Thursday 31 January 2008

Good cake, Bad cake

My baking seems to be either wildly decadent or virtuously healthy. Earlier this week I baked a cake for my birthday that is so rich I consider it an extravagance. Then I couldn’t resist trying out a brownie recipe that took my fancy because it is low fat, gluten-free, vegan, nut-free, soy-free. I am sorry to report to dieters, celiacs, vegans and all other allergy sufferers, that the cake laden with butter, cream, nuts, eggs, chocolate, condensed milk, flour and sugar was easily the better cake!

This walnut fudge cake is a recipe that I wrote down years ago and finally made more recently. It was so good, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t tried it earlier. For the past few years I have made it for my birthday. Birthdays provide an excellent excuse for such indulgence. It is a cake for sharing and I am sending it to Bindiya for her My Favourite Things event which this month is focusing on baking cakes and muffins.

The cake batter tastes so good I could eat it without baking. But it tastes even better when it comes out of the oven. I don’t bother making sure it is cooked properly after baking it. In fact, I think it is better if it isn’t quite cooked. A small slice of this gooey fudgy nutty cake should be so soft it will collapse in your hand. It is so rich but I love it plain. Others seem to want it with cream, so I consider it a bonus that the recipe leaves me with leftover cream to serve it with. I also love having the remainder of a tin of condensed milk to use up in all sorts of wonderful recipes (grubs, condensed milk fudge sauce, mock turtle, etc).

It is a cake that tastes much better than it looks. It is the sort that cracks and sinks in the middle. When I placed the cake on the plate, E asked when I would ice it. My little niece Maddy, was reluctant to even try it without icing. She did try it but didn’t fancy it. In fact, even my little niece Ella who loves almost anything I bake, didn’t finish her piece. So I don’t think that this is a cake for kids. I think it might be due to the strong taste of all the walnuts. The cake was the star of the afternoon tea I made for my birthday. I also made cheesy almond muffins(some with faces of poppy seed hair, olive eyes, sunflower seed noses and sundried tomato mouths), grubs, gluten free grubs, grapes, chilled apple green tea, and activist mommy’s beanie brownies.

Last year I tried the walnut fudge cake with gluten free flour and it was disappointing. Maybe that is why it tasted so good this year. This is why generally it is best to find new gluten free ways rather than just trying to remake old favourites (with the exception of grubs).

I was excited to find the beanie brownie recipe that seemed to be the gluten free cake I have been seeking – easy to make, using only basic pantry ingredients, no nuts and delicious. This recipe was so simple – just 400g kidney beans, 2 bananas, 3 tbsp oil, 4 tbsp cocoa, 1 tsp vanilla, ¾ cup sugar, in the blender and then baked for 30 minutes in a moderate oven. The cake batter tasted good and I was hopeful. But when cooked it tasted like a sweet bean paste with chocolate flavour – it was neither cakey or fudgy. My mum and my sister Susie tasted it and refused to take any home with them. The kids weren’t interested. I think I will throw the rest of it in the bin.

Where did it go wrong? It looked good – dark, glossy chocolatey. But it was quite flat and had a sort of slimy dampness about it. Was the 28 x 18 cm slice tray too big for the mixture? Were my beans wrong? I used kidney beans rather than black beans. I also used a standard 400g tin of beans because activist mommy didn’t give a measurement for a tin of beans. Should I have included some apple sauce like activist mommy did? Would it make a difference if I tried it with 3 eggs instead of banana? Did it need to be cooked longer?

I still have hope and will continue my quest. After all, Have Cake Will Travel has said they were a definite winner and her photo of her brownies looks so tempting. But it has made me appreciate that no matter how healthy you make your cake, the ultimate measure of whether a cake is good or bad is the taste! After all, if you were just after something nutritious, you would just make a salad!

Update: I remade the Walnut Fudge Cake in early 2021 and took some new photos - they are the first two photos.  This is a cake that does not need frosting or a glaze but it looks rather plain.  It looked quite pretty with some berries, little pansies and mint leaves.

