(adapted from Make your own AphrodisiacsAphrodisia, p50)

You may have heard of maca as a new butterscotch-like taste from Peru. It may be newish for European gastrophiles but maca has been and remains a traditional source of energy-giving food in the Andes.

Maca (Lepidium mayenii) is a root crop, something like a turnip, that survives higher than any other food in the poor soil and harsh mountain weather of the Andes. It has outgrown its use as a subsistence food to become a valuable export crop. Indeed, when we visited Peru ten years ago and asked to see where the maca grew, we were told to keep away because mafia-type gangs were fighting over who controlled the harvest and it was dangerous for tourists to go near.

But don’t let such concerns undermine your appreciation of this intriguing taste, which is like butterscotch but blander and slightly bitter. It makes excellent porridge, bread and cakes, and we like it as a flavouring for coffee.

Maca has another reputation, as an aphrodisiac, arising from its high amino acid levels, particularly arginine and histidine. Bear that in mind while you have a maca cupcake.

Maca cupcakes

Warm together 0.5 tablespoon vinegar, 1 tablespoon golden syrup or other syrup, 4 tablespoons butter and 0.5 cup light brown sugar. When soft, beat until the texture is creamy.

Add 0.5 cup milk or oat milk, 1 cup plain white flour, 2 tablespoons maca powder.

Pour 1 tablespoon boiling water over 0.5 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), and stir this into the cake batter.

Out mixture into 10 muffin cases and bake at 180C/350F for 15–20 minutes, until golden on top and cooked through. Cool.

If you like, add an icing and strawberry on the top, as we did.