Gooey chocolate cake

This recipe is totally vegan but for anyone who’s not vegan, don’t be put off – the gooey interior will please any dessert lover, and it’s rich enough to only need one slice (although who would stop at that). The recipe is also super easy and requires minimum ingredients, dishes and time. The best!

Ingredients:

  • 180g dark chocolate
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 70g flour
  • 3 heaped tbsp cocoa
  • 150g dark sugar (Demerara, golden caster or muscavado)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Vanilla essence
  • 230ml almond milk
  • 5tbsp sunflower oil
  • 100g pecan or walnuts (optional but recommended)

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
  • Melt 150g of the chocolate in a glass bowl over a saucepan of water
  • While it’s melting, add all the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl and mix
  • Warm the almond milk slightly and add it, the oil and the melted chocolate to the bowl with the dry ingredients in
  • Chop the remaining 30g of chocolate and pecans and mix in (the mixture will start off quite liquidy but start to solidify as it cools)
  • Pour into a lined cake tin and cook for 20 minutes.*

*This leaves a slightly gooey centre – if you prefer it more gooey or solid, adjust the cooking time by 2-3 minutes more or less (depending what you like). Remember it solidifies more as it cools.

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This cake is the perfect dessert when you’re short of time but want something to please everyone

Vegan pumpkin soup (and more)

The season for pumpkins is undoubtedly now, but what do you actually do with them? Do you carve them and then leave them to rot? Or buy pumpkin spiced lattes in ode to Halloween? Well let me tell you – pumpkins are a hugely under-rated vegetable (actually technically a fruit), filled with all sorts of vitamins and minerals, including carotenoids (great for your eyes), fibre (keeping you fuller for longer), vitamin C (to help fight off those winter colds) and potassium (good for lowering blood pressure)

Looking at a pumpkin though, you might think ‘what the hell do I do with this’? I know I sure did – I wasn’t even sure how to cut it! The great thing about pumpkin it can be used in a huge variety of dishes. Almost the whole pumpkin can be used too, including the seeds.

To cut, I used a serrated knife and cut it in half, before scooping out the seeds into a bowl. See further down on what to do with the seeds! This soup is super (souper) easy to make, makes enough to feed a family and is a perfect side or starter at a dinner with some crusty bread and, for non-vegans, cheese (I recommend gruyere).

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Pumpkins come in all shapes and sizes

Ingredients:

  • 1 pumpkin
  • 1 onion
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 1tbsp vegetable spread (or butter if you’re not vegan)
  • Olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper

 

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
  • Cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds and pith (see bottom with what to do with the seeds) and cut the halves into three each.
  • Score a crisscross pattern into the quarters and place on baking trays covered in baking parchment or tinfoil.
  • Pour olive oil on top of the pumpkin and sprinkle the salt and pepper on top
  • Roast for 30 minutes until soft when poked
  • While the pumpkin is cooking, dice the onion and fry until brown in a saucepan
  • Add the vegetable stock and simmer until pumpkin is cooked
  • Remove the pumpkin from the oven and leave to cool enough to touch it
  • Cut away the flesh from the skin of the pumpkin and place in the food processor
  • Add the vegetable stock and onion mix
  • Blend (in batches if need be)
  • Add salt and pepper to taste and serve!

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To use the seeds: wash using a colander and remove the pith (the orange gooey bit) from them. In a bowl, coat in olive oil, salt and any other seasoning (I LOVE a little curry seasoning for this). Spread on a baking tray and cook until crunchy and very lightly browned. Make sure not to burn! Enjoy as a healthy snack any time of day.

 

OK, so I absolutely hate waste, and sadly soup is hard to make with skins, so what do you do with all those leftover skins? I have 2 ideas – pizza and miso-glazed pumpkin.

 

Miso glaze:

  • 1 tsp miso
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tsp lazy garlic/garlic paste
  • 1tsp lazy ginger/ginger paste

Mix all up and spread on the skins. Bake in the oven for another 15 minutes.

