Chocolate cake…..without the guilt!

My sister introduced me to The Unrefined Kitchen when she made their refined sugar-free, gluten-free chocolate cake for my niece’s 2nd birthday. It was scrumptious, so much so that I made one myself this weekend! As this chocolate cake is sweetened with honey and has no refined sugar in it, perhaps it should be renamed the “Eat-As-Much-As-You-Like-Without-Feeling-Guilty Chocolate Cake”. 😉

For the cake recipe and many more delicious recipes, click here to go to the Unrefined Kitchen.

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The best apple cake you will ever taste

Okay, maybe the title of this post is a little hyperbolic, but the apple cake recipe I am about to show you definitely merits recognition!

My young nieces go to a kindergarten which is run along the lines of the Waldorf philosophy of education developed by Rudolf Steiner in the early 1920s (if you’re interested, you can read more about Waldorf education by clicking here).

Waldorf has German and Austrian origins and many of the recipes that the schools use are traditional German recipes. The cakes are excellent — wholesome but incredibly tasty. I have long wanted to visit Austria just so I can sample the amazing kuchen and torten! The preschool/kindergarten, teacher recently gave my sister this recipe and she passed it along to me. It’s a perfect recipe if you have apples in abundance — simple, quick to make and delicious with a cup of coffee.

GERMAN APPLE CAKE

Ingredients

270 g butter or margarine
180 g brown sugar
5 medium eggs
270 g flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
3 – 4 peeled cooking apples, either sliced in small cubes or thin slices.
80 g raisins or sultanas

Method

1. Preheat your oven to 350F (180C). If you’re using a convection oven, you may need to slightly reduce the temperature.
2. Mix the butter/margarine and sugar until it is well blended. Gradually add the beaten eggs and continue to mix together.
3. Prepare the apples by peeling, coring and finely slicing them. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, sultanas/raisins and apples. Mix together.
4. Line a square or oblong baking dish with baking parchment/greaseproof paper. Pour your cake mixture into the dish and level it with a spoon.
5. Bake for around 45 minutes. You might need to reduce the temperature slightly during the last 10 – 15 minutes of cooking to ensure the top does not brown too much.
6. The cake is done when you can insert a knife into it and it comes out clean. Cut into squares and enjoy!

A blogging milestone

This post marks the 100th post and the third blogging milestone for Cultural Life, after my first ‘blogiversary’ in June 2012 and the delightful surprise of being Freshly Pressed in February this year!

All milestones should have cake or some form of dessert. 😉 And so I celebrated my 100th blog post by baking this apple streusel cake:

As a Brit, I was initially confused by the name of this particular cake. If you say “coffee cake” the image that springs to the minds of most Brits is something like this: Nigella’s coffee and walnut layer cake. In England, coffee cake has coffee in it. It’s always interesting to learn how cooking and baking terminology varies on each side of the pond.

Linguistic differences aside, this apple streusel coffee cake turned out to be very delicious indeed, despite the fact that I unintentionally ignored the instructions to bake in a baking dish and not in a round cake pan. Hence, the flatness of my cake!

Recipe text from this page reproduced with kind permission from Mama’s Gotta Bake. Do check out her lovely blog….your mouth will water!

Apple Streusel Coffee Cake

Adapted from Gale Gand’s Brunch!

The Cake

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 apples, peeled and cored, and chopped (I like to use a tart Granny Smith apple)
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

Streusel Topping

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut up
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a pastry brush and melted butter, grease an 8-inch baking dish.

2. For the cake, sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or I used an electric hand-mixer) beat the egg and then mix in the milk and melted butter. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until everything is incorporated. Add the apples and walnuts to the mixture and pour into the baking dish.

3. To make the streusel topping, mix the sugar, flour, cold butter and cinnamon in a medium bowl by pinching them together with your fingers until combined. Spoon the mixture over the top of the batter.

4. Place the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden, and when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan, and then cut into squares.

Blog challenge #11: Canada

Flag of Canada

Long time, no blog. Sorry for the absence. My life is currently very busy and very stressful. But this afternoon, I took a little respite to do one of my favorite things: baking. And blogging about baking. Achieving two of my favorite things in one afternoon? Way to go!

When I think of Canadian food, I think of maple syrup. After all, the maple leaf is the iconic symbol on Canada’s flag and according to this maple syrup industry facts sheet on the website of the Ontario Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (linked here), Canada is the largest producer of maple syrup in the world.

Maple Syrup Season by Charles Rondeau

You are in for a treat with the following recipe: Maple Crisp Pie. Doesn’t just the name make your mouth water? Anything with maple syrup is appealing to me…I could drink that nectar straight out the bottle. The combination of apple, cinnamon and maple syrup in this recipe is heavenly. I served it with plain yogurt and it was delicious!

