Free-from and all-in-one carrot cake (no gluten, dairy, eggs, soy)

Carrot_cakeI keep on finding recipes to adapt and I get more and more audacious (although at some point, I think I will conclude there are only so many elements you can replace if you still want to call it a cake). I first made this all-in-one carrot cake as a regular version (slightly adapting a Donna Hay recipe), but it turned out the free-from version was even tastier, so definitely a winner this time! Not that I will be sharing recipes of flops of course … Anyway, here’s how to bake it:

Preheat oven to 160 C fan. Place 400 g carrots in a food processor and process until finely chopped (or grate them by hand). If you are making a regular version (so not gluten-free), add 120 g pecans to the food processor as well (or finely chop them). Add 115 g rice flour, 110 g chestnut flour (or 225 g plain flour for the regular version), 1 and 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 175 g brown sugar110 g caster sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp mixed spice (if you don’t have mixed spice, just add more cinnamon), 2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract), 125 ml vegetable oil, 2 eggs (or no-egg equivalent) and 70 g yoghurt (use sheep or goat yoghurt for the lactose-free version), and process or mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a 22 cm round springform cake tin lined with non-stick baking paper and bake for 55–60 minutes or until just cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool in the tin.

To make the cream cheese frosting, place 250 g cream cheese, 1 tbsp lemon  juice, 50 g ricotta, 55 g icing sugar and 1 tsp vanilla bean paste in a food processor and process until smooth (or mix with a hand-held mixer. Spread the frosting over the cooled cake to serve. For the dairy-free version: mix 200 g goat’s cream cheese with 210 g icing sugar, 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract). Enjoy!

“All-free” rose and pistachio cake


OK, so far for my good intentions to blog again once a week. I guess it just can’t be new year every day! But as you can imagine, it hasn’t stopped me from baking. Right now my third cake of the day is in the oven because tomorrow we are having a birthday party for the boys, one year already! I suggested making something they can easily eat, like cookies, but their dad insisted it needed to be a cake so they can make their first proper mess (it seems they have been training for it for weeks now) and we can have the obligatory, slightly out of focus, messy picture. I’ll let you know next time how that went! But first we celebrated the birthday of my mother-in-law a couple of weeks ago so I made a dessert my sister-in-law could eat as well. Meaning without gluten, dairy, eggs and soy. I was quite proud of the result and it tasted really nice as well! Here’s how to make it:

Heat the oven to 170 C fan and line a 20 cm tin with greaseproof paper, or, if you’re not the greaseproof-paper-lining-person, just grease the tin with vegetable oil.

Put 75 g each of semolina, rice flour and sweet chestnut flour in a bowl (you need 225 g of flour in total, you can also use gluten-free flour instead. The chestnut flour will give a nutty taste). Add 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (or gluten-free baking powder) and a pinch of salt, followed by 75 g ground almonds and 100 g caster sugar and mix.

In a separate bowl, mix 2 eggs (I used no-egg egg replacement) with 50 g runny honey (or 1 generous tbsp), 250 ml natural yoghurt (unsweetened, I used goat yoghurt), 150 ml sunflower oil and the finely grated zest of 1 lime (you’ll need the juice for the syrup later). Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and slowly pour in the wet ingredients, bringing them together with a whisk until they are just combined (if you want, you can add 50 g chopped unsalted pistachios at this point). Pour the mixture into your tin and bake in the oven for 50 min or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the tin for 20 min and while the cake is cooling, make the lime syrup: in a small saucepan, boil 150 ml water with 100 g caster sugar for about 5 min until it is reduced by half. Add the juice of 1 lime and boil for a further 2 min, then cool and add 2 tbsp rose water. Make holes on top of the warm cake with a skewer and, with a tablespoon, spoon the syrup all over the top. Leave to settle for 1 hour.

Serve with some raspberries on top. Enjoy!

Blueberry and pistachio cake with coffee cardamom cream


I’ve decided I really needed to get blogging again. I took this decision a few months ago and now spent quite some time figuring out where to schedule it in. Not that it takes much time, but one of my agenda points highlighted as a main priority these days is “twin boy management” (boss sometimes seems to differ). As with most things, I handle this quite well if I do say so myself so I manage to find some spare time as well, but lying on the couch has recently become a new hobby of mine… it’s a bit like what some people get at the gym (so I’m told), it really becomes addictive!