 

Pizza:

  • Tomato paste
  • Oregano
  • Cheese (vegan or real)

Spread the tomato paste on the skins, top with grated cheese and oregano. Bake in the oven for another 15 minutes. Enjoy!

 

I hope these recipes give you some ideas of what to do with one of the most under-rated and best value vegetables/fruits out there. My advice would be to go on Halloween or shortly after, stock up and make all of the above recipes! How do you use your pumpkins?

Chocolate chips oat cookies

This recipe is so simple and quick, I dare you to get it wrong. This is cooking at its simplest, but yields the softest, most satisfying oat cookies you could hope for. The dates provide little morsels of sweetness among the bitter dark chocolate and carby oats, and miraculously the entire mixture is filled with goodness (it definitely doesn’t taste like it)!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 50ml almond milk
  • 4 tbsp almond or peanut butter
  • 100g oats
  • 75g wholemeal flour
  • 50g muscovado/demerara sugar
  • 25g vanilla/chocolate/peanut protein
  • 4 dates, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 50 dark chocolate, finely sliced

 

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with baking parchment
  • Melt the coconut oil and whisk in the almond milk and nut butter.
  • Mix together the oats, flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, chopped dates and protein
  • Combine wet and dry ingredients in a large bowl before stirring in the chocolate pieces
  • Lump into balls and flatten partially onto the tray. This mixture should make 12-15 cookies.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the tops of the cookies are firm to touch
  • Enjoy!

 

* * I used vanilla pea protein in this recipe. You can use whatever protein you like, but bear in mind that whey may not require so much added liquid so add the milk slowly.

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Healthy quorn cottage pie

Recipes that will feed you all week, or feed an entire dinner party without a fuss are definitely some of my favourites. Coming home from work, sometimes all you want is something that you can shove in the microwave or oven and eat, and sadly the number of healthy options are limited. This cottage pie packs in 5 vegetables (although you can add as many as you like), protein and hella flavour, all for next to no money per portion and less than an hour spent in the kitchen.

I am all for sustainability, and sadly eating meat is one of those things that, for me, cannot be justified no matter how good it tastes (I actually don’t like meat at all, but know that lots of people do). This recipe works for anyone who enjoys meat but also wants to reduce consumption. Quorn is an amazing substitute for meat that is very high in protein, low in fat and has a much lower carbon footprint than any meat. Read my reasons for being pescetarian. Either way, this dish is easy, delicious and super healthy – definitely one for your weekly meal prep!

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Use seasonal and local vegetables where possible – read why

Ingredients:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 large courgette
  • 1 pepper
  • Vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 300g quorn (I get mine frozen)
  • Turmeric, chilli, salt, pepper
  • 30g cheese (optional – for a vegan option omit or use vegan cheese)

Method:

  • Boil the kettle and preheat the oven to 180 degrees C
  • Scrub the sweet potatoes and chop into small chunks to boil (I don’t peel them but if you’d rather do that feel free – leaving them as is increases the fibre content)
  • Finely chop the onion and fry with some olive oil and the garlic clove
  • Finely chop the carrot, courgette and pepper and add to the mix, stirring until soft and browning
  • Drain the sweet potatoes once soft, saving 200ml of the water
  • Add the quorn mince to the vegetables
  • Use one stock cube, stir into the hot water, add the soy sauce and pour over the vegetables and quorn
  • Leave to simmer for 10 minutes (or less if the quorn is not frozen)
  • Pour the veg into a large dish
  • Mash the potatoes, adding the spices and salt and pepper
  • Top the vegetables with the mashed potato and sprinkle over the grated cheese, if using
  • Cook for 25 minutes in the oven, until browning at the top
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Before being cooked

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The final product. Enjoy!

Protein cookie dough

When you just want something that tastes unhealthy, looks unhealthy and is just the right amount of decadent, this one is for you.

