Black Bean Buns

Try this unusual cake recipe and you will be literally full of beans! The chocolatey buns contain the most bizarre ingredient: black beans, also known as turtle beans.

Normally used in savoury applications, they are a staple ingredient in Mexican and South American cooking and are absolutely stuffed with nutrients and soluble fibre. They have even been described as ‘the World’s healthiest food.’ Now how good is that, in a cake?

I don’t know what made me think of this particular idea exactly– possibly it came to me because I’ve been baking with beetroot (I love baking with beetroot) a lot recently and was looking for something ‘similar’ yet ‘different’ if that makes sense?

I’d seen a title somewhere for ‘bean brownies’ and that caught my imagination and then I remembered that aduki beans are used in sweet applications in Japanese cooking.

I did experiment with aduki beans first and although nice, they weren’t ‘out of this world wonderfully nice’. I saw the black beans rubbing shoulders on the shelf with the aduki beans in the supermarket and thought I’d try baking with them. I’ve cooked black beans before in Mexican chillies and liked them.

Black beans go beautifully with chocolate but if you try the mixture at the butter/sugar/pureed bean stage before the cocoa goes in, they have the most lovely flavour. It seemed a shame not to make some buns with the beans being allowed to speak for themselves so that’s when I tried the plain ‘healthy’ variation.

Both variations are really lovely: try them for yourself and see.

A food processor makes mixing both cake mix and icing efficient and easy. Use cook’s measuring spoons for measuring raising agents accurately.

Flour Tip

You can use very fresh self-raising flour if you prefer instead of the plain flour/raising agents combination. Once you have opened a bag of self-raising flour make sure you seal it afterwards, and keep it in an airtight container in a cool dry place. Finish the bag quickly for best results.

Black Bean Buns

Makes 16

  • 150g canned black beans
  • 125g soft light brown sugar
  • 110g salted butter, softened
  • 150g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 level teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 160C (fan oven) or equivalent

You will need 2x12 cup muffin tin and 16 muffin/cupcake-size paper cases

Drain the beans, rinse thoroughly in cold running water and drain again before weighing.

Whiz the beans and sugar to a puree in the food processor. Add the butter and whiz to combine.

Add the cocoa and raising agents to the plain flour. Sieve half over the mixture. Add the eggs and remaining flour and whiz. Add milk and whiz until smooth.

Divide mixture between the paper cases. Bake for 15 minutes or until risen, springy to the touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Set aside to cool. Good just as they are they’re fabulous with dreamy, creamy vanilla buttercream swirled on top. Use vanilla paste if you can: the tiny seeds always look so tempting.

Lemon and Vanilla Buttercream

  • 175g sieved icing sugar
  • 75g softened butter
  • ¼ teaspoon of vanilla bean paste or extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons sieved lemon juice

Whiz the icing sugar in the clean dry food processor bowl to eliminate persistent lumps.

Add the butter and vanilla and whiz until combined. Add the lemon juice and whiz until smooth.

Transfer to an icing bag or bottle with a star nozzle and pipe swirls of buttercream onto the cooled buns. Those coffee flavoured chocolate beans you can get look good on top as the finishing touch.

Rather Healthy Little Brown Bun

Try making the buns without the cocoa: the beans have a lovely flavour on their own. Make up the flour quantity to 175g. Remove the processor blade at the end of mixing and stir in 50-75g raisins. Bake as before. Eat plain or drizzle with glace icing made with lemon juice.

You can cut down the sugar from 125g to 110g if you like.