Is My Blog Burning: Black-Eyed Pea Cake

Photo: Vegetarian Times-Feb. 2005

For my first post, I’ve decided to participate in Is My Blog Burning?, a designated day where bloggers cook with a common ingredient or method. This time, the theme is beans. I think a dessert can be made from virtually any ingredient, so why not try a bean cake?

When I first saw the Black-Eyed Bean Cake recipe in the Feb. 2005 issue of Vegetarian Times, I wondered if I could substitute Asian red beans (azukis) for the black-eyes and red dates for the apricot puree to make a Chinese-ified cake. Before getting too adventurous though, I tested the original recipe to see if it was any good.

I had doubts about this recipe because a couple days earlier, I made the Fungi (cornmeal mush) from the same issue. I expected it to be a mixture between cornbread and oatmeal, but instead I got tasteless, watery goop. I’ll usually eat anything, but I seriously considered throwing the Fungi out. After boiling it on the stove for another 40 minutes (the recipe said I’d only need to boil it for two min.), the mixture reduced to one-third its volume and was quite good. It got nice and firm, like polenta.

Anyway, on to the recipe!

Black-Eyed Susan Cake
adapted from Vegetarian Times, Feb. 2005

Serves 12

2 cups dried apricots
2 cups cooked, drained and rinsed black-eyed peas
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2/3 cup golden or regular raisins
1 cup chopped pecans, optional

1/3 of 8-oz. pkg. fat-free cream cheese
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Optional Decoration
12 chocolate drops or stars
32 dried apricots

  1. If using dried beans, measure out a little more than 1/2 a cup. (1 cup dried=3 1/2 cups cooked, so if you do some algebra, you’ll actually need .57 cups). Sort through the peas and pick out tiny stones and stray seeds. This is best done by spreading them on a table with a pot in your lap and pulling the good peas into the pot. To soak dried black-eyed peas, rinse them, and place them in a pot. Add enough water to cover them plus at least 4 inches more. Add 1/4 tsp. baking soda to the water, and stir. (This pulls out the sugars that cause gas in the intestines.) Let them sit overnight. Rinse thoroughly. The beans will cook perfectly in fewer than 90 minutes. Add salt after cooking.
  2. Preheat oven to 375F (350F if using glass or dark-colored pans). Grease and flour 2 8-inch cake pans, or grease and line pans with circles of parchment.
  3. To make Cake: Cook apricots in 2 cups water, about 12 minutes, until very soft. Measure out 1 cup apricots and liquid, and set aside. Put remaining apricots and liquid in blender, and puree. Add peas, and puree.
  4. Put oil, brown sugar and eggs in mixing bowl; beat on high 3 minutes. Mixture will look creamy. Whisk flour, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda and baking powder in separate bowl. Mix in raisin and pecans, if using. (Hint: tossing nuts, fruit, or chocolate chips with flour keeps them from sinking to the bottom of the cake.)
  5. Pour egg mixture over puree, and fold together. Gently fold in flour mixture. Pour into prepared cake pans.
  6. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire rack. Ooh, nice and crusty! While this cake was baking, the entire kitchen smelled like gingerbread.
  7. To make Frosting: Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until creamy. Beat in remaining ingredients. Frosting should be soft; it will firm upon sitting.
  8. Place one cake layer on plate, and spread reserved apricots evenly over it. Top with second layer. Spread frosting evenly over top and sides of cake.
  9. To decorate, cut apricots into slices. Place chocolate drop on cake, and arrange 8 apricot “petals” around it (skin side up). Repeat until cake is covered.


I didn’t make the filling or the frosting…Growing up, my mom always complained that frosting was too sweet. So out of habit, I made my cake plain.

My handblender didn’t puree the apricot-bean mixture all the way, so you can see a chunk of apricot in the front and a white stripe of beans on the right.

The verdict: the texture was very good. The cake was moist and not dense (as is the problem with whole-wheat baked goods). I could not tell it was low-fat. Aside from the couple streaks, you can’t tell there’s beans in it either. This cake would be a good joke to play on friends. Imagine their faces when you tell them the secret ingredient!


I was unimpressed with the flavor on the first day, but on the second day, the flavors intensified. The cake got even more moist, but it wasn’t soggy or damp. My only complaint is that it’s a bit sweet, and I can’t really taste the spices. The cake is kind of like spice cake without the spices or carrot cake with extra brown sugar and no carrots.

Maybe to spice up the flavor, I’ll spread some apple butter (recipe featured at 101 Cookbooks) on the cake.