It needs no more introduction: peanut-butter protein cookie dough

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Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 50g peanut flour
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein
  • 100g honey
  • 100g peanut butter
  • 60g 70% (or more) dark chocolate (chips or finely chopped)

Method:

  • Pour all the ingredients except for the chocolate in a blender
  • Start slowly and then increase blending speed to mix
  • If you would like peanut butter swirls add the peanut butter at the end and blend slowly, or hand mix in
  • Fold the chocolate pieces into the mix
  • Refrigerate

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Blackberry protein sponge

This cake uses some strange ingredients that you might not usually associate with cakes, but once you taste it you’ll see why! The chickpea keeps the cake moist without becoming dense and the blackberries give it a pleasant tang that stops it being too sweet or bland.

If you are vegan, the whole cake can be made vegan by using egg substitute and vegan protein (although be aware – vegan protein absorbs more liquid, so you may need to add a splash of water or almond milk). As it is, this cake packs in a huge amount of protein and important fibre so definitely constitutes a very healthy treat.

You can make this into one large loaf using a loaf tin or alternatively you can make 2 small round cakes, which you can stack together like a Victoria sponge cake. I use cashew cream and homemade blackberry jam for the filling.

I would 100% recommend you pick your own blackberries for this – not only is that free but also they taste amaaaaazing and you get the gratification of working for your dessert. Now is the season and they’re everywhere so have a forage!

Macros (cake only): 270cals, F: 12g, C: 24.2, P: 15.5

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Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml honey (may need less with sweeter protein powder)
  • 50ml vegetable oil
  • 100ml almond milk
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 100g vanilla/unflavoured protein
  • 100g self-raising wholemeal/white flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 150g – 200g blackberries

Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C (160 fan)
  • Blend together all the liquid ingredients with the chickpeas until smooth (a couple of minutes)
  • In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients to blend
  • Fold in the dry ingredients into the chickpea liquid mix
  • Add half the blackberries and mix (it should be easy
  • Pour into a deep greased tin, preferably with a removable base (or two shallow round tins for filled sponge) and place the remaining blackberries on top
  • Cook for 35-40 minutes if in shallow tins or 45 minutes if in loaf tin. Check with cake prodder to see if it comes out clean. This may take an hour to cook in a deep tin
  • Remove from the oven; keep in tin and let cool on wire rack. Remove from tin when cooler and leave to cool further on the rack. Do not cut until at room temperature.
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If you sandwich the cakes you should level off the lower one using a bread knife

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Spread on the jam and cashew cream thickly, leaving some space at the edges

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Sandwich and enjoy!

Chocolate protein truffles

This recipe is a staple that should always be found in your fridge if you’re into fitness or love chocolate. The only problem is, as soon as you make them, they’re basically gone straight away, especially if you have sisters! But at around 30 calories a bite, you can make a few batches and not feel terrible if you eat them all (been there, done that, no regrets).

Per ball – P: 4.1g, C: 0.6g F: 1.4g, 30 calories

Ingredients:

  • 120g protein powder of choice*
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 50g ground almonds **
  • 150-200ml almond milk
  • Honey/agave/maple syrup (optional, to taste)

* I use nutristrength chocolate whey isolate. You can use vegan protein but you may have to use more milk. Salted caramel and various other proteins work really well here too! Experiment and let me know what you come up with.

** If you like peanuts, peanut flour created smores truffles – SO GOOD

Method:

  • Mix the dry ingredients together make sure they are well blended.
  • Add the milk slowly, mixing as you go. I usually use around 170ml with whey protein. You may not need the full 200ml
  • Add the honey/sweetener at this point and mix in
  • You should get to the consistence where it is extremely hard to mix but not dry.
  • Wet your hands and grab small (walnut sized) balls of mixture and roll into a ball (the mixture, not you)
  • Pour cocoa powder onto a chopping board/flat surface. Roll the ball in it using your palm.
  • Store in the fridge (best when eaten cold).

Enjoy!

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Protein nicecream

This is where the future of guilt-free desserts is at. In case you’ve not yet become acquainted, nicecream is a wonderful invention that tastes like a mix between marshmallow fluff, ice-cream and banana milkshake – and it’s totally healthy!

