As a typical Libra, my baking proclivities tend to vacillate between “Almost-too-simple-to-require-a-recipe” (see LaRaw Bars, Quick Cranberry-Apple Compote, Almond-Crusted Root Vegetable “Fries“) or “So-elaborate-as-to-require-a-week’s-preparation” (see Meaty Spinach Pesto Lasagna, Raw “Linguine” with Bolognese Sauce and Hemp Parmesan, Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Warm Caramel Sauce)–we Libras tend to be “All or Nothing” that way. Somewhere in between resides the bulk of my baking: chocolate chip cookies, brownies, muffins or cakes.
In my 30s (aka the “Decade of the Dinner Party”), I used to bake a lot of elaborate, very involved recipes. I mean, a lot. As I recall, I held a dinner party in my little basement apartment about once a week. Since most of those soirées featured more or less the same guest list (hey, B & P! Long time no dinner party! Are you guys still in California?), I felt it necessary to bake something entirely different each Saturday. Actually, I would have felt that way regardless–I just like to try new things in the kitchen. (No, no, not those kinds of things, silly! I’m talking about cooking and baking). One of my favorites was a ten-layer meringue-and-buttercream concoction that alternated layers of mocha meringue with either chocolate or coffee buttercream, topped with whipped cream and chocolate sauce and little gold dragees. Needless to say, that one was a huge hit.
Today’s recipe reminded me of that gilded extravaganza, if only because it’s multi-layered, involves a creamy filling, and–most importantly–requires more than one day’s preparation. (The original recipe, in fact, tells you to take at least 4 days lead time if you wish to serve this beauty, but I’ve cut it down to three. See, there are some benefits to eating ACD-friendly!)
I guess I must love a challenge more than I realize, because as soon as I saw the original recipe from Fine Cooking, I thought, “I must make this anti-candida friendly.” Now, that’s no mean feat, given that we ACDers can’t eat sugar, refined flours, gluten, anything too starchy or moldy, and–in my case–eggs or dairy. Yowzah. Then, a few days later, Iris posted her “Birthday Cake Challenge.” You see, Iris is about to celebrate a major b-day (the last year of her 20s) at the end of this month, and she’s asking for people to post cakes that would be appropriate. And wouldn’t you agree that this beauty fits the bill perfectly?
I decided that I wanted to make the cake as allergen-free as possible–more than just gluten-free and refined-sugar free. In other words, no eggs, dairy, gluten, refined sugar, nuts, corn or soy.
For the cake, I adapted the Golden Vanilla Cake recipe from Sweet Freedom by using my all-purpose GF flour mix instead of the spelt and adding xanthan gum; those were the only changes required to the original recipe (and I was amazed at how easy it was to convert to gluten-free!).
The vanilla pastry cream (used in place of the original corn cream) is from my Desserts without Compromise ebook (no real changes necessary, but I did gussy it up with a pinch of turmeric and a touch of coconut sugar).
For the cookie crumbs (to replace the Cap’n Crunch crumbs in the original), I used the Sugar-Free Sugar Cookie recipe from this blog post, also subbing my gluten free AP flour for the spelt and adding xanthan gum; I coated the crumbs in the same “white chocolate” coating as my Raw Gingersnap Cookie Bon Bons.
Finally, to replace the strawberry preserves, I cooked up a simple strawberry compote along with the fresh berries. And while the preparation was a wee bit (!) time-consuming, it is all, astonishingly, still within the confines of the anti-candida diet (well, the later stages of the diet, anyway).
The original recipe also instructs you to freeze the cake to “set” it, then defrost in the refrigerator for 36 hours. I decided to forgo the freezing, partly because agar doesn’t freeze well, but also because it didn’t seem necessary–the cake was ready to go as soon as I assembled it.
Having said all that, this is really not a “daily” ACD dessert. Now that I’m in the final stages of the diet (Stage 3), I am able to eat a dessert this decadent, perhaps, once a month. Starch-heavy, high carb and naturally high-sugar foods are generally avoided, even on maintenance, so if you do make this cake, consider it a once-a-month (or less) indulgence, eat only a moderate slice, and consume it only after a day or two of low-glycemic and low-starch eating.
