The end of the vegetable gardening season around here means trying to put the harvest to good use. It’s easy to find ways to eat, cook and preserve tomatoes, but there are other garden-grown fruits and vegetables that can be a challenge.
Eggplants are one of those fruits that most gardeners cook into savory dishes, like eggplant parmesan or ratatouille. I’ve also made many good stir frys with Asian-types of eggplant. And I’ve grilled them and whirled them into a tasty dip called Baba Ghanoush. Eggplant caponata is also a delicious way to put eggplant to use.
I’ve used homegrown eggplants in many dishes, but this season was the first time I baked a Ping Tung eggplant cake.
I came across the recipe in The Baker Creek Vegan Cookbook and had to give it a try.
It seems the folks at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds had an abundant harvest of Ping Tung eggplants one season and had to find a way to use them all. The chef at the company’s restaurant devised a cake recipe that uses cooked and pureed eggplants as a way to create a sweet and moist cake. The cake is similar to zucchini bread.
Cooking helps concentrate the fruit’s sugars in an unexpected way. The eggplant is mixed together with flour, cane juice crystals (or white sugar), brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, egg replacer or egg, and vanilla extract.
The recipe makes a large bundt-style cake that is dense, but rich. At the Baker Creek restaurant in Mansfield, Mo., guests try to guess the mystery cake ingredient. “They’re almost always shocked to discover that it’s pureed eggplant,” according to the cookbook.
While it may seem unusual for American vegetable gardeners to use eggplant as a cake ingredient, it’s a common way to use the long, slender fruits in other countries. In places like Thailand, India, Indonesia, Korea and Japan, eggplant is made into jellies, blended into chutneys, and made into candies and sweet cakes.