26 September 2023

Baking For Love

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By Christine Salins.


This Valentine’s Day, it’s worth remembering that cooking for the person you love is one of the greatest gifts of all.

Caroline Griffiths is a home economist, food stylist and avid baker who gets a buzz out of making people happy with something she has created with love and care. “If it just happens to have less sugar and be free from gluten, then even better,” she says in the introduction to Natural Bakes.

Her gorgeous heart-shaped Sweet potato, lime & poppy seed cake, featured here, is a great example of the deliciously innovative recipes she has created without relying on gluten or refined sugars. The sweet potato gives the cake texture and a little sweetness and helps keep the cake moist.

Griffiths uses fruit, vegetables and even the occasional legume, as well as other natural ingredients including vanilla, nut-based flours, and spices, in her baking. “This is not a health-food book or a diet book,” she stresses. “It is a cookbook filled with delightful, naturally sweet creations that are free from gluten and also happen to contain less sugar.”

Griffiths draws on years of experience in the food industry, having authored five cookbooks (and contributed to dozens more) and having worked in several of Australia’s best-known test kitchens, including The Australian Women’s Weekly.

The recipes in Natural Bakes are suitable for all skill levels and perfect for any number of occasions, from simple biscuits and slices to everyday cakes, fruit loaves, celebration cakes and after-dinner treats.

Whip up a tray of almond, mandarin, and orange blossom madeleines, finish a meal with a warming crumble, or wow the whole room with a chocolate layer cake with peanut butter frosting.

Sweet potato, lime & poppy seed cake

Serves 10 to 12

1 orange sweet potato (about 400 g), peeled and chopped into 2 cm cubes

150 g gluten-free flour, plus extra for dusting

75 g almond meal

3 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons monk fruit extract powder

40 g poppy seeds

125 g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

½ cup dextrose, plus extra for dusting (optional)

2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest

3 eggs

125 ml buttermilk

Steam or microwave the sweet potato for 15 to 20 minutes until tender. Drain, mash and set aside to cool. You will need 260 g (1 cup) mashed sweet potato for this cake.

Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan-forced). Grease a 22 cm baba or ring (or 20 cm round or heart) tin generously with butter. Add the extra flour to the cake tin, tilt the tin to coat the inside with the flour, then tip out the excess.

Sift the flour, almond meal, baking powder and monk fruit extract powder into a large bowl. Stir in the poppy seeds and set aside.

Beat the butter, dextrose and lime zest with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, scraping down the side of the bowl, as necessary. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition, then stir in the sweet potato. In two batches, stir in the flour mixture and buttermilk until combined.

Spread the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 2 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Serve, dusted with extra dextrose if you like.

The cake will keep in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days.

Note: You could serve the cake with a citrus syrup but Griffiths likes it as it comes, or with a dollop of creamy Greek- style yoghurt on the side.

Recipe and image from: Natural Bakes by Caroline Griffiths, published by Smith Street Books, distributed by Thames & Hudson Australia, AUD$39.99. Photography © Chris Middleton.

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