There’s nothing I love more than watching kids get involved and excited about being in the kitchen. Looking back at my childhood those were some of my favourite days, time spent with my dad often just watching and learning as he created these culinary masterpieces, watching as he stressed when the hollandaise split or picking up his finger when he chopped it off making coleslaw one day – TRUE STORY! I still remember to this day sitting around the family room table learning about a classic bouquet garnet, the basics of a good béchamel, stroking the front cover of our musty old version of Larousse Gastrominque like it held some kind of magical spells. Obviously, I was the stirring master as well as a perfect little assistant to shell all those quail’s eggs for a dinner party; at the time thinking I was so clever but actually just having the right sized hands for doing such a fiddly little job. With a gorgeous little niece and nephew now in tow I revel in watching the cycle start all over again; my niece Marnie makes a mean scrambled egg and Jasper has already dressed his first Pheasant!
So a few years back when I was running the hotel in Lamu inevitably our busiest and my favourite time of year was Christmas. Having families with children wanting to re-create their traditions on the island was heaven for me and often enabled me to relive some of my most cherished – most of which are baking related- traditions. One year we had a wonderful family come to stay and a little girl who then was just five just loved spending time in the kitchen with their Chef Albert. We made her a little apron and there was no stopping her from there on in. One day we spent an hour or so making mince pies for the family on Christmas Eve and to this day it’s one of my happiest memories. Having recently moved back to the UK I had the chance to meet up with this family once again and reminisce on the giggles we had in the Kenyan sun. Some five years later Flora – my little Christmas helper was somewhat grown up but I hoped she still remembered and would appreciate a cake or 2. So these were made in her honor!
A few years back I was known for making a rather good red velvet cupcake so this is a healthier take on those – still moist, light delicious and full of antioxidants what’s not to love:
· 340 g coconut sugar
· 80g dark chocolate (at least 80%)
· 3 free range eggs
· 225 ml olive oil
· 300g cooked vacuum packed organic beetroots (not in vinegar!)
· 1 tsp vanilla bean extract
· 65g raw organic cacao powder
· 200g almond flour
· 1.5 tsp gluten free baking powder
· ¼ tsp Himalayan pink salt
1. Pre heat the oven to 180°C.
2. Drain your beetroots and place them in a food processor and blend.
3. Melt the dark chocolate over a double-boiler stirring all the time to ensure the chocolate doesn’t burn.
4. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs, sugar and oil thoroughly.
5. Slowly whisk in the beetroot, melted chocolate and vanilla bean paste.
6. Now slowly add the cacao powder, almond flour and baking powder, gently folding in the dry ingredients until all incorporated into the batter.
7. Now spoon the mixture into your cupcake cases – I find this mixture makes about 24 if you use an ice-cream scoop to measure.
8. Place in the oven and cook for approximately 25 minutes or until the top of the cupcake springs back at you.
9. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling tray to rest.
As these were a treat for children they were topped with cream-cheese frosting, freeze dried strawberries, some lime zest, gold leaf and some homemade chocolate swirls that I made with cacao powder, coconut oil and maple syrup. However, you can top these with a variety of different healthy frostings. Even if you blend a cup of soaked raw cashew nuts with a cup of water and some vanilla paste this makes a great cashew nut cream that goes really well with this type of cake!