Tag Archives: chocolate

Chunky Carob Cake – Ridiculously Allergy Friendly!

Chunky Carob Cake

There are few names I’d put on my “soul-mate” list.  Nina Simone.  William Shakespeare.  James McAvoy (did you SEE X-Men First Class?  Totally redeemed the franchise from Wolverine and washed the bad taste of Bridesmaids out of my mouth).

In all seriousness, while I am surrounded by so many loving, special people, I am particularly grateful for my dear friend Lyndsey – a soul-mate if there ever was one.  We met through my college boyfriend over a dozen years ago, and aside from the many things we naturally had in common, we shared a history of chronic illness.  There’s no way I could summarize our friendship – but let’s just say we’ve been an ear, a shoulder, a hug, the voice on the other end of the phone that won’t hang up… I don’t know where I’d be without this woman.

So on my quick days off I scooted my little blue car down to DC to visit her and her husband, two of my favorite people in the whole world!  

Lyndsey is still suffering greatly from her illness and deep digestive problems, and her diet completely eliminates grains, sugar, chocolate, fruit, any sweeteners, caffeine, alcohol, certain meats and fishes, fried foods, certain vegetables and is pretty much devoid of any sweet indulgences. I lived like that for several years but never as long as she, and don’t know how she hasn’t gone ballistic on a grocery store or restaurant by now.

But carob! Oh, yes, Lyndsey can have carob!

So the other morning she showed me how to make her “Chunky Cake”.

This cake is chocolate-free, sugar-free, grain-free / flourless, oiless, nut-free, low-carb, high-fiber, low-glycemic.  Really.  It does have ghee (clarified butter) so it’s not dairy free completely, but you can easily substitute with coconut oil or a fat of your choice.

And it’s incredibly easy – all ingredients mixed in a bowl and poured in a pan!

I was amazed at how light and airy the carob cake came out, while still packing a delicious aroma.  I’m going to have some fun experimenting with the recipe at home, using coconut products, tucking the batter around almond butter, soaking vanilla beans in almond milk.  But for now, here’s the original recipe.  Enjoy!

Moist and light Chunky Carob cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup ground flax
  • 1 cup carob powder
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup melted ghee
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cloves

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 325°.  Heavily grease a pie plate or single cake pan.
  • Mix all ingredients in a large bowl (in no particular order) with a whisk until thoroughly combined.  The resulting batter should sort of glop a bit off the whisk and not run completely smooth.  Because of the goopy result of using flax, Lyndsey describes it as “falling like boogers”.  One of the thousands of reasons why I love her so much.
  • Pour into prepared plate and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick or fork inserted comes out relatively smooth.
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The Little Red Velvet Riding Hood Cupcakes – Gluten and Dairy free!

Little Red Velvet Riding Hood Cupcakes

These cupcakes are amazing. I just wanted to start with that.  You can’t tell that they’re gluten AND dairy free.  My roommate’s eyes lit up when she took her first bite, and after her third she proclaimed it her favorite of my creations.  Even I am wowed by how good this cupcake is.  I can  confidently say this is the best gluten-free red velvet cupcake recipe.  AND the best dairy-free red velvet cupcake recipe.  There.  I said it.  But I should know.  I’ve eaten about 12 of these little guys.  Including two this morning, before breakfast.

Three things contributed as inspiration for the best gluten-free red velvet cupcake I have ever eaten.

Brainstorming first came when I online-met Kelli of Ingested Read.  I love her new blog, and her recipes are created for a specific book she’s pouring over.  I’m a big fan of this idea, and this blog.  So she opened up her site for guest-posts with Intercaketuality.  Brilliant.  I’m sending her a big high five across the pond.

I knew I wanted to make some sort of red-velvet cake.  In my gluten-free food crawl with a few friends I learned that the three bakeries in the city that boast gluten-free offerings disappointed our taste buds in the red-velvet department.  Either too dry or too moist, none contained that classic cocoa flavor.

A few months ago my cousin Daniella played Little Red Riding Hood in her high school production of Into the Woods and, as I predicted, was stellar, stealing the show.  In this musical version Little Red has a slight obsession with baked goods, eating all the bread and sweets she is supposed to take through the woods to granny.  Daniella herself is very allergic to dairy, so over the years we’ve commiserated at the dessert table as treats were passed around.

So when thinking about a new cake I wanted to work on, these three elements blended perfectly into The Little Red Velvet Riding Hood Cupcake!

But a few challenges arose when making this both gluten and dairy free.

First, how to replicate cake flour?  According to my interweb research, cake flour is distinctive because (a) it is very finely milled, (b) it contains a low amount of protein which develops gluten and (c) it has a higher amount of starch as a result.  So, how to make a gluten-free version of cake flour, which obviously lacks gluten to begin with?

