I had a real craving for lemon drizzle cake tonight. No idea why, or what even made me think of it, but once I had, it had to be made.
Researching and trying out new recipes and ideas is great, but it does take time – and sometimes it’s just an excuse not to be doing something else as I’m very easily distracted, which in tonight’s case was write some posts for this blog. So to appease my conscious, I’ve decided to share the cake with you (virtually that is – shame you can’t taste it as well, it’s gorgeous!).
Unfortunately, I can’t claim that this cake is free from refined sugar and oil, because it’s definitely not! But it is dairy free and egg free, and easy to swap to gluten free flour if needed, so it meets a whole variety of ‘free from’ needs. Making cakes without egg is always a challenge, as the protein in the egg binds the other ingredients together.
A great alternative is some ground flaxseed soaked in a little water for a few minutes. It swells and goes really gloopy, great for sticking everything together. However, I’ve found that for many cakes, you just need to whisk the wet ingredients together really well before you add them to the dry, and use an extra shaking of baking powder to make sure it rises and becomes light and fluffy. It can be a bit hit and miss, as sometimes the mix is just too lose and light, and collapses as you take it out of the tin. Tonight was a lucky night though, and the cake stayed together beautifully whilst being incredibly light – no regrets about leaving out the flax.
One other great thing about flaxseed is that it is a fabulous source of omega 3 fatty acids. There’s not many plant foods which provide such good amounts, so it’s worth adding in to your cooking where ever you can.
Having already confessed that this cake is not free from refined sugars and oils, I feel the need to make a quick comment on agave syrup. Although it’s marketed as a healthier sugar alternative, it’s not. Apparently it has a higher fructose content than high fructose corn syrup, which is thought to be one of the major contributors to the obesity problem as it appears in a large amount of processed foods. The agave syrup we buy is not a natural sap from the blue agave plant (a type of yucca plant – tequila is made from it too!) but a commercially produced highly processed, highly calorific sweet gloop. The problem with processed fructose is that it doesn’t get broken down and digested in the gut like simple sugars; rather it goes straight to the liver where it’s processed into fat, completely by-passing the energy producing molecule stage.
The fructose in these syrups is not the same as natural fructose, the sugar that’s found in whole fruits. This type is ok, partly because it’s accompanied by so many goodies like vitamins and fibre. It’s the processing that creates the bad stuff.
So if it’s so bad, why have I not just used normal sugar? It’s still all nutrient-empty calories. For this cake, it’s to help bind everything together. Plus there’s not much of it – apparently, it becomes metabolically significant if you eat more than 25g of fructose a day*. So if you’ve been an eating angel all day, you can get away with it. Or, as I look at it, I only eat it on occasion so it’s ok to use it now and then.
If I’ve put you off the agave, omit it and just add a little more sugar. Or replace the agave with flaxseed as mentioned above; can’t say how it will come out though (that’s my disclaimer!).
But if you just want to make a gorgeously light and tasty lemon drizzle cake that’s vegan and ‘free from’ then do give this a try – it’s worth it
1 extra teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
170g unrefined caster sugar
2 tablespoons agave syrup
85mls organic rapeseed oil
1 cup non-dairy milk
zest of a lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
For the topping:
juice of a lemon
2 tablespoons demarera sugar
Grab a loaf tin, grease it and line with baking paper. Pre-heat the oven to 170oC. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Put the sugar, agave, oil, milk and lemon juice into a separate bowl and mix together well with a whisk. Add the lemon zest, stir well.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together well. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 35 minutes or so until a toothpick comes out clean. Take out the the oven, but leave in the tin.
Mix the topping lemon juice and sugar together. Prick lots of holes into the cake with the toothpick and pour the mixture evenly over the top. Leave in the tin to cool for at least half an hour – it becomes easier to handle once it’s cool.