Almond & Orange Cake

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I used to make a version of Nigella Lawson’s lemon drizzle cake, except that I used orange instead of lemon.  It was delicious and everyone who I made it for loved it.  This week I decided to try to make a healthier version, taking out the butter, eggs and sugar!  Not an easy task!  I also wanted to use up more of my abundant ground almonds so I encorporaterd these in to the cake as well, as orange and almond go beautifully together.   Of course, this cake does not have the same elements of flavour as a cake with butter, sugar and eggs, it’s just not possible!  It obviously tastes less buttery and less sugary, but it is much healthier and purer, and the almond/orange flavour was delicious.  I have reduced the amount of oil in this recipe as on my first attempt at making this, the consistency came out slightly too thick.

I have been avoiding using refined sugar for the past few months due to the fact that it has no nutritional content whatsoever and has a harmful impact on the body.  Subconcious sugar addiction seems to be inbuilt in to many people’s diets and I have been trying to kick the unhealthy habit!  I usually replace sugar with agave syrup in my recipes as it is a natural sweetener and less refined.  The Nigella Lawson drizzle cake that I used to make had a syrup for the top, which was made by heating orange juice and sugar.  I was considering trying to make a syrup out of agave and orange juice for this cake, but I thought that the agave may overpower the cake as it is contained in the main cake mixture also.  Agave has a subtle flavour which I enjoy, but you can detect it in large quantities in baked goods and I thought that using too much might overpower the other flavours.

So with Agave not being an option,  I turned to coconut sugar.  I have never used coconut sugar before, but have seen it several times on the shelves when browsing in the health shop or in South East Asian food stores.  Coconut sugar is made from the sap of the flower buds on the coconut palm tree.  It is a bit on the fence when it comes to health food.  It’s positives are that it does contain nutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium and potassium, along with some B vitamins and antioxidants .   It also has a lower glycemic index (GI) than both table sugar (sucrose) and agave syrup.

It’s negatives are that although it is less processed and refined than sucrose, or table sugar, it is still very high in calories and it does contain some sucrose -which is the health food no-no because sucrose contains fructose.  Consumed in excess, added sugars such as fructose lead to the common health ailments linked to high calorie sugar filled diets such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.  However coconut palm sugar has lower levels of fructose overall than refined white sugar.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call coconut sugar a health food, but it seems that it is slightly more nutritious than table sugar, and with lower levels of the evil fructose.  The bottom line is that although I eat very healthily, I do this to simply maintain health, not to lose weight or count calories.  Therefore, I have no problem adding some coconut sugar in moderation in to an already very balanced and healthy diet.

I am not diabetic but am aware that some people with diabetes follow my blog due to the lack of sugar in my recipes.  I checked it out and good news for you guys, coconut sugar seems to be considered safe for diabetics as it has a very low GI index so you should be able to enjoy this cake without any adaptations, but check it out yourself first as you will know better than me!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 100g ground almonds
  • 320g white spelt flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 50ml sunflower oil
  • 150ml almond milk
  • 1 orange -juice and zest
  • 200ml agave syrup or replace with another liquid based sweetener such as date syrup if you prefer
  • 3/4  tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

For the syrup:

  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 150g coconut sugar

Preheat the oven to 180c, and grease or line a baking tin.  Sift the flour and add the dry ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients, starting with the smaller quantity ingredients.  Hold off on the oil and milk, stirring the mixture first and then gradually adding in the rest of the liquid until smooth.  Pour in to the tin and bake for 40 – 50 minutes depending on your oven.  The best way to test if a cake is baked is by inserting a skewer in to the middle, it should come out clean and liquid free.   Have the syrup ready for when the cake comes out of the oven.  To make the syrup, slowly heat the orange juice and coconut sugar in a saucepan until warm.  Immediately after the cake comes out of the oven, skewer the cake with holes and pore the syrup over the top.  It will sink down in to the cake to create moist deliciousness!   I decorated mine with flaked almonds after I poured the syrup over.  L et the cake cool in the tin, and then on a wire wrack, before slicing.  I have ruined the consistency of many cakes by being impatient and cutting them before they have fully cooled, so learn from my mistakes and leave it alone!

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