I always make mine for 2, so this recipe is for 1 big portion or small portions for 2 (but realistically who wants to share). It can be made vegan really easily (use nut milk and vegan protein) and is a great alternative to a protein shake if you’re craving something sweet. I use a mix of Women’s Best cookies & cream/vanilla and unflavoured MyProtein whey.

Macros (per portion): C: 35.2g, P: 36.3, F: 2.9g

Ingredients:

  • 2 frozen bananas (frozen overnight)
  • 100ml milk of choice (use less if you want it thicker)
  • 3 scoops protein of choice
  • Vanilla essence (optional)

Add all the ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth.

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Why I am Pescetarian

Aka a non meat eater (but I eat fish).

I have been pescetarian since I was four years old. Initially it was because I hated the taste and texture of meat but as I grew up, I also realised where meat came from and decided to label my non meat-eating habits as vegetarianism. The initial few years were a huge battle with my family – I was coerced, tricked and forced into eating meat that I didn’t want to eat, with mixed results. Some of it made me physically sick (lots of funny stories about this) and all of it made me upset and put me off meat for life. But most of all, the fight to be able to choose my own foods made me incredibly aware of what I was putting in my body.

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“Insert cute picture of cows here” – but srsly.

For many a meal is not complete without meat. I learned to cook for myself when I was around 12 because I didn’t want to be stuck with salad, vegetables and bread for every family meal. What I found was an incredible variety of cuisines out there – so many societies have amazing foods without any animal products at all, let alone without meat. A very happy side effect of giving up meat was an interest in different cuisines, experimenting with cooking and an inability to accept that vegetables are boring.

In this article I’ll try to outline the reasons I’ve stayed pescetarian for 17 years, and why you too might like to cut down on your meat consumption. I’ve never tried to turn anyone vegetarian, and I think that the idea that people have to have labels, such as ‘vegetarian’, ‘vegan’ or ‘pescetarian’ is the reason a lot of people don’t do anything to reduce their consumption. Every little helps, and here’s why:

Health:

I’m not saying good quality meat is bad for you in any way, but if you reduce your meat consumption to purely fresh, free range meats, you’ll be cutting out all sorts of crap from your diet. Processed meats have been linked to cancer (let’s be honest, what hasn’t) and are in the same WHO (world health organisation) class as asbestos, tobacco and alcohol. They’ve also been linked to heart disease. It’s often really difficult to find out what’s in processed meats. If you’re eating meat to up your protein intake, chicken nuggets and burgers likely aren’t the best way as they’re often filled with water, low quality off-cuts of various meats and bread/corn. For your health and extra protein you should try to buy the most expensive meat you can afford and then eat less of it (and enjoy it more). Go for meat on the bone if you must buy it – bacon, sausages, burgers, smoked meats, salami and hams are all no-goes for health reasons. In the same way that low-fat chocolate wouldn’t satisfy chocolate cravings, low quality meats encourage you to eat more of the dissatisfying stuff than the high-quality, tasty ‘real deal’. In addition, if you give up meat you’re more likely to eat more vegetables to fill the space, which can only be a good thing!

Ethical reasons:

This is a no-brainer but I know it’s often not enough for some people to go veggie. If you don’t think about it, it’s not happening, right? Sadly, I think a lot of people have the attitude that ‘everyone else is eating meat, so it’s probably ok’. What annoys me most is that people don’t think for themselves – when we’re younger, seeing an animal killed would upset us. Our desensitisation to what we’re actually eating is a key reason I think a lot of people eat meat. Watching programmes about the reality of it opens your eyes to some of the blatant cruelty that goes on. Pigs, especially, are incredibly intelligent (on par with dogs) – if you wouldn’t eat dog (and I don’t know many people who would), you probably shouldn’t be eating pigs. For this reason, I think it’s important for people to not eat meat they couldn’t kill themselves and to know exactly where the animal they’re putting into their body comes from. I believe there is no excuse for people not to eat free-range meat. If you have to eat meat, know where it comes for and go for something local and free-range. Nothing else will do.

As Sir Paul McCartney once said “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian”.

