Recipe, photography and styling by Tanya Zouev.
It’s ironic that the same time in my life I decided to go cold turkey on sugar was exactly the time I started to get really good at baking. Back in 2006, just after I found out about my various food allergies, I set about the task of learning how to bake gluten-free. As a result I spent many hours transforming conventional wheaten baked goods into their gluten-free incarnations. However I only started to really get the hang of individual properties of the myriad of gluten-free flours much later on. Subsequently I began churning out of my kitchen cake after cake, brownie after brownie, pudding after pudding (after all practice makes perfect). Then one day mid last year I realised that Ms Gluten-Free-Baker (yours truly) had turned into a big gluten-free pudding herself.
I threw a spanner in the works by quitting not only sugar but grains as well. My rapidly expanding waistline couldn’t really complain, after all it had trouble fitting into anything in my wardrobe and things were at tipping point with my health. Never one to do things by halves, I gave away what flours I could, kept the ones that weren’t made from grains and threw the rest away. This left me with a handful of flours: almond meal, coconut flour, tapioca flour and arrowroot starch. To be honest, I preferred this much simpler arrangement. With my new zen-like pantry I embraced grain-free baking and turned my sights to creating Paleo treats that were “allowed”.
Many Paleo converts will find that the first thing they do after adopting the lifestyle, is to bake up a storm. Cakes made of almond meal and honey, coconut flour pancakes, sweet potato choc chip brownies all get whipped up and eaten faster than you can say “Grok”. But all that is really happening is you’re just replacing one bad habit with another that you think is acceptable “on the plan”. It’s like the floodgates are finally open after years of trying to hold them back with a paper plate and you can actually eat cake. I have battled my own food demons over the course of my life and I understand how loaded this topic can be. It’s as if there’s a governing body of what one can and can’t eat, when in reality there’s no such thing. It’s really just about eating what’s right for your particular body type.
Cake however is “sometimes” food, even Paleo cake, and the fact is that no matter what you indulge in, you’ll always get more jiggle in your wiggle if you eat a lot of it regularly. So for that reason alone, cake has become and will stay for me an occasional treat. Instead of indulging my craving for cake each and every time I feel like it, I’m learning to create more awareness around the desire and the subsequent response. Instead of battling the sugar and grains and the ensuing weight gain, I can have a small piece of cake like this Paleo raspberry and banana cake and be satisfied with just that. In short, what I love about Paleo baking is that I can have my cake, and eat it too. Just not too much.
Makes one 22cm ring cake. Prep time: 30 mins, baking time 60 mins.
(for the cake)
3/4 cup coconut flour
3/4 cup dessicated coconut
3/4 cup shredded coconut
3/4 cup coconut oil, melted
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup mild honey
1/2 cup date paste*
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
2 very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
1 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)
* to make date paste simply place one cup of baking dates with 1/4 cup water into a heavy based saucepan. Bring to the boil, place the lid on the pan and lower the heat. Cook for ten minutes until soft and then mash the dates into a paste with a wooden spoon.
(for the icing)
1/2 cup coconut butter
zest of approximately half a lemon
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons tepid water
a few raspberries
a little extra shredded coconut for scattering over the icing
(for the cake)
1. Preheat your oven to 170˚C (approx 340˚F). Spray a 22cm ring tin thoroughly on the inside with coconut oil.
2. Place all the dry ingredients (coconut flour, dessicated coconut, shredded coconut, baking powder and 5-spice powder) into a mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
3. Place all the wet ingredients except the raspberries (eggs, coconut oil, honey, date paste and mashed banana) into separate mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
4. Combine both the dry and wet ingredients until just mixed through. Add the raspberries and fold through the batter gently.
5. Bake for one hour or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
(for the icing)
1. Combine the coconut butter with the maple syrup and lemon zest in a small bowl with a fork or whisk.
2. Add the lemon juice, at this point the icing will seize and go lumpy. Add one tablespoon of water and whisk through and the icing will start to go smooth again. If you would like the icing to be smoother add the second tablespoon of water and again whisk through.
3. Finally add the few raspberries and mix through.
4. Ice the cake and scatter over extra shredded coconut.
Photography and styling notes:
I wanted to evoke a sense of summer with a tropical mood in these images. The cake sits atop a vintage glass cake stand purchased at a flea market, and the backgrounds are salvaged timber out of hard rubbish collections, painted and treated by me. I’m very lucky to have a proliferation of frangipani trees in my area, I’m sure that heaven must smell like a frangipani flower. The only light used is window light and the camera used is a Canon 5D Mark 3 with a 100mm lens.