Luke Hines has been a personal trainer since he left school – with a focus on healthy eating – but it wasn’t until he became a finalist on My Kitchen Rules that he truly embraced clean eating. Since then, he has written several best-selling cookbooks, including Eat Clean.
“My favourite Christmas dish has to be a Black Forest cake. Growing up, I was a big fan of an old meal deal that KFC used to do where you got a free Sara Lee Black Forest cake. This was a special cake in my family and I remember it being it part of our Christmas celebrations. Now I live a healthier lifestyle and eat clean so I don’t go near that stuff, but it’s always been a great memory because it was a treat for us as kids.
When I was writing my book Eat Clean, which has a ‘celebrate’ chapter, I had to think of my most celebratory recipes and funnily enough this cake came to mind! So I created a Black Forest cake that was gluten free, dairy free and refined-sugar free. It was something I could relate to my childhood memory without the guilt.
When I was recipe testing the book last year, the timing was perfect because it coincided with Christmas so my family got to taste everything I was putting together. They said the great thing about the Black Forest cake was that it celebrated all the gorgeous summer berries which are usually served on a pavlova.
These days my family lives in different parts of Australia, so for Christmas we all come together in Victoria and hire a house to celebrate as a unit. We share the weight of Christmas preparation among us. We typically have a big lunch followed by a mid-afternoon dessert which leaves the rest of the afternoon and night to recover from feasting.
Mum used to do all of the Christmas cooking but since my time on My Kitchen Rules, I now do a lot of it. But she still does her famous Christmas pudding every year without fail. A few weeks out from Christmas, she gets together with her sisters and they have a Christmas pudding making day. She’s very proud revealing it – but now there’s a little bit of a competition between my Black Forest cake and her Christmas pudding!
I think it’s also important to celebrate our health at this time of the year. If that means we can have a dessert that’s better for us, then we’re winning. I want everyone to have fun at Christmas and my philosophy is that if you can balance out the indulgences with healthier options then you’re doing great.”
135g (1 cup) coconut flour
90g (3⁄4 cup) cacao powder
1⁄2 tsp baking powder
1⁄2 tsp sea salt
185ml (3⁄4 cup) coconut oil, melted
185ml (3⁄4 cup) coconut water
2 vanilla pods, split and scraped
250ml (1 cup) maple syrup
155g (1⁄2 cup) blueberries, fresh or dried
250g (2 cups) mixed berries, fresh or frozen and thawed (cherries and blackberries work best)
cacao nibs, to serve
300ml coconut cream, chilled
300g coconut yoghurt
75g (1⁄3 cup) honey
1 vanilla pod, split and scraped
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line two 22cm springform cake tins with baking paper.
Put the coconut flour, cacao powder, baking powder and salt into a stand mixer and mix together well.
Turn the speed to low and add the eggs followed by the coconut oil in a long, slow drizzle until incorporated. Turn your mixer to high speed and add the coconut water, vanilla seeds and most of the maple syrup (reserve 2 tbsp for the mixed berry topping). One mixed, reduce the speed again and add the blueberries until just combined, then return to high speed until a smooth batter forms. (Note: this works best with a stand mixer but you could also use a hand-held electric mixer or work the batter thoroughly with a whisk by hand.)
Divide the cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake tins and spread it out evenly using the back of a spoon or spatula. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of each sponge comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins.
For the icing, put all the ingredients in your cleaned stand mixer and mix on medium speed for 5 minutes. Alternatively, you can use a hand-held electric mixer or a whisk and beat until smooth and creamy. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Put the mixed berries in a bowl. Using a fork, gently mash them together with the remaining 2 tbsp of maple syrup to break them up slightly and get some of the juices oozing.
Once the sponges are completely cool, use a knife to loosen the side of one of the tins and flip the sponge out onto a chopping board or cake plate. Spread a thick layer of coconut icing (about half of the mixture) over the sponge and spoon over half of the crushed berries. Remove the second sponge from its tin as before and place it on top of the first sponge, then spread over the remaining icing. Top with the remaining berries and scatter over some cacao nibs to serve.
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