September 16, 2013

Yellow Birthday Cake (AKA Coconut Honeycomb Cake) - GFCF/Paleo

In our continued efforts to change to more of a gut-healing diet, I have recently forayed into the Paleo diet. Invented by a local Fort Collins professor, Loren Cordain, the diet is supposed to mimic the food selections of our ancestors going back thousands, or even tens of thousands, of years. So obviously anything processed or genetically modified is out. But Cordain also kicks grains to the curb (mostly, from what I can tell, because people generally eat grains in the form of highly processed foods).

My sister, Karen, and Nathan both had birthdays last week. When we got together to celebrate as a family, I wanted to have a cake that both of them could eat. (My sister has been on a modified diet for awhile now and Nathan started a Gluten Free / Casein Free diet in early July.) So I checked a book out from the library entitled, Paleo Desserts, by Jane Barthelemy. I settled on the Yellow Birthday Cake, p 31, but I made a few modifications.

Barthelemy relies pretty heavily on a sweetener called Just Like Sugar Table Top. (I believe that's as opposed to Just Like Sugar Baking.) She likes that it's a zero-calorie, zero-carb granulated sweetener that works just like regular sugar. Just Like Sugar is made out of chicory root fiber, also called inulin. But the more I researched inulin, the more I decided it wasn't what we were looking for in our diet. Although Barthelemy listed 6 points that she claims are in inulin's favor (high in fiber, zero calories/sugar/fat/carbs/protein/etc, doesn't promote tooth decay, prebiotic, controls blood sugar levels, gluten-free/dairy-free/etc), I found stories online of people who ended up with digestive problems due to inulin. Studies have also shown that though inulin does feed some good bacteria, it also feeds some bad bacteria and can promote leaky gut syndrome. That's all I needed to hear and I decided to try something else. I explored xylitol and stevia and finally settled on using honey and some stevia in the cake/icing/jam.

I'm going to reproduce Barthelemy's original recipe here first. Then I'm going to follow that with a description of the changes I made. Because the cake is made using a lot of coconut and, in my version, it also included honey, and because it had a honeycomb look and texture once it was cooked, I've named my version the Coconut Honeycomb Cake.

Coconut Icing 
(called 5-Minute Whipped Créme Topping in the book)

2 cups Unsweetened coconut milk, as thick as possible (See my comments on this at the end.)
3 tablespoons Coconut oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla extract
6 tablespoons Just Like Sugar Table Top sweetener (not Baking)
2 1/4 tablespoons Agar flakes
3/4 cup Unsweetened coconut milk, to cook the agar

1. Have ready all the ingredients at room temperature.
2. Blend the thick coconut milk, coconut oil, vanilla, and sweetener in any style blender until smooth.
3. In a shallow nonstick pan over medium heat, stir the agar into the additional coconut milk. Cook and stir gently for 2 to 3 minutes until bubbling and gummy, and the flakes begin to dissolve. Add the agar mixture to the blender immediately and blend well until it is completely liquefied and any lumps are removed.
4. Pour into a bowl and chill for 2 to 3 hours, or until thick. Then keep it out at room temperature if you're using it today. If you're making it ahead of time, this will keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, but allow 4 hours to soften at room temperature before using.

Raspberry "Jam"

1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1/2 to 3/4 cup Just Like Sugar Table Top sweetener. (She says she doesn't recommend any other sweetener for this recipe, but I found that honey and stevia worked just fine.)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
1 tablespoon agar flakes
3 tablespoons filtered water, to cook agar

1. Press the raspberries to drain all the excess liquid. Especially if the raspberries are frozen, it is important to drain out as much liquid as possible.
2. Place the raspberries, sweetener, vanilla, and lemon juice in any style blender. Liquify completely.
3. If you choose to strain out the raspberry seeds, pour the mixture into a medium-gauge strainer over a mixing bowl. Stir with a rubber spatula, tapping the strainer until all pulp passes through. Pour the strained raspberries back into the blender. Sweeten to taste.
4. In a small pan over medium heat, stir the agar into the water. Cook and stir gently for 2 to 3 minutes until it is bubbly and gummy and the flakes being to dissolve. Add the agar mixture to the blender immediately and blend well to remove any lumps.
5. Pour the mixture into a small bowl and chill for 1 hour to thicken. Spread it on cakes, cookies... all right -- it tastes great on everything!

