When deciding what to cook I often find my imagination is caught by the idea of something different, an unusual ingredient, an unexpected way of preparing something, or a catchy name. When I heard my friend Ginny say recently she was making a magic bean cake I was instantly intrigued. The combination of bean and magic conjured up visions of Jack and that celestial beanstalk – the one that overdosed on Dynamic Lifter and thrust itself not just beyond the vegetable patch but all the way up through the clouds to a kingdom of giants and gold in the heavens. Magic bean cake won’t bring you pots of gold, or giants either, but it will win you plenty of compliments.
Ginny is a wonderful cook, regularly whipping up amazing dishes to feed friends and family. Her traditional Christmas feasts are legendary and many’s the time I’ve been introduced to some new ingredient or recipe at her table. Not only that, but she’s one of those cooks who have an instinctive feel for food, an ability to combine unexpected things or adjust a recipe just enough to transform the mundane into the sublime. So, when she says something is good, as she did of the Magic Bean Cake, you’d better believe it.
Now, for the cake. If my Pumpkin and Walnut cake was healthy, this one is so bursting with good things and devoid of bad, it could almost be called medicinal. Not that you’d know it. With its moist, velvety texture and intense chocolatey flavour, it’s a cake that can more than stand its own against any decadent gateau you’d care to mention. Despite its deliciousness, it is in fact gluten, dairy and nut free (apart from the ganache topping where I have to confess to erring slightly on the side of unhealthy – ok then, going completely overboard, but you don’t have to follow my example).
What makes this one especially wholesome is that instead of flour you use red kidney beans, which as we all know are chock a block full of stuff that’s extremely good for us – to the extent they feature on a website called “The World’s Healthiest Foods” – a concept rarely associated with chocolate cake, but that’s just what’s “magic” about this one.
Here’s what the WHF website says about kidney beans “ [they] are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, as are most other beans. In addition to lowering cholesterol, kidney beans’ high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal, making these beans an especially good choice for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia”. Keeping a lid on rising blood sugar levels after a meal seems a great reason to serve up magic bean cake for dessert (minus the ganache perhaps as that would tend to get the levels going up again – all a bit dizzying). Jokes aside, it’s good to know cake can be good and good for you too.
The recipe allegedly originated on the Thermomix Recipe Community, where it was posted by Sarah Wong in 2011. She has a more recent version of it on her website “Clever Cook“, where she says it is the “most viewed recipe” on the Australian Recipe Community and won “Recipe of the Year” in 2012. There are other versions of it around, including Ginny’s which I used and which is included here. They’re all essentially the same, with minor modifications according to taste and desire for healthiness. You don’t need a Thermomix to make one, as it’s already pretty easy and, like a little black dress, it can be dressed up or down to suit the occasion*. As previously mentioned, I didn’t hold back on the topping and also added some mulberries I found in the freezer from our summer harvest. (If “summer harvest” suggests some bucolic orchard studded rural paradise, think again – these were from two ornamental mulberry trees growing on our suburban front lawn.)
PS: You may be wondering why, in a post about a healthy, almost everything-free cake, there are great slabs of chocolate in the photo of the ingredients – well that’s mainly for effect (and melted chocolate does go in the glutton’s ganache) but you can dispense with it. Also, I’d strongly recommend serving with big globs of thick cream, or even icecream, but again if you’re on the everything-free train, feel free to ignore that recommendation also.
*Ginny suggests that for a special occasion you double the quantities and bake in two cake tins, then when the cakes are cooked and cooled, split them and spread each layer with swathes of the ganache. But if you’re at all worried about blood sugar, of course feel free to ignore this idea. If you do decide to opt for the deluxe version, be warned that your blood sugar levels will, like Jack’s beanstalk, zoom heavenwards.
PPS: You don’t have to use red kidney beans – other tinned beans are purportedly equally as good, a fact backed up by the esteemed World’s Healthiest Foods website (as above). Also if you have a yen for muffins, you can substitute muffin tins for the regular cake tin, in which case they’ll take less time to cook (about 20 minutes as opposed to 30 or so).
- 420g red kidney beans (rinsed and drained)
- 1 tablespoon coffee (prepared not powder)
- 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 70g raw cacao or cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder
- ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 125g butter (or for dairy free you can use oil, e.g. coconut)
- 5 eggs
- 140g rapadura or coconut sugar
- For the Ganache:
- ¾ cup cream
- 375g dark chocolate
- 155g butter
- Heat oven to 180C.
- In food processor puree the beans, coffee, one egg and vanilla until smooth. Set aside in a separate bowl.
- Without washing the food processor bowl, cream the butter (or oil) and sugar.
- Add the remaining eggs and beat for 20 seconds.
- Add bean mixture and blend for 4-5 seconds.
- Add cacao or cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and blend for 10 seconds.
- Pour batter into a greased round, ring or loaf tin* and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- For the Ganache:
- Melt chocolate, butter and cream in a saucepan on a very low heat
- Set aside to completely cool and set
- Beat with electric beaters or food processor until ganache is pale and creamy
- Slather liberally over the cake and decorate as desired
by Anne Green