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Warming Beetroot and Ginger Cake

January is always a grey month. The glow of Christmas and New Year celebrations rapidly fades and gives way to the gloom of a season that at this point in the year seems endless. There are times when I get in from the school run and just want to curl up under a soft, snuggly blanket with Sam, feet entwined as we watch some of his favourite tv while gossiping about our days and what he got up to at school.

There'll be a whirlwind of activity a bit later, when the others arrive home from their respective days. Early enough so that we'll catch the last fading of the sun before we hunker down for another night. A necessary part of this is our evening cuppa. Hot, sweet and steaming, and best accompanied by a little something to soak it up.

This is a cake for that time. Reminiscent of carrot cake, the veg helps it feel virtuously right for the New Year. It's not overly sweet and there's a little warmth from the ginger and spice. A hit of citrus in the cream cheese frosting brightens the earthiness and deep colour of the beetroot. It's just enough to leave you feeling contented. Most nights, that's all I want.

Beetroot and Ginger Cake 
(serves 12)

260g peeled and grated fresh beetroot
100g candied ginger finely chopped
finely grated zest of one orange
75g chopped pecans
200g plain flour
2 tspns baking powder
1/4 tspn bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tspn salt
1/2 tspn mixed spice
150g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs (ideally each approx 65g in the shell)
125ml sunflower oil
60g plain greek yoghurt

For the frosting:
75g cream cheese (you need full fat for this or it won't work as well - I use Original Philly)
100g softened (room temperature) butter
350g icing sugar, sifted
zest of one orange and one lemon

Preheat the oven to 160 C (fan oven). Line a 9 inch (22.5 cm) square loose bottomed cake tin with baking parchment.

Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb, salt and mixed spice into  bowl and set aside.

Squeeeeze out as much of the liquid from the beetroot as you can without leaving it dry (tip - use a disposable vinyl glove to stop your hands staining - and don't ask me how I know this!).

In a large bowl, using a hand held electric mixer, whisk the sugar and eggs until smooth - gently add the oil while continuing to whisk. Add the yoghurt and whisk briefly to mix it in.

Add the flour mixture and fold in using a spatula.

Add the beetroot, orange zest, chopped ginger and chopped pecans and mix well. Turn out into the tin, push into the corners and level the surface with your spatula.

Bake in the centre of the oven for approximately 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Make the frosting by beating the cream cheese, butter, icing sugar and zest together (I use a stand mixer fitted with a padded attachment for this, but use what you have - just make sure that the mixture is smooth and spreadable).

Gently peel the parchment from the cake. Spread the frosting over the top - or you could pipe it if you fancy a more decorated look.

Not the neatest - but you get the idea!
Cut into squares and serve. You'll get 12 decent size portions from this, using a 3 x 4 row cut, but if you want something a little smaller, cut it 4 x 4 to get 16 'fika'-size portions.



* With some small adaptations, this is based on a recipe by David Leibowitz, which is in turn based on a recipe by Ottolenghi in his book, 'Sweet'. 


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