Yellow Birthday Cake (AKA Coconut Honeycomb Cake)

5-Minute Whipped Creme Topping (see above)
Raspberry "Jam" (see above
1 1/4 cups Just Like Sugar Table Top sweetener
1 1/4 cups medium-shredded unsweetened coconut flakes (not coconut flour)
1/4 cup arrowroot powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon unprocessed salt
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast (optional)
6 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup thick unsweetened coconut milk, or 1/4 cup thin unsweetened coconut or raspberries, for garnish

1. Prepare the whipped creme chill.
2. Prepare the raspberry jam and chill.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut parchment paper into circles to line either two 8-inch round cake pans or two 8 by 11-inch tart pans.
4. In a dry food processor fitted with the "S" blade, grind the sweetener to a very fine powder.
5. Add the shredded coconut to the sweetener in the food processor. Spin it for a minute to become a very fine powder. Open the lid, stir the bottom, replace the lid, and grind again until the powder is uniformly fine.
6. To the ingredients in the food processor, add the arrowroot, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and nutritional yeast (if using). Mix well, pour into a large mixing bowl and set aside.
7. Place in teh empty food processor the egg yolks, vanilla, almond extract, and coconut milk. Mix well and then let the mixture sit while you beat the egg whites.
8. With an electric mixer in a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat the egg whites at medium speed until foamy. Gradually increase the mixer speed until soft peaks form. Do not beat until dry.
9. Pour the wet ingredients from the food processor into the dry mixture. Stir the batter briefly and thoroughly.
10. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter in three parts.
11. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and spread it out flat. Bake for 23 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Don't peek or the cake may fall. Check on it after 20 minutes, as the cake can easily dry out. Let cool for about 30 minutes in the pan on a rack.
12. Place one cake layer on a serving plate. Tuck a few strips of parchment paper under the edges to keep the plate clean while you frost it. Spread it generously with half of the whipped creme, and then cover it with all of the raspberry jam. Place the second cake layer on top. Spread with the remaining whipped creme and leave the sides unfrosted so the jam is visible. Garnish with sprnkles of shredded coconut and/or a few raspberries, if you desire. Serve and enjoy.

Meg's Modifications

Whipped Creme Topping

For the whipped creme, instead of Just Like Sugar I used about 1/4 - 1/3 cup honey. The overall consistency of the topping was fine, even though I changed out a granulated ingredient for a wet and sticky one. However, because the recipe called for the coconut milk to be thick, I had put the can into the fridge before using it. Then no matter how much I whipped the creme, I ended up with lumps. ... *cough* But as I reread the directions right now, I realize that I used a mixer, not a blender. Perhaps I wouldn't have had a lumpy topping if I'd blended. Then again, next time I do this, I'm not going to fridge the coconut milk first. It doesn't need to be solid until AFTER the ingredients have been mixed. It can fridgitate all it wants after that point.

... I could swear that at some point I added creamed coconut. But as I look back at the recipe I don't see it there. And yet I remember seeing that it required 200grams and that's exactly the amount in a box of creamed coconut. So now I don't know what happened. But my topping had cremed coconut in it in addition to coconut milk.

Raspberry Jam

Honestly, raspberries? Straining out seeds? Next time I'm going with strawberry jam. Raspberries are too much of a pain in the keister. Despite the directions stating that no other sweetener would work, a 1/3 cup honey and a teaspoon of stevia worked out just fine.

Coconut Honeycomb Cake

I don't really like the texture of coconut flakes. So when I food processed the coconut flakes and they didn't turn entirely into the powder I had hoped for, I was kind of disappointed. And when the cake still had a bit of coconut flake texture, I decided that next time, despite Barthelemy's note to the contrary, I'm going to try making this with coconut flour.

I also replaced the Just Like Sugar here with honey and a bit of stevia. Unfortunately, by this time I was so tired of cooking and cutting parchment and separating eggs that I forgot to make a note of how much honey and stevia I used. I know I used a lot less than she calls for in terms of Just Like Sugar. I'll have to pay more attention to this the next time I make the cake.

The finished product tasted a bit like a thick sponge of crepe dough with coconut frosting. It was very light and springy. I hope to make it again soon, with some of the noted modifications, and see if I can make something I like even better. I also hope to buy two cake pans before then. Much to my surprise I discovered that I had only one usable cake pan, and it was already in use, so I made this cake using a tart pan and a pie pan, both of different sizes, which gave my cake a squashed appearance. :-P