Our final guest recipe of the week is from Francesca, mother of two, maker and baker of the most amazing and appropriately named Cake of Dreams. I am definitely going to be trying these at the weekend with the boys.
What to make for someone you love….? For us it has to have a little bit of magic to it. Heart shaped pink pancakes for Valentine’s breakfast. Heart-shaped whatever we can get away with, year round, in this house. Despite making cakes for a living, we aren’t big on sugar or wheat at home, for general wellness reasons, so lately all the fun for me is developing sugar/wheat free variations of the things we desire. With all this in mind, we set about making a variation on the ultimate romantic pastry treat, the Courtesan au Chocolat from Grand Budapest Hotel. Indiana is ever my sous chef and loved this bake, it’s a really easy and fun one for kids to join in with. We kept ours pretty simple, but there’s loads of scope to make them as elaborate as your imagination will allow.
Gluten-free Strawberry & Chia Love Buns
For the choux buns…
115g gluten free plain flour (we used Dove’s Farm)
Preheat oven to 220C. Heat the water, salt and butter in a medium saucepan until the butter is melted and the mixture has just come to the boil. Remove from the heat, quickly mix in all the flour with a wooden spoon. Return to a low heat and stir vigorously until the dough becomes a smooth, sticky mass that comes away from the sides of the pan, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. In a separate jug crack the eggs and whip them up until just frothy.
Place the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer (ideally, or you could use a hand held beater or just your own big muscles). Once the dough has cooled to just warm, add a little of the egg at a time, mixing thoroughly until smooth between additions. You’re aiming for a smooth, shiny dough that has the consistency of thick batter, so stop adding the egg once you get to this stage. For us this was *almost* all the egg.
Place the dough in a piping bag, and either snip the end to leave a round opening or use a large round piping nozzle. In the absence of a piping bag a zip lock bag works ok for this!. Pipe your dough onto a baking tray lined with parchment. You want three different sizes to build your tower. Indy loved the piping and it doesn’t really matter if it’s done a little messily, so great for kids to have a go at. Once you have piped all your blobs use a finger dipped in water to smooth over any peaks.
Bake for 20 minutes, then lower the temp to 180C and bake another 20 minutes. Turn off the oven, remove the buns & use a skewer to carefully poke a hole in the bottom of each one. Then return to the baking tray upside-down (hole-slide-up!) and place back in the (now off) oven an additional 20 mins.
For the strawberry & chia custard…
400g fresh strawberries, chopped & mashed (we used a potato masher)
2 tbsp coconut sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
2/3 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp chia seeds
1 egg yolk (optional, just adds a little creaminess)
Cook the strawberries over a medium heat until they are liquid and slightly reduced. Remove from the heat, add the remaining ingredients and stir, then leave to stand. Cool completely in the fridge.
Pipe your custard into the buns one by one, via the little hole you made with the skewer. This will be much easier with a proper piping nozzle, but isn’t impossible with a makeshift piping bag. We also filled some of our buns with CoYo coconut yogurt. Once the buns are filled, mix up your icing. As the rest of our buns were so noble & healthy we allowed a little sugar at this stage, for the simple reason that it looks better. If you want to keep yours sugar free you can mix up melted coconut oil, maple syrup and freeze dried raspberries for a lovely pink glaze.
1 cup sifted icing sugar
1 tbsp almond or rice milk
natural food colouring – you can buy these or make your own. We used powdered beetroot and a few drops of blackcurrant jam mixed with acai powder for ours. Freeze dried berries are also fabulous.
Make up your basic icing then transfer to different bowls before adding your colours. Dip the buns into the icing and then stack them. If you would like them to be especially sturdy you can mix up a royal icing with egg white and icing sugar, beaten until it has the consistency of toothpaste, and use this as a glue to stick them together. This would also be perfect for piping decorative aspects. We used some berries, freeze dried berry chunks and non toxic glitter to decorate. I’ll be honest, we ate them incredibly quickly. They were delicious. Definitely one to make again, and there are so many variations on fillings that would be yummy – chocolate custard, or coconut milk custard if you want to skip the dairy. Make them and pop them in a little box for the one you love, it’s too easy not to…
Q&A below with Fran:
Where do you live and with who?
I live in Walthamstow with my husband & two kids Pablo (6) & Indiana (3) & an assortment of house spiders for pets.
How did you start making your cakes and turn it in to a business?
I always loved cooking/baking and was constantly offering to make friends’ birthday cakes, and the odd wedding cake. Over time guests at parties I had baked for started to get in touch to commission cakes themselves, and it began to feel like a real way to earn money that slotted in with motherhood & minimized my need to outsource childcare. It took off and grew very quickly, which has been fabulous. Plus it’s hugely more fun than a desk job…
Do your kids love cooking with you? Do you bake healthier versions with them?
We cook together as much as possible. The kids enjoy mucking in (and arguing over who gets to break the eggs) and I love that it gives them more of an understanding and appreciation for food & ingredients. There’s not a lot they won’t eat, or at least try. Indy especially won’t really let me cook anything without her, and at least twice a week we put loud music on and have a bit of a pancake making party. Despite my reputation for big sweet cakes, at home we are largely wheat/dairy/sugar free, so most of the things we bake together are my recipe experiments & tests for healthy versions of exciting treats.
What is the favourite flavour in your house at the moment?
We are big Mexican food lovers, and I always have masses of fresh coriander in a bowl on the table, assuming it will just be for me…but recently they have declared their love for it too and sprinkle it on most things. Indy now has an imaginary dog called Coriander, so strong is their love. They also think they love marmalade, because of Paddington, but after pleading with me to buy some it turns out they don’t. Though they will never admit it. And they dare each other to eat little dots of sriracha sauce the size of pinpricks then fall about in hysterics when their tongues burn.
You can order one of Fran’s cakes here and follow on instagram @cakeofdreams or Francesca herself here.