Strawberry Streusel Cake

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This is, briefly and simply put, absolutely sublime. When I shared this loaf with my godparents, my mother and godsister, they all exclaimed it was incredible, especially doused in some heavy cream, after a lighthearted meal over denser conversation. And I do agree.

I’ll say it first before you get to the ingredients: This is a gluten-free cake. Yes, it is gluten-free, but. A but. I’ve recently become more aware of the effects of gluten not just in myself, but in others. I love my bread and might never stop eating it, however one too many a slice and I will feel it. The bloat, you get it. The carbohydrate may be the most demonised item in this current era of food-demonising, and it’s hard to determine what we could or should eat, if we end up eating anything at all. But this article puts things into nice perspective. That being said, the effects of refined flour cannot be denied and I too have to force myself to take it slow with the not-so-great stuff. There will always be room for dessert, just not every day of the week.

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Therefore, the side effects of a Saturday morning’s adventurous spirit include stepping outside of my little box of refined flour and sugar and trying things like almond flour. And how simple, plain and easy, it was. How joyous, to mix something as nondescript as almond flour with eggs and then boom, a perfectly intact cake is born.

The cake is moist without being gluey, with that perfect golden-brown all over after the single hour in the oven. I used strawberries here but feel free to use any berries you have on hand, and the same goes for the streusel topping which has mixed nuts, in which case you can use whatever nuts you like.

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Strawberry Streusel Cake (makes one 9×5-inch loaf)

Ingredients 

For the filling:

2 cups strawberries (fresh or frozen), stems cut off and diced

100g (0.5 cup) sugar

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

0.5 tsp cornstarch

 

For the streusel topping:

45g (0.5 cup) almond flour

handful of chopped nuts (I used a mix of almonds, cashews, brazil nuts and walnuts)

90g (little less than 0.5 cup) sugar

35g (0.15 cup) salted butter, melted

 

For the cake:

3 eggs

50g (0.25 cup) light brown sugar

60g (0.25 cup) caster sugar

150g (around 1.5 cups+ 2 tbsp) almond flour

0.5 tsp baking powder

0.5 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla extract

*Substitution notes:

VEGAN: Make 4 flax or chia ‘eggs’ in replacement of the 3 eggs, made by mixing 4 tbsp ground flaxseed or chia seeds with 8 tbsp water, and setting that aside to gel up for a bit. Substitute the butter with vegan butter.

KETO: Substitute the half cup of sugar with half cup xylitol or two-thirds cup erythritol

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). We start with the juicy berry filling: In a saucepan heated on medium heat, add the strawberries, cornstarch, sugar and lemon juice and cook until the mixture turns glistening and sticky.

Now for the cake. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugars, vanilla extract, baking powder and baking soda. Then add the almond flour and whisk. The mixture should look pretty wet, but don’t worry since this will set nicely in the oven once it is finished baking.

Make the streusel topping by whisking all the streusel ingredients together with a fork in a separate bowl. Grease a 9.5-inch loaf pan, then add half of the cake mixture. Add the mixed berry mixture evenly on top, and then add the rest of the cake mixture, and then finally the streusel topping. Bake in the oven for 1 hour exactly. Remove and let the cake cool in the pan before serving (with powdered sugar and doused in heavy cream, preferably).

Banana Coconut Mini Cakes

B800FD1A-BAE0-4A7F-BCCB-B5CC5DC7A546The hardest part of self-actualisation is that of  discerning what to accept and what to reject– of the world and of  ourselves– as we build the architecture of our character and stake out our stance in relation to our aims and obstacles’– Camus

Recently I’ve been thinking about habits. Today’s mantra shall be this: kicking old habits is just as important as incorporating new, good ones. We all have our good and bad habits, but sometimes the balance just isn’t there. I, for one, may see a scatter of crumbs late at night on the kitchen floor but oh god, it’s late, and I can do it tomorrow morning. It’s not the most serious crime, but little things do add up to be a lot. Doing things like making my bed and preparing my clothes the night before does wonders for saving time, space and maintaining cleanliness throughout the week, day by day. That’s the miracle of habits. Little actions that change routine that change you for the better. Currently working on bettering myself, to be better around others, too. It’s hard, but worth it, I feel. We are capable. And keep being grateful.

So here’s what I wrote last week in my diary about this cake: “Banana coconut cake with miso frosting! So moist and cute and tender. Might have to change the frosting a tad but I’m happy-dappy for now. There’s a flow to it, it’s enticing and dreamy and moody. Happy-dappy”.

