Super Lemony Courgette Cake

It is no secret that I am all over lemon flavoured anything. In fact, I enjoy lemon flavoured things so much that I deemed it an important enough quality to make it into my Twitter bio - arguably among the highest of honours.

Therefore, it seems only fitting that my birthday cake has been for the past few years, and most likely will continue to be, lemon flavoured. (Although for my birthday last year I went to stay with friends in Austria and was treated to the most divine black forest gateau which was also really quite spectacular.)

Anyway, today I wish to bless the world with the recipe for my go-to delicious cake, with lemon in every single component possible.

(Disclaimer: yes, it is almost exactly as far away from my birthday as possible, but these photos have been waiting to be shared for a Very Long Time so it seemed only fitting to post them on my half birthday. If half birthdays are even a thing.)

I must also take this opportunity, not to try and convince you that vegetables in cakes can work (has anyone had the extremely rare and little-known... carrot cake? Oh yes, wait, everyone has. And it's great. So that's the convincing already covered.) but to explain why, in this cake, courgette is an absolute necessity.

Dry cake is abhorrent. There is nothing as disappointing as seeing a stunningly presented cake that makes you hungry just by looking at it, then taking a bite and emerging from the experience with your mouth stuck closed, unable to talk, and wheezing out little crumby bits of unexpected sadness as they manage to get caught in the back of your throat in a much less amusing way than icing sugar.

The answer, my friends (other than avoidance of all cakes henceforth, which really isn't much of an answer at all) is courgette. Or beetroot. Or carrot. Or sweet potato. Or rhubarb. Or pumpkin. Or parsnip. Or butternut squash (the least aptly named vegetable in existence). Or pretty much any fruit and almost any other vegetable you can think of.

Why? Because of everyone's least favourite word. Yep, prepare yourselves. Vegetables make the cake moist. Not damp, not squelchy or squishy, not succulent in the way that savoury dishes can be. Moist. Moist and BLOOMING DELICIOUS.

Courgette is an entirely harmless vegetable, in that it has no strong flavour of its own, contains a whole stack of important nutrients, and actually allows you to use less oil and no butter, generally abundant in cake. The fallout? You can have more of a vegetable cake for the same nutritional value as a non-veg cake, and feel smug about getting your five a day whilst doing so. Win win win win win.

This recipe is one of those ones scribbled down on a nondescript scrap of paper that floats around near the rest of the recipe books and would cause mild panic if it were to go missing. I'm not sure where it came from or what the original, unadapted version is, so best to record it here just in case. What are you waiting for? Get your apron and chef hat on.

Lemon Courgette Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing and Lemon Curd Filling
serves twelve (or eight to ten if you're making the most of the 'five a day' excuse); can be gluten-free

for the cake:
2 medium sized courgettes
juice and zest of one lemon
2 eggs
100ml vegetable oil
150g caster sugar
225g self-raising flour (go for gluten free if you want)
1/2 tsp baking powder (can also be gluten free)
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (aka baking soda across the pond)
a giant blob (or several) of lemon curd to go in the middle

for the icing:
200g cream cheese
100g icing sugar
zest and juice of one lemon

to decorate:
freeze-dried raspberries
something sparkly (there are so endlessly many possibilities in any supermarket's homebaking section so just let loose; I thought this pink 'shimmer sugar' looked fab with the raspberries)

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius for a fan oven, and grease or line with baking parchment your cake tin. (I used an 8in tin, bigger will work but the cake will just be shallower and possibly trickier to slice in half; if you have sandwich tins, by all means use these!)
2. Grate your courgettes using the chunky bit of the grater, then press the gratings gently with a tea towel or some kitchen roll to get rid of excess water. (Alternatively, you can spiralise them using a spiraliser then chop the noodles up into small pieces, which may be quicker and definitely eliminates the possibility of grating your own fingers...)
3. Zest and juice the lemon, then mix these together with the oil, eggs, and sugar before beating in the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Sift the flour in if you can be bothered (or if it's particularly lumpy).
4. Fold in the courgette until it's evenly distributed, then pour into your cake tin(s) and pop in the oven for half an hour.
5. While that's busy infusing your house with the unbeatable aroma of fresh baking, mix together the cream cheese, icing sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice until it's all combined. Useful note: add the icing sugar a little at a time if you want to avoid the aforementioned spluttering fit as you breathe it in. Chill the icing in the fridge until the cake is ready to be clothed.
6. When the cake is golden and a skewer into the middle comes out clean, take it out of the oven and leave it on a cooling rack until it is no longer oven-cosy, then cut in in half (horizontally, obvs) unless you used sandwich tins in which case this step is already done for you!
7. Slather lemon curd all over one of the halves, then stack the other one back on top and cover it with the cream cheese icing. Try not to eat too much as you go. I know it's difficult, but it will be worth it.
8. Adorn with freeze-dried raspberries and whatever else you have selected, admire for a few seconds, then dive straight in. Unless it's for a birthday, in which case you should probably add some candles and sing Happy Birthday first. And then you can dive in.

Look how tasty! Hopefully this will become your go-to as well. I'm hoping that it will become everyone's go-to, so that wherever there is cake, it will be an ultra lemony courgette cake. Cake-world domination is just around the corner. Or the bend, since (most) cakes don't have corners. Anyway.

Delicious: check. Nutritious: ish; let's call it nutrishious. Really easy and should be made right away: check. Go on then, better get started. Five a day and all that.

*All photos in this post are mine. If you wish to use any, please ask my permission and credit me!*


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