I am a cake fiend. I can't go two days without baking something and lately, my husband's been grumbling about a thickening middle (his of course) and the amount of sweet treats the children have been scarfing down owing to my baking mania. I thought of how to cut down both the butter and sugar in a cake recipe, as well as reduce cholesterol, for my mum's benefit, without sacrificing taste to the point that it's no longer worth eating. I've never liked prunes - their very name inspires depression. I've never liked carrot cake; somehow nuts with pineapple and all that cream cheese inside and on top just doesn't do anything for me. I thought though, that carrots, or beetroot, with chocolate, and no cheesy frosting, had distinct possibilities. I began dreaming of a dark, moist, dense, intensely chocolatey, sliceable loaf, packed with fibre and innocent of all but the merest trace of fat. All I had was one carrot, one beetroot and a stump of white radish, so that's what I went with.

The result exceeded my hopes for a cake that was temptingly delicious but lower in fat and packed with fibre. My children and husband were completely hoodwinked; the cake did not last a full day! I was lucky to get a slice. It's so moist as to be almost damp, because of all the root vegetables in it, slices like a dream and is the most gorgeous violet tinted brown, because of the beetroot. Surprisingly, there was no trace of a vegetal smell or taste; it instead absolutely reeked of dark chocolate. Everytime someone took a slice, the hypnotic chocolate aroma would reach my quivering nose, even if I couldn't see it being devoured.

I know this isn't exactly a quick recipe but it is very easy and the preparation is still short. Even if it does take an hour in the oven, you don't have to fawn or fuss over it and can go about your normal business as it bakes. You could probably use other root vegetables, squash or zucchini, or make it all carrot, all beetroot or all radish, as long as you stick to the same total amount of vegetables.
I need to say that I will not eat beetroot ordinarily, but try as I might I could not detect it in the cake. Neither could my husband, children or mum. When the cake was all gone, I let them in on the secret and no one believed me. They still don't and my children, who don't eat vegetables, have sworn never to eat any of my cakes again. I think they're just sore about being so completely fooled. My mum was happiest as she could eat slice after slice without worry and has asked that I bake it again, soon.

I named this in honour of Gaia as it's packed with roots that came out of the earth and as you may have guessed, I am nutty about Greek mythology. It's not too far fetched I think, to imagine that even deities might have struggled with their weight or cholesterol levels (don't rain on my parade) and I know that chocolate is not entirely virtuous, but dark chocolate has its merits and into each life, some chocolate must fall. In my book, chocolate fat does not count. That's my stand, and I'm sticking to it!

Prep 15 mins        Cook 60 mins        Makes 12 generous slices


100 g (1 small) carrot, peeled
100 g (1 smallish) beetroot, peeled
100 g (5cm/2inch lenght) white Chinese radish (daikon or mooli)
150 g (1 slightly heaping teacup) soft brown sugar
70 ml (1/3 cup) sunflower or soy bean oil
2 yolks
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
150 g (1 1/2 cup) plain or all purpose flour
40 g (slightly less than 1/2 cup) pure unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cream of tartar
150 g (1 cup) 60 % dark chocolate mini chips
4 egg whites


Preheat oven at 170 C (330 F). Lightly grease and line a non stick loaf tin measuring 10 cm (4 in) by 23 cm (9 in).

Cut vegetables into chunks and put into a blender with the sugar, oil, yolks, vanilla and cinnamon. Process until very smooth. Do not add any water or your cake will be a sodden wreck.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and cream of tartar and whisk until thoroughly combined.

Whisk the egg whites in a separate clean, dry, grease free deep bowl (I recommend a standmixer or electric hand held mixer) until standing in peaks. Stop whisking and briefly set aside.

Pour the pureed vegetable mixture into the bowl of flour and cocoa and mix with a whisk until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Do not overmix. There should still be bits of unmixed flour here and there.

Scrape half the whisked egg whites into the cake batter and fold in quickly using the whisk. Scrape in the remaining egg whites and fold in as before. Be quick yet thorough and avoid overmixing.

Gently scrape batter into prepared tin and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out mostly clean from the centre of the loaf, which should also begin to pull away from the sides of the tin. Remove from oven and cool about 5 minutes before turning out onto a rack. Cool completely before slicing.