Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mrs Cake's Kumara and Ginger Birthday Cake

Vegetables in cakes aren't completely uncommon, so when one of my colleagues told me if I was thinking of bringing a birthday cake in to work I had better make sure it was healthy my mind leapt straight to this kumara and ginger cake recipe, which I have been meaning to try for ages (I think I snipped the recipe out of Taste magazine about a year ago!). In the way of carrot cake this uses lots of grated kumara to make the cake moist and luscious, and though kumara is a less usual cake vegetable it sounded pretty good.

This is possibly the easiest cake I have ever made (especially if you can bribe someone else to grate the kumara, which was by far the hardest part!) and basically involves plonking everything in a bowl. The beauty of vegetable cakes is that they often use oil instead of butter, or at least use melted butter, so you get to skip that whole cream-butter-and-sugar thing.

My understanding is that kumara are known as yams in the US, and are often referred to as sweet potato elsewhere; the recipe didn't specify what type but I got an orange one (one giant kumara got me the full 3 cups - the total weight was about 420g after peeling/grating), but I imagine any sweet potato would work.

My cake turned out a little on the dark side - the recipe called for a 23cm tin, and I used a 20cm one so it was taller (I like tall cakes better!) so should have reduced the temperature - I have adjusted the recipe below accordingly. Even if you're using a 23cm tin I think the lower temperature will probably work better, though - it was quite dark (thank goodness for icing sugar!). The inside of the cake is beautifully moist, though, and subtly ginger flavoured with a hint of cinnamon - definitely doesn't taste like kumara! It does contain a cup of oil but I would argue it is healthier than many cakes - and it is so moist it does perfectly well without icing (which is not to say cream cheese icing wouldn't enhance it...).

This will definitely be a permanent addition to my recipe folder - yummy, easy, and not too unhealthy - as well as being just a little bit different. Many of my colleagues raved about it (though it's fair to say I don't think any of them were fooled by my claims of the health factor!) and despite not looking very pretty it tasted fantastic.

In case you're wondering, I've had a wonderful day, and this is what a foodie present stash looks like:

The cake/cupcake carrier was very useful in taking my cakes to work (I also made a carrot cake, sticking with the vegie theme, which I'll blog about later). I love it all, but of particular note:

... this adorable single cupcake holder from Mr Cake's brother and sister-in-law - how awesome is that? I can take a single precious cupcake to work, shielded from the inevitable crush of my bag.

And my sister sent me (along with one of two instant read thermometers - I did really want one, guess that's what happens when you tell everyone the same thing! But Mr Cake gave me the other so we'll be able to swap it) wild hibiscus flowers in syrup. The jar suggests using them in cocktails, and also has a recipe for a cheesecake, but if you have any other ideas please share them with me because I am quite intrigued!

It was a beautiful day in Wellington today - I snapped the above on my stroll home from work, to prove it because apparently everyone in Christchurch thinks it's always miserable up here. ;-)

Mr Cake also made me a lovely dinner, and I may also share some of those recipes with you later because it was delicious - but for now I'm off to scoff a few more yummy chocolates before bedtime.

Kumara and Ginger Cake (from Taste magazine)
1 cup canola oil
4 eggs
2 cups brown sugar
4cm fresh ginger, peeled and grated
3 cups kumara, peeled and grated
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 160 C. Line a 22cm cake tin with baking paper and grase sides.

Put oil, eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat for two minutes. Stir in ginger and kumara. Add dry ingredients (except icing sugar) and mix until combined. Spoon into prepared tin and bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool, then dust with icing sugar to serve.


  1. Happy birthday!! Those flowers are great. I've only ever used them in bubbly - if you put them in the bottom of a champagne flute then pour in the bubbly they open up and make it taste delicious. I've never thought to use them in anything else, although now I want to hear what ideas people have too!

  2. Happy birthday! I bought one of those cupcake carriers for my own birthday present last month and have already used it heaps. I've got to say that kumara and ginger is a combination I've never heard/thought of before ...

  3. happy birthday! Tupperware often bring out little holders like that, very dinky, justin is always "hiding" my avocado holder...

  4. Kumara is only found in NZ. It is however related to yams and sweet potatoes, so it would work to sub them in, though I find them to have a different flavour to them.

    I also have a recipe for Kumara and orange cheesecake, which is really good. It contributes more to the texture than the flavour, making it nice and smooth.

  5. Nichola, thanks! And that sounds really cool - it would look so pretty, too.

    Cafe Chick, it was so good today - I know it will be well-used!

    Louise, funny about Justin hiding your avocado holder. This one probably doesn't have the lifetime guarantee but it makes up for it in cuteness. ;-)

    Rose, I think kumara was brought to NZ/Polynesia from South America, so though the North American ones might be different I don't think it can be only NZ. The cheesecake sounds super yummy!

  6. A bit late in the day, but not too late: Happy birthday !
    And yes it was so summery today, what a gift ! And what a gorgeous cake you made, yum !

  7. Regarding the Wild Hibiscus Flowers... They have a flavour that can easily be lost. So don't put them with other strong flavours. With bubbly is good, maybe you could try them on a vanilla cupcake with some kind of meringue topping.

  8. Happy Birthday Miss - you cake looks great. I am tempted to give it a try as every vege cake i have made (maybe 2 in total) has been yum!
    Andrew is making me a chocolate cake with white chocolate ganache for my birthday today. So hopefully it is good too

  9. Vanille, thank you! I bet you took some beautiful photos in the lovely weather, your shots always look so beautiful.

    MJH, thanks - will keep that in mind, the cupcake idea sounds good (plus could utilise my other gifts!)

    Sandra, happy birthday! Hope you have a lovely day today. Your birthday cake sounds like it will be fabulous - will we see a photo? :-)

  10. Just on kumara - they have exactly the same type in Japan as we have here. They cook them at summer festivals on hot coals wrapped in foil. Sooo yum! Wikipedia say they are actually yams rather than sweet potato, but I think they are the same and I've had Japanese people tell me they are the same so not sure if wikipedia is right or not! http://japanesefood.about.com/library/pictures/blyakiimophoto.htm

  11. Thanks Nichola! That does sound pretty good. I read about American 'yams' and apparently when they're sold they have to also say 'sweet potato' on them to avoid confusion with our sort of yam - so that would make sense. So confusing when there are different names for the same thing and the same name for different things!


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