Several sites including Gluten-Free Bay, WikiHow and Gluten Free Naturally Blog use the same ingredients in the same proportions.

  • 3 cups brown rice flour
  • 1 cup potato starch
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

I don’t really use potato starch, as it’s a nightshade and not good for people with arthritis and digestive issues, so instead I used arrowroot and crossed my fingers.  I also used 2 cups of brown rice flour and 1 of white rice flour, and sifted twice.  This worked wonderfully in the cake.  I’ll have it on hand from now on.

I then had to replace buttermilk with a non-dairy ingredient.  Normally I’d just use almond or soy milk, but as the consistency of buttermilk is a bit thicker and tangy, I had to improvise.  So I used tofutti sour cream and diluted it with unsweetened almond milk, then threw in a tablespoon of white vinegar.  It worked!

I can honestly say that this recipe is better than the two bakery ones we tried.  The cakes are that perfect combination of being both moist and crumbly – they’re not dry at all, so they won’t fall under the pressure of a fork.  The cocoa is definitely present, but in no way do they taste like chocolate.   And I cut back the sugar aspect by a half a cup and substituted with 1/8 a cup of light agave syrup.  I’m not at all a fan of using either of these things, but for experimentation purposes I had to go with it.

Vegan "cream cheese" frosting

For a frosting I whipped up a tofutti / Earth Balance spread from Mama Sophia’s Soul Kitchen.  It’s a very tasty recipe, tangy and sweet without being overpowering nor tasting like soy.  But as you can see in this picture, it’s more like a pretty, thick glaze.  It has a gorgeous sheen, but even when refrigerated overnight it was far too loose for piping.  So I glazed the minis with these and then found an incredibly light and fluffy vegan frosting that I whopped on the big guys.

Fluffy Vegan Frosting

The Little Red Velvet Riding Hood Cupcake

Notes: Make sure you have all your ingredients are room temperature or slightly warm.  Make sure your oven is properly heated.  Don’t over-mix the dough when you’re stirring in the last batch of dry ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups gluten-free cake flour
  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/8 cup light agave syrup
  • 1 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 3/4 tsp. red gel/paste food coloring
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 rounded tablespoons Tofutti “sour cream” – at room temp
  • almond or soy milk (directions below)
  • 1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp distilled white vinegar, separated
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda.

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350º
  • Line 24 cupcake molds (I did an even 12 cupcakes and 24 minis)
  • Add Tofutti cream cheese to a liquid measuring cup and fill to just shy of one cup with almond or soy milk.  Whisk thoroughly with a fork until smooth.  Heat in microwave until warm but not hot.
  • Add 1 Tbsp white vinegar and stir in.
  • In a small bowl, whisk flour, cocoa and salt thoroughly.
  • In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix sugar, agave and oil thoroughly on medium speed until thoroughly combined.
  • Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well between additions.
  • Add vanilla and coloring and mix in.
  • Turn speed down to low.  Add the flour in three additions, alternating with 1/2 of the “buttermilk”.  Make sure to mix thoroughly between additions.
  • Mix baking soda and remaining 2 tsps vinegar until foamy.  Add and beat for 10 seconds or until incorporated.
  • Bake for 14 minutes (small) or 22 minutes (large), rotating pan halfway through.
  • Cool in pan for at least 5 minutes before removing to cool on a rack, or cool completely in pans.
  • Definitely cool completely before frosting.

These can be kept in a refrigerator for 3 days in an airtight container.  Bring them down to room temperature before serving.

Nutty Irishman St. Pat’s Pancakes

Nutty Irishman Gluten-Free Pancakes

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I have a pancake addiction.  And possibly an addiction to St. Patrick’s Day too.  I’ve blogged about my uncontainable love for Blueberry Lemon Pancakes and have already made allergy-friendly Soda Bread and Irish Cream Carob Cupcakes, though it’s only a few days into March.

Yesterday morning, though, I just didn’t have time to make pancakes and blog the recipe.  I had an audition and five articles to write, for Pete’s sake!  No time for delicious food and playing when there’s work to be done, right?

Yeah, you guessed it.  I went into the kitchen.  I just had to try out the first go of my new creation, Nutty Irishman St. Pat’s Pancakes.  I mean, a girl’s gotta eat breakfast, right?  And I had laundry down in the basement so my eye had to keep on a clock.  What’s an extra half hour in the kitchen when there’s creation to be had, right?

Addiction.  But I know many of you out there are addicted too.  As evident by your confessions on the last pancake addiction post.  Yes, I think this support group should happen somewhere.  In fact, I just bought AddictedToPancakes.Com.  Message me if you want to be made an author and contribute a recipe, or just divulge a food addiction.  This could be fun.

