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'Veg patch' gnome cakes

These fab (and fatless) relatives of the fairy cake are a brilliant way to use up surplus produce from the veg patch. They are also perfect for enticing young reluctant veg eaters. Camouflaged in a sweet cake mix, you ll find grated pumpkin, parsnips, carrots and courgettes disappear without a murmur of dissent...


Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt. Beat the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl with a hand-held electric whisk for 5–6 minutes until the mixture is thick, creamy and pale. Fold in the flour, half at a time, using a large metal spoon. Finally fold in the pumpkin and orange zest.

Carefully spoon the mixture into the paper cases so they are three-quarters full. Bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly golden and springy to the touch. Leave in the trays for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

When cool, top with the cream cheese topping and add decorations of your choice. These will keep for 2–3 days in an airtight tin.


Carrot gnome - replace the pumpkin with carrot and the orange zest with lemon.

Parsnip gnome - replace the pumpkin with parsnip and the orange zest with lime.

Courgette gnome - replace the pumpkin with courgette, the orange zest with lemon and add ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg.

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  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 200g uncooked, finely grated pumpkin
  • Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed orange

For the icing

  • 1 quantity Cream cheese topping flavoured with orange zest

To decorate

  • Edible flowers (borage, marigolds, fennel), Marzipan vegetables or other decorations of your choice


  • 12-hole muffin tray, holes about 6.5cm in diameter and 2cm deep, lightly greased or lined with paper muffin cases, or 2 x 12-hole bun tins, lined with small paper cake cases

This recipe is taken from...

River Cottage Cakes Handbook

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