Layered Chia Coconut & Fruit Puddings

Vegan, Refined Sugar and Gluten Free

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 The first time I made chia pudding I had a horrific experience. I ate too many chia seeds, my stomach swelled up, I didn’t put any yummy maple syrup in it, it was just miserable. I did kind of like the pudding itself though, even though I was still in my early chia pudding days. The chocolate chia pudding I made next was out of this world good. Creamy from avocados, chocolatey, sweet and peanut buttery. But it wasn’t really breakfast material. It was more dessert territory. I wanted to master the perfect fruit chia pudding. And I finally did it. 

I thought I must be some kind of colour goddess when I thought up this beautiful layered effect. But then I went to the bathroom and realised I had made an exact replica of my bar of soap…it’s exactly the same! I must have been subconsciously inspired whilst I was washing my hands! The bottom layer is mango and coconut milk, the middle layer is strawberry coconut and the topping is blueberry and almond milk. This is complete sacrilege because mango is always my favourite, but this time the blueberry was actually the star of the show. It was so sweet and jammy. It tasted like blueberry cheesecake ice cream, which was my favourite flavour when I was nine. Fun fact I know.

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The key to making good chia pudding is to put in lots of yummy ingredients as the backbone of the recipe. Chia has no flavour. None at all. It’s packed full of iron, antioxidants, vitamins and is a complete protein, but it tastes like nothing at all (That makes me not trust it…what is chia hiding from us?). The coconut milk makes the pudding deliciously creamy and rich, and the high ratio of fruit makes the pudding really sweet and hearty. Add some maple syrup if your fruit isn’t very sweet, and only use perfectly ripe and flavoursome fruit. Don’t use mushy or bitter berries, because they will taste even worse mixed up in a pudding.

Feel free to mix up the flavours and layers as well! Use whatever fruit and milk you prefer. You can use rice, almond, or soy. Just remember the flavour- it will come through! And guess what. You can totally eat these for breakfast. Just layer them in a jar, stick in some chopped fruit, and away you go. 

This post is similar to an old chia pudding recipe I made (even the photos!) but the subtle changes really make it so much yummier! That’s why I’m putting it up again. PS whoever can spot where I edited my reflection off the back of a spoon gets a shout out.

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 Layered Chia Pudding Recipe:

For 4 jars of chia pudding:

8 tablespoons chia seeds 

2 cups of coconut milk, almond milk, soy, rice or dairy

1/2 a medium mango, sliced

1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen) defrosted if frozen

1/2 cup strawberries, cut up in chunks

1-2 tbsp maple syrup, optional Image

Separate the chia into three even sized bowls. Put the mango in a blender with 1/3 of the coconut milk and blend well. Pour into one of the bowls with chia and stir until well combined. Wash out the blender and repeat with the other two fruits, until you have three bowls of pudding beginning to set. Pour in your first layer carefully so it doesn’t splash on the sides. Wait to set (about ten minutes, not much longer) and repeat with your next layer. Add the final layer and refrigerate for a couple hours or overnight, so they’re fully set. 

It’s easiest to fill the jars with the pudding when it’s still slightly runny, otherwise it’s hard to scoop in. You don’t need to use jars- cups look good, or bowls as well. Jars are just handy because you can put a lid on them and take them to work in the morning. Add the maple syrup to any fruits that weren’t very sweet, or as a nice top layer add a little dollop that you can swirl through. And remember, chia is really filling! You don’t need much to feel full at all xx

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Dulce de Leche and Strawberry Chocolate Meringue

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 Don’t say it! I know what you’re thinking. Double cream? Dulce de Leche? MERINGUE?!?!?! What is this unhealthy monstrosity! Well I’ll tell you what it is. It is my friend Sammy’s birthday cake. And if you had heard that hopeful little voice requesting something with chocolate and caramel involved, you would have cracked too! Sometimes I just have to accept that no matter how excited I get about vegan avocado mousse tarts and chocolate fudge orange cupcakes made out of chia and almonds, not everyone feels the same. In the words of one wise friend, not everyone wants that mangy vegan shit. True words. Amen sister.

So this cake was born! Did it fill the criteria? Caramel? Check. In the blessed form of Argentinian boiled condensed milk- Dulce de Leche. (Mmm who is remembering those evil caramel chocolate cookies?) Chocolate? Holy mama. And the chocolate was vegan! So please, I tried. I had so much fun shaving shards off my 2.5 kilogram block! Now that’s a lot of chocolate. I had lots of egg whites languishing in the freezer leftover from a recent vanilla ice cream episode, so meringue was the obvious way to go. The strawberries were a really yummy and colourful addition to what turned out as quite a light and creamy dessert. I made it in just over an hour, including the whole time the meringue was baking and I was dancing aggressively to Celtic rock music. (I have no shame). 

