My parents decided earlier in the year to have a bit of change of life style and swop the usual carbs that might normally accompany an evening meal and switch them to extra vegetables, salads , lentils and beans as a filler instead. I (and they) call it a life style change because I think the word diet makes you automatically feel hungry and like you want to give up at the first hurdle.
With the mindset that it’s a change of life style means its more about choice and not giving up what you enjoy but instead gives you the opportunity to discover new recipes, learn different ways to cook and actually really enjoy trying new foods. I’ve definitely gone down the same route and eat a lot less potatoes and pasta than I used to and you soon start to feel the benefits of a low carb diet.
My parents have been doing super well and I didn’t want to spoil all the good work when the whole Smith-Rolt clan descended home for a BBQ to celebrate mum’s 60th birthday last weekend.
We’re a close knit family and every birthday is always celebrated by everyone going home for the weekend to catch up over some good grub and delicious wine (thanks Dad). We’ve always taken the time to meet up at my parents home and it ensures that six times a year on top of Christmas, we always have the opportunity to catch up and have a giggle. The dates are fixed and locked in the diary and there isn’t much that will come between them, although we currently have to skype my sister into the dinner table as she lives in Hong Kong.
I’d been having a think about what kind of birthday cake I could bake mum for her birthday that would still be delicious, but maybe not have the saturated fat that cakes often come with.
With recent baking experiences, almonds and pistachios are a great way to keep a cake moist but adding such a lovely flavour too. I decided that with a couple of bags of hazelnuts hanging about in the cupboard, they would be the star of the show in the birthday cake. I conducted a search on the internet, but then happened upon a recipe in Women’s Health magasine!
I know what you’re all thinking… a cake in Women’s Health… it can’t possibly be nice. I must say I had my doubts as it also included using Spelt flour which I hadn’t used before either.
Spelt flour is non-wheat flour and is becoming increasingly popular as it has a strong nutritional profile. Spelt has slightly fewer calories than wheat flour, higher in protein whilst also being easy to digest. The recipe actually called for white spelt flour and I managed to pick up wholegrain spelt flour, so even more fibre!
The sponge couldn’t have been easier to whip together and resulted in a lovely flavour where the hazelnuts really shone through with a hint of lemon smiling in the background.
The spelt flour along with the hazelnuts created a ‘wholesome’ looking cake which was a nice change to the white sponges you often see.
The blueberries on top provided a fresh tartness against the fromage frais and worked well with the flavours of the sponge.
I made a few adaptions to the original recipe and in retrospect (having baked and eaten the cake) the main change I would make is using whipped cream instead of fromage frais or a combination of mascarpone cream with fromage frais because I think it needed a bit more richness and firmness between the two layers. The fromage frais was a bit thin in texture for my liking and didn’t have the sweetness I think the cake needed.
I’d also have put extra blueberries through the middle rather than just on top, but these are the things you learn and next time it’ll be just perfect.
The birthday girl enjoyed it anyway… and that’s the main thing!
Lemony hazelnut cake topped with fresh blueberries
For the sponge:
120g blanched hazelnuts
260g soft unsalted butter
2 teaspoons of baking powder
4 large free range eggs
130g golden caster sugar
130g maple syrup
2 lemons finely grated
1 lemon juiced
For the filling:
300g fat free fromage frais
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons of blueberry jam
200g blueberries (enough to cover the top)
Edible flowers to decorate
Preheat your oven to 180°C and grease and flour two 20cm loose-bottomed sandwich tins.
Toast your hazelnuts in the oven for 5-7 minutes, but check them after 5 minutes as you want to take them out as soon as they have changed colour and released their delicious smell.
Once cooled, whizz the nuts up in a food processor or using a hand blender until they are fine texture.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and then beat in all of the remaining ingredients. Be careful not to over mix as you want a light cake.
Split the mixture between the two tins and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cakes are golden and risen.
Leave the cakes to cool slightly before taking them out of their tins.
You can then get on with making your filling. Lightly whip the fromage frais until it has thickened, drizzle through the honey and whisk again before swirling through the blueberry jam.
When they have cooled completely you can begin assembling your cake. Place one sponge on your serving plate then add some of the filling to the top of the sponge. Put your second sponge on top and spread the remaining filling on top.
Decorate with blueberries and dust with icing sugar. If you have some edible flowers, add these on for the final touch.
It almost looks too pretty to eat!