My New Year’s resolution for 2013 is to eat more cake. I’ve been laying off gluten, dairy and refined sugar lately, and I really miss baked goods.
I rarely bother with bread any more, other than the odd slice of toast, because the gluten-free kind tends to have the texture of a scouring pad. (Recommendations for your favourite brands in the comments section, please!)
Many of the gluten-free cookies out there are like little hockey pucks–so you have to shop around. (Spoiler alert: you’ll find chocolate-coated buttery and flakey little GF shortbreads in our February issue that my friend and fellow food blogger Aube declared the best shortbread cookies she’d ever tasted in her life, so thankfully, there’s hope.)
Gluten-free cake, seems to be the easiest of the baked goods to make delicious. My friend’s mom made us a flourless cake for Christmas dinner, using hazelnut meal and a relatively small quantity of maple sugar. It tasted so rich and moist that I decided to experiment with ground hazelnuts in a makeover of my favourite pre-restrictions treat: banana-date tea cake from Tartine bakery.
I cut out the all-purpose flour from the original recipe and subbed in ground hazelnuts (loaded with vitamin E and cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fatty acids) and gluten-free flour–with a little Xanthan gum to help the batter bind and give the cake volume.
The chopped walnuts I switched for chopped hazelnuts, so there’s still a nice crunch throughout the cake, but the flavour profile is not too wacky, now that there’s hazelnut meal in the mix. I added some extra cinnamon in the topping, and ginger to the actual cake, as both these spices have anti-inflammatory properties, and they’re warming and tasty.
I also switched up the butter for coconut oil (fights bacteria and viruses, as well as lowering cholesterol) and the white sugar for coconut sugar (very low on the glycemic index and rich in minerals and B-vitamins).
The result was un-be-liev-able–I actually prefer this version to the original, with its warm, hazelnut flavour and the vanilla-like sweetness of its coconut sugar. The texture is identical: soft and moist with a good crumb. And while the cake is not low-cal by any means, it’s much better for you in its new incarnation.
If you’d like to share your healthy eating resolutions, I invite you to submit them on our monthly contest page. You could win a Ronco food dehydrator–an amazing tool for preserving your favourite fruits and veggies, to make things like trail mix, raw crackers and fruit leathers.
Happy New Year and good luck!
Banana-Date Hazelnut Cake
(Gluten-, dairy- and refined sugar-free)
3/4 cup hazelnut meal (grind nuts in food processor or buy pre-ground)
3/4 cup all-purpose gluten-free baking flour
3/4 tsp Xanthan gum
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3 medium bananas, very ripe
2 large eggs
1 & 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp coconut sugar
1/2 cup hazelnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
1 3/4 cups dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 medium banana
2 tbsp coconut sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease loaf pan with coconut oil.
2. In a mixing bowl combine hazelnut meal, gluten-free all-purpose baking flour, Xanthan gum, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder and baking soda; stir to mix well. Set aside.
3. In a second mixing bowl, place peeled bananas then mash with a fork until you have a chunky puree. Add the eggs, vanilla and salt, stir to mix well. Set aside.
4. In a third mixing bowl, beat coconut oil until light and creamy. Slowly add coconut sugar and beat until fluffy. Scrape down sides of bowl with a spatula and slowly add banana mix; beat until incorporated.
5. Using rubber spatula, fold in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chopped hazelnuts and dates. Scrape down sides of bowl and mix again, making sure all the ingredients are incorporated.
6. Transfer the batter to prepared loaf pan and smooth surface with spatula. To top cake, peel banana and cut in half lengthwise to yield four long slices. Lay slices on top of batter. Combine 2 tbsp coconut sugar and cinnamon then sprinkle on top.
7. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 1 hour. let cool in pan on a wire rack, about 20 minutes, then invert cake onto rack, and turn right side up to finish cooling. Serve at room temperature.