Anyway, today I found the solution: blogging from my mobile while lying on the couch! The boys are doing fine by the way, taking a nap as we speak (either that or doing something they are not supposed to – in any case, it’s quiet).

Ever since having them nearly a year ago, I haven’t stopped baking, I just stopped writing about it. I already used to go for the quick-and-dirty-chuck-it-all-in-a-bowl recipes a lot in the past and even more so now. Also, baking became a multi-step (and sometimes even multi-day) process, where I add an ingredient to the bowl, hand back a toy (that is immediately thrown back on the floor), add some more ingredients, prepare a bottle, preheat the oven… you get the point.

Anyway, back to food: I baked this cake for our family easter lunch. It’s not our traditional easter bake. That’s made of layers of milk-soaked cookies and coffee buttercream and an absolute favourite of my parents and grandparents. But I don’t like it and neither do my siblings and as I was in charge of dessert we didn’t see it this year. However, easter without buttercream is just no real easter according to my mum, so I came up with this solution: a light and fruity cake with the all important buttercream! Luckily I took a picture before everyone arrived as not a single crumb remained after the meal! Here’s how to make it:

Melt 175g butter and leave to cool. Heat oven to 160C and lightly grease and line the base of 2 x 20cm sandwich tins with baking parchment. Grease the tins again, dust with a little caster sugar and a little flour, then tap out any excess.

Put 4 eggs and 225 g golden caster sugar in a heatproof bowl and, using an electric whisk, mix briefly to combine. Place the bowl over a pan of steaming water and continue to whisk until the mixture is pale and thick – when the whisk is lifted, the mixture should leave a trail on the surface lasting about 5 secs. This will take about 5 to 10 mins. Remove the bowl from the pan and continue beating for 2 mins.

Continue to whisk the mixture while trickling the melted butter around the edge of the bowl. Sift in 200g self-raising flour and 85g ground pistachios, very gently give the mixture 2-3 folds, then add 100g blueberries and fold again, being careful not to knock out all the air. Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 25-30 mins, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

To make the buttercream, beat 250g softened butter and 200g icing sugar together with 2 egg yolks. Add 1 tablespoon instant coffee, diluted in 3 tablespoons water, and the crushed seeds of 6 cardamom pods and beat until combined.

Cool cakes in their tins for 10 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack. Remove lining paper when completely cooled. Sandwich the cakes together with the coffee cardamom cream, and spread some more on the top and around the sides. You can also decorate it with pistachios and blueberries.


“All-free” lemon drizzle cake (no gluten, lactose, eggs, soy …)

Lemon_drizzle_cakeIt’s been quite a while since I’ve posted new recipes on my blog. It’s not that I stopped baking (although I’m baking slightly less), it’s that I’m not really finding the time to right about. The reason is that next to my day job, I have a new task: twin boy management! The boys are now 8 months old and doing great, but it makes baking (and writing about it) a bit more of a challenge. It also makes it a multi-step (or somethimes even multi-day) process, spread out during the day. But of course, come Christmas, I wasn’t going to let me family down so I was once again in charge of desserts (two days in a row). As my sister in low has been diagnosed with a gluten-, lactose-, egg white-, soy- (and other things I’m forgetting) intolerance, it became quite a challenge. To be honest: the first attempt (not this recipe) went straight in the bin. This meant that I needed a plan B, and I needed it fast! So I looked at the GoodFood website, and found this recipe for a light lemon drizzle cake, which I could easily adapt. I’ll indicate possible changes you can make depending on your diet.

Heat oven to 160C and line a 20cm round cake tin with baking parchment. Put 175g rice flour (or use gluten-free or self-raising flower), 1 and 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (use baking powder if you’ve used self-raising flour), 50 g ground almonds and 50 g polenta in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the zest of 2 lemons (you’ll need the juice later) and 140 g sugar, then make a dip in the centre. In another bowl, beat 2 eggs (I used “no-egg” egg replacement and followed the instruction on the box, you can find this in health food shops), then stir in 225 g yogurt (I used goat yoghurt as I wanted to avoid lactose, which you can find in health food shops or biological supermarkets, it tastes very much the same as regular yoghurt). Tip this mixture along with 75 ml rapeseed oil (or use sunflower oil) into the dry ingredients, then briefly and gently stir with a large metal spoon so everything is just combined, without overmixing.

