JJ is a relative newbie to the blog world, sharing recipes and stories at 84th & 3rd. American by accent and Australian by passport, she works in advertising during the day, writes and cooks at night, and obsessively photographs pretty much everything. She is currently recapping her most recent around-the-world-trip, one recipe at a time. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
I was so excited when I saw Andrew’s October Unprocessed initiative that I put my hand up immediately to contribute. Nearly a year ago, after some niggling health concerns and a visit to a naturopath, we made a pretty dramatic change to how we eat, almost overnight. Over time, one take-away meal a week had turned into three, and the veggies were rotting away in the bottom of the fridge more often than not. It’s not that we were all that unhealthy, but it was time for a shift in how we approached food.
At the core, we went un-processed
But for us it was one step further: Organic wherever possible; No Sugar (with the exception of a piece or two of fruit each day); No White/Refined Flour; No Saturated Fats, No Alcohol, No Caffeine, Limited Meat, No Cow Dairy (except real cultured yougurt), and No Soy (except limited cultured soy).
It looks like a lot of “No” at first glance, but what it comes down to is simplicity in food and respect for what goes in our bodies. Plus, the list of foods we do eat is pretty good — whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, fresh fruit and veggies, poultry, eggs, fish, healthy oils, goat and sheep dairy, green tea, and lots of water. (If you want to know more about the details you can read about it at 84th&3rd in How We Eat.)
The first thing we did was to clean out the cupboards
It is much easier to avoid foods you don’t want to include in your diet if they aren’t around in the first place. The next order of business was to immediately figure out how we could still have our favourite things under the new rules. I never have been one for total denial. Pizza delivery nights turned into homemade whole-wheat/whole-spelt bases with hard goats cheese, organic no-sugar tomato sauce and lots of veggies. Goat and oat milk replaced cow dairy. Stir-frying and roasting took the place of unhealthy take-away options.
But there was still the matter of cake.
Everyone needs a treat sometimes
Cake is by far one of my favourite things in the world. I know, it’s a big statement. There is just something about the texture, the act of cutting into a soft dense slice, warm out of the oven, and washing it down with a cold glass of milk or a hot cup of tea. But how do you bake cake without sugar, and why would you bother?
For the purpose of baking, and baking only, I have made my own “deliberate exception” for sugar in the form of Apple Juice Concentrate. It is as it sounds, simply concentrated apple juice. I get it in a jar from the health food store and keep it in the refrigerator. When using it I cut down the quantity of traditional sugar that is called for in a recipe, usually by about half, and layer flavours with fruit and spices and nuts and whole grains. The result is hearty, homey cakes that tick the healthy box and give us a bit of a treat at the same time.
Eleven months after changing how we eat, we not only have more energy and stronger immune systems, we have a healthier approach to food that will stay with us for the long-term. And we still get to eat cake regularly.
Blood Orange and Almond Upside-down Cake
- 1 cup Almond Meal/Ground Almonds + 1 Tbsp extra
- 1 cup Organic Whole Wheat Flour
- 2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
- 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
- 1/4 tsp Ground Cloves
- 4 Eggs
- 1/3 cup Apple Juice Concentrate + 1 Tbsp extra
- 3 Tbsp Grapeseed or Nut Oil + 1 tsp extra
- 1 slightly heaped cup Orange Puree approx. 3 organic Blood Oranges
- 2 Organic Blood Oranges scrubbed and sliced thinly
Place 3 oranges into a saucepan and cover with cold filtered water -- the oranges will float, it's okay. Place a lid on the pan, bring to a boil and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Drain, rinse once with cold water, fill pan again, return to a boil and simmer for a further 30 minutes.
Drain, rinse with cold water again and set aside to cool slightly. Don't skimp on the simmering time -- this processes softens the peel and removes the bitterness! When cooled slightly cut oranges into quarters, remove any pips (seeds) and blend the flesh, including peel, until smooth. A handheld immersion-blender is brilliant for this. Set purée aside.
