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And I’m Telling You: No-Butter Apricot and Almond Cake

Apricot and Almond Cake

Some recipes are just meant to find us.

When I borrowed my sister’s copy of Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache, the “healthy cake” cookbook I reviewed the other day, she informed me that she’d “decided” I should make this recipe: Sunken Apricot and Almond Cake. Seeing that it called for tinned apricot halves, I immediately rejected the idea (if there’s anything I dislike more than cooked fruit, it’s canned fruit). Instead, I turned my attention to finding something else to make.

Perusing the book’s pages over the next few days, I resolutely ignored this cake, considering several other recipes and even trying a couple. Eventually, I had to admit it: this apricot-topped, almond-scented cake was calling my name. The flavours were Mediterranean in feel, the ingredients were (almost) all in my cupboard, and it even used my favourite vegetable, butternut squash.

Apricot and Almond Cake

Swallowing my pride, I got to work. I couldn’t bring myself to buy the tinned apricots, so I opted for dried instead. I always have them around, and they seemed more suited for the time of year, anyway. In the summer, I imagine that fresh would also be delicious.

I’m not going to lie: baking without butter requires more investment than you might care to make. Grating the butternut squash for this recipe was a mind-numbing, painstaking, fingernail-endangering job (I’m not so dextrous with a grater). Certainly more work than measuring out some butter.

Apricot and Almond Cake

I have to say though- in this case, it’s definitely worth the extra effort. The finished cake had an unbelievable texture- moist and dense but far from heavy. The butternut squash is undetectable as a flavour, good news for those who aren’t yet convinced by the vegetable-desserts concept. Instead, it combines with the eggs, almonds, vanilla and spice to make a cake far greater than the sum of its parts.

My sister agreed that it was the best recipe she’s tasted from the book. Thank goodness we’re past the age for “I told you so”.

Apricot and Almond Cake

  • No-Butter Apricot and Almond Cake
  • adapted from Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache by Harry Eastwood
  • makes 16 pieces
  • 16 dried apricots
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    3 large eggs
    180g caster sugar
    200g peeled and finely grated butternut squash
    1 tsp. almond extract
    60g plain flour
    200g ground almonds
    1 1/2 tsp. mixed spice
    2 tsp. baking powder
    1/4 tsp. salt
    icing sugar (to serve)
  • 1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F. Lightly butter the sides of a 8″ x 8″ square baking pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper to cover the bottom and two sides of the pan, and butter this as well. (Don’t skip this step, even if your pan is non-stick; because there is no butter in this cake, it’s prone to sticking.)

    2. Put the apricots into a small bowl with half of the vanilla extract, and just cover with boiling water. Set aside to soften.

    3. Using an hand blender or stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together for 4 minutes, until very light and fluffy. Add the butternut squash, almond extract and the rest of the vanilla extract, and beat to combine.

    4. Add the flour, ground almonds, mixed spice, baking powder and salt, and give the mixture a good final whisk, to make sure everything is well combined.

    5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and shake to distribute evenly. Drain the apricots and squeeze them dry, then place in a grid formation over the surface of the cake, so that there will be one in each piece once cut. (Alternatively, you could chop them finely and scatter them over the surface- this will make the cake easier to eat, but perhaps a bit less pretty.)

    6. Bake the cake in the middle rack of the oven for 35 to 45 minutes, until lightly browned on top and springy in the middle. Let the cake cool in its pan for ten minutes before running a knife along the sides and gently removing it (using the parchment paper to “lift” it) to a cooling rack. Once completely cool, dust with icing sugar and cut into squares to serve.


  1. Larissa says:

    Looks good, but grating all that butternut squash by hand…yeeek. I would throw it int he food processor with that handy attachment :)
    I haven’t seen this book in Canada yet…

  2. Ele says:

    Larissa- So would I, if I had one! I only *just* got an electric hand beater over here, so I’m a little behind in the technology department ;)

  3. Sian says:

    I think I’m going to try this- I adore apricots in all forms, and almond cakes, and I’m intrigued by the no-butter method-despite trying a truly vile chocolate courgette cake somebody else made this summer! I think the author of this book would probably faint if he saw how much butter we go through each week so it wouldn’t harm me any to try it!

  4. Hilary says:

    This was sooooooo good. I considered stopping by on my way home from work tonight for another piece :)

  5. Ele says:

    Sian- I didn’t make any of the ones with courgette- ever since one of my aunts made a chocolate courgette cake when I was little (for my birthday! the horror!), I’ve hated the stuff. This, however is a *completely* different animal.

    Hil- You’re welcome to stop by, there’s still cake left!

  6. sarah says:

    Thanks for giving this recipe your seal of approval. I got a new hand blender (with all the attachments) recently so I’ll be trying this out. Looks delicious, but I was a convert already to the veg-cake idea.

  7. Larissa says:

    Haha, I figured…I was just joking with you. The hand grating makes it taste even better.

  8. Ele says:

    Sarah- I wasn’t really against the veg-in-cakes idea (after all, carrot cake is my all-time favourite treat), it was the veg *instead* of butter that confused me. It definitely works, though! You’ll probably like this book if you’re a fan- there’s lots of good stuff in there.

    Larissa- If only that were true! ;)

  9. Chris says:

    Awe I was really hoping Hil’s comment would be “I told you so”..

    I’m still not convinced about the veg instead of butter.. I’ll believe it when I eat something I don’t know has been healthified and I don’t notice :)

  10. Hannah says:

    I’ve just found your blog, it’s beautiful!!

  11. Hilary says:

    Well, I did tell you so.


  12. MH says:

    I think I need to taste this to believe it! You know how I feel about the deliciousness that is butter…
    The colors of the squash and apricot are gorgeous btw.

  13. Ellie says:

    This recipe is awesome! Love the no butter bit and so delicious and absolutely no fat!

  14. Ele says:

    Chris- Well, if that doesn’t sound like a challenge…

    Hannah- Thank you!

    Hilary- Yes, you did ;)

    MH- You would *so* not be able to tell these had no butter, I promise you.

    Ellie- Well, the almonds contribute the fat here, but it’s Good Fat (note the capitals) so it’s perfectly acceptable! Healthy and tasty!

  15. This looks delicious – it’s not dissimilar to the Orange & Saffron Sand Cake from the same book that I reported on my blog last month. This really is a great book, have you tried the chocolate & aubergine cake yet?

  16. [...] kitchen I turned them into individual cakes, but you can see the full-sized version of the cake at Kitchenist. However you shape these, this is guilt free baking. Sunken Apricot and Almond Cakes Adapted from [...]

  17. maya says:

    came out awesome.
    i used fresh apricots. i think the batter could use a little more sugar, but dusting the slices w/ powdered sugar worked very well. i should really let it cool a little, it’s falling apart in my hands!

  18. [...] recipe is from Harry Eastwood’s ‘Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache’, but I found it here and here. Given some scathing reports about her writing style, and the fact that she personifies [...]