Well firstly, wow I sound quite silly whenever I write about how excited I am about some new experiment in my personal diary. Did I really write ‘happy-dappy’ twice? Secondly, wow this cake is good. Like, really darn good, and I can’t wait for you to experience this banana-ful love all over again, from my kitchen and oven to yours.

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Simple, really. You start off traditionally, mixing the wet and dry ingredients separately. Once everything is incorporated, and you pop the thing in the oven and make the frosting. Everything is cooled, then the frosting begins.

I didn’t mean to put miso in there (as is the case for so many random ingredients in my other bakes), but this is what gives the lift, the interest. Banana and miso?? Yes, it works. Please try it. Ingredients of the earth. All from nature. What is so wonderful about baking from home is that you know exactly what you’re putting in it, be it a simple or more complex bake. No chemicals, pesticides or what have you. Flour, sugar, plants… plants! It’s so wonderful, don’t you think.

I was listening to the podcast ‘On Being’ the other night (highly recommend, by the way), and there’s one part which talks about how there’s a link between being in awe of nature and altruism. Just witnessing the greatness of this universe perhaps makes us feel more like we should help one another along in society, keep us afloat in the raging seas, the beautiful yet turbulent grandeur of Mother Earth.

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Banana Coconut Mini Cakes with Miso coconut frosting (makes 4 mini cakes or 1 large 8 or 9-inch cake)

Ingredients

1 and a half bananas, mashed

45g dark/light brown sugar

30g white/coconut sugar

30ml (25g) vegetable oil

1 tbsp vanilla bean paste, or sub with vanilla extract

60ml plant milk of choice (I like using oat or rice milk

145g (little more than a cup) plain flour, or use half spelt/whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

30g desiccated coconut

 

For the frosting:

130g butter

5g miso paste

150g icing sugar

handful of desiccated coconut

 

For the layering (optional):

a sliced banana

more desiccated coconut, the amount here is up to you

 

Directions

Grease an 8 or 9-inch springform pan and preheat your oven to 180C. In a large bowl, mix together the banana, sugars, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla paste/extract. In a separate, medium bowl, briefly whisk together the dry ingredients– flour, salt, coconut and leavening agents. Tip this into the wet mix and stir everything together until all is just about incorporated. Bake this in the oven for 25 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted comes out clean.

While the cake bakes, make the frosting by beating the butter and miso together with an electric whisk, then slowly add the icing sugar until you get a smooth and thick frosting with bits of miso strewn throughout. Add the coconut and mix briefly. Place the frosting in the fridge until ready to use.

Once the cake is totally cool, or about a half hour later, use the lip of a glass cup to stamp out circles in the cake. You will get about 4 circles, so two mini cakes. Once the cakes are stamped out, add a dollop of frosting onto one cake, then add a few banana coins and a sprinkling of desiccated coconut on top. Place the second layer on top, then frost the top and add more desiccated coconut to decorate. Alternatively, you can leave the cake as is and frost it right there and then, or just frost the 4 circles individually without layering them, to get 4 separate open-faced cakes. These cakes will last 3-4 days in an airtight container in the fridge. If you’re just making the cake by itself, you can store it at room temperature for the same amount of time and in the same way.

Rhubarb Phyllo Galette

4288212 Processed with VSCO with a5 presetNothing like sitting down in a cosy café to write up another yummy recipe. Just had a double salad full of gorgeous greens and beans, the sort of thing which this recipe perfectly complements. Going through recent journal entries always bring forth the necessity of consistency, self-belief, self-growth, and routine, but they also revealed how easy it is for me to get lost in a tangle of unhealthy mentality and unnecessary indecision. I guess it’s okay to excuse oneself for wondering which food photography backdrop to get next and whether the bananas I just caramelised with vegan butter and a lush deep muscovado sugar would pair better with melting dark chocolate or a simple cinnamon and coconut nectar drizzle (the former was quite the mouth show, and I need to do that more often. It’s basically a wholesome sundae for breakfast). The peril of freedom of choice! How superficial it seems, and yet, what changes they bring– to my entire outlook on life, on the way I behave. Just like how I had mushrooms on toast for brunch last Saturday and I could actually feel my heart leap with joy upon seeing perfectly caramelised onions, browned and gooey, stuffed between morsels of juicy oyster and morel mushrooms heaped on a bordering-carcinogenic piece of toast lovingly slathered with homemade hummus. Sweet moments make themselves known. Because they do make life that much sweeter.