Walnut Fudge Cake

¾ cup lightly packed brown sugar
150g butter or margarine
100g dark chocolate
½ cup condensed milk
200g (2 cups) walnuts, coarsely ground
¼ cup cream
¾ cup self raising flour
1 egg

Grease and line a 20cm cake tin. Preheat oven to 170 C.

Place sugar, butter chocolate, condensed milk and walnuts in large bowl and melt on medium power in microwave (about 1½ minutes) or heat gently in saucepan til all is melted and thickens slightly. Remove from heat (it should be lukewarm still, if not you should cool it slightly) and add cream, flour and egg. Stir to combine.

Pour mixture into cake tin. Bake 40-45 minutes. Don’t worry if skewer not quite clean when you test it – it should be a little gooey inside. Cool in tin for 5- 10 minutes and turn onto a wire rack to cool. Serve in thin wedges with cream (if desired).

On the stereo:
A story to tell: Starbucks presents powerful songs from the coffee house: Various Artists


  1. Happy birthday Johanna!

    What a spread. I suppose there is bound to be one little disappointment amongst that many dishes, but the walnut fudge cake looks great. Other fudgy cake recipes I've seen have a lot of eggs but it looks like condensed milk does a fine job instead.

  2. Thanks Cindy. And glad you mentioned the egg I forgot to add to the ingredients (will fix that) - it only needs one so yes, I think the condensed milk must do the trick - I believe that condensed milk can make anything taste good - I have one more recipe from this week made with condensed milk - never rains, it pours :-)

  3. Hey there,

    I found your blog trhough cindy's Where's the Meat blog and it's great to find another vego blog in Melbourne.

    I've set a link to your blog on my own page:

    Looking forward to seeing more of your recipes!

  4. Happy Birthday To You Johanna!

    I love birthdays as they are perfect to having "anything you want" to eat (and drink!)
    Your chocolate cake looks great and I am one who does not like icing, so perfect!
    But you have my attention on the cake made with beans...never heard the such! Cannot wait to check out that one!

  5. Happy Birthday, Johanna! Sounds as though your afternoon tea was wonderful - hope you got lots of goodies.

    Walnut Fudge Cake looks incredibly rich...just the way I like my cakes. AND condensed milk - yum-o!

    Who are those two little giraffe's? They're very sweet.

  6. Happy Birthday, Johanna! Hope it was a great one. And how lovely that it included CHOCOLATE.

    The cake looks great, and I'd bet it doesn't need frosting. I also tend to love cake batter (and there's no worries about salmonella with vegan batter!). The two Giraffes (Gourmet, perhaps, if not Green?) on the table are adorable.

    Just a word about the bean brownies: I'll be posting my own recipe next week, which took several tries before working out. The first few batches were too "beany" for my taste as well. I also found the trick to be blending them very well before adding to the batter, and I'm guessing that it did make a difference using kidney beans rather than the specified black beans, as I think beans may have different densities once cooked.

  7. There is nothing bad about this cake!

    Happy birthday to you.

  8. Hi Dirty Flamingo - thanks for visiting - will come over and check out your blog - Cindy and Michael at Where's the Beef are good at keeping up to date on Melbourne blogs

    Thanks WineDeb - yeah, I prefer to focus on the cake than the icing - if the cake tastes good enough the icing is unnecessary - well most of the time anyway!

    Thanks Lucy - condensed milk makes for a lovely afternoon tea - the little giraffes are from our menagerie - actually bought for me a few birthdays ago!

    Thanks Ricki - birthdays are a great excuse to eat lots of chocolate - and thanks for the tips on the bean cake - I am looking forward to your recipe, as I love the idea and am sure it can work.

    thanks Lisa - at least both cakes were chocolate - that is good!

  9. Happy Birthday! The walnut fudge sounds sensational!

  10. thanks truffle - wish I had a piece of that cake to eat right now :-)

  11. Johanna- A very Happy B'day to you!, and thanks for such a sinfully delicious entry!!!, I am going to try this out for sure!!!

  12. thanks Bindiya - hope you get to try it because it is well worth it

  13. this looks absolutely, gloriously fantastic. the next time i bake a cake, it will be this one.


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