inward restlessness | chocolate + almond snack cake

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There are times when you do more travelling than other times. Perhaps this is obvious, but travelling isn’t always a physical state, rather a state of mind. An inherent inward restlessness, wandering thoughts. When you see something that has been there every day but is really someplace else. The earliest sprigs of white tree blossom along the highway; a smoggy stretch of road between a few Norfolk towns, but not always. They seem to exist in two separate spaces, coexistence in a chaotic internal harmony. The same skies, a pebbly gray; dense, tactile cloud; watery sunshine and a lingering dampness. But this is France, somewhere on the A10 autoroute, after Paris, perhaps direction Orléans, heading south, where the air is milder and there are more green buds on trees. 

Recently I think we have had tropical rain on our minds. The real rain, that falls in crystalline sheets from towering cloud the color of a twilight sky. Pool water. Hot rain, chubby droplets, rippling the pool’s surface and distorting your view of the tiles lining the bottom. That strange similarity of being underwater and coming up for air, only to have warm rain drops in your face. Air conditioning that felt even colder on damp skin and hair as we watched the rusted trucks of the tropics turn rubble roads into rivers of muddy rainwater.

Perhaps it is because it’s easier being anywhere other than where you really have to be. There are no real feelings, no sense of time, in that dream like state. Just glimpses of places and people both completely frozen and very animate. Because slowly the line between those travels in your head and the trips you actually take becomes very blurred. So travel becomes your constant state, and you are everywhere but nowhere, all at once. 

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls” - Anais Nin 

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Hello again :) It’s been a while since I last posted but I am back, with cake. A simple chocolate cake based on a recipe for a deeply chocolatey almond cake I tried while visiting our grandparents over the holidays . I’m not sure when a cake becomes a snack cake but this little guy is very simple to make, kind of virtuous and also just a great chocolate cake for any day. It is good to have around since it keeps well for a while, too. I hope you try it.
Also, I appreciate you coming back to visit this space after every time I disappear.
Much love xx

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Chocolate + almond snack cake

1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup natural cocoa powder
1/2tsp basking soda
1/2tsp salt
4 free range eggs
1/2c honey
1/4c plain yogurt of choice (or applesauce)
1tsp pure vanilla extract 


Preheat the oven to 170’C, 340’F*.
Prepare an 8inch round cake pan - even if it is non-stick I usually use a little coconut oil and line the bottom of the pan to be suuure the cake won’t stick.
In a large bowl, stir together the almond meal, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt until the cocoa powder is fully mixed through the flour.
In another large bowl, beat together all remaining ingredients until they’re fully combined and the mixture is smooth. If you have a stand mixer or a hand mixer and a large bowl, this would be really quick.
Combine wet and dry ingredients until the batter is dark brown and smooth. Since there is no gluten don’t worry about over-mixing, a flexible spatula is useful.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan. 
Bake 30-35 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. You won’t want to bake this cake too long, it will lose some of its charm if it’s too dry.

This cake will keep well for about a week in the fridge in an airtight container.

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Tiny has appointed herself kitchen assistant

woodsmoke | gingerbread bundt cake

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I started this post a few days ago, well before Christmas Eve. In a quiet, dimly lit area of a fairly empty terminal in Amsterdam Airport. Before the boarding crush I could find a seat on tired, cracking vinyl, by the floor to ceiling windows that looked over the runways. The fields and the tarmac were dark, the bodies of planes loomed in gray shadow, brooding and immobile. Like the darkest clouds of a winter sky on the coldest days when rain would fall as snow, casting deep shadows, swallowing the moonlight. 

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I wasn’t at a window seat but when the plane, enlivened in flight, dipped its wing, Amsterdam played out in lights far below us. The warm golds from street lights, the cheery red blinking of cars heading home for the holidays, white glow from illuminated buildings. Like the lights on a Christmas tree, with the colour from strands of tinsel, full of memories, familiar. 
I had a long wait in Abu Dhabi. A wait with a lot of anticipation, eagerly checking my watch, wishing for progress. It reminded me of the night before Christmas when I was very young and impossibly charmed by it all. Finding it so hard to lie in bed and wait for the morning, the expectation so palpable.

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It was early morning when I arrived in Bangalore. Warm, thick tropical darkness, loaded with fumes, throbbing with action, like how the thin winter air clings on to the scent of pine and woodsmoke. Something celebratory in how India does chaos, like everyone is waiting for something to happen. The taxi guys with their windows open played the morning prayers and Bollywood pop, some background similarity to it all, something different woven into each. Telling the same stories to different beats, like Christmas music. Dawn breaks, the red roofs echo the pinky streaks of hot morning sky, doves cry from deep in the clumps of bougainvillea. There’s a whispering breeze through the palms and the clearing night clouds are violet, indigo, pillowy. Someone is cooking in another house, something with spices. Chilli maybe, red and intense; turmeric, powdered gold; ginger, the rounded spice.
There were lights and anticipation; music, people on the move, heady air filled with spices. There was Christmas everywhere, and all the time. 