Yesterday I ate a delicious carrot cake chockfull of walnuts. Not the most salubrious thing to have at 2pm, but it did hit the spot like nothing else. Typically a big green apple does it, but yesterday, that fine Tuesday, the cake was a brio in my mouth. If you’ve been following me for a while, you’d know just how much I resonate with the idea of moderation, so necessary in this age of health and nutrition information advertised to propagandic effect. Cake and coffee by myself, mindful and beautiful. Life is about health, and also about letting go. A pure, one-dimensional sweet this cake was, but what was missing was the hint of tart from the cream cheese component (if only vegan cream cheese wasn’t so pricey, right?) in the icing. Tart, the cousin of sweet, is sometimes necessary to balance whatever saccharine loveliness a baked good or breakfast item has to offer.

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Tart, this pinch of sour, to round off the sweet. Tart, like this rhubarb phyllo galette. Thank you Aldi for 50p on-sale fresh, seasonal rhubarb! This is a twist on a recipe recently written up by Linda Lomelino, one of my favourite baking and dessert bloggers. With plenty of phyllo pastry left over in my freezer, I thought it would be interesting to see what would become of it. Phyllo pastry may be delicate, but it’s also incredibly versatile, and should not be reserved just for baklava and other Middle Eastern desserts. Here is what happens: You layer half-sheets of phyllo pastry on top of each other, each layer brushed with a delicate layer of olive oil to help them stick together, whilst allowing the galette edges crisp up nicely in the oven (without burning). Broken pastry? No big deal. A galette is meant to be rustic, and tears and breaks here and there will only enhance, not detract, from this.

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Notes:

  • For whole, unscathed sheets of phyllo pastry, leave the frozen pastry in the fridge overnight, so do that the night before baking, or at least a couple of hours before. Microwaving the phyllo pastry to heat it up in a rush might leave some parts too delicate and others frozen stiff. That being said, you may still try microwaving the pastry (cover removed but still in its plastic wrap) for 30 seconds at a time, on medium power. Not the highest!
  • Cutting up the rhubarb into batons of equal length may leave you with little pieces of rhubarb. Don’t discard these, you could try fit a few cut-up pieces into nooks and crannies in the galette. Any remaining pieces can be eaten there and then.
  • The seeds and sugar sprinkled on top of the galette before baking is optional but highly recommended. The crunch gives the galette more textural fun.
  • It’s important to watch the galette carefully as it bakes– it’s done once the pastry is pale brown and edges are crisp. Baking time may vary depending on the brand of phyllo pastry you use, or strength of the oven.

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Rhubarb Phyllo Galette (adapted from Linda Lomelino’s recipe for a rhubarb almond galette– makes one 6-inch galette)

Ingredients

200g rhubarb (about 4 large stalks), washed and leaves/ other possible dirty bits and bobs cut off

juice and zest of half a lemon

1 tsp cornstarch

1 tbsp sugar (coconut or brown)

9 half-sheets of phyllo pastry, thawed (from frozen) in the fridge overnight

60ml vegetable oil or melted butter (use vegan butter or margarine if you are vegan)

2 tbsp granulated or turbinado sugar

*optional: sprinkle of mixed seeds (I used a very random mix of sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and some homemade buckwheat granola)

Directions 

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). After weighing out the rhubarb, cut each stalk in half lengthways, then cut into batons, each 4cm in length. Put the rhubarb batons in a bowl, add the lemon juice and zest, cornstarch and sugar, and mix well with a spoon, until the batons are all coated in the lemony-sugar mix.

On your work surface, place one half-sheet of phyllo pastry down. Brush this with a thin layer of oil or melted vegan butter, then place a second layer on top. Repeat, until you have three layers on top. Rotate this thin stack 90 degrees, then do the same with the next three half-sheets, not forgetting to brush each layer with  oil each time. Rotate 90 degrees again until you are at the same orientation as you were in the beginning with the first three sheets, and then layer on the last three half-sheets so that all 9 half-sheets are used up at this point. You should get what looks like a thick cross shape, with 8 corners

Fold each of the 8 corners down, so that you have an octagon shape. Take your rhubarb batons and place them in whatever pretty pattern you wish, in the centre of the octagon. I did a series of horizontal and vertical batons, but you could also just heap the stuff in the middle. Then fold over, somewhat in a rough and random manner, the perimeter of phyllo pastry, over the border of rhubarb to get the shape of a galette. Brush the pastry with more butter/olive oil, sprinkle on the 2 tablespoons of sugar, and the optional sprinkle of mixed seeds. Bake in the preheated oven for 13 minutes. Watch the galette carefully– it’s done once the pastry is a pale brown.

