planning dessert

Valentine’s Day approaches…

I’ve never been one for holiday celebrations, but as Valentine’s Day is about making someone else happy, have a celebration we shall. Since my boyfriend and I both cooking like maniacs, that means that the celebration will be food related. Since it’s going to be food related and on Valentine’s Day, I might as well make something that he’ll really like. And there are nine days between now and then during which I need to figure out how to make whatever it is.

I used to make things for other people, even if I couldn’t eat them.

But part of cooking, baking, and creating food is tasting. One of the hardest things is creating something and not being able to taste it, but instead watch others enjoy it, wondering if it’s really any good. And there are some things that cannot be made without tasting, like frosting or soup. Tasting is inevitable, even if it leads, quite predictably, to misery. Besides, why should you put in so much time and effort if you can’t enjoy the fruits of your labor? If you can’t eat something, don’t make it. If you’re serving picky eaters that won’t touch anything labeled ‘gluten-free’ or ‘vegan’ or ‘grain-free’, etc because some of the ingredients are a little strange, just don’t tell them what they’re eating until after they’ve eaten it. Chances are they won’t miss the eggs, dairy, gluten, or whatever else you replace. They’ll simply enjoy what you’ve served, and perhaps will be more open to interesting food the next time around.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t test things out before serving them.

While cooking is much more straightforward, baking with food restrictions can be quite challenging to get right, especially if alternative flours are involved. White flour has literally no flavor, but fava, amaranth, and other alternative flours all add distinct flavors to a baked good. Getting the flavoring right is, quite literally, a balancing act. That’s why food blogs are nice, because we’ve already done all of the balancing and tweaking for you!

Anyways, we were talking about planning for Valentine’s Day. I’ve got the main dish figured out (stay tuned), but dessert is, as per usual, a struggle. Thank goodness we’re on break; more time to experiment with this Blackberry Upside-Down Cake Recipe. I’ve now made five cakes, and this recipe below seemed to be the most popular, although they all got good reviews. Maybe my tasters are just pushovers though.

BLACKBERRY UPSIDE DOWN CAKE(vegan, gluten-free, and can be made grain-free)

  • 1 1/2 cups blackberry (fresh if possible — any berry can be substituted)
  • 1 cup sugar, divided into halfs
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 6 TBSP Smart Balance Soy-Free spread
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Another 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Another 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar (Braggs is my favorite)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 1/4 cups flour This can be gluten-free: 1/2 cup sorghum, 1/4 cup each amaranth, fava, and tapioca
    This can be grain-free: 3/4 cup blanched almond flour, 1/4 cup each fava and tapioca

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line the bottom of an 8″ cake pan with parchment paper. Mix 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1 tsp allspice. Pour the mixture in the pan and spread evenly. Then pour the berries on top, making sure they form a flat layer.

In a bowl, whip the Smart Balance with the second 1/2 cup sugar, or until light and fluffy (use a stand mixer if you have one). Then add the applesauce and vanilla and stir until it’s totally blended.

In another bowl, add the flours of your choice along with the baking soda, salt, and remaining cinnamon and allspice. Whisk it together.

Alternate adding the flour mixture and the almond milk to the applesauce, sugar, and smart balance. The batter that forms should be fairly dense and sticky. Add the apple cider vinegar and mix it in completely.

Pour the batter on top of the fruit and spread evenly over the top until it is flat and all of the fruit is covered. Then pop it in the oven until golden brown (it might look a little darker than that though) and a toothpick comes out clean. Mine took about 50 minutes.

Pull it out of the oven and run a knife around the edge. Let the cake cool for 20 minutes or so before running the knife around again and inverting it onto a plate. Then share and enjoy!

I didn’t manage to get a good picture of any of my test cakes before they were eaten! If you have one, share it!

NOTE: You could probably substitute coconut oil for the Smart Balance. I’m allergic to coconut, which is why I did not.


One thought on “planning dessert

  1. This dessert sounds wonderful. And I agree – there’s no call for making/baking/offering food to eat that you cannot share. That is part of the celebratory pleasure.

    If you are experimenting with different flours, you might find success with baking by weight. The variety of grain (and not-grain) flours and starch vary widely in density, which affects your final result a lot. Substituting by weight takes some of the guesswork out of it. I use this one and like it a lot.

    I’m so happy to see you being bold and creative, and feeding yourself (and others) with pleasure.

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