Environmental:

Raising animals for consumption requires massive amounts of land and water. This land could otherwise be kept as forests or used for crop growth: when compared to staples like potatoes, wheat and rice, beef requires 160x more land per calorie, and produces 11x more greenhouse gases. Agriculture produces around 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from the upkeep of beef cattle. Meat rich diets produce 7.2kg CO2 a day, compared to veggie and pesce diets emissions of 3.8kg and vegan diets’ 2.9kg per day. Of course, these are not set figures – if you decrease your meat (especially red meat) consumption then you will decrease your CO2 It’s a sliding scale that everyone should aim to be at the lower end of. In addition, grain fed cattle have a far greater environmental footprint than grass fed, so always go for grass fed if you MUST buy it. It’s the same thing about buying the best you can afford and eating less of it!

Moneys!:

Meat is expensive! You can reduce your yearly food bill by around 15% by cutting out meat, not to mention that in restaurants, the vegetarian foods are (almost) always cheaper. As a student this has been a godsend for me, and I always find that restaurants always put more effort into their vegetarian foods, using interesting spices and mixes of ingredients, whereas often in meat dishes they’re a lot plainer. Not an entirely biased opinion, as it’s been shared by a lot of my friends!

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An american feed-lot system. These are incredibly harmful to both the local and global environment.

As you can see, there are so many reasons why I cut out meat from my diet and have kept it out, and why you probably should cut down too. The main reasons people don’t are:

  1. A) Laziness – finding new recipes, brands, products etc DOES take time and thought, but it should be fun and interesting.
  2. B) ‘I need meat for protein’. As a sports-person, of course I know how important protein is for muscle maintenance and growth, but meat is not required by the body. Protein comes from countless other sources, both vegetarian and vegan. In addition, a lot of the meat people eat really isn’t high in protein at all, because of artificial fillers companies use to increase the weight of the meat (often water and salt).
  3. C) ‘A meal isn’t a meal without meat’ – I think this excuse is the worst, as it reflects the way we’ve been raised in today’s society. There are so many amazing cuisines around the world that have high protein, healthy diets without meat. Believing that a meal is only complete if it contains meat is a sign of people’s ignorance of the world and the amazing foods out there. Just look at Asia – some of the best food in the world contains no meat whatsoever. One of my favourite veggie recipes is this veggie lasagne.

 

I really hope this article has given you some inspiration and maybe the push you need to think about what you’re eating. If everyone reduced consumption of red meat to once a month or less and cut down on all other meats, the world would be a better place, filled with more conscious consumers. Have you made a change to your diet recently? Did it involve cutting out some meats, or animal products entirely? I’d be really interested to know what you think!

Further reading/watching:

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Being pescetarian really isn’t boring. In fact I think it opened me up to SO many more cuisines and ideas that I never would have thought of otherwise

Lemon & Parsnip Cake

This post is part two of the recipes we learned from the Blogger’s event I held in Bristol with baker and chef Marianne (@mariannebakes). The basic recipe is easy but makes delightful little individual cakes, perfect for dessert at a dinner party! For a more complex and showy recipe, add the glacé icing and candied parsnips.

The recipe is gluten free, dairy free and can be made vegan by using an egg substitute. It also contains no refined sugars. But most importantly, it just tastes amazing!

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Marianne piping cake mixture into the cannelé moulds (ft. chocolate beetroot cake)

Ingredients (Makes 12 mini bundt cakes (made in silicone cannelé moulds) or 8 cupcakes):

Cake:

  • 100g eggs (2 medium)
  • 60g Total Sweet Xylitol
  • 60g honey
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 35g lemon juice
  • 80g sunflower (or other flavourless) oil
  • 150g grated parsnip (from approximately 1 large parsnip)
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 50g brown rice flour
  • ½ tsp ground psyllium husk (available in health food shops)
  • 1½ tsp baking powder

Lemon syrup:

  • 60g lemon juice (from approx 1 lemon)
  • 60g xylitol (or honey)
  • 30g water

Lemon glacé icing:

