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What Unexpected Ingredient Makes This Cake Creamy & Not Too Sweet?

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Today: Beans popping up in places you wouldn't think to look for them. This article is brought to you by Ten Speed Press. Head here to learn more about Anna Jones' A Modern Way to Cook.

Beans! The answer is beans.


Now, if you consider blending beans into cake batter as a way to sneak them into a place they certainly don't belong, then you're right to be skeptical of Anna Jones' white bean cake. (And especially because she calls it "Amazing Lemon Cannellini Cake." You think you can trick us by calling them cannellini, Anna?)

Anna Jones' Amazing Lemon Cannellini Cake
Anna Jones' Amazing Lemon Cannellini Cake

But if you consider blending beans into cake batter as a means of making that cake better—light and and airy, with a similar crumb to a regular butter and flour cake but with extra moistness and, in the words of Anna, "an almost fudge character"—then you'll want to shout it from the rooftop. You'll want to tell all your friends. You'll want to stick a small flag in this cake that says "Made with Beans!"

And here's the thing: You will have to tell them. Just because you're glad the beans are there—for their tender softness—they remain clandestine. Of all the Food52 tasters who helped themselves to slices, not one hit on the secret ingredient. The cake is pleasantly savory and just slightly bitter, like a cornbread that still has its edge.

Cook the beans yourself (or go for the cans).
Cook the beans yourself (or go for the cans). Photo by Bobbi Lin

Because the cake is dairy-free and gluten-free and refined sugar-free, too, it's a great choice to bring to an event with an unknown guest list: Almost everyone will be able to eat and enjoy it (and enjoy it they will).

You won't have trouble making, it either. While the cake lives in the "Investment Cooking" chapter of A Modern Way to Cook, it only fits the bill in the context of the book's other recipes, which are grouped by speed: under 15, 20, 30, and 40 minutes. As cakes go, this one's speedy, with an easy clean-up: The batter comes together in a food processor; the frosting, in a blender.

And there's also tofu hiding doing good work in the frosting: making it creamy and cooling, silky instead of stick-to-your-mouth. Tofu icing may never replace buttercream—just as bean cake may never replace a classic yellow one—but it's worthy of praise on its own, not as a substitution.

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Anna Jones' Amazing Lemon Cannellini Cake

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Serves 8 to 10

For the cake:

  • Two 14-ounce cans cannellini beans
  • 2/3 cup (150 milliliters) semi-solidified honey
  • Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) ground almonds
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) melted coconut oil
  • A good pinch of sea salt

For the lemon icing:

  • 7 ounces (200 grams) silken tofu
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon, plus more for garnishing
  • 2 tablespoons semisoldified honey
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water

If you're looking to experiment—and to dive deeper into the world of bean desserts (black bean brownies and chickpea chocolate chip cookies, for example)—Anna suggests you "try [the cake] with black beans and a tablespoon of cocoa perhaps—in fact that's a good idea; I'll try that this weekend."

A few more bean desserts to try this weekend (or you know, tonight):

Sweet Vegan Chickpea Crêpes

Sweet Vegan Chickpea Crêpes by Gena Hamshaw

Snow Day Surprise Red Lentil Cake

Snow Day Surprise Red Lentil Cake by anka

Red Bean Buns

Red Bean Buns by Sam

Red Bean Ice Cream

Red Bean Ice Cream by cynthia | two red bowls

Skeptical of bean desserts or already an enthusiast? Tell us in the comments below!

This article is brought to you by Ten Speed Press. Head here to learn more about the recently released cookbook A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones.

Tags: ten speed publishing, a modern way to cook, anna jones