Anyhoo, in the spirit both of St. Patrick’s Day and Pancake Addiction (which would make a good band name, no?), I’ve made these.  Dessert for breakfast.  A coffee drink in a pancake.  Somehow I captured a bit of the delicious after-dinner drink, though I used no whiskey (sniff).  I ate a bunch.

Now, notes:  These are not that sweet.  I used 4 Tbsp of sucanat to make the cocoa a bit fuller, but these do not taste like a brownie, cake or even chocolate muffin.  They are definitely pancakes.  If you want a sweeter treat, throw more sugar in there.  And if you don’t mind a little alcohol in the morning, throw a shot or two in.  Or soak your hazelnuts in whiskey for a while and then leave them out to dry / toast them.  Yum.  I’m gonna try that next time.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee or espresso
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract (or hazelnut if you can find it… I couldn’t… sniff…)
  • 1/2 cup fine unsweetened cocoa (I used Ghirardelli)
  • 4Tbsp sugar (I used sucanat)
  • 2 cups gluten-free pancake mix (Bob’s Red Mill or I used equal parts tapioca, oat, white rice and sorhgum this morning)
  • 1/2 tsp xantham gum (if NOT using a premixed pancake mix)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • salt
  • 2 eggs

Directions

Now I did this in a blender, because I was anticipating making it at my boyfriend’s apartment or my dad’s house, and they both have those and not other methods of equipment.  You could also do this in a bowl on a standing mixer or with a hand mixer.  The blender method was affective and did make pouring the pancakes easier, but I did get mix all over my white kitchen cabinets.  It was funny.

  • In a saucepan combine melt butter.  Then add coffee and milk and heat on low until warmed.
  • Whisk in the cocoa until combined completely.
  • Pour in liquid measuring cup and set aside to cool.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together remaining dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt).
  • In a large bowl or blender, beat eggs until a tiny bit frothy.  Then slowly add the liquid ingredients (retain about 1/4 cup) and beat to combine.  Add the dry ingredients 1/2 cup at a time until incorporated.
  • If the batter is a bit too thick, add remaining wet mixture.
  • Let stand while you heat your cooking instrument (I used a griddle that covered two burners).
  • Now, these will brown more easily than other pancakes, so I recommend heating the surface well and then turning down the heat and letting it cool a tad.
  • Bake on both sides until fluffy.  This made me 14 small pancakes.

Nutty Irishman Pancake Addiction

Irish-Cream Filled Carob Cupcakes

Gluten-free Irish Cream Carob Cupcakes

Have I mentioned that I love St. Patrick’s Day?  Well, I LOVE St. Patrick’s Day! Hence the little green background that I’m sporting this month even though it really doesn’t work with the color scheme I’m playing with.  Which, if you stop on this site somewhat regularly (thank you, by the way!) you’ll notice keeps changing because I’m indecisive and not the best at settling on colors.  I painted my last bedroom four times and was still never satisfied.  Come to think of it, I change my mind all the time about online everything.  I used to edit my online dating profile every time I went on the darned thing.  Thank dog that I now have this site to obsess over instead and actually met the best man ever so I’m out of that world.  But maybe I’m getting a little too personal.  Back to St. Pat’s.

Every year I spend it feasting with friends, listening to good Irish punk music and drinking Guinness, which I rarely let myself do (I think the last one I had was during the World Cup in July).

This year I’m starting early, preparing some allergy-alternative options for the little shindig I’m hosting.  A few days ago I made Gluten-Free Irish Soda Bread, which made me do a little happy dance.  And the other night my roommate had some friends over to watch the Oscars, which was the perfect time for me to play with an allergy-friendly alternative to the Irish Car Bomb Cupcake recipe I’ve made for the past few years.  I’m still going to make it for the pals who are coming over for St. Pat’s (in case any of you are reading this, I’m not only going to stuff you with healthier options), but frankly, I want a treat I can eat!

So this recipes uses carob instead of chocolate (primarily), gluten-free flour and can be made completely dairy-free by using butter flavored Earth Balance instead of the unsalted butter I used.  I’m still playing with sugar alternatives (I’m not a fan of using agave syrup and xylitol can be a bit rough on my stomach… the experimentation for this hypoglycemic continues!) so powdered sugar made its way into the frosting and organic sucanat into the cake.  The result was a dense carobey-chocolatey cupcake with a nice bang of whiskey to it.  The buttercream frosting is just delicious and overall the amount of sweetness between cake and frosting was in perfect balance for me.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, soy milk or Guinness (if you’re not worried about the gluten)
  • 9 Tbsp unsalted butter or butter-flavored Earth Balance
  • 2 Tbsp instant coffee
  • 1 cup carob or cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (another second cup from the first)
  • 2 cups gluten-free flour (I used the High Protein Blend from Rebecca Reilly)
  • 2 tsp xantham gum
  • 3 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup sucanat or brown sugar

