It’s sweltering here in the northeast, and in most of the country. But a steady crop of cucumbers from the vines I planted in my backyard garden this spring are helping us keep our cool.
I’ve been slicing them into pitchers of water, chopping them up into salads and raitas, and just eating them fresh off the vine, with a dash of salt rubbed into their centers.
If you’ve ever grown cucumbers, you know that they can produce too much of a good thing. This past weekend, as I wondered what else to do with all those cucumbers, I was visited by a blast from the past. Tausali, or cucumber cake.
In the India I grew up in, ovens were a rarity. Cakes were a rare treat you bought at the bakery. But what some adventurous cooks did have was an aluminum contraption that looked like a tube pan with a lid. In the bottom was a compartment that held sand. The “oven” was placed on a stove and the flame heated the sand which in turn baked the cake.
My mom had one of those contraptions, and she would sometimes bake Tausali in it.
Tausali is a rather spare yet sumptuous cake from India’s Konkan region– my dad’s native land. It contains the classic triumvirate of homemade Indian sweets: jaggery (an unrefined Indian sugar not unlike piloncillo), coconut, and cardamom. It also contains rava (sooji or cream of wheat), sometimes ghee, and — of course– cucumber. There are no leaveners here, like baking soda or baking powder. The ingredients are all mixed up and baked in that little stovetop oven. The resulting cake is dense but moist and incredibly flavorful.
My Lowfat Cucumber Cake is not Tausali– I adapted it to make it more cake-like than Tausali by using flour instead of rava, and I did add some baking soda and baking powder to help the cake rise. But I tried to stay true to the basic flavors by using jaggery as the sweetener, and by incorporating cardamom and coconut into the recipe.
To stay true to the fresh-from-the-tube-pan look of a Tausali, but to make it prettier, I baked my Cucumber Cake in a bundt pan.
The cake was delicious. The jaggery gave it a deep richness, and the cardamom was just perfect with the cucumber. If you can’t find jaggery feel free to substitute with brown sugar. The result won’t be exactly the same, but it will taste pretty darn good.This is also a very healthy cake. There is very little fat in the recipe, and it incorporates brown rice flour and whole-wheat flour — and, of course, a veggie. Because jaggery is not refined, it is also a better-for-you sweetener.Here’s the recipe. Enjoy, all!
- Dry Ingredients:
- 1 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1 cup brown rice flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp powdered cardamom
- Wet Ingredients:
- 2 cups very finely grated jaggery (don't leave in any lumps here)
- 3 tbsp flaxmeal mixed with 9 tbsp water
- ¾ cup applesauce
- ½ cup grated coconut
- 4 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
- 1 large cucumber (2½ cups), seeded and grated
- Whisk all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
- In another bowl, mix all of the wet ingredients.
- Add the wet ingredient mixture to the dry, and mix until everything comes together. Pour the batter into a bundt pan and smooth the top.
- Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
- Unmold 10 minutes after removing from the oven. Cool thoroughly on a rack, then slice and enjoy!