Golden flax and polenta cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Golden flax and polenta cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I fancied a spot of baking this week especially as it seemed to be a while since I baked a cake for my blog. This recipe is extremely easy to make, even if you’re an inexperienced baker, there is little to go wrong here. The cake is naturally dense in texture so you haven’t got to worry about whisking for a specific length of time or getting a good rise. The decoration is optional, the cake tastes just as good with or without icing. The mixture is not particularly sweet and makes a good alternative dessert topped with fruit, accompanied with free-from cream or ice-cream.

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Easy to make cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The cake gets its rich yellow colour from polenta and cold pressed rapeseed oil. I’m very fortunate to have an excellent local supply of this amber coloured oil called Summer Harvest. The rapeseed is harvested just down the road from my house. The oil has an earthy, nutty flavour and makes an excellent addition to any recipe with nuts and seeds added to it. If you prefer to use an alternative oil, us sunflower oil which adds little extra flavour but the cake will also be paler in colour.

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Polenta and locally produced cold pressed rapeseed oil. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I usually use just ground almonds and polenta in this recipe, but for a change,  I ground up flax seed with whole almonds to make a fine meal. As long as you grind the seeds or nuts finely, you should be able to use any combination with polenta in this recipe. I use an electric coffee grinder to make my own seed and nut flours, I find the sturdier blade is able to blitz more finely than the food processor or blender.

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Flax seeds and whole almonds ground to make a flour. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 150ml cold pressed rapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp good quality natural vanilla extract
  • 150g unbleached caster sugar
  • 100g silken tofu
  • 50g each flax seeds and whole almonds, finely ground
  • 125g polenta
  • 5g gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
  • 10g arrowroot

To decorate:

  • 100g ready to roll white icing
  • ½ tsp good quality natural vanilla extract
  • A handful of fresh berries
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Grease and line an 18cm a round cake tin. Pour the oil into a bowl. Add the vanilla and sugar and whisk together until creamy and well blended. Add the tofu and whisk again until smooth.
  2. Add the seed mix, polenta, baking powder and arrowroot, and gently mix all the ingredients together until well blended. Scrape into the tin. Stand the tin on a baking tray and bake for an hour – test the centre of the cake with a wooden skewer, it should come out clean when the cake is properly cooked through. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

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    Making and baking the cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. To decorate the cake, remove the cake from the tin and place on a wire rack. Cut up the white icing into pieces and put in a small saucepan. Add 1 tsp water and heat the mixture very gently, stirring, until it begins to melt and form a paste. Stir in the vanilla, then drizzle the icing all over the top of the cake using a dessert spoon, letting it drip down the sides. As the icing cools, it will set firm again.

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    Icing the cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Leave the icing to cool and scatter, then scatter the top with berries before serving. I used my latest precious harvest of blueberries. Not a very good year for them in my garden, but the berries do have a good flavour none the less. Have a good week 🙂
    On_the_bush_and_harvested_late_August_Scottish_blueberries
    Home-grown blueberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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    Rich in texture and colour, flax and polenta cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Autumn blues – Blueberry and marzipan cake (gluten-free; dairy-free)

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Blueberry and marzipan cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been feeling a wee bit autumnal here in central Scotland for the past couple of weeks. Some of the leafy foliage in the garden is on the turn and the nights are drawing in fast. I also have blueberries ready for picking.

Home-grown blueberries are a delight to behold and eat. The skin is much bluer than any variety I can buy, and the skin has a silvery, almost downy bloom. The fruit is firmer in texture and has a slightly tart, more pronounced flavour. The plants are easy to grow, require little maintenance, and love the acidic Scottish soil. The leaves turn pink as the season progresses, and make a wonderful display in the fruit beds.

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Freshly picked, home-grown Scottish blueberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Mid-season blueberries ripe and ready for picking alongside a later variety. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I planted 3 blushes about 5 years ago. One fruits end of July/beginning of August, one is in full ripening mode now, and the other has fruit that is just turning pink. It is unusual for me to be able to harvest enough berries to make anything substantially blueberry flavoured in one go. Usually I keep adding to a bag of berries in the freezer until I have enough to make jam – blueberries do freeze very well and make very good jam from frozen fruit. This year has been an exception, and I have harvested sufficient fresh berries for this unbelievably easy blueberry cake.

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Slice of homemade blueberry and marzipan cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 115g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 115g gluten-free self raising flour (such as Dove’s Farm)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 100g marzipan, cut into small pieces
  • 200g fresh or frozen blueberries
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4) Grease and line an 18cm square cake tin. Put the margarine, sugar, flour, eggs and ground almonds in a bowl. Using an electric mixer on a low speed, gently whisk the ingredients together until loosely blended. Increase the mixer speed and continue to whisk for a few seconds longer until creamy and smooth.
  2. Gently stir in the marzipan and blueberries and spoon into the tin. Smooth the top and bake for about 45 minutes until lightly golden and just firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin, then slice into 8 portions and serve. If you can leave it alone, the cake tastes even better the next day. It is also delicious served warm as a pudding.
    Ready_to_bake_and_fresh_out_of_the_oven_blueberry_and_marzipan_cake
    Easy to make, blueberry and marzipan cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    There are other signs of Autumn in the garden. The Autumn Crocus opened out this week, and the globe thistles (Echinops) are in various stages of blooming. I was delighted to see so many bees still hard at work when I was taking these pictures. Until next week, enjoy the late summer/very early autumn sunshine.

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    New season Autumn Crocus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
    Echinops
    Shades of silvery-blue, Echinops (globe thistles). Image: Kathryn Hawkins
    Bee_and_Echinops
    A very busy bee. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

     

Autumn shades in a Perthshire garden

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Autumn shades in a Perthshire garden. Image by Kathryn Hawkins

This time last month, I was wondering what I would be sharing with you in November. But having had an unseasonally mild October, with no high winds or frosts, we are being treated to a magnificent Autumn, here in central Scotland. As I type this, I am looking out on to the copper beech in the front garden which is a blazing coppery-orange in the setting sun.

All around this part of the country, trees form the backdrop of the scenery. Autumn is a time for getting out of doors and celebrating the glories of natural colour. I’m fortunate in the fact that I don’t have to travel very far to experience this, my garden is alive with different shades of foliage, and even a few flowers.

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Japanese Maple. Image by Kathryn Hawkins
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Japanese Maple foliage. Image by Kathryn Hawkins
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Red blueberry bush leaves. Image by Kathryn Hawkins

Back in the Summer, I shared my white Hydrangea flowers in a post. The plant is still producing, and now as a bonus, the foliage is starting to turn wonderful shades of blue and purple; I thought it was worth another outing.

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White Hydrangea with peacock-blue leaves. Image by Kathryn Hawkins

I’ll draw this piece to a close (the light is rapidly fading outside) with a splash of colour from one of my favourite garden plants, the nasturtium. This variety is called Empress of India and the leaves are a blue-green when they first open, and the flowers a deep red. It’s been blossoming for a few weeks now and has gone a bit “blousy”, but still offers an eye-catching display at the front of the house. I wonder what I’ll be posting next month; fingers crossed the garden’s not covered in a pile of the white stuff……

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Nasturtium: Empress of India. Image by Kathryn Hawkins