For the filling:

  • 2/3 cup chocolate soy butter
  • 2 tsp instant coffee
  • 4 Tbsp Irish whiskey (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened milk (almond, soy, rice)

For the Frosting:

  • 14 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature (or butter flavored Earth Balance)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground instant coffee or espresso
  • 3 Tbsp Irish whiskey

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare 20 cupcake tins with liners or use these nifty mini-pannetone liners I found at a baking supply store.  Using these will make your cupcakes a bit squat but they’re pretty when frosted and SO easy to use.  For the actual St. Pat’s party coming up, I’ll be using metallic green liners in regular tins.  Oh, what a fun world we play in!

Set a large saucepan over medium heat and add the 1 cup of milk-alternative or Guinness and butter, let butter melt and whisk together.  Whisking constantly, add coffee and whisk until dissolved.  Remove from heat and then slowly add carob or cocoa powder, and whisk together until completely incorporated.

In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, xantham gum and sugar.  In a second bowl, whip the eggs until light and foamy, and then add vanilla and 1 cup of almond milk or milk of choice.  Whip until creamy.

Slowly pour the egg/milk mixture into the chocolate mixture, whisking continually until well blended and no dark traces remain.

Fold in the flour mixture until just fully incorporated.  Fill cupcake liners equally, and bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove to cooling racks and cool for about 10 minutes before filling.

To make the filling, place all ingredients in a medium bowl and beat with a hand mixer until smooth.  Taste test – if the flavor of the whiskey is too strong for you, add a bit more soybutter and almond milk.  Put mixture in a pastry bag or one-gallon plastic bag and cut a small hole in one corner.  Make a small slice in each cupcake and fill with as much chocolate-whiskey frosting as you can!

For the frosting: Place the whiskey, vanilla and instant coffee in a medium bowl and whisk to dissolve the coffee.  Add the butter and, using a hand mixer, beat until smooth.  Progressively add the powdered sugar until fluffy and light.  Ice half of the cupcakes with this white icing, then add a few drops of green food coloring and beat to incorporate. Have fun decorating!  I used edible glitters – one opaque and one light green, and some coloring gels.  A small container of the glitter lasts FOREVER and creates a shimmery touch.  Fun fun.



Coriander Cinnamon Carob Candy

Coriander Cinnamon Carob Candy

Rustic.

That’s a word I’ve been throwing around my kitchen lately.  My ambitions with allergy-alternative baking are to make gorgeous treats just as delectable for those without sensitivities as those with, that are as appealing to the eyes as they are to the tastebuds.

But sometimes things just look…rustic.  They taste delicious but look a bit like the ugly duckling pre-swan-age.

This recipe is one such recipe.  I’m playing with molding carob powder with spices and fat into a hard candy that is satisfying and palatable for even the most sensitive stomachs.  Once again, this combination tastes delicious – with citrusy tangs of coriander and a cinnamon spice – but it took a while to get them to release easily from the molds.  Like the little engine, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can… but for now I’ll enjoy my “rustic” treats.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup ghee (clarified butter) or unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground decaffinated coffee
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon, plus more for dusting
  • 3/4 cup coconut creme
  • 1 cup carob powder

Directions

  • Lightly grease mini-cupcake tins and dust heavily with cinnamon
  • Place a small pot on low heat and melt ghee or butter
  • Add 2 Tbsp cinnamon, coffee and coriander, and whisk to combine
  • Let sit on low heat for about 5 minutes to infuse
  • Slowly whisk in coconut creme, doing so until thoroughly combined and the mixture is a light brown with all the butter absorbed
  • Add carob, 1/4 cup at a time, whisking thoroughly with each addition.  By the second addition, the ghee may separate from the creme and start to lump with the carob: don’t sweat this.  It should absorb back into the final mixture, which should be rather lumpy.  The mixture should not be smooth like chocolate, but almost look like a big pile of used coffee grounds.
  • Use a scant tablespoon to fill each mold, and pat the tops down flat.
  • Heavily dust with two coats of cinnamon.
  • Refrigerate until hard, about 1 hour, then let sit for about five minutes to soften a tad.  Use a very thin knife to work around the mold and slowly ease candies from pan.  Dust with cinnamon.
  • Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Sugar-Free Coffee Carob Candies

Coffee Carob Candies

For a few years at the height of my illness, I wasn’t able to eat most things that one would consider an indulgence – chocolate, sugar, alcohol.  While my stomach is stronger and I can moderate some of these things back into my diet, I have a dear friend who still is very limited in what her body can digest.

