I love warming spices such as cinnamon, allspice, and cloves this time of year. It's so festive, yet comforting. Here's a very simple recipe for a delicious, moist cake which can be enjoyed with tea or for dessert with company on a cold winter afternoon. Or for breakfast, if you're like me.
Blackcurrant Spice Cake with Lemon Glaze
1/3 cup dried black currants (or raisins, but I prefer currants here)
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon good vanilla extract - the real kind, not imitation vanilla
1/2 cup extra-virgin cold pressed coconut oil* (or safflower oil)
3/4 cup sugar (I use raw turbinado sugar)
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 2 tablespoons water (or 1 egg, lightly beaten)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (note that this is different from regular whole wheat flour for bread)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I like Vietnamese cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Heat oven to 350 F.
Line a ceramic or metal baking pan (9-inch square) with parchment paper or aluminum foil, then lightly grease the paper/foil. Or, skip the paper/foil and just grease and flour the baking pan. I find the former method makes my life easier though.
Combine the black currants, water, and vanilla extract in a small saucepan until it simmers. Remove from heat and stir in the oil, sugar, and flaxseed and water mixture. If using egg, remember to cool the mixture first before adding the egg, or else the egg will scramble in the hot liquid!
Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make sure all spices are well combined throughout. Pour in the liquid ingredients and stir. Stir in the walnuts or pecans. Avoid overmixing, as this makes the cake tough.
Pour into the baking pan, and bake for 20-25 minutes until a knife/toothpick/cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean (a few moist crumbs sticking to the knife are ok too).
Let the whole pan cool on a cake rack. Meanwhile, make lemon glaze:
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar/powdered sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest (a Microplane works great for fine zest)
Mix the above ingredients, then drizzle over the cooled cake.
The cake is delicious even without the glaze, but I think the lemon brightens up the flavors. But as you can see, I already dug in while it was warm, before I added the glaze...
*You might be wary about extra virgin coconut oil in a cake. It does have a strong smell, but believe me, when you taste the cake, you won't be able to tell it was made with coconut oil. I wouldn't recommend it for recipes where the butter should stand out and recipes where you need the consistency of real sweet cream butter (like pound cake, buttercream frosting, etc.). But for recipes such as this spice cake, the coconut oil worked really well.
Coconut oil used to have a bad reputation, but that is rapidly changing within alternative health communities. Read about the benefits of coconut oil here. Aside from olive oil, EV coconut oil is the only other oil I use now. I use it for almost everything, except Italian, Greek, or Mediterranean cooking where you really need the bright, fruity flavors of olive oil.
This is the coconut oil I use -- sourced from the Philippines! (I know, I can't help it... saying that makes me proud.) This coconut oil is organic, extra-virgin, cold-pressed, unrefined, and hexane free.
Butter, however, is a different story...