10 mins if it starts to brown too quickly. While the cake cooks, make lemon syrup. Tip 85 g sugar into a small saucepan with the juice of the 2 lemons and 75 ml water. Heat over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat, boil for 4 mins until slightly reduced and syrupy, then remove from the heat.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool briefly in the tin. While it is still warm, turn it out of the tin, peel off the lining paper and sit the cake on a wire rack set over a baking tray or similar. Use a skewer to make lots of small holes all over the top of the cake. Slowly spoon over half the lemon syrup and let it soak in. Spoon over the rest in the same way, brushing the edges and sides of the cake too with the last of the syrup.

Warming and delicious: apple and spice muffins

apple and spice muffinsI already knew that apple and cinnamon make a great combination, but on a recent holiday I had it as a hot drink with added ginger. I’m a huge ginger fan in any way or form so I immediately loved the taste and decided it would be equally delicious (if not better) in a muffin. For extra indulgence, I decided to top the muffins with a crumble topping, so easy and totally yummy! Usually I freeze half of my muffins (wrapping them one by one in tin foil, you can take them out of the freezer in the morning to take to work and they will be perfect for lunch) but this time they were all gone before I could wrap them up! Here’s how to make them:

First, prepare the crumble topping: stir 50 g light muscovado sugar with 50 g plain flour25 g porridge oats (or rolled oats) and 1 tsp mixed spice together in a bowl, then rub in 50 g butter with your fingertips until clumpy.

For the muffins: preheat the oven to 180 C and line a muffin tin with paper cases. In a bowl, mix 375 g self-raising flour with 220 g sugar and 1 tsp baking powder. Make a well in the center and add 125 ml vegetable oil (sunflower or rapeseed work best, avoid olive as you will taste it), 125 ml milk1 egg and 1 tsp vanilla extract (or the seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod). Give the liquids a good stir to break up the egg yolk and bring the dough together in a few stirs.

Now add 300 g chopped apples (about 3 apples in total, if you only have say 200 g that will work as well), 2 balls stem ginger (chopped – you could also use 5 pieces of candied ginger or just double the ground ginger), 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp ground ginger and stir again to disperse them evenly. Distribute the dough over the 12 muffin cases and add 1 to 2 tbsp of the crumble topping on each of them (if you are too lazy to make the crumble topping, just give them a good sprinkle of granulated sugar instead to get the extra crunchy top layer). Put in the oven for 30-35 min until golden brown and springy to the touch (cover with tin foil for the last 10 min if they brown too easily). Enjoy!

Because at Christmas you can go crazy: “crazy” spiced orange cake

Christmas spiced orange cakeA month before Christmas, my parents came to dinner and my mom started browsing through the newly arrived edition of GoodFood. She flicked through the pages and then suddenly stopped, proudly announcing she had found the dessert she wanted for Christmas. Glancing at the recipe I quickly understood it was the decoration she was interested in, and not so much the cake underneath. So I decided to mix-and-match and I opted for Mary Berry’s spiced whole orange cake with orange mascarpone icing for the cake with an adaptation of the GoodFood icing recipe on top. Luckily, I was able to recruit my sister to help me out with the decorations (she made all the Christmas trees). You can of course just opt to make the cake, as with all of Mary’s recipes, it’s a fast and easy all-in-the-bowl cake mix. Here’s how to make it:

For the cake:
Grease and line two 20cm round cake tins with baking paper (if you only have one, bake in 2 batches or put everything together in a 24cm tin and stick to 3 layers instead of 4). Place 1 whole orange in a small saucepan, cover with boiling water and boil for 30 minutes, or until soft. Leave to cool (I recently read you get the same result by putting the orange in the microwave for a few minutes but I haven’t tested it yet). When the orange is cold, cut in half and remove any pips.

Preheat the oven to 160 C. Roughly chop the orange and blend, including the skin, in a food processor until medium-chunky in texture (if you don’t have a food processor, just use a hand mixer) and set aside, reserving two tablespoons for the icing.

Put 275 g self-raising flour in a large bowl with 2 tsp baking powder, 275 g sugar, 275 g softened butter, 4 eggs, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp mixed spice. Blend in a food processor or with an electric hand whisk until just smooth (be careful not to over-beat the mixture). Then, carefully stir in the pulp that you have set aside (all except the 2 tbsp for the icing), then divide between the two prepared tins and level the tops.

Bake for 35 min, or until well risen, lightly golden-brown and shrinking away from the sides of the tins. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Peel off the baking paper.

