Hemsley + Hemsley’s Cannellini Sponge Cake with Chocolate Avocado Frosting

by meike peters

Cannellini Bean Sponge Cake

No flour and no butter – the Hemsley sisters did it again! The two gorgeous girls from London impressed me with a recipe that leaves out all the ingredients that I usually pull out of my pantry and fridge when I turn on the oven to bake a sweet treat.

There’s a beautiful cake in the sister’s new book Good + Simple that surprised and challenged my traditional idea of sweets and baking. When they published their last book I was in a similar situation, I gave their raw avocado lime cheesecake a try and I was more than a bit sceptical in the beginning. However, there was no need for any doubts, the Hemsley’s taught me that you can make a cheesecake without cream cheese, using avocados instead. It has the same creamy texture, it tastes great, and it’s healthy! But this time, Jasmine and Melissa went a step further, they made a sponge cake with canned cannellini beans and a little coconut flour. To my big surprise, the result looks like a sponge cake, feels like a sponge cake, and tastes like a sponge cake. It was a little like a science project that works out when you least expect it. I could not imagine how canned beans could turn into a spongy cake, layered with chocolate avocado frosting. I got used to the avocados from their last book, but the beans seemed a bit far fetched. I was wrong. It’s kitchen magic, I don’t know how, but the mashed legumes become a light cake (with the help of a few other ingredients).

I always believe that it’s important to have an open mind in the kitchen, to exchange ideas with other great minds that love food just as much but maybe follow another diet, a different approach. Our culinary traditions can only evolve if we try out new recipes, ingredients, and combinations. I’m lucky, my own diet only follows my mood, I don’t suffer from any allergies or food intolerance. You’ll see a cakey nibble on my plate quite often during the week – and an even bigger piece on the weekend. My health doesn’t mind my little sweet treats, but even I changed to white spelt flour (type 630) for all my baking recipes (sweet and savoury) a few years ago. I just prefer its nutritional value. So we all have to find out which kind of food makes us feel good, the body and the mind. The beans were a great reminder for me that there are many ways to enjoy the sweet side of life.

On my last trip to London, I visited Jasmine at the new Hemsley+Hemsley café at Selfridges in London. She and her sister told me about their latest project so enthusiastically when we last met in Berlin that I couldn’t wait to see their new “baby”. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a little shopping break, to snack and feel good. If you happen to be in the capital and you’re after the kind of food that gives you energy during a busy day and tastes delicious at the same time, follow the Hemsley’s to their new kitchen.

Cannellini Bean Sponge Cake


Cannellini Bean Sponge Cake

Cannellini Sponge Cake with Chocolate Avocado Frosting

I only made half the recipe and used an 18cm / 7″ springform pan. I baked the sponge cake for 25 minutes. 

Serves 25–30

For the sponge cake

coconut oil, melted, 125g / 1/2 cup, plus extra for greasing
cannellini beans, drained and rinsed, 3 cans (each 400g / 14 ounces)
medium eggs 9
vanilla extract 1 tablespoon (I used a pinch of fresh vanilla seeds, scraped out of the bean)
maple syrup 220ml / 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespooms
apple cider vinegar or lemon juice 5 teaspoons
coconut flour 90g / 3 1/4 ounces
baking soda 2 1/2 teaspoons
fine sea salt 1/4 teaspoon
fresh mixed berries 150g  / 5 ounces,  to decorate the cake

For the Chocolate Avocado Frosting

medium, ripe avocados 4
coconut oil, melted 5 tablespoons (about 75g / 2 1/2 ounces)
raw honey 8 tablespoons (to taste)
cocoa powder 10 tablespoons
vanilla extract 1 tablespoon
lemon juice 2 tablespoons
orange extract (not essence) 1/2 teaspoon (I used a little freshly grated orange zest)
a pinch of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F (convection setting), then line the bases of two 25cm / 10″ springform pans with baking parchment and grease the sides with butter or coconut oil. (I baked one cake after the other in the same pan and kept the dough in the fridge while the first one was baking.)

Blend all the ingredients for the frosting together in a food processor until smooth, adding a dash of cold water if needed. Adjusting the flavouring to taste, then transfer to a bowl and set aside in the fridge.

For the cake, add the cannellini beans to the cleaned food processor bowl along with the eggs, vanilla extract, and maple syrup and blend until smooth. Add the remaining cake ingredients, except the berries, and blend to combine.

Divide the cake batter between the prepared cake tins, spreading out evenly and smoothing the surface. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes until well risen and lightly golden on top. Check the cakes after 25 minutes and swap the tins between shelves, if necessary, as they will cook at different rates.

Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely in the springform pans before turning out.

While the cakes are cooling, gently wash the berries and dry them carefully using kitchen paper or leave to air dry; they must be thoroughly dry before adding to the cake.

Spread half the frosting on one of the cooled sponges, top with the other sponge and spread over the rest of the frosting. Store in the fridge and bring to room temperature to serve. Decorate with the fresh raspberries just before serving. (I sprinkled the berries with icing sugar and added a few mint leaves.)

Cannellini Bean Sponge Cake


Cannellini Bean Sponge Cake


Cannellini Bean Sponge Cake


Cannellini Bean Sponge Cake


Cannellini Bean Sponge Cake