Leave the galette to cool a while on the counter, before slicing and serving with coconut yoghurt or a refreshing scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

Pumpkin Berry Cinnamon Cake with a Cinnamon Frosting and ‘Cream Cheese’ Glaze

dscf9074The day before the big 20, it was the 16th of the 16th. That’s nice. American Psycho (by Bret Easton Ellis) kept me up well, and Ellis knows how to write with exhilarating speed and menace. He zooms and I go with him. The night was full of speed slowed down. Memories of 19, last year in my small little dorm room, faces everywhere showering me with ‘whoa, 19’, and now fast forward just a little, and all a 20 year old can do to console him or herself is to chuck in the reminder that it’s really the beginning, not the end of, a decade.

How do I feel? Still alive, still an inexperienced student, still a hopelessly romantic dreamer, still tremendously excited about making cakes like this. I was honestly worried about constructing something that was vegan and still appeal to everyone, because everyone still has this idea that anything without eggs or dairy will ultimately taste like crap, but no I was so determined, and this pumpkin berry cake which I adapted from one of my all-time favourite blogs turned out to be beyond my dreams, and I’m pretty sure I dreamt up something similar on the night of the 16th.

‘Holy shit, this is vegan? Ummmm… No. No.’

‘Wait, but it really isn’t, I mean it doesn’t taste like it’s those vegan raw things I’ve tried at those cafés, so are you sure?’

During a little picnic that Thursday night, I sprinkled everyone with a bit of surprise.

Yes it is all vegan (not raw though), and of course you can completely unveganise it with the substitutions I put in the recipe below, however this cake was more fluff and fire than drab and dense.

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I made this cake as I rebelliously ignored all the Facebook notifications. Putting it together, I could feel my heart hardening. The year of 20 is no mistake. Old to some, young to most. Whisk, plonk, poof. So much expectation, so much trying-to-prove. But you come home to the easy comfort of good-hearted people and the dim light which holds the promise of new things to learn and love the next day, and you sigh and realise life is so full and promising. Cake calls, too. Slice it, savour it. With this one, you make an easy pumpkiny berry-y (?) batter for two cakes, sandwich them with this divine cream ‘cheese’ frosting, then smear the sides with the stuff to make a naked frosting, the first layer weighing down on the second making this bit easier than you might initially envision.

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Assembly. Treasures lie in the smallest details and the cake breathes love. Karen Carpenter knows how I feel when she bellows such a feeling’s comin’ over me…

Now I sit here typing, already 20 but heaving with the juvenile stains of life. Soon the sun will properly be up, and I’ll heat up some pancakes I saved from Sunday, which I shared with someone I love. I will top them with whatever I fancy, because 20 allows that. Other thoughts? Well, I can’t find my lunch box cover, which is deeply disconcerting, and I realised damp hair shouldn’t be put in a bun too soon else the curl effect will quickly vanish the following morning. Important things.

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Pumpkin Berry Cake with a Cinnamon Frosting and ‘Cream Cheese’ Glaze (makes one large 8-inch double-layer cake, though you can halve the ingredients for a single cake! Adapted from this beautiful Cinnamon Bun Cake)

Ingredients

For the cake:

600g all-purpose flour (subs: gluten-free/ half white and half whole wheat)

4 tsp baking powder

540g sugar, half white and half brown

2 tbsp ground cinnamon

large pinch salt

260g pumpkin purée

200g vegan butter (sub: normal butter), softened at room temperature

2 flax eggs made by mixing 2 tbsp flax with 10 tbsp water and letting sit for 10 minutes before using (sub: normal eggs)

2 tsp vanilla extract

200g fresh or frozen berries of choice

 

For the frosting:

150g butter

1 tbsp cinnamon

50g vegan cream cheese (subs: regular cream cheese/ sour cream)

170g icing sugar

 

For the ‘cream cheese’ glaze:

120g vegan cream cheese (sub: regular cream cheese/ sour cream, as before)

130g icing sugar, sifted

pinch salt

1 tsp almond milk (sub: any milk of choice)

1 tbsp cinnamon

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 177C (350F) and grease 2 8-inch cake pans, then sprinkle the bottoms and sides with a mix of granulated sugar and breadcrumbs (or just sugar if you don’t have the breadcrumbs). This will give the cake a nice sweet crust once baked. Tap the pans so that the mix is evenly spread.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon and baking powder. In another bowl, beat together, either using sole arm strength and a whisk or an electrical beater, the sugar, butter, flax eggs, pumpkin purée, vanilla extract and salt. Add the dry to the wet mix and mix until everything is just combined. Put roughly a quarter of the mix into one of the pans, then sprinkle half of the berries all over. Dollop another quarter (so now you have half of the batter left for the second cake) on top. Do the same in the second pan. Bake the cakes for 50-60 minutes (mine took 60 minutes exactly).

