Tag Archives: Baking

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).

Little Miss Obsessive

16 Sep
Should I make this cake? Photo credit Morgue File User Life is Good

Should I make this cake? Photo credit Morgue File User Life is Good

Last post I rambled about how certain personality traits may contribute to, hinder, or be a symptom of, my ME/CFS.  If you missed that post you can read it here.

It’s hard to know which trait to tackle first so I’m just going to dive right in to OBSESSIVENESS without letting myself obsessively over think (haha) the choice.

According to freedictionary.com the definition of obsessive is: to be continually preoccupied by a particular activity, person or thing. It is often an unwanted feeling or emotion, that continually forces itself into consciousness and consequently is frequently accompanied by anxiety. Words such as neurotic, gripping, compulsive, excessive and extreme are used to define obsessive.

I don’t think I am obsessive in respect of a particular thing or person. For me it is more that I have an obsessive way of thinking.

I think the best way to explain this is with a couple of examples. Now please don’t judge or ridicule me for the stories I am about to share – I’m laying out my soul here people, for you all to see! So please be gentle with me 🙂

I have a friend coming over this weekend for tea and cake and a long over due catch up. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve looked through recipe books and food blogs this week. I have been preoccupied by the idea of what cake to make. It’s totally unwanted, I wish I could just settle on something and choose and just make the thing! And not be constantly thinking and planning. It’s made me feel anxious with a tightness in my chest that is so physical. It’s not a big thing. Or rather it needn’t / shouldn’t be a big thing. Or even a thing at all. Tea and cake. Simple. But my obsessive nature has made it into a big thing. It has taken it to an extreme; to a place where ‘healthy’ people tend not to end up. I can see other personality traits at work here too. I can see that I am being perfectionist about what to make. One reason, I guess, that I’ve been so preoccupied with what cake to make is because I want it to be the best it can be. I want to make the best thing I can find. Perfectionist you see. Also I only really need to make one thing. But as I come across more and more things I want to make, I’m thinking maybe I’ll make thumb print cookies and granola bars and muffins! This is totally unnecessary given there’ll just be the two of us. But that’s the ‘all or nothing’ characteristic at work. I’m a pusher. I don’t ever do things by halves. I guess there’s an element of me worrying about what other’s think at play here too; as well as a self confidence issue. I want my friend to like what I make. I guess I want her to be impressed and think good things of me….arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Or is this the perfect cake to make? Photo credit: Morgue File User MUmland

Or is this the perfect cake to make? Photo credit: Morgue File User MUmland

Psychology of Jess 101 is quite revealing isn’t it?! Eye opening that’s for sure.

Another example of my obsessiveness concerns changing the sheets on our bed. Yes you heard me right. I think obsessively about changing the sheets….when we should (by some imaginary social standard that I seem bound to) change them; how to change them – should Mr B and I do it or shall we wait until our cleaner is in next week. If we change them on X day, then the cleaner can change them when she comes on X day, but then we would need to have washed them by X day…… Yes this is a conversation I actually caught myself having in my head whilst I was cleaning my teeth last night – what’s happened to being in the moment Jess? Mindfulness, get back to the moment! I don’t think it’s ‘normal’ (hate that word) healthy to think this way. And I would bet every penny of my life savings on Mr B never ever having had similar thoughts!! I doubt changing the bed ever enters his head!

I’m tired just reliving these two incidences. And this is the way my brain thinks about pretty much everything. Very very draining. You can see how this thought pattern behaviour is sapping my (already limited) energy. This obsessive thing also creates anxiety which means internal stress. This stress is basically throwing highly flammable petrol on an all ready uncontrollable ME/CFS fire….not at all helpful.