Pre-heat oven to 350 F / 180 C. Grease the base and sides of tall 8 inch cake pan or 8 inch springform pan with a bit of oil. Line base with a round of parchment paper and tap the extra tablespoon of almond meal around the pan so it sticks to the greased sides. Drizzle the extra tablespoon of apple juice concentrate on the parchment covered base of the pan, followed by the extra teaspoon of grapeseed oil. Layer the thinly sliced orange around the pan starting from the centre and overlapping each slice slightly with the next.
Sift together dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a large bowl beat eggs with an electric beater for 4 minutes until thick and creamy. Slowly drizzle in the apple juice concentrate and continue to beat for another minute. Beat in oil and orange purée.
Gently fold dry ingredients into the egg/orange mixture and pour on top of the orange slices in the prepared pan, smooth top. Bake for approximately 40 minutes until the top of the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Cool cake in pan for 5 minutes then run a knife around the edge to loosen. Turn out on to a platter, remove parchment paper and leave to cool completely. Serve with thick greek yogurt and a cup of tea.
Unprocessed Note: There has been some discussion here about baking soda and baking powder, as both are made chemically but have been around for well over a century. I would recommend at least finding an aluminum free baking powder or just making your own with baking soda and a bit of cream of tartar.
I have been unable to find apple concentrate since moving to Australia.
What brand do you use & where do you purchase it from?
Okay – I might try it this weekend, thanks! I am still a bit leery, though, because I have already made a big transition to 100% whole wheat, and mostly have been avoiding white flour and sugar. The only other thing I can think of that might have affected it is that after I did the first simmer, I had to turn off the pot and attend to my kids. A little while later, I drained it, rinsed, filled with water again and did the second simmer. Maybe leaving it sit like that for an hour or so made a difference?? We’ve been eating the rest of the blood oranges and they aren’t really that tart. In any case, I will let you know if I try it!
Hi! I just did the first few steps of this recipe and have my pureed blood orange. It tastes horrifyingly bitter, so much so that I can’t bring myself to go on with making the cake. I can’t imagine how the whole cake wouldn’t retain that bitterness. The recipe calls for including the rinds in the puree, which seems counter-intuitive. Has anyone out there actually made this cake?
Hi Caroline – promise that I make this cake all the time, that said I put the extra puree on porridge too 😉 I like bitter quite a bit more now that I don’t really eat sugar!
The double boiling method should remove much of the bitterness from the pith/peel and makes the rind very very soft. But some blood oranges are quite a bit more tart than others.
You can certainly up the quant of apple juice concentrate to 1/2 c (from 1/3) or use 1/2 c honey which is sweeter than the apple. Adding extra apple/honey to the base of the pan will create more of a sauce when you turn it out as well. Let me know if you finish the recipe and how the cake turns out!
I’d try puree a cored apple and use that in place of the concentrate. If it’s not sweet enough, consider a tablespoon of honey as well. I use apples this way in muffins quite a bit. By leaving the pulp and peel in the mix you get a lot of extra fiber to help your body cope with the fructose. Now if only blood oranges were a local fruit. Ah well.
Ohh, I like the idea of pureed whole apple instead of applesauce!
Yum! Wondering if I could use apple juice, or applesauce instead of the concentrate it calls for. We have 7 apples trees and are in the process of doing some canning. Love to know your thoughts. Thanks for the recipe!
Hi, Apple Juice Concentrate is really just that. My jar says it is 8:1 concentrated, and it is thick like honey. I would slowly simmer a big pot of the juice to reduce it down and then keep any left over in the freezer, in ice cube size blocks. Using more than 1/3 cup of juice will create a bit too much liquid I think, and will not quite add the sweetness needed. I tend to use applesauce/puree to replace oil, but the concentrate is for the sugar sub instead – thanks!
I can’t wait to try this. The coloring is spectacular.
Thanks! The blood oranges are brilliant if you can get them 🙂
I am curious why you have eliminated cow dairy, but will consume goat and sheep? We have a local dairy nearby, with grass fed, hormone free cows. The milk is fabulous. Was there a particular reason you avoid cow dairy?
Hi Paula – I was advised to cut back as the proteins in cow dairy are processed differently (to sheep/goat) by the body and can be ‘thickening’. Goat and sheep milk is supposed to be gentler overall. It also tends to be less processed due to the composition of it. Making cow into proper yogurt though changes the proteins so that still gets included for us in limited amounts!