Which will work out perfectly, since you’ll have at least 3 days to think about it while you’re preparing the cake.
[For those of you
who think I’m insane to make this don’t have an extra four days to make cake want to use the individual aspects of the recipe on their own, the cake is great as cupcakes or in a larger pan; the pastry cream is wonderful in a tart shell, covered with fresh berries, or in a parfait; the cookies (uncoated) are terrific as decorated holiday sugar cookies, or with tea; and the strawberry spread is a perfect stand-in for jam, or served atop pancakes for breakfast.]
Special Occasion ACD-Friendly, Allergen-Free Strawberries and Cream Triple Layer Cake with “White Chocolate” Covered Cookie Crumbs
(inspired by this cake from Fine Cooking magazine)
If you’ve been on the anti-candida diet for a while, if you can’t eat gluten or sugar or eggs or dairy or nuts or corn or soy–No longer must you miss out on spectacular showpiece cakes on special occasions! This stunning three-layer confection is impressive both aesthetically and for its superb combination of light and tender cake layers, cookie-crumb garnish, custardy-smooth pastry cream filling and sweet-tart, juicy strawberry filling and topping. There’s no need to tell anyone this is a “special diet” cake–they’ll never know.
For the Cake (adapted from Sweet Freedom’s recipe; can be made up to 3 months ahead):
3 Tbsp (45 ml) finely ground flax seeds
3/4 cup (180 ml) light agave nectar
3/4 cup (180 ml) unsweetened plain or vanilla soy, almond or rice milk
1/3 cup (80 ml) sunflower or other light-tasting oil, preferably organic
2 Tbsp (30 ml) pure vanilla extract
2 tsp (10 ml) apple cider vinegar
2 cups (265 g) Ricki’s all purpose gluten-free flour mix
2 tsp (10 ml) xanthan gum (corn-free)
1-3/4 tsp (8.5 ml) baking powder
2 tsp (5 ml) baking soda
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line three 8-inch (20 cm) round pans with parchment paper, then spray the parchment with nonstick spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flax, agave nectar, soymilk, oil, vanilla and vinegar. Set aside while you mix the dry ingredients, or at least 2 minutes.
In a large bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour the wet mixture over the dry and whisk again to combine; do not overmix.
Divide the batter evenly among the three pans. If you have a kitchen scale, you can weigh them to ensure they are exactly the same; if not, set the pans side by side on the counter and just estimate. Spread the batter evenly in the pan and smooth the tops.
Place two pans on the top shelf and one pan on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake 20-25 minutes, rotating the pans about halfway through, until the tops are puffed and deep golden and a tester inserted in the center of each pan comes out clean (depending on where they were situated in the oven, the cakes may not all be ready at exactly the same time; if necessary, remove one or more as they are ready and keep baking the others). Leave in the pan until completely cool, then run a knife along the sides and invert onto a cooling rack. Peel off parchment, then gingerly wrap in plastic and place on the cooling rack (or a cutting board or plate) in the freezer until firm. Store in freezer bags until ready to use. May be frozen for up to 3 months.
For the Cookie Crumb Garnish (coated cookie crumbs can be made up to one week ahead; store in a covered container in the refrigerator):
1 recipe Sugar-Free Sugar Cookies, below
1 recipe “White Chocolate” Coating, below
Sugar-Free Sugar Cookies (adapted from this recipe; can be baked up to 3 months before using)
6 Tbsp (90 ml) light agave nectar
1 Tbsp (15 ml) finely ground chia seeds
2 Tbsp (30 ml) unsweetened plain or vanilla soy, almond or rice milk
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) pure lemon extract
2 cups (230 g) Ricki’s all purpose gluten-free flour mix
1 tsp (5 ml) xanthan gum (corn-free)
1-1/2 tsp (7.5 ml) baking powder
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) coconut oil, solid at room temperature (if necessary, place in refrigerator until solid)
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line two cookie sheets with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together the agave, chia seeds, soymilk, vanilla and lemon extraact. Set aside while you measure the dry ingredients, or at least 2 minutes.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt. Whisk to combine evenly. Drop the coconut oil in large chunks over the flour mixture. Then, using your hands, pinch the mixture between your thumb and forefingers repeatedly until it comes together and the oil is completely blended into the flour. The mixture should appear crumbly but hold together when squeezed in your hand. (Note: the dough should NOT be the same as a pie dough, with visible, pea-sized bits of coconut oil distributed throughout; it should all be smoothly and completely blended into the flour).
