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

August 31, 2016

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?)

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!"

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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). 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'll want to stick a small flag in this cake that says "Made with Beans!

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.

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):

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.


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Sarah Jampel

Written by: Sarah Jampel

A (former) student of English, a lover of raisins, a user of comma splices. My spirit animal is an eggplant. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream. For that, I'm sorry.


Sue S. September 25, 2016
Some vegans avoid honey. What could you substitute? Would cane sugar syrup work?
Sarah K. May 30, 2017
Perhaps a combo maple syrup/coconut palm sugar (to get to a semi-solid honey texture-like when it crystalizes) might be lovely. I make this recipe all the time for my boss (nanny/personal baker/cook) and myself. If you make a vegan type, would you post the recipe and results? What is your favorite egg substitute?
fontshell September 1, 2016