Red Bean and Carob Cake

I am eternally searching for recipes that can work triple duty as dessert, afternoon snack and breakfast for a young and spritely toddler.  The foods in questions must do this while remaining reasonably sound from a nutritional perspective.  Cake has therefore mutated from a fluffy fat and sweet-based crumb into a creative medium to hide vegetables, grains and beans of all kinds.

This particular iteration is a spice-cake with a dense brownie-like texture.  I won’t lie, it’s quite high up on the crunch-o-meter.  My sister would say that it’s 70’s health-food cooking.  It’s also a bit on the dry side which is the way I like my cakes, so feel free up the oil and reduce the cooking time a little if you want things moister.  It can be enjoyed straight up as a snacking cake with a cup of tea, sweetened with a bit of non-dairy vanilla ice-cream, or toasted and buttered with some Earth Balance and a dusting of cinnamon sugar.  It will leave you lastingly full and provide sustained energy release without the sugar high and corresponding crash: good news with a little one.

Yield: an 8’’x8’’ pan

What you need:

  • 1-1/2 cups (250 g) chopped dates, soaked until soft in a 2 cup measuring glass (add water up to the 2 cup mark, or for a sweeter cake, use apple or blueberry juice)
  • 1-1/2 cups cooked kidney or adzuki beans (you’ll want to use pressure cooked beans as simmered ones usually retain a bit too much tooth to easily be processed to pulp. In a pinch, canned beans will do – they’ve certainly go the right texture for the job – use a 540 mL can and make sure to rinse them well)
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup whole-grain flour
  • 1/4 cup Sucanat or organic cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup carob powder
  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 3 tablespoons flax seed, ground to a meal and then mixed with 6 tablespoons of water in a small bowl and set aside to gel for 10 minutes or so
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ginger powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

What you do :

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease an 8’’ x 8’’ glass or ceramic baking dish. Flour the greased dish using a bit of carob powder.
  2. In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, carob, powdered spices, salt and baking powder.
  3. In a food processor, whiz together the dates and their soaking liquid, the flax goop, the beans, the oil and the Sucanat until smooth. It will take several minutes to get a really even pulp, stopping to scrape down the sides on a semi-regular basis.
  4. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir well. The batter will be quite stiff.  Fold in the rolled oats.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer. Even out the top as best you can, it will no doubt have a few peaks.
  6. Bake for 55-60 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting into squares.


  • Add 1 cup of finely shredded coconut or chopped nuts to the batter at the same time as you fold in the rolled oats;
  • Replace the red beans with black beans, swap the carob for cacao, tone down the spices and replace the rolled oats with chopped walnuts if you want something closer to a brownie;
  • Omit the carob and spices, substitute navy beans for the red beans and add some mashed banana and pure vanilla extract for a similarly dense but pale cake.

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