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A Very Special Chocolate Cake

23 Sep
© Jess Bruce 2015

My gluten and dairy free wedding cake © Jess Bruce 2015

Today I’m sharing a very special recipe: my gluten and dairy free wedding cake.

My Mum made both of our wedding cakes – yes we had two:

1) a normal gluten and dairy full naked vanilla sponge with homemade raspberry jam and marscapone cream filling; and

2) a Jess Friendly gluten and dairy free chocolate Genoise sponge filled with homemade raspberry jam and whipped coconut cream.

We settled almost instantly on the normal cake. We used this recipe from the Good HouseKeeping Insitute. We decided to do a ‘normal’ main cake to keep costs down (gluten and dairy free alternative ingredients are not cheap) and to ensure greater stability. We didn’t want a leaning tower of Pisa of a naked wedding cake and gluten free baking is generally not as robust as its gluten full foe. And by making a separate cake for me, it meant more cake, which is never a bad thing.

Two cakes, one gluten free, one normal, both delicious. © Jess Bruce 2015

Two cakes, one gluten free, one normal, both delicious. © Jess Bruce 2015

For my cake, we tried all sorts of different recipes before settling on this classic Genoise sponge. Chocolate fudge, egg-less, fat-less, flour-less almond, victoria, angel…. You name it we tried it! In the end we settled on a chocolate cake so that it was clearly distinct from the main normal cake in order to avoid confusion and cross-contamination.

© Jess Bruce 2015

© Jess Bruce 2015

And this Genoise Sponge recipe won because it was ‘simply the best…better than all the rest..!’

Tina Turner aside, this sponge is incredibly airy and so light and fluffy. The cocoa gives a rich chocolately flavour that’s irresistible – seriously irresistible, I had three slices immediately one after the other when Mum made the final trial of it (and yes then I slipped into a sugar coma! Soooo good!) I would say you would never know it was gluten and dairy free. Genuinely. I know I would say that but wedding guests ate it without realizing and really liked it. So take their word for it if you don’t believe me!

What is a Genoise sponge? It’s an Italian sponge cake made with hardly any fat, lots of whole eggs and by a whole lot of vigorous whisking. The whisking is important. My advice, use a good electric whisk otherwise your arm may drop off. But I tell you it is worth the effort. And with very little fat, you could perhaps say it is even good…for…you… Or rather with its hefty dose of sugar, perhaps not.

I can testify that this cake improves with age. Mr B and I had a few days ‘minimoon’ at the hotel in Cambridge after our wedding. The chef kindly kept my wedding cake in the hotel’s fridge and whenever I wanted a piece, I rang reception and they brought it up to our room, literally on a silver platter! Several days later the cake was still soft and moist and if anything the coconut cream becomes more dairy cream like as it sets in the cake in the fridge. So basically what I’m saying is, if somehow you don’t eat the whole cake in one sitting, have no fear, it will still taste amazing the day after (and the day after that if you’re really controlled!)

Enough preamble. Go forth and get whisking!

Chocolate Genoise Sponge

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Gluten, dairy, nut and soya free


  •  5 eggs
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 55g gluten free plain flour
  • 55g rice flour
  • 1/8 tsp xanthum gum
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 30g melted dairy free fat (I used Pure olive oil based spread).


  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (160ºC Fan Oven).
  2. Lightly grease and line two 9 inch (23 cm) sandwich tins (to make a 4 layer cake as pictured, double the recipe)
  3. Place eggs and sugar into a bowl and whisk for 4-5 minutes until thick and very pale. You’re done when you lift the whisk out of the bowl and a trail is left behind
  4. Slowly drizzle the melted fat into the bowl and fold in gently
  5. Sift the flours, cocoa powder and xanthum gum together in a clean bowl and then fold these dry ingredients gently into the wet with a metal spoon
  6. Spoon the mixture into two cake tins, dividing evenly. Tap gently to settle (this removes any air bubbles)
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes until risen and just firm to touch – you don’t want to overcook a Genoise sponge as it will become dry
  8. Remove from the oven and cool briefly in the tins before tipping out onto a cooling rack
  9. Once cold fill with your choice of filling, we used raspberry jam and whipped coconut cream (we used this recipe for the cream).

Honouring the Egg: A Summer Quiche

9 Sep
My quiche in all its glory © Jess Bruce 2015

My quiche in all its glory © Jess Bruce 2015

The egg. Perhaps the humblest food there is. A great source of protein and the foundation of so many quick and simple meals.