"and all my soul is scent and melody"  Charles Baudelaire 


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Wow. Christmas Eve already. A little last minute perhaps but if anyone is considering some Christmas baking, this cake is perfect. If you don't have a small bundt pan it will also look cute as a real gingerbread loaf in a regular loaf pan (just keep an eye on the baking time). This cake somehow encapsulates the holidays so I hope you try it.

Merry Christmas to you all. Much love xx

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gingerbread bundt cake

1 3/4c spelt flour 
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg 
Pinch cloves
1 tsp baking soda 
1/2 tsp salt 
1/4c olive oil
1/3c pure maple syrup
1/4c pure cane molasses
1 free range egg
3/4c milk of choice 
2T coconut sugar (or other dark type of sugar)


Preheat the oven to 180 c, 350 f.

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt and spices.
In another bowl beat together the egg, oil and maple syrup. Add the sugar, then the milk and molasses. If the molasses isn’t combining well it may help to heat the whole mixture a little.
Pour the wet mix into the dry and stir gently until just combined.
Prepare a 6 cup bundt pan: oil and flour it well so that the cake comes clean out with the beautiful shape. Prepping the pan right before baking means the oil won’t slide down the sides and pool at the bottom which wouldn’t help much for sticking. If using a different kind of pan, you can prepare it how usually works for you.

Bake 40-45 minutes, until the cake looks deep golden brown and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Allow the bundt a little time to cool in the pan, then gently release onto a cooling rack. It will be a little fragile to cut at first so if you can resist the ginger-y smells, it will cut cleaner after it’s cool.
This baby bundt will keep well for a few days in an airtight container and tastes as good (better?) with time. It will also frost and defrost nicely.

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spinning and marking time | summer berry crumb cake

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It's been a while. Where have I been? I ask myself that often. Away, I suppose. We had a full house, some warm weather. I was saying I'll get to it to a lot this year and I, well, finally got to it. Some things at least. That's how it goes in the summer - I scramble around for the first few weeks doing anything and everything then somewhere that fire just kind of ebbs. I'm one of those people who is used to having a life that's just way too full and doing nothing was like a nice act of rebellion. Against myself, of course. I started off going places to conquer the wilds of Norfolk and rack up mileage in my (now one year old) car, working on projects for the blog... it fizzled out. I took it. You get a flat bottle of club soda now and then. 

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I suppose I'm just looking for a nutshell. To put summer in. You start by acting, then you get to thinking, but thinking is dangerous so you start acting again. Illustrated by the fact that most of the summer has passed and there are at least three books on my desk I want to read, and two half finished projects and a spotfiy playlist that really needs updating. But there were days when the sky was bluer than your Twitter feed and the water was instagrammable and the wind was blowing my hair in my face and I was walking on that stretch of promenade and watching freighters cruise the North Sea. There were wind turbines spinning and marking time and my dad was laughing as he loaded our panting dogs into the car and there was traffic all along the ocean front.  There was the tie rope strung up between the side of the house and the shed and my grandparents hanging the washing out to dry and the dogs' towels were flapping in the breeze. There was Layla sitting with two pints of berries on her lap in my car and we were singing to a mediocre song and there had been berry fields and bushes heavy with fruit so ripe they burst as you touched them to pull them from the vine, maybe a sign that they were happy enough as is . Happy enough as is. As I was, in a pair of Nike shorts with my hair in a pony tail, with a DVD box of NCIS on my bed and a half read spy novel of sorts open on the desk and a growing to do list and tabs open and cherry tomatoes and clothes piled up on a chair. 

And that is summer. It's sunshine and downpours. You do so much, but it feels like painfully little. And it flies. Away, quicker than jet trails in a clear evening sky, and you start thinking of the things you could have done, should have done, that you did. It's like sticking your hand into a crate of berries. Some are sweet, some are less so, but they're all color. Color and life and memories and two seconds of quiet complacency. 

"I have only to break into the tightness of a strawberry, and I see summer – its dust and lowering skies."
Toni Morrison

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I hope that you guys have all been enjoying the summer and the gorgeous produce that goes with it. I love peaches, I love tomatoes, I love plums but berries. Berries first. This cake is very simple to make but the crumble adds a little something and the tart berries are little bursts of summer. You can really use any mix of berries you like, and frozen if that's more convenient. 

