next, I'm sending my very seasonal cupcakes to Simple & In Season, being hosted this month by My Custard Pie on behalf of Ren from RenBehan, who has just welcomed a new baby boy into her world........ Congratulations Ren!
And finally : I think I still have a cupcake left for Elizabeth at Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary for Shop Local. The cherries are fresh from Terry in the orchard and the courgettes are from the vegetable patch at the bottom of my garden. I reckon that pretty much qualifies.....
Phew! And here they are : gluten free Courgette and Cherry Cupcakes....... a wonderful treat for July........
Courgette & Cherry Cupcakes (makes 16 cupcakes)
185g plain gluten free flour mix (I used blend A from this post, but other blends are fine)
80g ground almonds
25g oat flour (made as in this post, if you are unable to buy the flour ready made)
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
150g courgette (zucchini) - grated
130g fresh dark cherries - pitted and chopped
65g unsalted butter - room temperature
200g golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs - room temperature
4 tablespoons apple sauce
- Prepare your cupcake cases by placing into cupcake trays.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
- Weigh and mix together in a medium bowl, the flour, almonds, oats, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cinnamon. Make sure any lumps are completely broken down and set aside.
- Grate the courgette and pitt and chop the cherries and set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar and vanilla until light and creamy.
- Add the eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly until you have a light and airy batter.
- Add the apple sauce and beat to thoroughly combine.
- Fold the flour and the courgette and cherries into the wet batter mix until completely incorporated, but be careful not to over-mix.
- Spoon into the cake cases (about two-thirds full) and smooth the tops with the back of a spoon.
- Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until the tops spring back to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Place on a wire rack to cool whilst you make your frosting.
Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting
100g cream cheese
130g unsalted butter - room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Approx 250g icing sugar (or more if your icing needs to be thicker)
1-2 tablespoons cherry puree or cherry syrup (I used a little liquidised candied cherries made from this recipe)
Extra fresh cherries to decorate
- Beat the cream cheese and butter together with an electric whisk until smooth and combined.
- Add the vanilla extract and the icing sugar (a little at a time) and continue to beat until you have used about half of the sugar.
- As the mixture begins to thicken, add the cherry syrup a little at a time, alternating with the remaining sugar.
- If you need to add more icing sugar to thicken the mixture, continue to do so until you have an icing which is of spreading consistency.
- When the cupcakes are cold, either spread or pipe the icing on each one to decorate and top with a fresh cherry.
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