When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Nutty banana chocolate birthday cake (gluten, dairy, and egg free)

For years now, Matt and I have jokingly referred to the period of time between mid-August and mid-September as "the season of cake".  Three of the four birthdays in our little family fall within this time period, and because I believe each birthday person deserves to have a favourite treat baked just for him or her to celebrate, it happens that we eat a lot of cake during that month.  When we made significant changes to our family's diet to accommodate my and Will's newly discovered food sensitivities, at first I wondered how on earth I was going to continue our "season of cake" tradition without using wheat flour, or milk, or eggs, or refined white sugar (which are pretty much the main ingredients of most homemade cakes).  Thankfully, some research uncovered many promising sounding recipes for special occasion cakes that didn't use any of those ingredients, and with a sense of adventure and a bit of experimenting, I've learned to easily bake delicious birthday cakes that our whole family can enjoy.  The added bonus of needing to change the way I bake cakes is that the ones I make these days have less sweetener and more nutritious ingredients than the white flour based cakes I used to make, so we can feel a little better about our indulgences this time of year!

Yesterday was Matt's birthday, and to celebrate, I baked this moist and flavourful nutty banana chocolate cake, a slightly modified version of a cake in Elana Amsterdam's The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook.  (If you're looking for other good cake recipes, as well as delicious ideas for frostings, I highly recommend Elana's cookbooks as well as her website.)

Nutty Banana Chocolate Birthday Cake

For the cake:

3 cups blanched almond flour
3 tbsp arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup agave nectar
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup very ripe bananas (approximately 2-3 bananas), mashed

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Grease a bundt pan with grapeseed oil.
In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, arrowroot powder, salt, and baking soda.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the grapeseed oil, agave nectar, water, and vanilla extract.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well combined.  Fold in the mashed bananas.  Scoop the batter into the prepared cake pan.
Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.  Let the cake cool, then remove it from the pan and place it on a cake plate.

For the chocolate topping (This was my own creation!):

1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate (I use Endangered Species Supreme Dark Chocolate, which is 72% cocoa)
1/4 cup natural almond butter

Melt the chopped dark chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the almond butter.  Immediately spoon the melted chocolate and almond butter topping over the top of the cake, using the back of the spoon to smooth the mixture out and encourage it to drip down the sides of the cake.  To serve, add candles and a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday to You", then slice the cake, place the pieces on plates, and add a little scoop of Vanilla Coconut Bliss for each person. 

I have often used this same recipe to make cupcakes for Will's birthday, or to send with Will when he is invited to a friend's party and needs a treat that will be safe for him to eat.  To make cupcakes, line a muffin tin with paper cups before pouring in the batter, and reduce the baking time to approximately 30 minutes. (Again, test with a toothpick to see if they're done.)

Seeing the smiles of appreciation on the faces of everyone who eats this cake, whether they have food sensitivities or not, suggests that it definitely makes birthdays happy!  I know it makes me happy to be able to keep baking cakes to show the ones I love I think they're really special.

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