Love you xx

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Summer berry crumb cake

makes 1 8 inch (20cm) round cake  // gluten free

1 cup (100g) oat flour
1/2 cup (60g) brown rice flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 free range eggs
1/4 cup (60ml) oil (I used avocado*, melted coconut or olive oil would work great too)
2/3 cup (130g) coconut sugar
1/2 cup (120ml) plain yogurt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (225g) mixed summer berries of choice, fresh or frozen ( I used raspberries, blueberries & blackberries)

// streusel
1/3 cup (30g) rolled oats
1/4 cup (40g) chopped walnuts (or almonds)
1/4 cup (50g) turbinado sugar (or natural cane sugar)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons (30ml) coconut oil (room temp/solid is fine)


Preheat the oven to 180'C, 350'F. Line an 8 inch (20cm) springform pan (with removable sides + base) with parchment paper and rub a little coconut oil on the sides.

Start by making the streusel-y topping. Whisk together all the dry ingredients in a small bowl, then add the coconut oil. With your fingers, crumble the dry mix through the oil so it becomes clumpy with a coarse sand texture. You can do this a day or so in advance and refrigerate if that helps. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder & soda, salt. 

In another large bowl, beat together the sugar, oil and eggs until combined. Beat in the yogurt and vanilla until smooth.

Pour about half the berries (around 3/4 cup) into the dry bowl and toss gently to coat with flour. This should stop the berries from sinking.

Pour the wet mix into the dry and gently stir until just combined. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and smooth over the top with an offset spatula. Sprinkle over the remaining 3/4 berries, then over that, evenly drop the streusel topping and press it very gently into the batter so it sticks a bit.

Bake the cake for around 60-70 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for around half an hour in the tin before attempting to remove the sides and transferring the cake to a rack. Cool fully before slicing, the cake can be a little fragile.

*I think the avo oil and coconut sugar contributed to the caramel color of the cake. If you prefer something lighter coloured (the berry streaks will show up better) I think melted coconut oil would be best.


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the a-team | honeyed rhubarb + cardamom cake

So my parents were out of town for a couple of days last week. Perfect setting to invite a bunch of people, throw some crazy party that turns into a rave and gets shut down by the police. In my next life I'll make backyard raves a priority. Instead I spent the few days tossing a date around in my head: August 18th. May 18th snuck up on me really fast, but the weight of August 18th has just sunk in, like you know when you've had a dull pain in a muscle and then there's one movement and it totally goes? Well I just blew that figurative muscle. On August 18th my sister has to be in Aberdeen, for her masters. It's the start of her first semester. Weird as it may seem, we have never really been apart. She went on a solo trip to the Bahamas last year and I remember how lost I was - kind of floating, without an anchor, like a helium balloon that a careless kid had lost. One of those no end and no beginning feelings. The day was suddenly devoid of random laughter and the kind of chatter that keeps the wheels of a family unit oiled and running. You probably know that Layla and I are very close.  But straight out, we fight a lot. Like, a lot. At least a couple of times a week, some weeks are better than others, some are just short fuse after short fuse, maybe because we're so close, we pick up on each other's feelings really quickly. If she's upset, I know it, and I get frustrated that she won't just tell me what the problem is and maybe I could help. Probably the same for her because neither of us are the type to have these big 'I'm so stressed' type breakdowns, or really to whinge and complain because do you want some cheese with that whine? is a stock response. 

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We both suddenly grew up a lot in the last few years, independence and responsibility wise. We have new cars, we have very floaty schedules with this whole university enterprise, so we took on a lot of the household stuff. Not saying that my parents don't do anything, I haven't yet taken up loading the washing machine but I mean we do things like take the dogs to the vet, keeping the fridge reasonably stocked and spend some time sweeping up dog hair. So maybe that's what has changed our relationship, and maybe that's why sometimes there's more friction. We're not just playing house anymore, we're living in a house where drains pack up when my parents aren't around and I have the number of the electricity network on my phone because storms do funny things to wiring. This is in no way to be interpreted as a complaint, in fact the freedom we have is great. It's more of an acknowledgement that things are changing and life goes in phases, a bit like a chrysalis. It's almost as if Layla and I are in a team (the A-team, of course) against various forces like city traffic, professors that don't respond to emails, parking shortages at university, rude receptionists and the like. We're together in this game of keeping alive a dog without a spleen who sits waiting by the door for Mum to come home, and another monkey whose default mode is hunger strike. The game also means that kale runs out at inconvenient times, scary dashboard messages about tyre pressure appear, players miscommunicate and mess up, but we're on the same side. And that's what matters.

So we reshuffle the new stack of cards we've been dealt. Hard to know how to play them sometimes, but I go back to a very simple phrase we've said since we were young - when friends were giving up on us, when we ended up alone on the first day in some new school. At least we have each other, on repeat. Same now. Days can be long, the traffic is murder, it rains a lot, we worry non-stop about Prune and Suzi. But never alone, there are two of us through all that. 