She hit a pretty big birthday recently, and when I visit her to celebrate I want to present her with something special, indulgent and… digestible.

Carob is a delightful alternative to chocolate – it contains no caffeine, as much vitamin B1 as is in strawberries, and is full of protein, fiber and trace minerals.  It’s gentle on the stomach and naturally sweet, so you don’t need to sweeten it as you do raw cocoa.

So I made a mental list of things my dearie can have and played with proportions.  The result?  A fudgey, chocolate-y treat with a huge blast of coffee and a spicy finish.  An easy, quick way to indulge in a sugar-free treat!

Ingredients:

  • I cup carob powder
  • 1/2 cup ghee
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp ground decaf coffee
  • 3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk plus more if necessary

Directions:

  • Lightly grease mini-cupcake tins or candy tins.
  • In a small pot, melt the ghee, then add coconut milk, whisking continually until warm.
  • Add coffee and cinnamon and whisk to absorb.
  • Slowly add carob, whisking continually, until all the carob powder is smooth.  It won’t have the same consistency as chocolate, being a little thicker, but should be soft and malleable.   If desired, blend with an immersion or standing blender.
  • Press into individual molds and refrigerate until hard, about 1 hour.
  • Loosen candies from pan with a thin knife.
  • Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
  • Makes about 16 candies.

Sweetheart Chocolate Fudge Cake with Raspberry Sauce

I know it’s practically sacrilegious to admit to using boxed cake mixes when one claims to call oneself a baker.  But I’ve been doing the gluten-dairy-sugar free thing pretty much since I was twelve – about 18 years ago already!  And for the majority of those years, that meant going without.  Without bread, frosty desserts, birthday cake, or holiday celebrations in school.  As an adult, still, I’m usually surprised with a cake on my birthday by well-meaning relatives that not only can I not eat, but I must slice and serve to guests, with custard-y filling dripping down my fingers while they exclaim that “this is the best cake!”

So when I get to make my Nana’s birthday cake on the Sunday morning before Valentine’s Day amongst much work to do, a boxed cake mix seems like an exciting prospect.  Especially as my pantry full of flours and specialty equipment is back in my apartment in NYC.

At the store yesterday I grabbed two mixes – one from Gluten-Free Dreams and one I have never tried from King Arthur Flours.   Upon pouring them out of their plastic prisons I immediately noticed that the King Arthur had a smoother texture to it that was less grainy than the GF Dreams.  This would prove itself again when they were mixed and in the final baked products – the King Arthur was fudgey and soft with no trace of gluten-free graininess to it.  The six of us agreed it was the taste-test winner (I’ve tried a few other brands, and this is my favorite out of them all).

I used canned pumpkin and unsweetened vanilla almond milk as the moisture for the cakes rather than oil and eggs, making them lower in fat and vegan, while tasting just as rich and chocolatey.  Because they’re seemed to not be a matching set of cake pans in the house, I used an 8″ and a 9″, as well as a miniature heart mold that I knew was crammed in a cabinet here somewhere (I’m stealing it).

Now these cakes are so delicious that they don’t need frosting.  I simply pureed three containers of raspberries to make a sauce and it was the perfect accompaniment to the dark and fudgey cake.  But to glue them together and add some color I made a basic buttercream frosting with butter (bye-bye vegan and dairy-free) and a bit of almond milk.  This is only needed if you make two layers.

Speaking of layers – my Portuguese/Italian heritage of always making too much food reared its dark-haired head again, in my making a double layer cake for 7 people!  We had two-thirds of the cake left over.  So if you’re feeding 8-10 people of a healthy appetite, one layer is sufficient for a dense and classy cake.

To simplify, I’m going to give you the recipe just for the King Arthur mix.  If you were to choose the Gluten-Free Dreams, you’d simply reduce the milk by 1/4 of a cup.

Ingredients

  • 2 boxes of King Arthur Flour Gluten-free Chocolate Cake mix
  • 2 cups of pumpkin puree
  • 3 1/2 cups unsweetened milk – I used vanilla almond, but soy or cow would work just as well
  • 5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 cups fresh raspberries
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter, softened
  • red food coloring, if desired

Directions: Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Lightly grease cake pans of choice – I used one 9″ and one 8″ cake pan, plus the little heart molds
  • In a very large bowl: two packages of cake mix, 1 tsp baking powder, 4 tsp vanilla extract, 2 cups of pumpkin puree.
  • With a hand mixer, start to mix on low.  These mixes will easily fly into the air, so consider yourself warned!
  • When the pumpkin is incorporated, make a well in the center of the batter and pour in 2 and 1/2 cups milk (the rest is for the frosting).  Start mixing on low until incorporated, then mix in medium until nice and smooth.
  • Pour into cake pans and bake for approximately 25 minutes, testing after 20, and bake until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
  • Leave in pans for 15 minutes before inverting onto cooling racks.  Cool completely before frosting.

