Healthy! Little sunken apricot and almond cakes

I like to describe my approach to eating in January like this: clean and green. That means that after the excesses of December, I crave health. And that means stirfries, soups, salads and anything with lots of veg. I also cut down on the amount of sugar I consume. After rich puddings, plates of homemade cookies and way too many Quality Street chocolates, I just don’t crave sweets like I usually do.

But when the sweet tooth does eventually return (and it always does), even baking can adhere to the clean and green principle. They may not be green, but these little almond and apricot cakes are packed with nutritious ingredients and very little that can be considered bad for the body.

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The cake comes from Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache, a ‘healthy’ book of cakes that I was baking from quite a bit last autumn. This recipe was one I pushed onto my sister, urging her to make it because I wanted to try it so much! So far, it’s the tastiest thing I’ve had from this cookbook. The texture of the cake, especially, is a winner – light, fluffy and oh-so-moist.

Doing my bit for my 2010 baking trend predictions, when I recreated the recipe in my own 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 Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache

Makes 18 small cakes

3 medium eggs
180 g sugar
200 g butternut squash, peeled and finely grated
1/2 tsp almond essence or extract (or 1/4 tsp if you like a mellower flavour)
60 g plain flour or white rice flour
200 g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
18 tinned apricot halves

Preheat the oven to 350F / 175C. Line a 12-cup muffin pan and a 6-cup muffin pan with muffin liners.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, whisk together the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the almond extract and butternut squash and whisk just to combine.

In a medium bowl whisk together the almonds, flour, spices, salt and baking powder. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and mix to combine. Turn off the mixer and give the batter a final folding by hand to make sure everything is well combined.

Fill all the muffin liners up halfway – depending on the size of your pan, you can then go back and fill them further if there is batter left over. Place an apricot, rounded side up, on top of each cake. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 20 minutes, until the cakes are brown around the edges and spring back lightly when pressed.

Cool the pans for 10 minutes before turning out the cakes and dusting with icing sugar.