For nearly 18 months I didn’t eat eggs. Along with a host of other foods, following food intolerance testing, I removed egg from my diet. I embraced vegan baking using egg replacers such as applesauce, mashed banana, flaxseed and chia seeds to bind ingredients. Turns out eggs are fairly easily replaced in baked goods. An egg-less quiche even became a common lunch for me – intrigued? Mixing together gram flour and water, leaving it to froth for a few hours, once baked creates a texture amazingly akin to the egg filling of a quiche.

After seeing my digestion and overall ME/CFS symptoms improve over the year or so following my restricted diet, it was time to try re-introducing the banned foodstuffs. The theory goes that a 12 month absence from eating a food to which you were intolerant, will, in most cases, heal your gut to the point where you can reintroduce the food without reaction. It doesn’t work in all cases, it depends how severe your intolerance was to start with – I haven’t been able to successfully reintroduce gluten and dairy for example, as my last post shows.

The humble egg was the first food I reintroduced and I am very happy to say that it was successful. I now eat eggs two or three times a week. They make the perfect quick lunch – scrambled eggs with basil pesto on toast is my go to when I’m feeling  lazy tired.

Although I do still make the chickpea based egg free quiche – I like to mix up my proteins, and still eat plenty of plant based meals – an egg full quiche is firmly back on the menu.

Pastry case after blind baking © Jess Bruce 2015

Pastry case after blind baking © Jess Bruce 2015

Pastry Power

A quiche of course doesn’t just call for eggs. It calls for delicious pastry too; not an easy fix when it has to be gluten and dairy free. I have been gluten free for over 10 years now. I remember the first gluten free pastry my Mum and I made. It was my first gluten free Christmas and we tried to make gluten free mince pies. The pastry could have shattered glass. Or broken a tooth as you bit into it. It was very hard and totally unyielding.

Ten years on however, after much trial and error, my Mum has cracked Jess Friendly pastry. For lunch in the run up to the wedding, Mum made a quiche with a light, flaky shortcrust pastry that literally melted in your mouth. It had a lovely wholemeal flavour from using oat flour. You would never have guessed it was gluten and dairy free.

I have made the quiche twice since Mum’s wedding week one. And the pastry worked beautifully both times, even though the first time was my first attempt at making pastry ever. Gluten free or gluten full. Somehow, despite a love of cooking, I had reached the age of 31 without making pastry. It wasn’t perfect to look at, but it tasted very good which is all that matters in my eyes.

Some gluten free pastries suggest rolling out between two pieces of clingfilm, I didn’t need to do this with this pastry, but it may help. Pastry is a challenging friend, so do whatever helps you get it into the baking dish! I would say though do not chill the pastry in the fridge before rolling out. In my Mum’s (pastry chef extraordinaire) experience that just makes the pastry hard once baked.

Summer produce ready to be the quiche filling © Jess Bruce 2015

Summer produce ready to be the quiche filling © Jess Bruce 2015

Back To The Egg

My quiche filling was less successful the first time around than my maiden pastry voyage. After blind baking the pastry, I followed the guidance of a famous British celebrity chef (who shall remain nameless) whose recipe said to bake the quiche for 15 minutes and then the egg mixture would be set. Erm no. I baked it for 25 minutes and then thought it was done. It was firm to the touch in the centre. But on cutting into it, there was still a steady stream of liquid egg. Although I definitely wouldn’t advocate eating semi cooked quiche, it did taste very nice! I can thank the pancetta and caramelised onion filling for the delicious flavour rather than the runny egg.

Second attempt at quiche making resulted in the recipe and photos that I am sharing today. Even if I say so myself, it looks mighty fine! This time I ignored Mr celebrity chef’s advice and asked my Mum – Mum’s know best correct? Correct! Mum advised a much longer cooking time and the result was a perfectly set egg filling to the quiche, moist but not runny. And the pastry again was delicious, light and flakey.

Quiche comes in hundreds of different guises. My recipe here is for a vegetarian filling. I used a bounty of summer produce – sautéed courgette, slow roasted tomatoes and caramelised red onion. If you don’t have to avoid dairy,  feta or goats cheese would be an amazing addition. Or if you’re an avid meat eater then smoked ham or bacon would be delicious too. The pastry recipe is the star here, beyond that go forth and be adventurous with your choice of filling!