Directions: Frosting and puree

  • In a food processor, process raspberries until smooth.  Set aside.
  • Clean and remount processor.
  • Whip butter into confectioner’s sugar until incorporated.
  • Add 1 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Slowly pour in almond milk, stopping when frosting is smooth and spreadable.
  • If desired, add about 5 drops of red food coloring until a delightful pink.
  • Put a dab of frosting between the layers, and a bit more on top to decorate as desired.  Serve with raspberry puree.

The Final Product

Happy Birthday Nana!

My sister and I dubbed this the Whoville Birthday Valentine Whobilation Cake.  Yes, it looks like something a Who would serve to their guests in a Dr. Seuss world. I do not deny this.  Nor am I too proud to share this with you.  But I did come home and sign up for a cupcake class next month so I can learn how to frost better.  And I think cake classes may be in my future in general.

Sweet Alternatives for a Healthy Valentine

I have a super-sweet tooth, which definitely comes into conflict with my (mostly) sugar-free diet and serious hypoglycemia. So this week I’m highlighting my tricks on foods that satisfy the urge but will leave you feeling energized and full at the same time, without rocking the diet or endangering your health… just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Tip before launching into the list: food combining. I’ll go into details another time, but starches don’t mix well with fruits, causing digestive upset and weight gain (they also don’t mix well with meat… but more on that later). So in satisfying the cravings for sweets, keep this in mind for optimal digestion and weight maintenance. I know I used to love fruit on cereals, or with toast or on cakes, but it’s just so much more worth it to abstain.

From Slimming to Sinful… My Sweet List

  1. ALMOND BUTTER: My favorite sweet-craving alternative is Almond Butter on millet toast or slathered on an apple. Nuts combine well with healthy starches, together making a perfect protein, while giving a boost of protein and filling the belly comfortably. They’re high in monounsaturated fats, so they attack heart disease while being lower in calories than most nuts and super-concentrated with vitamin E. For women, almonds have been known to calm menstrual cramps when consumed daily. And for pregnant women, eating raw almonds is killer when battling nausea.
  2. KOREAN YAM: If you’re an urban-dweller, chances are you’ve seen Korean Yams in your local bodega and had no idea what they were. Also called Chinese Yam and Japanese Mountain Yams, they’re my FAVORITE root vegetable, much like a sweet potato but with a white flesh and a bit drier, sorta resembling boiled chestnuts in taste. From my research I’ve learned they’re great at aiding digestion and fighting fatigue due to the amount of mucin in them, which also aids in relieving constipation and reducing cholesterol! Amazing how the body craves what it needs. My favorite way to eat them is just to wash, poke some holes in and bake them. Or slice and season with a little oil, salt and pepper, and bake until crispy.
  3. SWEET POTATO: One of my little indulgences is Sweet Potato Chips from Terra Chips. Sweet potatoes, canola, sunflower/safflower oil… I’m in heaven. They really satisfy both the sweet and savory cravings. Just be careful – one serving goes down really quickly! To do even better for your body and bake fresh sweet potatoes, try slicing them in chunks or fry shape, and bake with a little oil, salt, pepper, rosemary, cumin, cinnamon… whatever spice combination you want to try… until they’re dark and crispy. A 400 degree oven or hotter usually seals the deal. My mouth is watering…
  4. Cinnamon: So simple, but adding cinnamon to foods tricks the mind, as cinnamon is associated with sweetness. So literally throw it on things you wouldn’t normally think to pair it with: roasted chicken, sauteed greens, on all fruits and plenty of vegetables. It’s great for you, so enjoy!
  5. Beets: Yes, beets are sweet, and great for the liver. To cook to sweetest potential, peel, slice and roast with a little cinnamon and salt still blackened at the edges. Or grab Terra’s Sweets and Beets mix for a ridiculous snack satisfier.
  6. Raw Cacao Nibs: A live super-food, I’ve very recently started adding raw cacao into my diet, and am SO HAPPY to have tried it out. The health benefits are too abundant to repeat here, so just click to be directed to LiveSuperFoods.com, a phenomenal website on all good-things live, with very reasonable prices – I have a feeling I’ll be ordering with them soon. To sum-up: raw cacao has more antioxidants than red wine, blueberries, and 4-times as much as a cup of green tea! Without the additions of processing and sugar, it’s not an indulgence – it’s medicine! The taste is nutty and a bit sharp, and the smell is INCREDIBLE! My boyfriend thought I was baking while sitting next to him, about 2 teaspoons of nibs mixed in my cereal! My favorite way to eat them is on my Uncle Sam’s cereal, or mixed with nuts and goji berries. Speaking of which…
  7. Gogi Berries: Another live super-food that’s been on my list for a while, goji berries are tiny, red and sweet, packing lots of anti-oxidants and strengthening the immune system. You can even get goji-berry juice for a power shot or an addition to smoothies. I add them to apple sauce and power-protein mixes for some sweet satisfaction!
  8. Organic Nectars Raw Agave Gelato: I’m currently exploring agave syrup from Organic Nectars out of Woodstock, NY, a town I’ve never been to but mentally have been stalking for their great products and housing of Phillip Petit.  It’s made from cashews and agave. Way decadent.  And because the agave is raw, it’s not heated and reduced to a syrup that’s worse for you than corn syrup (ew).
  9. COCONUT MILK: Coconut milk is great for you, especially if you have chronic conditions. Blend it with fruit for a smoothie, throw it in an ice-cream maker with crushed fruit for sorbet… have fun!

