Since its release in 2014, one recipe from Ottelenghi’s Plenty More has been receiving an awful lot of attention – cauliflower cake. It’s one of the first recipes I bookmarked as well, and it only took me about 18 months to get around to making it. Sadly, for me, that’s not too long.
I was so intrigued by this recipe, mostly because here in the U.S. anything with “cake” in it is expected to be sweet and is reserved to dessert or the occasional breakfast. This cake, however, adorned with beautiful purple onion rings, clearly this was a different story. This brave cake was not going the route of cowardly zucchini bread where the cook takes care to hide vegetable’s flavor beneath layers of sugar, spice, and butter.
Of course, I was most curious what the inside of the cake looked like. All of the photos online I have seen have been from the top, which is understandable as it is a gorgeous angle for this cake especially, but I really wanted to know what was happening underneath that beautiful exterior.
The texture is somewhere between a quiche and a cake, biting into it was like biting into a fluffy, cauliflower cloud. I was a bit worried that the chunks of cauliflower in the recipe would give the finished product an odd texture, but that was silly of me. Once cooked, cauliflower becomes almost silkily tender, and melts away into the texture of the rest of the cake.
The recipe called for nigella seeds, which I was unable to find prior to making the recipe so I just rolled with it and did without. I expect they lend another layer of texture to the recipe but I thought the cake was delightful without them. If you’re interested, feel free to include them in the recipe, or you can substitute sesame seeds in their place.
The cake has a hearty, quichey flavor thanks to the eggs, but still keeps cauliflower front and center, but beautifully accented by the turmeric, onion, and loads of parmesan cheese. I suspect a picky eater would love this if you didn’t tell them what was in it first, but I couldn’t get Mr. Eats to even take a bite. It would make a delightful hearty side dish or appetizer. Serve it alongside a light salad or soup, a chicken breast, or eat it on its own.
- 1 small cauliflower, outer leaves removed, broken into 1 1/4-inch florets (about 1 pound)
- 1 medium red onion, peeled (about 6 ounces)
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
- 7 large eggs
- 1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/3 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Parmesan or another aged cheese (about 5 oz)
- Melted unsalted butter, for brushing
- 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon nigella seeds (also known as black caraway)
- Salt and black pepper
- 9 1/2-inch springform pan (I used a 9-inch pan)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Place the cauliflower florets in a saucepan and add 1 teaspoon salt. Cover with water and simmer for 15 minutes, until the florets are soft and break when pressed with a spoon. Drain and set aside in a colander to dry.
- Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
- Cut 4 round slices, each 1/4-inch thick, off one end of the onion and set aside. Coarsely chop the rest of the onion and place in a small pan with the oil and rosemary. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until soft. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
- Transfer the onion to a large bowl, add the eggs and basil, whisk well, and then add the flour, baking powder, turmeric, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon salt, and plenty of pepper and whisk until smooth. Add the cauliflower florets and stir gently to combine, trying not to break up the florets.
- Line the base of a 9 1/2-inch springform cake pan with parchment paper. Brush the sides with melted butter, then mix together the sesame and nigella seeds and toss them around the inside of the pan so that they stick to the sides. (I skipped the seeds)
- Pour the cauliflower mixture into the pan, spreading it evenly, and arrange the reserved onion rings on top. Place in the center of the oven and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown and set; a knife inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean.
- Remove from the oven and leave for at least 20 minutes before serving. Best served just warm, rather than hot, or at room temperature.