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Wednesday, November 30, 2011


A couple of weeks ago, I bumped into another mom from my children's school at the self-serve frozen yogurt store. She told me she thought that I would be the kind of person who wouldn't allow my kids to eat that stuff nor that I would eat it myself.
I must confess that, as I wrote before, when I see my kids piling up on sprinkles, gummy bears, and the rest of the fakeys (that would be everything flavored and colored synthetically) in the 5-gallon capacity bowl the store offers as their "small" cup version, I do feel like making a crazy scene in 16 handles, but instead, I just ask my son and daughter as nicely as I can (which usually is yelling) to please moderate themselves. And I join them in the treat eating experience, although I do tend to end up with a less colorful frozen dessert. 
I feel that in my own baking and cooking, I can never go back completely to the processed, super sweetened, impossible-to-find-in-nature ingredients without feeling I'm betraying a part of me. I always keep Michael Pollan's Food Rules   in mind, and I always want to be able to enjoy the food I eat (which Pollan actually encourages us to do). However, I would be lying if I said that it's always easy.
Eating well requires a very delicate emotional balance, some knowledge of ingredients, food preparation and nutrition (although too much knowledge might spoil the appetite too!), and above all, to eat in a healthy way, there should be lots of pleasure derived from enjoying each bite of delicious food, not worrying about eating more or less of it, but just getting the intense and conscious satisfaction of the bite that is been chewed at that exact moment.'s very easy to say it but so hard to achieve.
We should care but not too much. How much is still healthy? Even trying to be the healthiest eater becomes unhealthy. Orthorexia, the obsession of eating only what are considered healthy foods is a controversial psychological diagnosis, that does affect many of us, and can become an eating disorder. Scientific research and food and drug marketing make it even more complicated by making new "discoveries" every year, trying to find the ultimate culprit for our unhealthy eating. The most dangerous food to eat today, might be the healthiest in the next decade, and we can never keep up. If we do, we risk becoming orthorexics...
Balance...Some days I feel I achieve it and some others I can't, but by letting my children eat sprinkles and candy once in a while (which is hard to define as well) I pretend to myself to be chill.
And I'm soooooo chilled, that my daughter asked me to have a Costco sheet cake with a rainbow for her birthday. My heart sank! First of all: how come she asks me, a professional baker to buy her a pre-made cake? (by the way, I've heard the cake is pretty yummy).
Then, why would she want what's in that mass produced cake full of.....stuff?
You might think that I rethought all my balance, anti-orthorexia theories and gave in buying her the Costco shortening yellow #5 and red #27 thing with her name on it just to keep her emotions in balance.
Well, no. I can't be insulted that way! I went ahead and baked her a cake and decorated it with shimmery things that are labeled as "non-toxic" but that aren't really considered "edible." I sprayed the sugar-laden fondant with cough-inducing edible paint in 6 colors. I went all the way!
However, the cake inside its fondant shell was made with whole spelt flower, organic sugar and flax seeds. She loved her cake, inside and out. I felt I had been "flexible" and "balanced" and just a bit pathetic.

However, I do hope that in the future, whenever she's looking for comfort for a broken heart, a bad grade or a difficult day, she comes to me and my cupcakes instead of going to Harlem and entering Costco to order a sheet cake with a bright rainbow on top. I don't want her to eat it all by herself on the Megastore's floor until she feels full of fake fulfillment. I want to think I could offer her that fulfillment with hugs, kisses, words of wisdom (accoring to me, of course), a bit of nagging, I-told-you-so-s and cupcakes! 

Here's my recipe for all-purpose cake or cupcakes (I would say "vanilla cake", but you don't really have to add any vanilla to it). It's a moist, simple, crowd pleasing and one-bowl recipe (if you use a kitchen scale!)

  • Vegan, nut, dairy, egg, soy, wheat free
  • Super ingredients: whole spelt flour, flax meal

11 ounces whole spelt flour
6 ounces organic sugar
1 tablespoon potato flour
1 tablespoon flax meal
2 1/2 teaspoons non-aluminum baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
14 ounces unsweetened rice milk (or the milk of your choice if there aren't any allergies)
3 ounces mild extra virgin olive oil, plus more for pan

Preheat oven to 350 F.
If making cupcakes, place paper liners in a muffin tin. If making a cake, line the bottom of an 8, 9 or 10-inch round cake pan with parchment and oil the sides.

In a large bowl whisk flour, sugar, potato flour, flax meal, baking powder and salt. Add rice milk and oil whisking until it is all mixed, and only a few small lumps are visible. The batter will be loose. Don't overmix or the cake might be tough!

Pour or ladle (we use this very cool contraption) the batter into the prepared pan and bake cupcakes for about 20 minutes, check cakes after 30 minutes.

Baking time will depend on the size of the pan you are using. To test cake for doness, press lightly the cake in the center and if it springs back, it's ready. If it stays dented, it will need more time in the oven.

Let cook and enjoy with icing, jam or plain.
NOTE: if you want, you can add nuts, seeds or fruit pieces into the batter right after the liquid ingredients.

Makes 1 cake or 12 to 15 cupcakes


Lori Kronzon said...

Brilliant! Thanks so much as always Alexandra for sharing your timely, relevant insights that concern all parents and health-conscious individuals. And thank you of course for sharing your super delicious recipes that I wish I could do justice to.

dori said...

i seriously identified with this post. from that first drop of breastmilk into our child's body, we begin obssessing about what we choose to feed our kids - our choices grow their brains and their bones - so who wouldn't feel some pressure?! but as a lover of zours and duncan hines ready-made frosting, i have had to balance my desire for healthy feeding with allowing the 'other' foods into our lives, and without feeling guilty. i just make sure we brush our teeth well after an indulgent day!

Alexandra said...

Thanks so much, Lori!

Alexandra said...

Yes, that struggle for "balance." What else can we do but try our best? Tnx so much, Dori!