And now my recipes for guilt-free yummy desserts!

  1. Superfood Ooey-gooey winter warmth: This combines sweet bananas with protein packed nuts for a warming and indulgent treat. Note: this is practically the only time I ever use a microwave… in general, I truly believe stove-top warming is the way to go to avoid unnecessary rays. And careful if consuming too late at night, as the sugar in the banana and the spunk in the cacao can keep you up thinking. Slice an entire banana and microwave in a small bowl for 50 seconds, so that the bottom of the bowl has really soft banana but the top layer is pretty intact, warmed through. To the bowl add any combination of the following: 1 teaspoon almond butter, 10 or so almonds or walnuts, a sprinkle of goji berries, a tablespoon of raw cacao nibs, a generous dose of cinnamon, some natural applesauce… be creative!
  2. Coconut Custard: I’m just gonna skip the blah-blah introduction and go right into a recipe I got from Lissa De Angelis of NEW LIFE – NY YOGA magazine for a decadent coconut custard, so easy to make! 1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 2) Puree 2 organic eggs, 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk, 1/4 cup maple syrup, raw honer OR agave syrup, 2 squirts vanilla cream or plan stevia, a few grains of sea salt. 3) Pour into 6 individual ramekins or an oven-proof container. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional) 4) Place ramekins or container into a bath of water and place in oven. 5) Bake until the custard has set, about 30-45 minutes. 6) Cool slightly and serve warm or at room temperature.
  3. Hot Apple Cider: For cold New England winters, nothing beats a hot apple cider with a cinnamon stick. Yes, that’s it… no more too it… just wanna remind you it’s out there for you…
  4. Baked Apples: Again, an oldie but goodie you may have forgotten about – one of the sweetest desserts is the simplest! Take a (preferably) local, organic apple, core it and fill with cinnamon and some sultanas (golden raisins) if you’re not too sugar-sensitive, wrap in foil and bake at 350 until super-soft. To make it a little more filling and add some protein, add some chopped nuts or a drizzle of nut-butter. I find myself often hungrier after I eat an apple, so adding the protein really helps keep me full.

Dark Chocolate Showdown!

There are so many delicious dark chocolates out there, and knowing that they’re full of antioxidants and can help with things like high blood pressure and heart disease makes them even that more enticing.

So we tried out six types of dark chocolate and rated them for your viewing pleasure… it was a hard task, very hard, but somebody had to do it.  Chocolates were rated by richness, sweetness, and overall deliciousness, each on a five-point scale.  Oh, some of them are not rated on all three ’cause I explained the directions poorly… sorry.  Because they were so different and all delicious, we didn’t pick one favorite, and I’m putting the individual scores on for your perusal!

The Judges

Judges

The Chocolate!

1. Theo Organic Dark Chocolate

70% cacao, made in Seattle, Washington, theochocolate.com

  1. Laura: Richness 2, Sweetness 3.  “Somewhat of a bitter aftertaste. Started out creamy, but fell apart.”
  2. Ruark: Richness 4, Sweetness 4, Overall 4.  “Nice, mild dark chocolate.”
  3. Erika:  Richness 4, Sweetness 5.  “Amazing!”
  4. Jacqueline: Richness 2, Sweetness 3.5, Overall 3. “Sorta dry.  Nice and deliciously bitter but blah texture, nice and nutty.”

