Last Saturday was Gayle’s birthday. At the end of this month it’s my mother’s birthday. Next Tuesday is a feast of a saint turned love holiday and on the Tuesday after that Gayle will be going to Spain for an internship at a Basque restaurant that requires you to have a chef’s tweezer on the sleeve of your coat. I got another one. It the type of restaurant that looks like Tony Stark’s house or a gifted/mutant child warrior training centre with a vegetable garden at the back for those meaningful conversations that are a build up to the climactic fight scene(s). All I know is that they make fancy food and if it was me instead of her, I would be happy to wash dishes and wipe down every stainless steel surface three times a day if it meant I could eat every element on the plate in one bite because that’s all I think about while watching Chef’s Table and/or Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
The reason for this cake post is all of the above. My mother is diabetic, Gayle bakes, and it’s almost Valentine’s Day. February has always had the birthday monopoly in my family of five and it is my opinion that this one needs to be a little sweeter on the celebration. It seemed like a gift to me that this month’s Food and Wine magazine had a feature by Julia Turshen speaking about the changes she and her wife Grace Bonney made together after Grace was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. This riff on the Happy Wife Happy Life cake from Small Victories replaced white flour with almond meal, and the sweetener used is coconut jaggery or coconut sugar as it’s called in the US. My mother has always had more of a sweet tooth than all of her three children put together. Every time I ask her why she’s eating “so many sweets” (I exaggerate) she always says “It’s jaggery not sugar!” I’m not a nutrition or diet expert but I know that jaggery has a lower glycemic index and hence is a better choice for people living with diabetes. As a person who grew up eating Goan sweets laced with jaggery that’s as dark as night, I know that it’s also delicious. So I’ll believe my mother, in moderation. 😛
So Gayle – the now 26-year-old – before you go to Spain, here’s what I want you to do: Make mama this chocolate loaf cake for her birthday! She’s worked hard to provide for us for 32 years (she celebrated her work anniversary this month too). The bank she works at went from being the only bank in our town to one of more than few. Still, people keep going back to the branch she works at because they know she will be there. In that time she has served many good and not-so-happy customers with nothing but a great attitude. She’s so well-connected to all these people for all these years and they know that when they walk through the door at the bank, she will always be there to take care of them. I have no idea how one person can work at the same place for so long but I do know it has something to do with wanting to always be of service to others. Apart from turning a year older, she deserves a cake for all her hard work even when she’s off the clock (my dad always gives her a hard time about that). Thank you, mama and happy birthday and congratulations! Happy Galentine’s Day family! Happy birthday and all the best, Gayle! Now get to work.
Notes for Gayle: Julia uses 1/4 cup of sweetener instead of 1 cup to accommodate Grace’s dietary needs. It suggests keeping it at 1 cup of jaggery for a more traditionally sweet cake.
This note is for places that sell jaggery in the shape of little pyramids like they do in Goa. I have a stash in my fridge thanks to my mother and the travelling Prateek (hehe). Cut the pyramid of jaggery with a knife and then pulsed it in a spice grinder until it was the texture of brown sugar.
Adapted from Food and Wine
Baking spray or butter, for greasing a 9 x 5 loaf pan
- 2 1/2 cups almond meal
- 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 1 cup coconut palm jaggery/ coconut sugar
- 1/4 cup butter (56.5 gms), melted and slightly cooled
- 1/2 cup cooled brewed coffee
- 2 tsp almond extract
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- Strawberries or in-season fruit, sliced almonds or Valentine’s candy, to top
Preheat the oven to 350 F/ 180 C. Grease a loaf pan with baking spray or butter and line it with parchment paper. Allow a few centimetres of overhang on the short sides of the pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond meal, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks with the jaggery, melted butter, coffee and almond extract. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until the batter is smooth.
Beat the egg whites in a stand mixer or with egg-beaters (or by hand!) on medium-high until the whites form stiff peaks. This should take about 3-4 minutes. Fold one-third of the eggs whites into the cake batter and once the colour of the batter lightens, fold the remaining egg whites until no streaks remain. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out with a few crumbs. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and let it cool for 20 minutes. Unmould the cake holding the parchment paper overhang and place it bare on the wire rack to cool completely.
While the cake is cooling, beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Cut the cake into slices and serve with a dollop of whipped cream and fresh strawberries.