Crazy new cakes invade Selfridges

Updated on 02 October 2011 | 0 Comments

Ever wished someone would invent a guilt-free cupcake? A low-calorie, butter-free cupcake that, say, has all the goodness of eating vegetables but tastes delicious? Today is your lucky day...

Ever wished someone would invent a guilt-free cupcake? A low-calorie, butter-free cupcake that, say, has all the goodness of eating vegetables but tastes as delicious as the most scrumptious, calorific cupcake you could buy?

If so, today is your lucky day. Cupcakes made using vegetables instead of butter – but taste exactly normal cupcakes in flavours like vanilla, lemon, chocolate and orange – have just been launched at Selfridges.

The people behind the cakes

Harriet Eastwood and Ashley Maddox, the duo behind this new range of vegetable-based, gluten-free, no butter cupcakes, ‘Petit Pois’, are a formidable team.

Both women are experts in their separate fields. Harry, the creator of the cakes, was one of the co-presenters of the hit Channel 4 show, ‘Cook Yourself Thin’, which she then went on to present in the US. She’s also sold over 20,000 copies of her first book, Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache. Ashley, the branding-whizz, is a dynamic Californian entrepreneur, and has been involved in launching many high-profile ventures:  Pop Idol and Bono’s (RED) Campaign to name but a few. 

They are touchingly keen to stress the importance of their relationship when it came to creating Petit Pois. “It was a combination of my mad idea of vegetable cakes,” says Harry, “and the dynamic duo of Ashley and me.”

“We make a great team,” agrees Ashley. Both women are clearly in awe of each other’s “very different but very complimentary skills”.  It’s business with a warm, beating heart: a disarmingly lovely notion in an age of faceless corporate brands. 

And, the pair’s wholehearted passion for Petit Pois is clear. “I only do something when I truly believe in it,” says Harry.

“I thought it was ingenious when Harry told me,” says Ashley, “and I knew it was a great idea to bring to the market.”

Cakes that improve with age

It’s been a mere four months since the creation of Petit Pois, but Harry has been working on the cakes for years and describes herself as “a vegetable-cake pro.” 

There is, says Ashley, a “real chemistry, a real alchemy to the cakes. Things have to be just right to make them perfect.” They’re the only cakes that actually improve with age, as the vegetables serve as a gradual sweetener and moistener.

Do they taste good?

The big question is, though, do Petit Pois cakes actually taste good? According to Harry and Ashley, they took the cakes to Selfridges to pitch, and said to the taster: ‘Can you tell that there is more grated vegetable in this than anything else?’

“The taster went from cake to cake, began to smile, and said he couldn’t,” says Ashley.

Personally, I can also vouch for their deliciousness; they are brilliant. Sweet, moist, superb, and without a hint of vegetable. Harry has worked hard to ensure they taste wonderful. “They might sound terrific, but if they taste like courgette, we have nothing. If they’re not amazing, I’m not interested.”

The secret of the cake’s yumminess 

The secret of the cake’s yumminess lies in the excellence of the ingredients: “The best free-range eggs, the best 70% chocolate, fresh vegetables - absolutely no preservatives”. 

The emphasis on quality reveals the influence of French culture on Petit Pois. Both Ashley and Harry live in Paris, and wanted to bring Paris’s high-quality attitude to food and enviable style to their cakes. “Petit Pois has plenty of attitude and style, like Paris,” says Ashley. 

The simplicity of the cake is also French in outlook: pared-down food chic. “We wanted to bring things back to the cake,” says Harry, “no wads of sugary icing.”

This will surely help Petit Pois stand out in a market saturated with piles of buttercream-topped calorie-laden cupcakes, and reflects the brand ethos, too.

Healthy fun and fresh

“The Petit Pois cakes are healthy, fun and fresh, with half the calories of an ordinary cupcake” says Ashley, “and the little pea on top is the only signal that they’ve been made from vegetables.” 

Delicious, gluten-free, guilt-free vegetable cakes: it sounds mad, but Harry and Ashley have turned it into an exquisite reality. “A craving is a serious thing,” says Harry, “and should be addressed. But, with Petit Pois, you can indulge. You can have your cake, and eat it, and feel great.” 

I look forward to doing so.

Also worth your attention:

Andrea Oliver's aubergine baklava

The next big baking trend

Eric Lanlard's chai tea cupcakes

Written by Alice Stride


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