For the icing, place 50 g softened butter in a mixing bowl and, using an electric hand whisk, gradually beat in 175 g icing sugar until smooth. Add 250 g mascarpone cheese and whisk together until smooth and creamy. Add the 2 tbsp reserved orange pulp and mix until smooth.

Slice each cake in half to make four layers (if you only used 1 larger tin, try slicing it in 3). Divide the icing into four and then stack the layers of cake – icing between each layer and finishing with icing on the top.

For the crazy Christmas icing:
Beat 2 egg whites with 1 tsp lemon juice and 2 tsp liquid glucose in a mixing bowl. Gradually sift in 300 g icing sugar, beating all the time until you get stiff peaks. Swirl it thickly over the cake and let it drop down the sides a bit to create a “snow” effect. For the Christmas trees, the recipe suggested making a pistachio paste, but you know me: too much work so I went for the shortcut and just opted for marzipan instead (adding some green food colouring – in my case a mix of yellow and blue – to get the right colour). Tip: when colouring marzipan, where plastic gloves or you will go to the party with green fingernails… once the colouring is thoroughly kneaded in, it won’t give off any colour anymore. To make the trees, roll small balls and flatten them, stack them from larger to smaller and finish with a cone shape. Enjoy!

Gluten-free and dairy-free: swiss roll with marshmallow icing

dairy-free gluten-free swiss rollI haven’t been blogging for a while, but I had good reasons for it: at the end of last year, I wasn’t baking (or cooking) either, so I had nothing to blog about. This was caused to the nausea that comes with being pregnant… it being twins apparently made it worse! Luckily it passed the week before Christmas, so I could get back to my usual baking habits just in time (and with assistance from my sister, in charge of the cake decorations this year). So here is the first of my Christmas recipes, but you could make this at any time of the year (omitting the Christmas trees of course). As my sister-in-law is on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet, I opted for a swiss roll, swapping flour for gluten-free varieties. Here’s how to make it:

Preheat the oven to t180 C. Separate 3 eggs (you need 4 eggs in total) and beat the egg whites until really stiff (add a pinch of salt to speed up the process). No need to wash your mixer, you can go straight ahead and start mixing the 3 egg yolks and the left over whole egg together in a separate bowl with 120 g sugar until you get a foamy mousse (about 5 min). Stir in 50 g gluten-free flour, 25 g cornflour and 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (to be replaced by 75 g self-raising flour if you don’t need a gluten-free version), followed by the beaten egg white.

Cover a baking sheet with tin foil (fold up the sides of the foil a bit to create an edge) and pour in the mixture (or use a swiss roll tin if you have one). Bake for 10 min until lightly golden and it springs back when you touch it. In the mean time, take another piece of tin foil and sprinkle it with a bit of sugar. Take the bake from the oven and turn it upside down onto the prepared foil. Gently peal of the layer of foil from the bottom. Spread your favourite jam all over (I used home-made forest fruit jam – made from half frozen fruit en half sugar (with pectin) and a squeeze of lemon, just follow the recipe on the sugar packaging if you want to make some), leaving a gap along one of the long edges. Sprinkle with a bit more sugar and start rolling it up from the opposite long edge. Put it on a serving plate with the seam at the bottom and leave to cool completely.

If you don’t feel like the extra effort (or sugar level), just dot the roll with some fresh raspberries and you’re done. Or go all the way and make the marshmallow icing by putting 2 egg whites in a heatproof bowl with 115 g golden caster sugar, 1/2 tbsp water and a good pinch of salt. Place over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the hot water, and whisk until thick and leaving a prominent trail from the beaters (this will take about 4 min). Remove the bowl from the heat and continue whisking for another 3 min until cooled slightly and really stiff. Spread over the swiss roll using a large (palette) knife, you can use the back of a spoon to make a log pattern or just go wild with a piping bag. Use a cook’s blowtorch to toast the meringue to a golden brown (this will go really fast). It’s worth the effort, the toasting makes all the difference!

Decorate any way you want and enjoy!