Recipe source: Food Network Canada (link for Maple Crisp Pie at Food Network Canada. Recipe courtesy of Anna Olson)

Maple Crisp Pie

Ingredients
Dough

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Filling
5 Mutsu (Crispin) or Granny Smith apples
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg, mixed with 2 tbsp cold water, for brushing

To Assemble

Directions
Dough

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Combine flour, oats, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter the texture of coarse meal. Stir sour cream and maple syrup and add to dough, mixing until it just comes together. Chill dough for 15 minutes.
Filling
Peel and slice apples. Toss with maple syrup and cinnamon.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Slide dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place apples and all the syrup into the center of the pastry. Dot with butter.
To Assemble
Fold crust over apples in 5 folds, leaving some of the filling visible. Brush with egg wash and bake for 30-40 minutes, until crust is brown and filling is bubbling.

Have a wonderful weekend! Do you have any baking suggestions you think I should try (with or without maple syrup)? Leave a comment and let me know. 🙂

Blog challenge recipe #10: American brownies

As you all know, yesterday was the Fourth of July — Independence Day — and so it seemed appropriate for #10 of my blog challenge recipes to have a U.S. theme.

US flag. Source: Wikipedia

Brownies were invented in the US; for the history of the brownie, check out ‘The History of the Brownie at The Nibble. I always thought cheesecake originated from the US too but I read that it was actually first invented in Ancient Greece. However, I think cheesecake recipes have changed just a bit in the 2500 years since Ancient Greece! If you want to read more about the invention and history of cheesecake, this page at What’s Cooking America is very informative.

New York cheesecake is a classic US specialty and it is my favorite type of cheesecake. Deliciously creamy with a hint of vanilla is how I like mine. I also love brownies. A good chocolate brownie should have a fudgy texture, firm yet scrumptiously gooey inside. Combining brownies and cheesecake in one recipe sounds too good to be true. But you can never have too much of a good thing, right?

Cheesecake Swirled Brownies
(recipe source: this page at Frugal Feeding. All credit for this recipe belongs to Frugal Feeding)

Makes 10-16

Ingredients:

• 100g salted butter

• 40g cocoa powder, as dark as possible

• 50g dark chocolate

• 2 medium eggs

• 225g light muscovado sugar

• 50g self-raising flour

• 200g cream cheese

• 1 egg yolk

Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C and grease a suitable baking tray. Melt the butter gently in a pan on the stove, to this whisk in the cocoa powder. Once added, combine this with the chocolate in small chunks until it has all melted together. In a mixing bowl, while the chocolate is melting, whisk together the eggs and sugar using a hand mixer.

2. Add the egg mixture to the chocolate in the saucepan and mix thoroughly. Gently fold in the flour and pour the brownie batter into the lined baking tray.

3. Beat together the cream cheese and egg yolk. Dot this mixture around the brownie mixture and swirl in with a thin knife. Bake for 25 minutes and not a moment longer, they need to have a hard shell on the outside and be very gooey on the inside.

Swirly brownie mixture

4. Leave the brownies to cool a little before turning them out. Pop them in the freezer for a little while before chopping.

The finished goods! Delicious, velvety and very, very moreish.

A culinary weekend

I spent a lot of time in the kitchen this weekend, making Italian-style pasta sauce for my eighth blog challenge recipe and traditional English barley and berry pudding for my nineth.

As well as these two scrumptious recipes, I made falafel using this recipe from Nade in the Kitchen. Nadine (aka Nade) has a fabulous food blog which I highly recommend.

And on Sunday, while the pudding was baking in the oven, I popped a loaf of bread in to bake too. For the results, see the photo below!

Tasty, golden, delicious bread — mmm!

What did you cook or bake this past weekend?

Blog challenge recipe #9: traditional English pudding

Every country has its own varieties of sweet treats and tasty desserts but baked (and on occasion, steamed) puddings are a particularly English specialty: roly-poly pudding, Christmas pudding, bread and butter pudding, bread pudding, Bakewell pudding…

The English flag

I was recently browsing The Guardian website for new recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall — I’ve introduced you to him before in my posts A cookbook review and a recipe too, Blog challenge #5: nettle soup and Beetroot and walnut hummus. He is a frequent contributor to their website and I enjoy cooking many of his recipes.

Anyhow, I digress… while I was browsing, I found this: a barley and berry pudding recipe. Since the recipe is a simple and traditionally English baked pudding, I thought it would be perfect for my blog challenge recipe number nine. And on Sunday, I made it for dessert. The verdict: delicious!

A slice of barley and berry pudding

I made a few changes to the recipe, however:

1. I used brown sugar, not granulated.
2. Also, I drastically reduced the amount of sugar from 1 cup (200 grams) to slightly less than half a cup (75 grams) because I really don’t think the pudding needs that amount of sugar. It would have been too sweet for me if I had used 1 cup of sugar.
3. I added 2 tbsp honey to the batter.
4. I cooked the pearl barley for a lot longer than the recipe states: at least 1 hour. The barley was still slightly firm even after I had cooked it for an hour. I recommend you follow the cooking instructions on the pack.

I tried eating it both warm and cold but it definitely needs to be served warm. I recommend serving with yogurt or cream.

