Two newly-discovered products inspired this super easy cake. First, I was recently asked to do a review of Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour for Allergy Sense (which is a great resource if you have allergies or kids with allergies, by the way). I was interested in doing so because 1) I think it’s important, given the many allergy-friendly products that are available these days, that people are able to make informed choices before spending time and money in their cooking endeavors, and 2) well, I’ve personally been slow to accept gluten-free all-purpose flours in my diet, so I thought it was about time to explore baking with one.
How did I like it? Well, remember the days when you needed only one flour in your recipes? Remember when baking didn’t require added starches and gums? Jules got me reminiscing, which made me miss the one-type-of-flour-days myself. Why don’t I bake with all-purpose GF flours more often, I thought? For one thing, I’ve always thought it a bit of a cop-out — sort of the the gluten-free equivalent of cake mix. I know that’s not really the case, but the control-freak in me has always wanted a part in making my own flour mix, for whatever reason. After spending less than 15 minutes in the kitchen to bake, though, I started seeing the light. Second, I do actually like being able to control what types of flours I’m using to a certain extent, as I’m partial to the higher fiber — sometimes higher protein — varieties. That said, there’s definitely an appeal to shortening your list of ingredients, shorting your time in the kitchen, and shortening your grocery list once in awhile. So for my last trip to Whole Foods, I only bought one flour. I didn’t see Jules’ flour available there (hint, hint Jules, wherever you are!), so I went with Bob’s Red Mill for this particular recipe.
Then there was Xagave, the second prong of this cake’s inspiration. Now, I know certain food bloggers decline offers to try new products, but as I mentioned above, I think it’s important — especially in the allergy-free world, which is a new one to many who are living in it — for people to be able to make informed decisions about the products they’re purchasing. I know my grocery bills went up since I changed my diet, and a large part of that is due to the fact that not everything is a cheap as white flour and sugar. And not everything is as familiar, which is why I’m happy to give guidance where and when I can, and why I welcomed a sample of this agave nectar into my “test” kitchen.
The people at Xagave, it’s clear, were looking to make an agave product that goes beyond the mere “better-for-you-than-sugar” label. It would seem they sought to create a product that had actual health benefits to boot. For example, Xagave, unlike other brands, contains added inulin (a prebiotic fiber), along with calcium, iron, vitamins and minerals. Now, I’m no doctor, but I’m guessing that this can’t be a bad thing. I was particularly excited because now that I’m no longer eating dairy, I’ll take my calcium where I can get it; 17% of the daily value in a tablespoon of Xagave ain’t bad. Perhaps even more noteworthy for some of you out there is that Xagave is processed at 117 degrees, which they say makes it a raw food, though I’d have to do some fact-checking to make sure. This was at least interesting to me because I had literally just read an article denouncing agave nectar as “not really” a raw food (even those labeled as “raw”), since most are processed at 140 degrees, exceeding the general 104-115 degree range allowed for raw cuisine (if you ask Wikipedia). While still on the high end of this range, those following a raw regimine might certainly welcome an agave that’s heated at temperatures below those of most other brands.
So how, exactly, did an agave product inspire this cake? It was actually Xagave’s companion cookbook, Delicious Meets Nutritious, that did that. While all of the dessert recipes looked great to me, I realized that I could eat about zero of them, due to the fact that most call for eggs. But I did notice a cream cheese frosting recipe that piqued my interest. I decided to veganize the original recipe, as well as reduce the amount of agave called for, since I like mine to have a bit of tanginess to it.
My overall impression of Xagave? It’s a good bet, if you can find it. When I used the company’s store locator, I realized that exactly one store in Manhattan carries it. Plus, as far as taste and texture go, I didn’t notice any difference from other brands of agave nectars, despite claims that the taste and cooking qualities were superior. To me this means that if you’re not an agave fan to start, don’t count on Xagave being the product that changes your mind. Now, that could just be me; some of you with more discerning palates might say otherwise. I did try this cake recipe with both Xagave and another type to find that it made no apparent difference, which is why no particular brand is designated for the recipe. But overall, I would say this agave is worth looking into if you’re interested in any of the above-mentioned health benefits — who doesn’t want a little calcium boost with their piece of cake? — and might be particularly worth checking out if you’re diabetic (re: the inulin) or following a raw regimen.
Applesauce Spice Cake:
2 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose flour
1/4 cup flax seed meal
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons allspice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup hot water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Whisk in agave, oil, hot water, vanilla and applesauce and stir until incorporated.
3. Pour batter into a pre-greased, 9-13″ baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes (check after 25), or until a toothpick comes out clean. Top with vegan cream cheese frosting.
Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from Delicious to Nutritious, by Stephen Richards): In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together 8-oz. vegan cream cheese (I use Follow Your Heart brand), 3 tablespoons Spectrum Organic Shortening, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/4 cup agave nectar (increase to taste). Beat until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.