Simple and comforting: apple and blueberry cake

Apple and blueberry cakeSummer in Belgium seems to be well ad truly over… it’s often raining, it’s still dark when we get up in the morning (but then we do already get up at six, which we can’t seem to get used to anymore after a short week of relaxing by the pool in Tuscany) and it gets dark earlier and earlier at night. In addition, it’s the final weeks of strawberries (said the vendor to me) and we’re getting lots of apples know. As we tend to sometimes forget we even bought apples, I’m always looking for recipes to use them, and this is a really simple one by Donna Hay. Here’s how to make it:

Preheat the oven tot 160 C. Place 225 g self-raising flour, 165 g sugar, 125 g softened butter (just pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds if it comes straight from the fridge), 1 tsp vanilla extract, 2 eggs and 125 ml milk in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until just combined. Spoon into a greased 22 cm springform tin lined with baking paper (my tin is 20 cm, which worked just as well, just use a bit less apple in that case). Thinly slice 1 apple and use it to top the cake, together with 110 g blueberries (can be fresh or frozen – no need to defrost). Sprinkle with 2 tbsp sugar and bake for 45 min or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 min before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

PS: Donna Hay suggests to serve it with ice-cream! It’s best eaten on the day or the day after when the top is still crunchy, as soon as you start storing it, the crunch will get softer. Use up the rest of your fruit in bread pudding or go for the best ever blueberry muffins.

Almost the end of summer: goosberry and orange drizzle cake

Gooseberry and orange drizzle cakeI really love gooseberries, but they are quite hard to find. A lot of people have or used to have them in the garden so supermarkets don’t stock them very often. But last week I was lucky: I noticed the supermarket had some gooseberries and I immediatly bought some! Then I had to figure out what to do with them. A friend was coming over for dinner so I decided a gooseberry cake would be perfect. I wanted to test a recipe from my Polish cookbook, but then I noticed it had proofing in it and would take too long, I wanted the quick and easy type, so I turned to my trusted GoodFood recipes and found this one. It turned out to be really delicious! Here’s how to make it:


Heat oven to 160 C. Butter and line a 20 x 30cm traybake tin with baking parchment (I didn’t have one, so I used my round tin).

Put 225 g butter (softened, just microwave it for 20-30 sec if it comes from the fridge), 225 g sugar, 225 g self-raising flour, 4 eggs and the zest of 1 orange (you’ll need the juice for the frosting) in a bowl. Beat thoroughly with an electric whisk until creamy and smooth. Stir in 225 g gooseberries, then spoon into the tin and level the surface. Bake for 35 mins until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

While the cake is in the oven, stir the orange juice and 140 g sugar together, spoon over the surface of the warm cake and leave to cool and set. Enjoy!


Rhubarb mania part 3: rhubarb and custard cake

Rhubarb and custard cakeIt is called rhubarb “mania”, you didn’t think I was going to stop at just 2 recipes did you? So here is number 3 and in the mean time I already make it more than once, it is totally delicious (as I’m sure all my colleagues will agree). As usual, my grandmother could only find one flaw in it: it was eaten way too quickly… (she is at an age where eating three pieces in one go is no longer frowned upon, she also uses her age excuse to “forget” about delicious desserts lingering in her fridge when people come to visit, just so she can have more to herself). This GoodFood recipe takes a bit more time, but it’s totally worth it. Here’s how to make it:

First, roast the rhubarb: heat the oven to 180 C. Rinse 400 g rhubarb and shake off excess water. Trim the ends, then cut into little-finger-size pieces. Put in a shallow dish or a baking tray, tip over 50 g sugar, toss together, then shuffle rhubarb so it’s in a single layer. Cover with foil, then roast for 15 min. Remove the foil, give everything a little shake, roast for 5 min more or until tender and the juices are syrupy. Carefully drain off the juices and let the rhubarb cool.

Butter and line a 23cm loose-bottomed or springform cake tin. Heat the oven to 160 C. Put all but 3 tbsp of 150 ml ready-made custard (if you are not in a custard country, you can use 50 ml vanilla pudding diluted with 100 ml milk) in a bowl. Beat it together with 250 g softened butter, 250 g self-raising flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 4 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla extract and 250 g golden caster sugar until creamy and smooth. Spoon one-third of the mix into the tin, add some of the rhubarb, then dot with one-third more cake mix and spread it out as well as you can. Top with some more rhubarb, then spoon over the remaining cake mix, leaving it in rough mounds and dips rather than being too neat about it. Scatter the rest of the rhubarb over the batter, then dot the remaining custard over.

Bake for 40 mins until risen and golden, then cover with foil and bake for 15-20 mins more. It’s ready when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin. Enjoy!

Use up any leftover rhubarb in rhubarb crumble muffins or rhubarb and vodka jellies.