  • 150g sieved unrefined (golden) icing sugar
  • 40g lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • dried calendula petals or candied parsnip to finish

Candied Parsnip:

  • 1 small parsnip
  • 100g xylitol or regular white cane sugar
  • 50g water
  • small squeeze of lemon juice

 Method:

Cake:

  1. Wash (but don’t peel) the parsnip and grate it using the finer cheese-grating part of a box grater. Avoid the inner woody part of the vegetable and grate around the outside.
  1. Once grated, zest the lemons on top, weigh out the lemon juice and mix this all into the grated parsnip to prevent discolouration. Set aside.
  1. Crack the eggs and check the weight is approximately 100g (you can use any size eggs as long as you weigh the cracked quantity). Add the Total Sweet Xylitol and whisk on medium-high speed using an electric hand-held mixer or stand mixer for 5 minutes, or until paler and doubled in volume.
  1. Keep whisking the eggs on high speed and gradually pour in the oil a little at a time. Once incorporated, add the honey and whisk in.
  1. Fold through the grated parsnip using a silicone spatula until well incorporated. Sift together the rice flour, ground almonds, psyllium and baking powder, then fold this mixture through the cake batter.
  1. Allow the mix to stand for ten minutes while you pre-heat the oven to 140°C (fan setting) or 160°C (conventional).
  1. Grease the moulds with a little flavourless oil (eg sunflower oil) or coconut oil and place them onto a metal baking tray. Scrape the rested batter gently into a piping bag or jug, snip the tip of the bag with a pair of clean scissors and fill the moulds to just below the top. Let the mix sit and rest in the moulds for another 5 minutes before baking.
  1. Bake in the preheated oven for around 25 minutes, or until browned and the tops spring back when gently pressed, but the sponge still feels soft to the touch.
  1. Keep the cakes in the silicone moulds and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. De-mould the cakes and either brush with the lemon syrup or let cool and ice with the lemon glaze. They will keep for a good 3 days in the fridge, in a covered container.

Lemon syrup:

  1. Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat until it just comes to the boil.
  1. Brush over the cakes with a pastry brush while they are still warm. The syrup can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 weeks, so you can re-use any leftovers; just make sure you strain out any cake crumbs!

Baking Tip: For extra moisture, you can re-use the moulds to soak the cakes. Once de-moulded, let the cakes cool slightly on a wire rack, then fill 1 tsp syrup into the bottom of each mould. Replace the cakes inside the moulds and then brush the remaining syrup on top. Let sit 5 minutes before de-moulding.

Glacé icing:

  1. Sift the icing sugar into a small bowl and make a well in the centre.
  1. Pour in half the lemon juice and stir from the centre using a balloon whisk. Gradually add more lemon juice until you achieve a pouring consistency the texture of custard.
  1. Spoon just 1 small teaspoon on top of each cake and pull the edges out to achieve drips down the sides. Sprinkle dried calendula petals on top before the icing sets, or wait for it to set before topping with the candied parsnip.

Baking Tip: If you prefer not to use cane sugar in this recipe you can omit the icing and just top the cakes with the decorations directly.

Candied parsnips:

  1. Dissolve the xylitol/sugar with the water and squeeze of lemon in a small saucepan.
  1. Wash the parsnip, but don’t peel it. For candied strips, use a vegetable peeler to pare off thin strips from the parsnip, peeling both sides of the vegetable until you have removed as much as you can. For candied flowers, use a sharp knife to cut very thin rounds horizontally through the parsnip.
  2. Place the strips or rounds directly into the hot syrup and cook gently, covered, for 2-3 minutes until the parsnip is just tender and translucent.
  3. Take off the heat and let steep in the syrup overnight at room temperature. Use a flower cutter to cut blossoms from the centre of the parsnip rounds. Store the candied parsnip strips/flowers in the syrup in the fridge for up to a week and drain from the syrup before topping the cakes.

Baking Tip: For pale coloured parsnip crisps use white caster sugar; the xylitol makes them brown slightly.

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Enjoy!