While they are baking, make the cinnamon butter frosting and cream cheese glaze. Beat together the ingredients for the frosting in a bowl using an electrical beater, then place in fridge to set a little. In another bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the cream cheese glaze and set aside.

Once the cakes are done, leave to cool in the pans for a half hour before over turning and putting on a cooling rack. Using a serrated knife, level one of the cakes to prep it for the frosting that will sandwich the two cakes together. Put the frosting in the middle of the cake, then put the second cake on top, letting its weight spread the frosting out to the sides. There might be some frosting that spills a little too much onto the sides of the bottom layer, but that’s ok; you need this bit of extra frosting for the naked frosting effect. Using a palette knife, spread the excess hanging bits of frosting along the sides of the whole cake, so you get the effect seen in that third last picture. Dollop the cream cheese glaze on the top layer, and sprinkle the top with chopped chocolate, more fresh berries if you like, and cinnamon. The dashes of cinnamon give a beautiful, rustic yet polished final effect.

Slice, serve, enjoy. This cake can be kept at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Pumpkin Ginger-Spiced French Toast Roll-ups with Cinnamon Tahini Fondue

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This cinnamon tahini fondue is very everything. When I woke up that morning, there was a funny pain at the base of my stomach, and that’s never a good thing, but I still knew my weekly french toast get-up was much needed, for better or for worse. There are times during the day, usually alone, with a bit of quiet, or during deep conversation with someone who’s on the same page as you, that one can calmly address all negative emotions, accept them, then pass them to the air.

Feeling wild writing this, yet calm. It’s my last day of being 19, and who knew a year could’ve changed me so much in all facets. Just a year ago I was on a boat with other freshmen pondering the excitement of living near Hyde Park, and now here I am, still alive, still a student, still eating the same plates of french toast. I am truly grateful for the close friends who stuck by me and who I can always count on, my family, and stuff to learn and discover every day. Now I find I need so much less to be happy– dining in the dark with an old friend, a fresh bath and timely wake, fresh roasted vegetables, the hug of tea in the cold, brisk air, working alone. Nope, nothing more.

Of course there was no more appropriate way to spend the morning than with my favourite breakfast. Opened the pantry and of course there was no bread. But. Found a fair bit of Lebanese flat bread given so kindly to me by a friend (Lavash I should think?), so I made do with that, and goodness was that good. Though it had gone a bit stale as I intended to make each pillowy bit of fragrance last as long as possible, dipping it in my pumpkin french toast batter and then frying it gave it a renewed warmth, tenderness, life.

I came up with the idea for this cinnamon tahini fondue whilst trying to think of something other than good old coconut almond butter for my porridge topping, and I know nothing comes quite as close as the stuff, but with a new pot of tahini, something had to be done, and tahini naked wouldn’t have been embracing that morning creative jolt It’s an uncomplicated mix of tahini, cinnamon, applesauce and yoghurt, along with some of the pumpkin french toast batter. The weirdness of that mix overshadows its majesty.

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Pumpkin Ginger-Spiced French Toast Roll-ups with Cinnamon Tahini Fondue

Ingredients

1 large flatbread (lavash), tortilla or crepe (alternatively, use normal bread slices)

 

For the pumpkin french toast batter:

2 heaping tbsp pumpkin purée

50ml milk of choice (I always use almond)

1 tsp fresh grated ginger (or ground)

1 tbsp sweetener of choice (agave syrup/date syrup/honey/blackstrap molasses)

pinch of salt

pat of vegan butter (or normal butter) for the pan

 

For the cinnamon tahini fondue:

1 tsp pumpkin purée

3 tbsp tahini

a heavy hand (around 1 tsp) of ground cinnamon

1 tsp sweetener of choice (refer to choices above)

 

Directions

If using flatbread, tear so that the pillow punctured and you get two thin ‘slices’ per bit of bread. You can use any other bread, but for the rollup effect, make sure to roll them out pretty tin and flat so you can squish them into the rolled shape you want afterwards.

Whisk together the ingredients for the pumpkin french toast batter and heat your pan on medium heat. Add a pat of butter to the pan and wait to hear a sizzle. Once hot, dip your slices into the pumpkin batter for 5-6 seconds on each side (you don’t need much time if you’re using a crepe or flat bread because they are so thin), then place gently in pan. Wait 20 seconds or so to cook, then flip and wait another 10-15 seconds.

Mix together the ingredients for the cinnamon tahini fondue, and serve the hot french toast rollups with that, together with some berries, perhaps some whipped (vegan) cream and more sweetener of your choice.