By the way, the recipe does use UK measures so if you don’t have a digital scale, you’ll need to use a measurement converter — this one at Gourmet Sleuth is helpful. But don’t worry if your measurements aren’t exact; I often adjust quantities of ingredients and most all of my cooking is successful!

Blog challenge recipe #7: Valencia orange cake

It has been way too long since my last Blog Challenge post. Here is numéro siete. This time, I chose a recipe from Spain.

National flag of Spain

Spanish food is amazing and I love tapas dishes but I don’t have much experience with Spanish desserts. So, this past weekend, I did a little research and discovered that orange cake is a popular Spanish treat. And because orange cake sounds so delicious, I baked one using the recipe below. The cake is delicious, full of flavor, with a very rich taste. Here it is!

A slice of Valencia orange cake

Thank you very much to Erica at Comfy Belly for giving me permission to reproduce the recipe text here. I recommend checking out her site (linked above)! I found it when I was searching for an orange cake recipe and will definitely be returning frequently for culinary inspiration and healthy new recipes.

Valencia Orange Cake
(recipe source here)

Ingredients

2 organic Valencia oranges
4 eggs
1 cup of honey
2 cups of blanched almond flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

Method

1. Place two whole organic Valencia oranges in a pot with enough water to cover them. Add a tightly sealed lid. The oranges will float, but they should be mostly covered. Simmer them in the pot for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. When you can easily glide a toothpick or fork through them, they are ready. You can add water to them while they are cooking, if necessary.
2. Cool the oranges for a few minutes, slice them into wedges and remove any pits or inedible parts (like the nub where the stem was).
3. Process the oranges until you have a smooth, orange paste without lumps.
4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. (I bake using a convection oven setting, so I place the temperature at 300 degrees F).
5. To get a slightly lighter cake, separate the egg yolks and egg whites, and then whip the egg whites separately until stiff peaks form.
6. In a bowl, beat eggs (or egg yolks if separated) until well blended, and then beat in the honey and dry ingredients (baking soda, salt, and almond flour).
7. Fold in the almond flour and orange paste into the egg and honey mixture and blend well.
8. If you whipped the egg whites separately, here is where you want to fold the egg whites into the rest of the batter.
9. Use a spring form pan or a well buttered baking pan. Butter or oil the
bottom of the spring form pan. No need to butter the sides of the
spring form pan.
10. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Make sure to bake it thoroughly, especially in the center, or it may settle when it cools. Even if it settles, it still tastes wonderful.
11. Enjoy!

Recipe: damson plum crumble cake

DAMSON PLUM CRUMBLE CAKE RECIPE

I wasn’t sure what to make with damson plums (apart from jam) but I improvised and made up a recipe for damson plum crumble cake this weekend.

This was the first time I made up my own recipe for a cake so I was slightly apprehensive about how it would turn out but it resulted in an absolutely delicious, moist, sweet cake.

INGREDIENTS:

500 grams damson plums (if you can’t source damsons, use a different type of plum, preferably purple-skinned plums)

100 grams butter

100 grams sugar (brown unrefined)

3 eggs

200 grams flour (I used white spelt flour but standard all-purpose flour would be fine)

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

2-3 tbsp milk

CRUMBLE TOPPING INGREDIENTS:

30 grams sugar

30 grams butter

56 grams flour

METHOD:

1: Wash the plums thoroughly and cut them in half, carefully removing all the stones.

Chopped damsons

2: Cream the butter and sugar together until they are thoroughly mixed and are light and fluffy. It helps if you remove the butter from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you intend to use it as otherwise you’ll find that mixing it with the sugar is an arduous chore (good for the arm muscles though!)

Starting to mix the butter and sugar

3: Beat the eggs and gradually add them to the butter and sugar mix a little at a time, stirring thoroughly until they are mixed well.

4: In a separate bowl, stir the flour, cinnamon and baking powder together. Make a well in the center of the flour and gradually fold in the cake batter you have ready.

5: Add a splash of milk and stir (just a small amount; I didn’t bother measuring but it’s probably approx. 2-3 tablespoons)

6: Add approx. half of the plums into the cake batter and mix thoroughly. Pour into the prepared cake tin and level the top of the cake with a spoon.

7: Press the remaining damsons into the top of the cake.

8: Make the crumble topping by mixing together the flour and sugar. Add the butter and use your fingers to rub it into the flour.

9: Sprinkle the crumble topping over the cake and bake in a pre-heated oven for approx. 60 minutes. I baked it at 160 C/320 F but your oven may differ as convection oven temperatures have to be slightly reduced. There are varying schools of thought in terms of how much temperatures should be reduced but I have always been told to reduce the temperature by about 20 degrees. so if you are baking this in a standard oven, you should bake it at 180 C/340 F as you will need to raise the temperature by 20 degrees. As every oven varies, make sure you check the cake from time to time while it is cooking and reduce or increase the cooking time if necessary. You can tell when the cake is cooked by inserting a knife into the middle. If it comes out relatively clean, the cake is ready.

10: Enjoy your cake! It is delicious served with fresh strawberries, raspberries and crème fraîche. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment on this post.

My damson plum crumble cake!