Pour the wet mixture over the dry and stir well to combine. You should have a soft and sticky dough, but one that holds together.
Gather the dough and form into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about an hour. Once firm, remove the dough from the plastic and place on a lightly floured piece of waxed paper or countertop and roll out to about 1/4 inch (.5 cm) thickness. Cut into rectangles about 3 x 2 inches (8 x 5.5 cm) big. Place the cookies about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart on cookie sheets. Gather any remaining dough and roll again; repeat until all dough is used.
Bake in preheated oven for 10-13 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets about halfway through, until cookies are deep golden brown on the edges. Cool completely before removing from the cookie sheets. Makes 24-30 cookies. May be frozen: wrap in plastic and store in an airtight bag or container in the freezer until ready to use, up to 3 months.
For the “White Chocolate” Coating (should be made just before you coat the cookie crumbs):
4 cups (320 g) unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup (60 ml) coconut oil, preferably organic
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp (30 ml) coconut sugar
30-50 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid, to your taste
Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender (I use a VitaMix) and blend until perfectly smooth and almost liquid; this will take some time, and you will have to push the mixture toward the blades using the tamper. When it’s done, it should be pourable and the consistency of a very thin natural almond butter. Use immediately to make the Cookie Crumb Garnish.
To make the Cookie Crumb Garnish (coated cookie crumbs may be made up to a week ahead; store in in a covered container in the refrigerator):
Have the freshly made “White Chocolate Coating” at the ready.
Break the cooled cookies into chunks and place them in a food processor. Process until you have coarse crumbs. No pieces should be larger than a pea. Turn the crumbs into a medium bowl.
Pour the freshly made white chocolate coating over the crumbs in the bowl. Toss with a fork until they begin to clump together and form little balls; keep tossing until all the crumbs are coated. If the mixture seems too wet, place the bowl in the refrigerator for 10 minutes and then toss again; repeat until the coating is firm and you have a bowl of little clumps. Break apart with your fingers if necessary to ensure that none of the pieces is larger than a pea. If you’re making the garnish ahead of time, transfer to a covered container and store in the refrigerator. Otherwise, refrigerate until ready to use.
For the Pastry Cream Filling (can be made up to 3 days ahead):
1/4 cup (50 g) dry millet
1/2 cup (120 ml) water or plain or vanilla rice milk (only rice milk will do for this)
1 can (14 oz or 400 ml) full-fat coconut milk (I use Thai Kitchen)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) packed coconut sugar
pinch fine sea salt
1/8 tsp (.5 ml) turmeric, optional (for color)
20-30 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid, to your taste
1 Tbsp (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) pure almond extract, optional
Place the millet and water or rice milk in a medium pot and bring to the boil; lower heat to simmer, cover, and cook until the liquid is almost absorbed, 15-20 minutes.
Add the coconut milk, coconut sugar, salt and turmeric and return to the boil over medium heat. Lower heat to simmer once again and continue to cook, stirring frequently to avoid scorching (a silicone spatula works well for this) until the grains of millet have begun to open and break apart and the mixture has the consistency of very thick oatmeal or thick wallpaper paste, 30-50 minutes. If necessary, add a bit more water, 1/4 cup (60 ml) at a time, to ensure that the mixture has cooked long enough. Don’t worry about overcooking at this point–the longer it cooks, the better!
