I kicked off this morning in a puddle of my own drool. Admittedly not very dignified, but I’m blaming it firmly on this post from the ‘Canny Food’ blog exploring the Vegan Cream Tea options ‘Ooop North’.
But halfway though packing my bags to move to Newcastle in a hurry, I suddenly remembered a gloriously wholesome cake a bit closer to home, one that Him Indoors had lovingly baked for Eva’s 1st birthday. So I’m going to share it here (It is also the ideal opportunity to show off pictures of Eva in her ‘birthday tutu’. Yes, she does own girl clothes, after all!)
Let me tell you about this book ‘Clean Cakes’. It’s all about nutritious cakes which avoid refined sugars, gluten, and other common ‘no-nos’ for people with special dietary requirements – or anyone who fancies an indulgent sweet (or savoury) treat that is that little bit healthier. These cakes are all vegetarian, and many are vegan. It has a very handy section at the front which goes into some details about how to source or make many of the rarer ingredients. And the cakes themselves look devastatingly delicious.
Initially, I bought it for a pal who was looking for gluten-free options for herself and her little girl. But I challenge any person with functional tastebuds to browse this book for long without craving a copy for themselves. So when my very own copy turned up on Mother’s Day, it’s safe to say I was a very happy bunny. I mean, just look at it (uh-oh, here comes the drool again….)
Anyone who has known me for more than a day will confirm that I’ll pretty much eat anything. (No, really. Anything.) But, with DP a pescetarian since 11yrs, and myself pretty ‘meh’ about most meats for a variety of reasons, we are always interested in veggie-friendly alternatives. And for Eva’s big day I was keen for something that was special, but not rammed to the gunnels with refined sugar and icing.
So, ‘Courgette Basil, Lime and Pistachio Cake’ to the rescue!
In typical fashion it fell to poor DP to actually bake the darn cake, as I faffed about with something or other (probably tutu-purchasing!) and he spent a good few hours in the kitchen prepping this, but it was worth the effort. It was lovely and light and zingy, and we were all delighted with it: not least Eva. Just look at that Homer Simpson-esque face, as it disappears down the cake-hole! (pun intended)
And what gives it that luscious green colour, you may ask? Avocados, with the limes handily stalling their oxidisation and therefore keeping it from turning a rather unattractive shade of brown in short order!
If you’re not already rifling through your cupboards checking avocado availability, there’s no hope for you, my friend. But, for everyone else, here’s the recipe:
Courgette Basil, Lime and Pistachio Cake, with Avocado Lime Cream and Raspberry Jam
NB: that I have simplified the recipe a little by keeping it in grams etc – for all the minute details, buy the book. Also, you might want to skip the pistachios if you ‘re worried about allergies or choking hazards for little ones. What with there being a bit of a Coconut Revolution on at the mo, you should be able to source most of the ingredients at your local health food store and supermarket (i’ve included a couple links) For the rest.. internets at your service!
[serves 12, apparently. Though maybe not in this greedy-ass household!]
90g pistachio nuts
60g coconut flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
180g courgettes, grated
150g natural coconut yogurt (we used ‘coyo’)
150g coconut sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Zest of 3 limes
15g basil leaves, finely chopped. 4 additional for lime cream
60g coconut oil melted, plus extra for greasing.
Avocado Lime Cream:
200g avocado flesh
250g natural coconut yogurt
100g blonde coconut nectar
finely grated zest of 1.5 limes
60ml lime juice
80g coconut oil, melted
170g St Dalfour sugar free Raspberry Jam (or similar)
Small handful chopped pistachios
Edible Flowers (rose, for example?)
“Make the avocado lime cream first as it needs time to firm up in the fridge. Blend the avocado, coconut yogurt, coconut nectar, lime zest and lime juice in a blender until smooth. Place in a bowl and cover the surface of the cream completely with cling film so it does not oxidise and lose its colour. Chill in the fridge for 2-3 hours to firm up.
Preheat the oven to 170 ºC. Grease and line the base of three 23cm loose-bottomed or springform cake tins with coconut oil and baking parchment, Line a small baking tray with baking parchment.
Spread the pistachio nuts out on the lined baking tray and toast for 5-7 minutes. Leave to cool, then chop into small pieces.
Sieve together the coconut flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) into a bowl. In a large bowl, mix together the rest of the sponge ingredients except for the oil. Add the sieved flour mix and chopped nuts, then finally stir in the oil. Divide the mix equally between the three tins. Spread the mix with a palette knife to make a thin layer.
Bake for 10 mins, rotate the tins then bake for another 10 mins until the top is golden brown and bounces back slightly when pressed. Leave to cool, remove from the tins, and carefully peel off the baking parchment from each sponge.
To assemble, spread the bottom layer of sponge wth half the jam and about a quarter of the avocado lime cream. Tear the basil leaves into small pieces and scatter over the lime cream. Top with the middle layer of sponge and repeat the process. Carefully place on the final layer of sponge and top with the remaining cream, spreading it over the top of the cake and around the edges. Decorate with chopped pistachio nuts and edible flowers.
This cake will keep in the fridge for up to three days, but it is best eaten fresh when all flavours and colours are at their most vibrant.”
(And Henrietta points out that, for a simpler, lighter desert, you can just make the avocado cream and have it as a mousse for a light desert if you prefer, with some coconut shavings on top. Nom!)
I am living in hopes that someone takes up the challenge of opening a Clean Cakes-style Cafe here in Guildford. I’m convinced that Mums and tots in particular would flock to it, safe in the knowledge they can share a cake with their offspring without digesting the equivalent of an entire sugar plantation (a worry I have everytime I give Eva a slice of my Starbucks fruit bread!) As long as it has some decent drink options and good changing facilities, I think this could be a real winner.
The problem of course is the rent cost around here. Space is at a premium, so things could be tricky on the pram-parking front. Maybe the solution could be an easily accessible out-of-town gem? I’m still awaiting a worthy successor to the Compton Tea Rooms , way back when it was run by the Porter family. You’d basically sit in a chilly barn and wait a ludicrously long time to be served the best fried breakfast, welsh rarebit, cream cakes in Guildford, possibly on the whole planet! (And while I’m huffing and puffing about it’s demise a good 4 years on, I must stop being so stubborn and give their successors a try). It’s a funny kind of comparison of course: the Compton Tea Rooms was a pure Lard-Pit, a place awash with dairy, animal fats, butter aplenty.. and it was wonderful! But, having tasted the Avocado Cake, and gaging the average Guildford Mum to be reasonably affluent and health-conscious, I reckon Clean Eating place could potentially generate the same amount of loyalty, and deliciousness. As long as there is plenty of decent coffee to hand (which probably violates the ‘clean’ bit, but hey-ho..)
So, whaddaya reckon, Mums of Guildford? A clean-cakes style cafe in a local village, with plenty of parking and space for all…? And a note to any eager entrepreneurs: Another Surrey Mum would of course selflessly offer a free review of every single cake on the menu…
Anyway I digress! As promised (mainly to myself, admittedly!) here is Eva in her birthday tutu, on her very first birthday. Awwwww! Just look at that chubby little face!
(Wait… why has she got massive upside-down hands..? Oh, hang on, they’re my hands. Panic over. As you were, everyone. Back to the cake fantasies… and the drooling, of course…)