OK, so Nigel calls this a ‘beetroot seed cake’ but I find seedy beetroot cake more amusing, like it wears a stained mac and hangs around in dark bars. Which is in fact completely inappropriate, because this is one of the most wholesome cakes you could hope to come across. Not only does it have seeds in it, and a vegetable, but you can swap some of the white flour for wholemeal or spelt quite safely. If you wanted to make it almost completely healthy, you could leave off the icing, but I think the sugariness is a nice contrast – as Nigel points out, the cake itself has a fairly muted sweetness. If it sounds so far like a cake you’re not really going to get excited about, let me tell you, it is delicious. Usually when I bake things I send the leftovers off with Tom to work so I don’t have to eat them all, but this cake I cut in half first so I’d have a few slices left to look forward to with a cup of tea. This is definitely a cup of tea cake. It’s not going to give you a sugar high and then dump you, it’s going to provide you with the gentle reassurance of a warm and well loved jumper.

A couple of notes on the method – the main drawback of this cake is the amount of mess it creates. I recommend wearing an apron so you don’t spatter yourself in beetroot juice. Otherwise, the cake is quite forgiving – I used different flour, different sugar, different oil and lime juice instead of lemon and didn’t whisk my egg whites properly (did I mention I was a bit hungover?) and it turned out more than fine. One thing though, that I don’t recommend: I used some hemp seeds in my seed mix and they were a bit too hard and crunchy. So stick with the more traditional seed varieties.

Seedy beetroot cake

Serves 8-10

225g self-raising flour, or 150g self-raising flour and 75g spelt/wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
a scant tsp baking powder (use a heaped tsp if using spelt or wholemeal)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
180 ml sunflower oil (can be swapped with half nut oil – I used half olive and half walnut)
225g light muscovado sugar
3 eggs, separated
150g raw beetroot (about 2 medium sized beetroot)
juice of half a lemon or a whole lime
75g sultanas or raisins
75g mixed seeds e.g. pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, linseed

for the icing:
at least 8 tbsp icing sugar – I found I needed about 12 for a good covering
lemon juice or orange blossom water
poppy seeds (optional – I didn’t have any)

Heat the oven to 180c and grease a standard sized loaf tin.

Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Beat the oil and sugar in a food mixer (or food processor, or by hand) until well creamed, then beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Grate the beetroot and fold it in, then add the lemon/lime juice, sultanas/raisins and seeds. Fold in the flour mixture.

Beat the egg whites until fluffy but not quite at stiff peak stage. Fold gently into the mixture and pour into the tin. Bake for 50 mins – 1 hour, covering the top with a piece of foil after the first 30 mins so it doesn’t burn. Leave it to cool for 20 mins before turning out of the tin.

Make the icing by sifting the sugar and adding enough juice/orange blossom water to make a runny consistency – but thick enough so most of it stays on the top of the cake. Drizzle the icing over the cooled cake and sprinkle over the poppy seeds, if using.

Adapted from Nigel Slater’s ‘Tender: Vol. 1’

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