When it’s reached the desired consistency, stir in the stevia, vanilla and almond extract. Stir and taste; adjust sweetness if necessary. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Pour the mixture into a high speed blender (I use a Vita Mix) and blend, scraping down sides as necessary, until perfectly silky smooth. Pour into a large bowl. (If you are using a conventional blender, you can still make it; blend in smaller batches and transfer each blended batch to a bowl after mixing, then stir it all together in the bowl). Allow to cool at room temperature before covering and chilling in the refrigerator at least 6 hours or overnight. It will thicken as it chills. May be made up to 3 days ahead; store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use.
For the Strawberry Filling and Topping (can be made up to 2 days ahead):
3 pounds (1.4 kg) fresh strawberries, preferably organic
juice of 1/2 lime
10-20 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid, to your taste
2 tsp (10 ml) agar powder (not flakes–I used this brand)
Measure out 2 heaping cups of berries (about 15 large berries), choosing the most beautiful looking ones for this purpose. If you’re making the cake now, hull and slice about 2/3 of the beautiful berries into slices; hull and quarter the other third of the beautiful berries (keep the two piles separate). The slices will be used beween the cake layers and the quartered berries will be used as garnish on top. (If you’re making the cake a day or two later, don’t slice or cut the separated 2 cups (480 ml) of berries; leave those whole, and store them in the fridge until you need them. Slice and quarter right before you assemble the cake).
Hull the remaining berries (everything but the 2 cups you removed) and wash well. Place berries in a blender, in batches if necessary, and purée until liquefied. Transfer the liquid to a medium pot. Squeeze in the lime juice and stir.
Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then lower heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently to avoid scorching, until the mixture reduces to 2-1/2 cups (600 ml) total (about half the original volume), 1-1.5 hours. Add the stevia and adjust sweetness level if necessary. Whisk in the agar and simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Allow to cool until it reaches room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator and refrigerate until cold (it will be firm at that point). If making ahead, store, covered, in the refrigerator up to 2 days (and keep your fresh berries in the refrigerator as well until ready to use).
To Assemble the Cake:
Keep the cake layers frozen (they will defrost very quickly–mine were defrosted by the time I assembled and finished photographing the cake–but it’s much easier to assemble everything with frozen layers). Bring all your other components to your work station: the coated cookie crumbs, the pastry cream, the strawberry spread and the sliced and quartered fresh berries.
Measure out one cup (240 ml) of the cookie crumbs and set aside for garnish. Divide the remaining cookie crumbs in half.
Place one frozen cake layer on the center of a cake platter or serving plate. Cover the top with half the pastry cream; spread evenly with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with one half of the (non-garnish) cookie crumbs. Measure out 2/3 cup (160 ml) of the strawberry spread and dot the top of the cake layer with spoonfuls of it evenly over the crumbs, then spread it as evenly as possible to cover the surface evenly using the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with half the sliced fresh berries.
Top the first layer with another frozen layer, and repeat the toppings, first spreading with the rest of the pastry cream, sprinkling with the other half of the non-garnish cookie crumbs, covering with 2/3 cup (80 ml) of the strawberry spread, and sprinkling with the other half of the sliced berries.
Place the final frozen layer on top of the cake. Cover the top with 2/3 cup (160 ml) of the strawberry spread, leaving about 1/4 inch (1 ml) of cake uncovered around the edge. Sprinkle with the quartered strawberries and the cookie crumbs you reserved for garnish. (You may have a bit of the strawberry spread left over at this point; if so, store in a jar in the fridge up to 4 days. It’s great as a jam or atop pancakes).
At this point, you may serve the cake immediately, or store, covered, in the refrigerator for 6-24 hours. Serve cold, from the fridge. Makes 8-10 stupendous servings. It doesn’t keep well for much longer, however, so should be made for an occasion with 8-10 eaters, if possible. . . over time, the cake will absorb moisture from the fillings and will seem more like a trifle by day two (not that there’s anything wrong with that. . . . ).
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