Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Birthday Cake!

This weekend I baked my first successful all-natural cakes. Many past attempts at nutritious desserts have been disastrous, as Stephen can attest. Nothing is quite as disappointing as biting into a brownie that looks and smells delicious but tastes like cardboard. It was my recent experiment with millet - those light, bright and fluffy pancakes - that reinspired me to bake with fermented flour.
Sugar and flour have been my greatest confectionary roadblocks. I am always tempted to skimp on the sugar, and if I soak the flour for too little time in too little liquid, it's too thick to blend gracefully with the other ingredients and bakes up like shoe leather. If I err on both sides, look out!
So this time, I vowed to use the full amount of sugar in the recipe and soak the flour in plenty of liquid for no less than 24 hours. And sweet success was as simple as that.

Carrot Cake (adapted from Nourishing Traditions)
8 ounces raw cream plus 2 Tablespoons buttermilk, or 8 ounces sour cream
8 ounces yogurt
10 ounces soft wheat flour
1 1/4 cups Rapadura*
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup crushed pineapple, in juice
1 cup grated sweet carrots
1 cup unsweetened coconut meal
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Sour the cream by mixing it with buttermilk and leaving it at room temperature for a day or so until it thickens. Then mix the sour cream, yogurt and freshly ground flour and let them sit out for another 24 hours. The cultured milk provides an acidic medium that prevents spoilage and also breaks down anti-nutrients in the flour. Now the waiting is over! Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease a 9 x 13 pan. Cream the butter and Rapadura in a separate bowl, blend in the eggs one at a time, and add vanilla, soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Gently fold in the flour mixture along with the pineapple, carrots, coconut, and pecans. Gently. Pour batter into the pan and bake about an hour or until the edges pull away from the pan.

Don't forget the cream cheese frosting!

4 ounces butter, softened
16 ounces organic cultured cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup raw honey
...and wait until the cake is perfectly cool to frost! This cake received rave reviews. The best part is it's made of entirely whole foods. Next time I plan to replace some of the wheat with more nutritious alternatives like quinoa, amaranth, brown rice and buckwheat.
I couldn't stop at just one cake in case it didn't work out. So I also adapted a recipe from my trusty Hershey's Best Cakes book.

Sour Cream Chocolate-Carob Cake

8 ounces raw cream plus 2 Tablespoons buttermilk, or 8 ounces sour cream
4 ounces buttermilk
7 ounces soft wheat flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup carob powder
4 ounces butter, softened
1 1/2 cups Rapadura
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Sour the cream, as in the previous recipe, and blend it with the buttermilk and flour. Let it sit at room temperature for at least 24 hours. Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease and flour two round 9-inch cake pans. In a separate bowl, cream butter, cocoa, carob and Rapadura. Blend in eggs, one at a time, followed by vanilla, baking powder, soda and salt. Again, gently fold in flour and pour into prepared pans and bake for 30 minutes or until the edges pull away from the pan. Absolutely gorgeous! I frosted this one with the remains of the cream cheese frosting blended with cooked blueberries, raspberries and about a quarter cup of maple syrup. It was also a big hit, and was unfortunately decimated before its photo op.

*Rapadura is the "whole grain" of cane sugar. The sugar crystals are never separated from the molasses during processing, so they retain more nutrients than totally refined sugars. Just one teaspoon delivers 11% of your recommended iron for the day!
It exceeded my expectations for workability and taste. It looks and feels like coarse, dark sand, does not dissolve as easily as refined sugar, nor does it clump like brown sugar. As is typical of whole foods compared to their refined counterparts, Rapadura has a flavor. A gorgeous one. It took me forever to nail it down, but it's like honey, caramel, even pecans. It isn't overwhelming at all, nor the least bit sharp, bitter or heavy as I expected it to be. Just a teasing, complex bouquet of earthy goodness. It also has a slightly crunchy texture like tiny toffee bits, which is great for cookies but not so much for custards. Muscovado is another unrefined cane sugar that I haven't tried yet but can't wait.

So, culinary hall of horrors, look elsewhere! I'm back in the business of making desserts that actually taste good - and happen to be good for you.


Anonymous said...

For some reason the picture didn't show up on my computer! I just recently baked this exact cake, it's on my blog:


It was great! I'm curious in what proportions you'd sub. the other flours...I'd like to try that too.

Deborah said...

That's so cute! I guarantee yours is better-looking than mine. Awesome blog. I can't wait to try that apple butter pumpkin pie. On substituting flours, I'd start with a 3:1 ratio of wheat to alternative flour. Buckwheat and quinoa are so flavorful I'd use less, while milder ones like millet and amaranth could get away with more. Makes me want to bake again and find out!

Ann Marie said...

Mmmm sounds great -- I will definitely try baking these!

Katie said...

I am so glad you posted this. I need to make a cake for my daughter's 1st birthday, and was unsure how to do it with fermented flour. I am new to all of this, and don't have the NT book yet! :O Carrot cake was my plan. This recipe seems really doable. Thank. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Bizu Philippines said...

Its good that i found your blog in time,i will also definitely try your ingredients. Keep posting!


Teresa said...

Would you recommend making this cake in two rounds for a double layer cake? Thanks!

Deborah said...

Hmmm.. it's been a long time since I've made either, but I remember the carrot cake being very dense - maybe too much so for a layer cake. The sour cream chocolate cake I think was lighter and would probably be good as a layer cake. Let me know how it comes out if you do!