I’m a bake-a-holic. I absolutely love baking, more than cooking. If you watch Grey’s Anatomy, you might remember the character Izzie Stevens. Yeah. That whole baking when stressed thing, totally me. But I would also bake just because. There was one time I made seven small cakes in two days, just to find out which vanilla cake recipe I loved most. When I see an interesting recipe, I get obsessed with it and absolutely need to bake it. I was pretty hardcore too – I did two cake decorating classes and made cakes covered in fondant flowers. I would make my own fondant, too, because it tasted better. So you’ll see me use fancy cake stuff, but don’t let that put you off as you can use a normal spatula, spoon or knife to frost the cake.
You can imagine, then, that cutting out gluten and refined sugar has been tough. Everything else was easy for me to adjust to – I love brown rice, millet, quinoa, oats, fruit and veg. When it comes to baking, this journey has not been easy at all. I still bake for friends and family, but not being able to enjoy the cake myself is a bit… sad. A girl’s gotta have her cake and eat it too, right?
I have been distracting myself by developing non-baking centred recipes, which you find here on the blog. I’m still trying to figure out gluten-free baking since I don’t understand the rules. I don’t know why my cakes rise then fall when I take it out when everything looks so fine. Plus, my oven is pretty old, so it is a bit moody at best. It’s more forgiving with normal flour goods.
This is a recipe that I’m pretty happy with, though. I decided to start with chocolate, because everyone loves chocolate and chocolate is good for you! Well, if you keep it dark. It’s packed with antioxidants to fight off the free radicals in your body that can cause damage. It also works on improving your mood, which is why we feel happy after eating chocolate. And feeling happy is just as important a health factor as anything else. Use non-alkaline processed cocoa powder to keep the maximum health benefits in your desserts.
I decided to try to make my go-to chocolate cake recipe gluten free and no guilt. I love this recipe because it is so easy and it is ready to bake in minutes. This is what I’ve so far figured out – buckwheat flour works really well in baking. I’m guessing this is because it’s got a good protein content. Buckwheat is not wheat, it’s a fruit seed related to rhubarb, so if you’re gluten intolerant you can still take buckwheat. Buckwheat is rich in flavonoids which prolongs the immune-fighting action of vitamin C. It also acts to lower lipids (fat) in your system and protects against heart disease. Buckwheat flour is excellent to use in pancakes, but I found that it might be a bit heavy on it’s own for a cake.
Enter almonds! Almond flour, that is. Also a fantastic gluten free flour, it brings some sweetness, protein as well as added moisture from the fat – monounsaturated fat, that is, the same type found in olive oil. Almonds are also packed with nutrients that are great for your heart such as magnesium and potassium. An extra fun fact about almonds is that it acts to reduce the glycemic index of a meal and reduces the increase in blood sugar. Perfect in a dessert, right?
This cake still uses a little bit of fat, because fat makes everything taste better, and also, good fats are good for you. This is not a cake you eat in place of other meals or every single day, but it’s a complement to a good diet which means you need to treat yourself once in a while. If you’re going to treat yourself, make it something that is good for you. Coconut oil has plenty of benefits that stay intact even after exposure to high heat. It will give the cake a coconut taste.
If you’re not vegan, it’s okay to make this with melted butter, using the same amount, because butter is actually not a bad fat. It’s natural. It doesn’t contain awful trans fats, and it’s actually rich in fat-soluble vitamins. No margarine, please. Those things are awful AND bad for you.
Even in my past baking life, I used to cut out nearly half of the sugar in any cake recipe because my extended family didn’t like overtly sweet things, so I kept to that practice here. I made this with agave syrup, but you could make it with coconut sugar (apparently one of the better sugars out there), or brown sugar if you’re not very particular about sugars. Or, if you’re very particular, use a lower GI sweetener of choice. The frosting is only lightly sweetened with agave nectar, in fact you can cut it out altogether if you don’t have a sweet tooth.
I’ve made this style of frosting before, so that came easy for me. I call it a chocolate soy frosting, simply because chocolate tofu frosting might put people off. It sounds weird but I promise you it works! This also means it’s packed with protein instead of fat and refined sugar. If you’re new to tofu in dessert, do try to look out for shelf-stable tofu. This is usually not in the fridge section, I used to be able to find the box in the Japanese section of the supermarket but I haven’t seen it in a while, which is frustrating. By now though, I’m used to soy milk so as such so I enjoy it with “normal” tofu, so approach the recipe the way you prefer. If you’re still not comfortable with the idea of tofu, there’s some recipes out there for vegan frosting that you can try in it’s place.
- Chocolate cake:
- Wet ingredients:
- 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds, whisked in ¼ cup water
- ½ cup coconut oil
- ¼ cup water, or coffee if you can take caffeine (enhances the flavour of chocolate)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup non-dairy milk (I used soy)
- ½ cup agave nectar (replace with ½ cup coconut or brown sugar, if preferred)*
- Dry ingredients:
- ¾ cup buckwheat flour
- ¾ cup ground almonds
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¾ teaspoon gluten free baking powder (available at the organic section of the supermarket)
- ¾ teaspoon gluten free baking soda (available at the organic section of the supermarket)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Chocolate soy frosting:
- 1 pack tofu, firm or pressed (I think this is 200g)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar
- 300g dark chocolate, melted
- 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
- 1 pinch salt
- A splash of non-dairy milk, if the blender doesn’t catch
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Prepare two six-inch tins by lightly greasing with some coconut oil. You could also make a one layer nine-inch cake. Draw out two circles on baking paper, cut it out and place it on the bottom of the tins. This will make your life easier later. Now get you can start with your batter.
- Whisk together the ground flax meal and water, and set it aside for five minutes. This mixture will act as the “egg” of the batter”. If you are using coffee, make your coffee and measure out ⅓ cup. Whisk together all the other wet ingredients, then add the flax “egg”. Set aside.
- Sift the buckwheat flour, ground almonds and cocoa powder into a bowl. Whisk together with the baking soda and salt. Pour in the wet ingredients in thirds, stirring as well as you can with the first two additions. This is to avoid a lumpy mixture.
- Pour out the batter evenly between the two tins, and place the tins in the oven. Let bake for about 20-25 minutes. The cakes are done when a toothpick or skewer comes out clean. Once it’s done, take it out and let it cool. Take it out of the tins and remove the baking paper.
- For the frosting: Melt your chocolate, then place everything into your blender or hand blender jug, and blend till combined. Taste and add more sweetener if you prefer. Let it set in the fridge for a couple of hours before frosting.
- To frost: I always find it best to frost a cake that has been chilled in the fridge for at least an hour, as this sets the frosting as you go along. Set the first layer onto a cake board or plate, and trim the dome slightly to make it more balanced.
- Put ⅓ of the frosting onto the centre and spread out to about 1cm from the edge. Place the second layer on top, flat side down. If you didn’t chill the cakes and your frosting seems a bit soft, you can do as I did and stick a chopstick down the middle to hold the cake up. Later when the cake has set in the fridge, you take out the chopstick and cover up the hole. No one will be the wiser!
- Work with another ⅓ of the frosting and work it around the top and down the sides. Top up a bit more frosting as you go along until you completely cover the cake in the delicious, chocolatey frosting. Place the cake into the fridge and let it set for at least two hours, but you could also dig in straight away!
- The cake should keep for up to three days, if it lasts that long. ; )
Enjoy! xx, Bee