Our little team, on a feeble lifeboat tossed about in tidal waves. With two helmsmen learning on the job, always seeking out dry land a calm lagoon where we can moor. After August, I'm losing my lookout and I'm going to learn how to navigate by myself. I mean, I can do it, physcially,  there's not that much more around the house or anything that I'll have to do juggle, but it's just the spirit that will be gone. No one to ask whether or not it's going to rain, no fall back person to ask for a hand cleaning muddy paws... the hull of the boat will be there, there'll be a working engine, a spot in the harbour, but the sea can feel like a very empty place when you're down a crew member.

The vast night. Now there’s nothing else but fragrance.” – Jorge Luis Borges

My dad gave me what I consider a huge compliment when this cake was baking. He said that it reminded him of his childhood, the smell of something baking, of coming home and finding his mum had baked a warm snack. Idk why that meant something to me but it did.  Anyways. I remember I saw (aaaages ago) a photo of a rhubarb cardamom tart in an ikea magazine (that must've been when we lived in Belgium because there's no ikea around here) and the combination stuck with me. Credit to the Scandies and their impeccable taste because this cake turned out really well.

You'll see that I make you cook the rhubarb first which may seem fussy but stick with me on this one because the fruit becomes totally tart-sweet with the honey. It then melts into these little custardy pockets of goodness, so my apologies for the extra dirty dish but it's worth it. Other than the rhubarb pre-cooking the batter comes together very fast, no mixer and you have a rustic, humble cake. If you want to fancy it up a light dusting of powdered sugar would be nice, or perhaps serving it with some vanilla bean ice cream. Or yogurt and have cake for breakfast. As a side note, apparently it was mother's day in the States on Sunday, so another big shout out to all the amazing mamas out there, I don't know how you do it all.
Love xx

PS. You'll notice that this post has a title... most of my old posts do now, too. In my post drafts (in email chains ha) I always gave them titles but then decided not to include them. I thought it would help search engine rankings but since google doesn't index the site at all (don't ask), nothing to win and nothing to lose :) 


honeyed rhubarb + cardamom cake

makes a single layer 8 inch (20cm) cake       // gluten + easily dairy free

1 cup (100g) almond meal
1/2 cup (50g) oat flour
1/2 cup (60g) brown rice flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
1/3 cup (75g) coconut oil, melted and cooled
1/2 cup (100g) coconut sugar, light muscavado or cane sugar
2 eggs
1 cup (250ml) plain yogurt of choice, room temperature

// rhubarb

450g (1 pound) rhubarb stalks
4 tablespoons (80g) honey
heaped teaspoon cardamom pods


Start by preparing your fruit. Chop the tough ends of each rhubarb stalk, then slice the stalks into chunks around 5cm (2 inches) long. If any stalks are super chubby, slice them in half lengthwise too. Set a pan over medium high heat, add the rhubarb, pour over the honey and stir to combine so everything is coated, then add the cardamom pods. Cook for 6-8 minutes, till the fruit is soft but not falling apart (the oven takes care of that). Set aside to cool in the pan.

Preheat your oven to 180'C, 350'F. Line an 8 inch springform pan with parchment paper*, then rub a little coconut oil on the sides and the parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda/powder, salt and cardamom. 

In another large bowl, whisk the sugar and oil together so the sugar isn't clumpy, then beat in both eggs and the yogurt till smooth and pale (the tahini comparison is relevant here). Add the vanilla and mix once more.

Drain the cooked rhubarb, reserving around 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid (if there is less don't worry). Toss the fruit in the flour mix, it may fall apart a bit but that's fine. This stops the fruit sinking to the bottom.

Pour the wet mix into the dry; add the two tablespoons of rhubarb syrup and gently mix with a wooden spoon till there are no more patches of flour.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan then bake for 50-55 minutes, till a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake shows it's done. If the top is browning too fast (this is a very moist cake so it's possible) you can tent it with foil and there shouldn't be a problem.

The cake will keep on the counter for 3ish days, better in the fridge for a few days after that, it's  light so it may dry out.

Notes

One thing to note is that the moisture from the fruit means the cake sort of buckles once cut and then has a rather 'savaged' appearance. No harm for snacking but if you'd like to serve this cake to company, present it before really going at it with a knife. Everyone will be then be too busy eating to notice how the middle caved.

*this is related to the above. I usually don't fret about instructing people to grease/line pans because you all have your preferences, but because of the custard-y nature of the fruit, the batter sticks and the cake is quite fragile at first - not really one to stand up to inverting onto a rack. So parchment, coconut oil and a pan with removable sides make things a lot easier. As I said, it's somewhat rustic, so don't worry too much.


spring baking