Food writer Harry Eastwood has proved that you really can have your cake and eat it…
Why do you think good cake is so important for a healthy life?
To me, a ‘healthy life’ is one where you feel GOOD. I love cake. I always have. Cake is happy food. The only trouble is that most cakes are full of sugar, white flour and fat. And this meant that I could only really have cake once in a while if I didn’t want to feel bloated or guilty – or both! But after years of this sad reality, I eventually found a solution.
What inspired you to experiment with using vegetables – instead of fat and sugar – in your recipes?
I worked on a show called Cook Yourself Thin and had to come up with a chocolate fudge cake that was low fat and low calorie, but also tasted fantastic. I fundamentally disagree with using chemical substitutes, and remembered how moist and rich a real carrot cake tastes. So I made the chocolate fudge cake using beetroot and it was a colossal success. I then got busy experimenting with other vegetables, and the result of this mad spree into the unknown was my book Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache.
What effect does the replacement have on the flavour and quality of the cakes?
The cakes in my book don’t TASTE of vegetables. The point of the veg is purely a textural one: whether it’s fluff and air that I’m seeking to achieve (as in a sponge cake) or whether it’s dark and rich velvet (as in a deep chocolate torte). If you can ever taste the vegetable inside the cakes, it’s usually because that pairing works, such as beetroot and chocolate, for example, or parsnip and ginger. Otherwise, they pass through the cakes undetected, but for the conspicuously mysterious textural improvement.
Also, the flavours aren’t muted by the padding of white flour and the gag of butter, and can, therefore, really sing out. I don’t have a problem with butter (and I adore it on toast or a crumpet), but when it comes to flavour it takes over, so I prefer to save it for the icing where you can taste it.
What are your top tips for baking?
Firstly, make sure you have music or a good radio show to listen to, roll up your sleeves and get ready to enjoy yourself. Baking in a hurry is never fun. Secondly, I like to weigh everything ahead, so that I can wash up as I go along. This also means that you don’t wind up halfway through the recipe before you realise that your baking powder pot is almost empty! Thirdly, if I’m making a batch of cakes, I often make up a second one and freeze it. This is another AMAZING thing about vegetable cakes: they freeze like a dream. Then you can simply defrost it within an hour or so, ice it and eat it!
If you were a cake, which kind would you be?
I would be a Victoria sponge cake (made with courgettes), with a buttercream and seedless raspberry jam centre. Just like my grandmother used to make for the church fete in Sussex.
Harry regularly contributes to various publications, such as Waitrose Weekend, and to France 2’s live morning show, C’est Au Programme. Her new book, A Salad For All Seasons, is due out next year. Follow Harry on Twitter here.