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Spelt-Honey Cake: For Now (or Later)

One aspect of international living is the last minute cramming into your suitcase all and sundry items you wish to take back home with you to your country of residence, especially the stuff you can’t buy there (for example: vanilla extract). This most recent voyage was characterized by a frantic reshuffling at the United ticket counter because a few bags were over weight while a few were under (yet, still packed). My husband’s childhood home was sold this summer so he had not a few nostalgic pieces to bring with him, including old baseball cards, hand-knitted sweaters, and the most precious thing of all: Point Reyes honey from the bee hives on his parents’ former property and long tended by a family friend. I am not exaggerating when I say we consider that honey akin to liquid gold, and as a major West Marin chapter of life closes (for now) it has helped to soothe the loss a bit. I’m so glad we managed to bring home two very large jars.

Lest I hoard it and it crystallizes I’m thus attempting to use it up in a reasonable manner, stirring honey into batches of seedy granola, drizzling it into tea, folding it into banana bread loaves and shellacking their tops with an additional smear before they slide into the oven. And, of course, a honey cake is another perfectly lovely way to showcase a delicious year’s harvest.

Sierra turns two on Wednesday and I can’t really belabor that point too much except to mention that throughout the past 24 months I’ve learned that most parenting cliches – especially the ones about time moving at warp speed – are mostly true. I’ve also learned that there is no way to predict how the heart can expand to encompass another tiny human. And being in the moment – well, let’s just say that’s been my saving grace, and what’s allowed me to fully appreciate these waning days of her babyhood. I can hardly believe how many words she carries in her mind or how articulate she’s becoming or how sturdily she marches to and fro. Our day-to-day life may be a bit repetitive here in the desert but we definitely have fun.

For her birthday I’m going to bake this honey cake because it’s simple, wholesome, and oh-so tasty. When topped with a lightly sweetened cream cheese frosting it will make a worthy celebration cake. We’ll have blueberry pancakes in the morning and go for a swim; after her nap we’ll probably swim again, eat cake, and order pizza for dinner. Or maybe we’ll just have cake for dinner. The spelt flour and no refined sugar in the ingredients list makes me feel like this would be OK — anyway, it’s a birthday! Birthdays are special. I’d eat this as we’re poised at the beginning of fall; I’d eat it later in the season and during winter, too. It’s perfect for wherever you find yourself right now.

Happiest of next years, little one.

[print_this]Spelt-Honey Cake, adapted from The Joy of Cooking

I don’t have a specific gluten-free flour recommendation for this one, but I imagine if you use your favorite g-f flour blend it would turn out just fine. Or whisk together 1 cup oat flour, 1/2 cup sweet white rice flour, and 1/2 cup buckwheat flour + a teaspoon of ground flax seeds and see how that goes.

Makes 10 servings.

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup spelt flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup cool strong tea
1/2 cup sliced almonds (optional)

Heat oven to 350 F and grease a 9×9-inch square pan with coconut oil.

In a large bowl, whisk together the coconut oil and maple syrup until well combined. Whisk in the applesauce and apple cider vinegar.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the spelt and whole wheat pastry flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the applesauce mixture alternately in three parts with the honey and the tea. Stir batter very well to combine.

Pour into the prepared pan, sprinkle with sliced almonds if using, and place in the oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cake cool in pan about 20 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely (or just leave in pan and cut and serve directly).[/print_this]

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