2. Nirvana Single Origin Sao Thome

70% Cacao, Made by hand wth the “finest cocoa beans available in the world”.  Cocoa beans from Africa, made in Belgium, NirvanaChocolates.com

  1. Laura: Richness 3,  Sweetness 2. “Didn’t stand up against no. 1 for flavor, much more mild, but almost no flavor – somewhat fruity. While I thought it had a soapy aftertaste, my friend liked this one more than the first.”
  2. Ruark: Richness 4.5, Sweetness 4.5, Overall 4.5.  “Very similar to #1, a bit more of everything but just slightly.
  3. Erika: Richness 3, Sweetness 2. “Nice aftertaste.”
  4. Jacqueline: Richness 4, Sweetness 4, Overall 4.  “Creamy, tangy.”

3. AlterEco Dark Chocolate Blackout

85% Cacao.  Made from fair-trade, Bolivian cocoa beans in the Swiss tradition.  Contains no artificial flavors, chemical additives or emulsifiers. AlterEco.com

  1. Laura: Richness 4,  Sweetness 2,  Overall 3.  “Way too bitter – sour in flavor.”
  2. Ruark: Richness 3.5, Sweetness 3, Overall 3.25.  “A bit bitter, almost tangy.”
  3. Erika: Richness 3, Sweetness 1, Overall 2. “Bitter, a little citrusy.”
  4. Jacqueline: Richness 3, Sweetness 1, Overall 4.  “Very bitter, good strong taste, I LOVE bitter chocolate.  Would be good for baking in sweet dishes?

4. Phinney Chocolate Factory Nib Brittle

65% Cacao (contains milk). “Fair prices, direct trade, community development and environmental stewardship”  From Theos Chocolate.

  1. Laura: Richness 1,  Sweetness 4,  Overall  2.5. “We didn’t like this one – very grainy, though that could have been the “brittle” – it stayed grainy in the mouth. Very sour aftertaste.
  2. Ruark: Richness 4, Sweetness 4.5, Overall 4.25.  “Nice flavor with the chips”.
  3. Erika: Richness 3, Sweetness 3, Overall 3.  “I like the crunch, but it’s a little bitter.”
  4. Jacqueline: N/A… No milk for me.  Note the lower the cacao content the higher possibility of milk.

5. Pure and Dark Chipotle Rounds

No other information (cue mysterious music).  From a delicious shop on the corner of Bleeker and 10th Street in NYC.  Dark chocolate with a dusting of Chipotle!

  1. Laura: Richness 5, Sweetness 4, Overall:  4.5.  “Nice and creamy, very nice kick to it, and a lovely sweetness behind the heat.  Wonderful surprise!”
  2. Ruark: Richness 4.5, Sweetness 4.5, Overall 4.5.  “Nice richness and sweetness, but WHOAH!! What a kick!”
  3. Erika: Richness 5, Sweetness 2, Overall 3.5.  “Oh, spicy!  Intense, I only ate one.”
  4. Jacqueline: Richness 5, Sweetness 4, Overall 4.5.  “Very creamy, love the kick, taste even more awesome the more you eat.  Good for a meat recipe!”

6. Pure and Dark Cardamom Rounds

Same deal as above, but with a dusting of cardamom!

  1. Laura: Richness 5,  Sweetness 5, Overall 5.  “This was my favorite – love the cardamon, very creamy and a wonderful combination of sweetness and spices – fantastic!”
  2. Ruark: Richness 4.5, Sweetness 4.5, Overall 4.5.  “Another flavorful chocolate, accentuated nicely by the cardamom.
  3. Erika: Richness 4, Sweetness 3, Overall 3.5.  “Less spicy but still has some kick.
  4. Jacqueline: Richness 5. Sweetness 5, Overall 5. “Love the cardamom!

Vegan Chocolate Fudge Cake – The Easiest Recipe Ever!

Adding a can of pumpkin to a boxed chocolate cake mix.  A gluten-peanut-dairy-soy-free chocolate cake mix?

Success!

I can say without a doubt that this is the easiest recipe for a vegan fudge chocolate cake EVER!  The pumpkin obliterated the dry, crumbly issue I had last weekend with the gf cakes, and the denseness and moistness balanced out the dark semi-sweetness of the chocolate.  My host commented on how you couldn’t taste pumpkin specifically, but that it added a vanilla finish instead.

I served the cake on a dish of coffee vanilla sauce, also vegan, and with a few fresh blueberries.  While one desserter noted that the sauce tasted like something you would get at a vegan restaurant, another said it was the coffee that hit them first and then the texture.  Not a bad pairing for the cake, but I’m going to find a better one.

Conclusion to this experiment?  I will, with confidence and excitement, use a can of pumpkin and a boxed allergy-free cake mix to make a cake for those with food sensitivities and food snobs alike.

Oh, and our hosts created a phenomenal dinner for us – short ribs that literally fell of the bone, beet and goat cheese salad, cheese and cured meats that were divine, and more bottles of Prosecco and red wine than I care to admit.

Not a bad Friday night for this tired, dusty baker.

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