Gingerbread craving? Satisfy it with this good-for-ya (and gluten-free and vegan!) Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Cake. It’s moist, sweet, gingery and studded with dark chocolate, but secretly healthy and nutrient dense, thanks to the sweet potatoes, buckwheat flour, flaxseed, olive oil and blackstrap molasses.
I have finally—albeit reluctantly—made peace with December-dom. I could have sworn that labour day was, um, last week. And I refuse to put my flip flops away for the season, despite Kiwi’s frustrated pleas. But there are flashing lights on my house and a gargantuan Christmas tree in my living room. So ya, December—it’s officially on.
I usually do a big festive cookie bake-o-rama type thing around this time of year: sugar cookies, shortbread, pinwheels, toffee bars and the other usual suspects. But then I inevitably “forget” to distribute the baked goods to the neighbours and friends for whom they were intended, and Kiwi, Bean and I end up eating almost all of them by ourselves. Which is darn un-festive, and makes for a very busy January of kale smoothies and bootcamp resolutions.
So this year I’ve decided to do things a bit differently, foregoing the white flour and refined sugar-laden goodies in favour of some healthier more nutrient-dense holiday treats. Now, if you told me five years ago—heck even LAST year—that I would be talking about nutrient density and Christmas baking in the same blog post, I would never have believed it. I have definitely always been of the “if you are going to eat a sweet treat (or two, or five) you might as well eat the dirtiest, sugariest, butteriest thing you can get your hands on” school of thought. But the combination of (1) reaching lower-middle-age, and (2) turning my metabolism over to two small people means that holiday binge-eating doesn’t have the same harmless appeal that it used to. And besides, if you make them right, the healthier treats can be just as impressive, satisfying and delicious as their less healthy counterparts. Why splurge if you don’t have to?
Take this gingerbread cake for example. It’s remarkably “clean”: made with nutritious buckwheat flour, sweet potatoes and extra virgin olive oil and sweetened with a smidge of blackstrap molasses and maple syrup. But it’s also moist, gingery, chocolatey and delicious. It satisfies the gingerbread craving (and who doesn’t have a gingerbread craving at this time of year?) but without sending you into the usual gingerbread-induced sugar coma. And if you’re got some of those guests around for the holiday, it also happens to be vegan and gluten-free. Vegan, gluten-free, nutritious, delicious and chocolate-studded gingerbread cake? Uh huh. A Christmas miracle, if ever there was one.
I LOVE this gingerbread cake all on its own; it makes a great little snack next to shot of espresso, a cup of tea or (gasp) an eggnog latte. But it does double duty as a fancy dessert too: just top each piece with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream or coconut cream and dust them with some shaved dark chocolate.
**Stay tuned for some more holiday content coming your way on Kiwi & Bean: a round-up of healthy holiday sweet treat recipes, and what every way-too-busy-cook needs this time of year: a formula for the ultimate make-ahead holiday dinner!
- 1 tablespoon ground flax seed or chia seed
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 cup mashed roasted sweet potato
- 2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
- 4 tablespoons real maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¾ cup buckwheat flour
- 1½ teaspoons ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line an 8 inch square baking pan with two pieces of parchment paper, arranged so that one is criss-crossed over the other. (You want to create a bit of a sling, with some slack at each end to pull the cake out of the pan when it is baked.)
- In a large bowl, combine the water and flax/chia seeds. Set that aside, and combine the buckwheat flour, ginger, cloves, baking soda and salt in a separate medium bowl.
- Stir the sweet potato, blackstrap molasses, maple syrup, vanilla and olive oil into the flax mixture (which will be a bit gummy at this point), then add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
- Fold in the chocolate chips (if using). Then spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan and pop it into the oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until the cake is just firm, and a butter knife inserted into the cake comes out (mostly) clean. You don't want to overbake it or the cake will become dry.
- When the cake is cool to the touch, lift it out of the pan (using the parchment sling) and onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Cut into squares and serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream or whipped coconut cream.