Now we all know how much I enjoy baking. That's right.... not a lot! As well as having a much more savory palate I'm not a fan of the precise measuring needed for baking the perfect cake. I'm much more about throwing it all in and adjusting as you go along.
But that's not an attitude you can take when trying to get your mixture to rise into something to wow the crowds and satisfy a sweet tooth. And I know for the blog I want to give you guys a whole range of dishes including main meals and savoury but also sweet things and puddings to cater for all.
However there is someone in my life that does thrive on getting that mixture right, and that's my sister Ella.
In her spare time (just like me with my blogging) Ella is the maker and master baker behind Ella Rose Cakes, whipping up incredible baked creations for her friends and family but also now many more people in Surrey and the surrounding areas.
In order to give you guys a brilliant cake recipe I asked Ella to write me a recipe for The Flourishing Pantry. And you know what that means - sticking as closely as possible to my ideal list of healthy ingredients and trying to really reduce those usual cake culprits: sugar, white flour and lashings of butter or margarine.
I won't spoil the surprise but it turns out baking isn't always easy for a pro, especially when you're working without sugar. I'll let Ella tell the story...!
Clean Cake Catastrophes saved by Scrumptious Sugar-Free Servings
There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my sister so when she suggested I bake a cake for The Flourish Pantry blog of course I said yes, and I’ve (finally) got round to some baking and blogging.
Baking cakes for Ella Rose Cake clients means incorporating dietary requirements on a regular basis - I’m now a dab hand at egg free, gluten free and nut free cakes that can still please a cohort of cake hungry 7 year olds. However sugar free is another matter…
In my kitchen you will always be able to find flour, caster sugar, eggs and margarine and I sleep well every night knowing I can knock up a basic sponge at the drop of a hat – because you never know when someone might need a cake. I like minimal fuss, easy baking, no fancy ingredients, no tricky techniques - crowd pleasing cakes are always winners.
To bake something The Flourishing Pantry would approve of got me started with grand ideas as I searched for the perfect “Clean Cake” to create. I invested in many fancy ingredients (that seemed quite overpriced if I’m honest) – Himalayan pink salt and coconut nectar to name but a few *rolls eyes*....
I followed the recipe to the letter. Combining the ingredients was easy enough, everything seemed to be the perfect consistency, so I prepared the tin with coconut oil and gluten free flour (as directed) and baked for the perfect length of time. The cake came out of the oven beautifully risen, golden and bouncy. But I had a sneaky suspicion, having baked many a meringue and egg based sponge, that this clean cake was about to fall.
Low-and-behold within 5 minutes it was less than half the height and left me with a sunken, shrivelled cake that resembled a soft walnut. In hindsight I should have followed my gut and probably left the cake in the oven, turning the heat off completely and leaving the oven door slightly ajar until the cake had cooled (and maybe shrunk a little less).
But the disaster didn’t stop there. Whilst I tried to whip the coconut cream to coat the cake I managed to split the cream so it resembled baby sick. I’m not going to lie, at this point and with nothing to show for my efforts but a wrinkled cake and lumpy split cream I was ready to clear “Clean Cakes” out of my kitchen for good!
But not wanting to let my sister down, and also to restore some pride in my baking abilities, I quickly googled “sugar free cake.” I found something that I could whip up without any trouble and best of all I was able to do it with ingredients I already had in the house. Winner!
So here we go, this recipe is one I’d never tried before, and just like Vicky does with her recipes, I adapted it quite a bit to suit the alternative ingredients I had to hand. So I guess you are getting two recipes for the price of one now!
Original recipe is in plain text, substitute / alternate ingredients are in italic text.
SERVES: 10-12 good size slices
PREP TIME: 20 minutes
COOK TIME: 1 hour + cooling time
- 150g/5½ oz self-raising flour - I used Doves Farm gluten-free flour
- 100g/3½ oz ground almonds – I used a mixture of chopped and ground
- 50g/1¾ oz raisins - I used sultanas and more fell out of the packet so there were ~140g
- 50g/1¾ oz walnut halves, roughly broken - I didn’t add these, I’m not a fan of nuts in cakes but you could if you wanted
- 4 tsp ground mixed spice – this is essential for the flavour and sweetness
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda - double this if you are using gluten free flour
- 3 eggs – I’m weirdly obsessed with the new 9 box from The Happy Egg Company
- 100ml/3½fl oz sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing - I used olive oil, but warmed coconut oil would also work if you prefer
- 3 tbsp semi-skimmed milk – I used skimmed because it’s what we have in the house. Dairy free alternative would be absolutely fine too.
- 300g/10½ oz carrots, coarsely grated - I used 2 courgettes instead, carrots would have added more sweetness so I’d probably make sure I had them to make it next time but courgettes were still really delicious. Or maybe combine them both?
- 150g/5½ oz full-fat soft cheese - for a dairy free version I used 250g/9oz KOKO Dairy Free Plain Yogurt
- 75g desiccated coconut
- 2 scoops of protein powder - this was an addition to the original to help with the sweetness. I used Opti Lean Whey Powder but go with your favourite - NutriStrength pea protein classic vanilla is a great vegan alternative
- Lime/Lemon finely grated for decoration
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4.
2. Grease a 20cm/8” cake tin and line the base with a circle of baking parchment (and grease that too)
3. Put the flour, almonds, raisins, walnuts, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. This is totally my style – all in a bowl and mix, what could be easier!
4. Make a well in the centre of the bowl. In the well add the eggs, oil and milk together giving them a little whisk and then adding the grated courgette/carrot.
5. Incorporate the liquid egg mixture with the dry ingredients, stirring to form a consistent thick batter.
6. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin and spread to the sides.
7. Bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hour, or until the cake is well risen and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.
8. Take the cake out of the tin and peel off the lining paper. Put the cake on a board or plate.
9. Either combine the cream cheese and orange zest or the yogurt, protein powder and lime and spread evenly over the top and sides of the cake.
10. Grate lime or lemon or orange on top to make it look a little fancy.
11. Store in an air tight container or the fridge (particularly if you have made the yogurt topping)
I strongly believe that baking (and cooking) shouldn’t be difficult. No one needs extra obstacles or hoops to jump through when you just want a piece of cake! By using a ‘never-fail’ or ‘fool-proof’ recipe and substituting ingredients here and there to fit dietary requirements makes much more sense to me than faffing with completely strange concoctions and recipes that don’t appear to have enough ingredients to even be classed as a cake!
I think today I learnt to trust my instinct. Fancy-pants ingredients and homemade coconut cream are not my style and took some of the joy out of the baking in my first attempt – especially because the results were so poor. But I was pleasantly surprised that even without sugar you can have your cake and eat it!