Here’s the recipe:

A Summer Quiche

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Gluten, dairy, nut and soya free


For the Pastry:

  • 100g rice flour
  • 100g oat flour (I grind my own from gluten free oats) + extra for rolling
  • 1/2 tsp xanthum gum
  • 80g solid vegetable fat (I use Trex)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6-8 tbsp of cold water (I chill a jug in the fridge to ensure the water is cold before use)

For the Summer Quiche Filling:

  • 6 eggs
  • 5 slow roasted tomatoes (I used a recipe from the Intolerant Gourmet‘s first book)
  • 2 red onions
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1 courgette
  • rapeseed oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Sesame seeds


For the Pastry:

  1. Preheat your oven to 220ºC (fan oven 200ºC)
  2. Line the base of an 8 inch round shallow dish with baking parchment and grease the edges of the dish with rapeseed oil
  3. Sift the flours into a large bowl, add the xanthum gum and salt, stir to mix together
  4. Cut the vegetable fat into small pieces and add to the bowl
  5. Rub the fat into the dry ingredients with your fingers until you have a breadcrumb type texture
  6. Gradually add the cold water, 1 tbsp at a time,  mixing with a metal spoon as you go. You need enough to bind the crumbs together but you do not want it too wet or sticky
  7. Once the crumbs have started to come together, gently kneed the dough with your hands for a couple of minutes until it forms a ball
  8. Place the ball on a floured surface and gently roll it out into a thin circle (mine was about 1/2 cm thick I think) and then, the trickiest part, place it into your prepared dish. Do not be afraid to patchwork your pastry if there are any cracks or holes. The egg filling will seal it all together later
  9. Lightly prick the base all over with a fork
  10. Place a piece of baking parchment paper over the base and cover with baking beans
  11. Bake blind for 10-12 minutes.

For the Summer Quiche Filling:

  1. Whilst the pastry case is baking, prepare the filling by cracking the eggs into a basin and lightly whisking with a fork
  2. Slice the onions into half moons and add to a frying pan with a little seasoned rapeseed oil. Once the onions have started to soften and brown add the vinegar and sugar and stir well. Cook for 5 minutes until nicely caramelized.
  3. Slice the courgette into thin strips, cut length ways. Heat a little rapeseed oil in another frying pan and sauté the strips for a few minutes until softened
  4. Once your pastry case is cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Reduce your oven temperature to 180ºC (fan oven 160ºC)
  5. Arrange onions, tomatoes and courgette slices in your pastry case before pouring over your whisked eggs. Finish by sprinkling sesame seeds over the top
  6. Bake for 40 minutes or until firm in the centre (I used the clean tooth pick test to be sure), allow to cool slightly before cutting into slices.

Do you have a favourite quiche filling? Or any tips for working with pastry? Don’t be shy, please share in the comments below!

Sweet Potato Chocolate Brownies #BestBrownieEver

6 Jul
Sweet Potato Chocolate Brownie. Photo by Jess B.

Sweet Potato Chocolate Brownie. Photo by Jess B.

This brownie needs little by way of introduction, which is good given I am very fatigued and achy today.

If I say that we have made this brownie recipe TWICE in the space of just FOUR DAYS, you begin to understand just how amazingly delicious, moreish, light, chocolately, good,  and many other superlatives besides, these little brownies really are.

This is now my go to brownie recipe. It is simply THE BEST. Try it and judge for yourself, I think you’ll find them ridiculously good and wonder how you’ve survived this long without these brownies in your life!

The sweet potato keeps this brownie wonderfully moist and the cocoa provides a deep chocolate flavour without it being overly rich. Very quick and simple to make, these brownies can be thrown together in minutes.

Gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free, this is a highly healthy chocolate brownie.

So without further a do, here’s the recipe:

Makes 8

You will need:

Dry ingredients

  • 125g / 4oz rice flour
  • 75g / 3oz good quality pure cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder

Wet ingredients

  • 175g / 6oz sweet potato, cooked and puréed smooth
  • 250g / 80z date syrup (I used Meridian)
  • 175g / 6oz dairy free sunflower spread melted and cooled a little (or your choice of dairy butter or other dairy butter substitute)
  • 1 egg whisked
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Dry and Wet ingredients in two bowls. Photo by Jess B.

Dry and Wet ingredients in two bowls. Photo by Jess B.

Mixing dry into wet ingredients. Photo by Jess B.

Mixing dry into wet ingredients. Photo by Jess B.

Ready for the oven.

Ready for the oven.Photo by Jess B.


  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C / 350°F / gas mark 4
  2. Line an 8inch x 8 inch baking tin with baking parchment
  3. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl
  4. Place all of the wet ingredients into a second larger bowl and mix together until well combined
  5. Sieve the dry ingredients gradually, roughly 1/3 at a time, into the wet ingredients, stirring well to combine.
  6. Once the brownie batter is all well combined, pour it into your pre-lined cake tin.
  7. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes until set on top but still lovely and gooey in the middle.
  8. Cool in the tin and then cut into portions.
  9. Eat and enjoy 🙂
Chocolate Brownie Joy. Photo by Jess B.

Chocolate Brownie Joy. Photo by Jess B. Pure Yumm!

Recipe adapted from Honestly Healthy by Natasha Corrett and Vicki Edgson.

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