In my defence, I think ME/CFS has made me like this. In part at least. Planning comes with the territory with ME/CFS. With limited energy and chronic pain, I can’t just do what I want when I want. I certainly can’t make three types of cake. If I did I’d be flat on the floor in one big heap totally unfit for my friend’s visit. Hence I spend so much time ‘obsessively thinking’ and choosing what to make.  If I just went and stripped the bed when I thought of it, I would be in the bed recovering for a good while. Changing the sheets is something I just can’t do at the moment. My arms, neck and shoulders just hurt too much. So it’s an activity that has to be planned. Ditto with washing the sheets. I should forget anything to do with changing beds and housework, but life doesn’t really work like that does it? Mr B is AMAZING and is enabling me to live in our flat with him by being so supportive and doing so much. But he is a boy, and his cleanliness standards are slightly different to mine – the memory of him not changing his sheets for an entire term at Uni has left deep scars on me!!

Do others with ME/CFS have similar obsessive thought patterns? I believe so, but maybe you can tell me? ME/CFS certainly makes this character trait of mine much worse, even if it was inherently already there and at work to a much lesser degree.

This obsessive way of thinking has been running for so long now. It is an unconscious pattern. I do it without even realising. So it is hard to break. NLP can help with this. I need to work harder to break this pattern and to free myself from this energy draining obsessive way of thinking. Writing this post is like shining a light on this character trait of mine. It has been really helpful, if a little daunting to reveal myself like this. It’s making me see just how entrenched this obsessive way of thinking is for me and spurs me on to keep using NLP to break this pesky habit. It’s not the magic cure to my ME/CFS but it is another tiny piece of the recovery jigsaw.

Food Glorious Food: making the most of my loss

18 Aug
Food Glorious Food! Photo by Jess B.

Food Glorious Food! Photo by Jess B.

I am pleased to report that the waves of treacle have subsided slightly and I am feeling better than I was earlier in the week. THANK GOD. Not quite back to my ‘usual’ level of pain and fatigue but slowly getting there. I plan on doing a post about what caused this latest flare of little miss ME/CFS (other than the fact that she’s just plain mean) when I thought I’d done everything right to prevent precisely that kind of post-holiday flare but for now I thought I’d distract myself by posting about something I love.

One of the hardest things about having ME/CFS, okay perhaps not one of the HARDEST, but certainly a hard thing for me, is not having the energy to cook. I really miss not being able to cook, bake and basically play in the kitchen.

I LOVE food. And when I say LOVE, I really mean LOVE! If I had to choose between Mr B and food….arrgh it’s like Sophie’s Choice! (Of course I’d choose you honey 😉 )

Just a few food mags from my vast collection! Photo by Jess B.

Just a few food mags from my vast collection! Photo by Jess B.

Even though I can’t cook much thanks to ME/CFS, that doesn’t stop me from indulging my passion for it in other ways. My coffee table is overflowing with well-thumbed foodie mags and the majority of books on our bookshelves, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say, are recipe books. And then there’s food blogs…oh my, what a wonderful world the internet is. Literally I can be lost for hours perusing latest posts (here are some of my current faves – Oh She Glows, Veg Hot Pot, The Intolerant Gourmet.) Isn’t it lucky than I have hours to spend on such a low energy activity. Maybe the world is nice after all.

What I think Mr B and Dad hear us chatting about! Photo source Morgue File User HotBlack

What I think Mr B and Dad hear us chatting about! Photo source Morgue File User HotBlack

If I’m not reading about food then there’s a good bet I’ll be watching a cooking show on TV or chatting with my Mum or sister about it.

My family are visiting this weekend and I suggested that as my ‘activity’ for the weekend we take a trip en famille to Whole Foods so I can stock up on all the health foods that ME/CFS dictates I eat. I asked my sister if she minded if that was how we spent some of her last weekend in the UK until Xmas (she flies back to Philadelphia on Tuesday, don’t get me started sobbing about that…), Lou’s reply was, ‘it’s a supermarket, full of food, of course I want to go, I love supermarkets!’ We are from the same Mother after all! I think my poor Dad and Mr B may wish we’d just shut up a lot of the time (tho that may not just be down to the topic of our conversation…)

Food is in my blood. My Mum loves food and is a wonderful cook. In her 20s she became a ‘brown rice lentil raving veggie’ (my Dad’s words not mine as that description could apply to me too) and has never lost her love of pulses, beans and legumes.  We were brought up on good whole grain, home made, healthy food. Oh and a good dose of homemade cake too! Though we did eat meat we still ate some veggie meals. Mum had to let her veggie side go when she met my Dad in her early 30s, he believed that if he didn’t eat meat 3 times a day he’d die (or something to that effect!).

