We are told we should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.

For some people, particularly children, this is a tall order. However there is a way of including vegetables as a secret ingredient and as owner of Blackberry Cottage I have worked out how.

Having worked as a sports massage practitioner with Olympic and Paralympic teams, nutrition played a very important part in the daily lives of these sports men and women.

To help with their dietary requirements, I would often bake them cakes using vegetables as the largest ingredient and therefore reducing refined sugars and fats.

However it was thanks to one of my clients, who came to my private practice, that my life took a turn in a completely different direction.

She could not find a way to get her child to eat any vegetables or even much fruit. But I am always up for a challenge. I have always had a passion for cooking and baking, so I took up the proposition to find a way of including vegetables into baked products such as cakes.

I initially made some chocolate brownies with spinach, as this is such a nutrient dense vegetable, coupled with good quality dark chocolate which has many benefits.

However, I didn’t want the vegetables to be a token gesture; they needed to be the biggest ingredient. After a lot of trial and error, which both my daughters, Gemma and Hannah, can vouch for, I came up with a winning recipe. I knew they had worked when they were not only demolished by my client’s children and their parents, but word spread very quickly.

Consequently, I was being asked for more of my brownies and different vegetable cakes too.

The next twist came about thanks to my husband Tim, who convinced me to try selling my cakes at a local market.

Humouring him, I baked what I thought at the time was lots of vegetable cakes and we set up a stall at a local artisan market where we live in Berkshire.

I actually took a book to read, as I thought people would think I was a little crazy putting vegetables into cakes.

But, I was very wrong, people were so intrigued; trying, buying and asking where I stocked my cakes, as well as if questions about giving talks, bringing out a recipe book and running courses and it wasn’t long before we’d sold out.

We are very lucky, we have a small holding with a bit of a menagerie of rare breed animals, and this gives us space to grow a lot of our own ingredients.

Knowing what I put into our cakes is very important to me, and we use our own eggs. What we can’t grow, we try and buy locally.

Along with regular ingredients, we also use alternative flours such as rice and gram, making some cakes gluten free, while others have no added refined sugars or added fats.

We had a five-year plan, but outgrew our kitchen very quickly and soon found we had no space to actually eat or cook our own food.

It was time to find somewhere new to bake from.

All this now happens in our purpose-built shepherd’s hut, which is the most amazing space to work from.

We now sell our cakes via our website, supply delis, farm and tea shops and love meeting customers at the various food festivals which I attend.

I also run a number of one-day cookery courses where I show people how to bake cakes using vegetables, unrefined sugars and alternatives to traditional flour.

And the recipe book?

Well, I have finally got around to it.

Our book is entitled Cakes with Secret Ingredients from Aubergine to Zucchini and has just been launched, priced £24.99 via blackberrycottagefayre.co.uk or Amazon.

I will be demonstrating how to bake some of these delicious cakes using a variety of secret ingredients at this year’s Didcot Food Festival.

Held at the Civic Centre, Didcot on October 27, I will be appearing in the Chef’s Kitchen at 3pm, where there will be plenty of samples for you to try.


To win a copy of Kate Saunders’ new cookbook Cakes with Secret Ingredients from Aubergine to Zuchini and a pair of adult tickets to the event, answer this simple question:

Where will Kate Saunders be appearing on October 27

A) Didcot Food Festival

B) Oxford Literary Festival

C) Tokyo 2020 Olympics

To win, send your answer and contact details including your name address and telephone number to promotions@nqo.com by Thursday October 18.

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