When I started writing on this site in 2005 (I am not! going! to count how many years ago that was!) I chronicled dinner parties and simple recipes I came up with. When I started really cooking, back in 2000, in the fifth-floor apartment in Washington, DC, I shared with a friend for a year, I also cooked pretty simply -- salmon steaks pan-fried in olive oil, salt and pepper, a sort of spinach alfredo with a splash of whole milk to make it creamy but not too rich, omelettes with mashed potatoes, lots of fresh, vegetable-forward dishes. I still do cook like this and now the whole foods philosophy is transferring into my baking as well. There are so many great, solid recipes on this site and in my cookbook that I've developed or used, and that I'm proud of! But a lot of them call for a lot of sugar, and in this new season of my life I'm starting to navigate away from processed sugars. Once in a while, as a little treat - sure. But in my home kitchen I'm trying to lean on maple syrup, fruit, or coconut sugar (sparingly), when I bake.
So when I redesign this site in the new year, I'm planning to focus on whole food, gluten and refined-sugar-free recipes that might be a bit better for you -- and best of all, you won't experience a sugar crash after having a slice of cake sweetened with maple syrup! Maple syrup is my natural sweetener of choice, because it's quite sweet, which means you can reduce the overall amount of sweetener called for in a recipe. Dates, too, make a wonderful substitute; as I work on developing some new recipes I'm focusing on choosing the right natural sweetener to fit the dish. For example, I love maple syrup in a chocolate cake; the combination of maple and chocolate tastes better to my palate than chocolate and honey. And ate paste is a lovely flavor complement in banana muffins or hearty cakes.
I'm also learning that we can adapt to less -- as you gradually reduce the amount of sugar in your diet you will crave less of it, meaning that when you do have a sweet treat it doesn't have to be as sweet as perhaps you used to like. Why skip sugar? For me, I find that the less sugar I consume, the better I feel. Sugar has inflammatory properties and is harmful to cardiovascular health, according to Harvard Medical School. We all know we should consume less added, processed sugar, but of course, it's so hard! Sugar is delicious! More to the point, I find that I don't feel great after eating too much sugar so I'm working on cutting it out.
Still, I love to bake and I love chocolate cake. Today I'm sharing a recipe that was so lovely I couldn't wait to post it here -- a dark chocolate cake sweetened with maple syrup and topped with a fluffy peanut butter frosting that is also sweetened with maple syrup. I was in a bit of a rush so I used butter and peanut butter to make a traditional buttercream but I have a feeling I'll come back to this recipe at some point to update it. I'd like to try for a dairy-free frosting using peanut butter as the base for the frosting if I can get it airy enough.
My goal with this style of baking, as it is with all of my cooking and recipes, is to keep things simple and whole foods focused. I look forward to sharing this new journey with you!
Til next time – N x
[print_this]Almond Flour Chocolate Cake, adapted from Detoxinista.com
I kept close to the original recipe, but lowered the amount of maple syrup called for. The frosting is a lovely, just-sweet-enough touch that brings together two of my favorite flavors: chocolate and peanut butter.
Makes 8 servings.
blanched almond flower
(plus a few tablespoons if wished) maple syrup
pure vanilla extract
Heat the oven to 350ºF and lightly grease an 8-inch cake pan with olive oil and line pan with a circle of parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, maple syrup, eggs, vanilla, and olive oil. Use a whisk to mix until smooth, breaking up any clumps.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, place in the oven, and until the center feels relatively firm to a light touch, about 35 minutes. Check after 30 minutes to make sugar the cake doesn't over bake.
Remove from oven, place on a rack, and let the cake cool completely before frosting. I covered the cake in foil and kept it overnight in the fridge before making the frosting. (I often do this with cakes because I like to frost when the cake has firmed up.)
Peanut Butter Frosting
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup (or a bit more) natural, fresh ground peanut butter
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2-3 tablespoon maple syrup
In a large bowl with a handheld mixer, cream the butter. Add the peanut butter and salt and whip until smooth and fluffy. Add two tablespoons of maple syrup and whip to combine. Taste, then add more maple syrup if wished.
Frost the top of cake with the frosting. [/print_this]
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