Mum’s Mum (known as Nanny Jess) was also a wonderful traditional cook and served as a cook in the armed forces during WW2. I remember leafing through Nan’s recipe books from back then, how to make chicken soup for 500 men and the like! I have many happy foodie memories of my dear Nan’s cooking from mini apple and blackberry pies with fruit fresh from the garden or Grandad’s allotment that she baked just for me, salads with orange slices and hard boiled eggs decorating the top, home boiled ham, stewed and jarred plums from Grandad’s orchard, the world’s best home pickled onions and not forgetting Nan’s Christmas pudding and stuffing for the turkey too which are firm family traditions.

So yes, there is food in my blood.

Due to my lack of energy, my profound fatigue and pain on doing too much (like making myself dinner) the practical process of feeding myself is planned and prepared in advance. My Mum is wonder woman, literally. She fed me daily when I was living back at my parents during my illness, catering to my ever varying array of dietary requirements and intolerances. Now I’m back in London and ‘fending for myself’ (if only) Mum is being even more wonderful by donating her precious time to coming down to stay this week with me and Mr B to cook up a storm and fill our freezer with enough Jess friendly meals and snacks to last me 4 weeks or so until her next visit. It’s not like I can live on ‘normal’ ready meals (nor would I want to for that matter, far too processed to be good for us) not least due to cost but also due to wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, soya etc etc somehow getting into every and anything processed! At weekends when Mr B is around more, he dons an apron and (under careful supervision from me!) whips up a storm. We’re big fans of simple clean foods such as prawn stir fries, poached chicken or baked salmon, all of which Mr B is becoming quite the master of (or will do in the coming months now I’m back in London!)

A little too complicated for my low energy cooking. But doesn't it look gorgeous?! Photo by Jess B.

A little too complicated for my low energy cooking. But doesn’t it look gorgeous?! Photo by Jess B.

I mourn my loss of actually being able to cook but try to make the best of what I can do. On better energy ME/CFS days I will use my main activity slot in the afternoon to make an easy quick recipe. Okay so I can’t embark on making a 4 course gourmet dinner or a giant 4 layer chiffon sponge  cake, but I can do small 20 minute activity sessions in my kitchen. These are fun times for me both in the making and of course the subsequent eating! I make things such as my pineapple baked oatmeal recipe or a simple recipe like this from Oh She Glows for frozen chocolate banana bites or I’ll prepare a simple marinade for dinner. Anything that isn’t too labour intensive or time consuming.

Often I have a companion in the kitchen to do the ‘heavy lifting’, stirring you know, the really hard stuff…or I let machines do the work for me. I love my mini chopper and  grinder. No aching arms from long chopping sessions here!  If I can I’ll sit on one of our breakfast bar stools whilst cooking so as to lesson the impact on my achy legs. I never wash or even tidy up in the same ‘activity’ slot. I don’t even load the dishwasher at the same time. Yes it’s frustrating and hard for a ‘now now now’ person like me, but if these adjustments mean I can indulge my passion every so often then that’s good enough for me for now. It’s not about depriving myself of the activity I love it’s about making it work in an altered way so my body can cope with it.

Cooking is not the only thing I miss of course. There are more serious and also some trivial things that I greatly miss too. But that’s for another post.

What do you mourn the loss of? Have you had to give something up that you love due to ME/CFS? Has chronic illness changed the way you do something you love?

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