2nd EDIT:

On further investigation, I found out that I added too much sweetener. Brown sugar is simply white sugar plus molasses. I made my own brown sugar for this cake. According to the Grandma’s molasses package, 1 c brown sugar = 1 c white sugar + 1/2 c molasses. Or, it’s 2 parts white sugar, 1 part molasses. In previous experience, I found this ratio to be overkill, so I used 4 parts white sugar to 1 part molasses. On the Grandma’s molasses site though, it recommends 9 parts white sugar to 1 part molasses. Also, Baking 911 recommends 1-2 tbsp molasses for 1 cup of white sugar (or, 8-16 parts white sugar to 1 part molasses). Bottom line: I used waaaay too much molasses.

Partly because of my traumatic experience with the cornmeal mush, I still have qualms with Vegetarian Times recipes. Case in point: this recipe doesn’t tell you how much salt to add to the beans. I put a pinch. Evidently I needed more to bring out the spice flavors. Also, I seriously doubt 375F is a good temperature for the cake. Since I had an 8×8 glass pan (I halved the recipe), which conducts heat better than aluminum, I lowered the temperature to 350F. The edges browned very quickly, and I baked at 325F for the last five minutes.

So, this is a good cake, but it’s not to die for. I like the wholesome ingredients though. If you ever want to eat cake for breakfast, you can “fool” yourself by making healthy muffins with this recipe.

Maybe I’ll try the Chinese variation, but not anytime soon. My desk is exploding with “to try” recipes, and they’re from trusted sources.

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  1. Anonymous said,

    Great first post. Reducing 25% of the 1C of brown sugar would not effect the texture drastically, but I will affect the taste of cake itself quite a bit. Maybe you could use white granulated sugar and molasses to make your own “brown sugar”? I’m not sure how much goes into the sugar, but it should be listed on the label of molasses. That way, you can control the amount of sugar, as well as increase the liquid content with the molasses.

    Vegetarian Times is a great magazine, but I their reliance on packaged imitaion meat products a bit unsettling as it were. Still, I look foward to getting it in my mailbox every month.

    Allen Wong (The Impetuous Epicure)

    January 24, 2005 at 11:52 pm

  2. Katie said,

    What an interesting cake — and a creative entry for IMBB! I’m glad to have found your new blog, and look forward to reading more from you.

    January 25, 2005 at 12:36 pm

  3. Anonymous said,

    Hello Jessica,

    What a great first post! Your cake sounds so interesting- I might just try your suggestion and make muffins some morning.

    Thanks for posting and congrats on your new blog!


    January 25, 2005 at 3:06 pm

  4. Cathy said,

    Hi Jessica! I hope if you get around to trying your “Chinese-ified” version of the cake you’ll do another post about it! I was interested to read about experience with this cake – it sounds like it ought to taste good, so maybe with a little tweaking… Anyway, I enjoyed your post very much – thanks so much for participating in IMBB 11!


    January 26, 2005 at 9:06 pm

  5. Anonymous said,

    Wow, sounds very interesting and I really love the photo of the frosted and decorated cake. Too bad you didn’t get the results you were looking for and that the recipe was so tricky! I’d like to make that for my mom, as she loves black-eyed susans…not sure I want to after your review…if I do, I’ll let you know how it works out. I suppose I could always decorate a different cake like that as well. 🙂 I’ll be looking forward to seeing some of your other recipes from trusted sources!

    January 27, 2005 at 8:39 am

  6. Lynn said,

    What an eye-catching cake. Too bad you didn’t make the icing. I was going to ask you if it was too sweet, cos it seems to have a lot of sugar in it. If I ever find black-eyed peas in Japan, I’ll give this recipe a try. Thanks for sharing!

    January 27, 2005 at 9:47 am

  7. Rachel said,

    Hey Jessica,

    I had a fat wedge of Lynn’s butterflied version of your cake this weekend and I was thoroughly impressed. I couldn’t get over the fact that it was whole wheat flour and yet the cake texture was quite delicate and moist. I loved the clear apricot flavor as well. Yum!

    April 4, 2005 at 12:20 am

  8. Nick said,

    I’ve never seen such a healthy looking cake before. How does it taste overall? I suppose with a good enough icing anything tastes good. My guess is it is probably a little bit dense but is it moist enough? Maybe add some peanut butter to give it some great flavor! That’s how I made an awesome batch of muffins, replaced the oil with peanut butter and they came out better: Cinnamon Raisin Peanut Butter Peach Bran Muffins to be exact =).

    The Peanut Butter Boy

    March 9, 2008 at 2:51 am

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