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I don’t actually recommend making it in such a short amount of time because as you can see from the equally delicious and equally horrendous photograph below, cream spreads when warm. It seriously knows no bounds. I was running late for the birthday lunch so I whipped the underdone meringue out of the oven, comforting myself that it would be perfectly chewy and marshmellow-centred because of my lack of baking time. I practically threw it on the floor and poured on a pile of cream and caramel. I like to think it was Jackson Pollock inspired. “Controlled chaos”. Once in the car, it started to ooze and meld together into a pool of creamy caramel and melted chocolate. For some reason, no one eating it complained at all!

Meringues and pavlovas were seriously one of my favourite desserts ever when I was growing up. Number one, they were always served with a practical mountain of fresh berries on top. I was OBSESSED with berries from a very young age. Number two, it looks like a marshmellow cloud, and is covered in cream. Number three, for some reason when people serve meringue, the slices are seriously enormous. And there’s nothing better than a plate of dessert that’s bigger than your plate of dinner was.

You can do lots of things with this super simple meringue base! I used the same ratio that Jamie Oliver uses. You can cover it in cream and whatever you really want. Fresh fruit, chocolate mousse and toffee shards, crush it up with ice cream, berries, yogurt and honey, anything! Go insane. And please forgive me for any mishaps in getting this post up or if I’m slow replying to comments, questions etc. I’m away! And sending lots of love from overseas.
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Caramel, Strawberry and Chocolate Meringue: Adapted from here

1 400ml can (13.5 fluid ounces) condensed milk

5 large egg whites, at room temperature
220g caster sugar

1 300ml (1 + 1/4 cup, 1/3 ounce) double cream
150g (5 ounces) chopped dark chocolate
400g (1 pound, 14 ounces) strawberries or mixed berries
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Put your can of condensed milk in a saucepan and fill half-way with water. Boil gently for 2-3 hours, constantly making sure the water is covering the bottom third of the can. Alternatively, pour it into a baking dish and bake for half an hour until golden and thick.

Preheat the oven to 150C (302F). Lay a sheet of baking paper on a tray. In a stand mixer with a very clean bowl, start whisking your egg whites. Speed up to fast and whisk until the egg whites form stiff peaks (not so stiff they are lumpy! You whisk more later). At this point, slow it down and start pouring in your sugar. Whisk on low to combine and then put it back on fast. Whisk for 5-8 minutes, until the meringue is glossy and thick, and when you rub some in between your fingers there are no sugar granules. Spoon the meringue on to the tray and flatten down with a spatula, leaving room on the edges for expansion. Bake for about an hour, until white but still spongy in the centre.

When the meringue is done, leave it to cool. Whip the cream with a teaspoon of vanilla, if you want. Just until slightly thicker and fluffed. Wash and cut your strawberries, and cut your chocolate in shards. Spoon the cream over the meringue, then smooth over a layer of caramel. Dulce de Leche is thick but try and smooth it by using a knife and spoon to create long strands. Just before serving throw on the berries and chocolate and dig in! Serves 8. Once the toppings are on, try and eat it within the hour.
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Strawberry and Vanilla Bean Jam

Vegan and Gluten free

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 When I tasted this jam I literally stopped dead in my tracks with surprise. It has the fruitiest, sweetest flavoured strawberry taste of any jam I’ve ever tried. And the fragrance of the whole vanilla bean! Mercy. Sorry to be so blunt but I need you to understand! It’s so. Delicious.  

Before yesterday I was so scared of making strawberry jam. It’s like the macaron of the cookie world. Or the croquembouche tower of the donut world. Basically it’s really hard to get right, because there’s barely any natural pectin in strawberries, and barely any acidity. So to get the jam to set is a tall task indeed. But strawberries are so cheap at the moment and strawberry jam is so damn yummy! I really wanted to try. I wasn’t even going to post about it (hence the very unpleasing photography) but it came out tasting so heavenly I couldn’t not share it. 

I relied on my trusty friends pectin and lemon to get this jam to set. Confession time! The first time around it actually didn’t set at all. There’s nothing sadder than bottling eight jars of jam, and realising not one of them has actually turned into real jam at all. 
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But there is a simple solution for all your wobbly jam woes. It’s a little messy, but it’s sure better than starting again! Unlike when I made Sweet Plum Jam, which barely needed any attention at all to do it’s thing, strawberry jam needs lots of love and attention. It needs to come to a “rolling boil” for at least one minute to set. It needs the right amounts of sugar, acid and pectin to set. It needs to simmer at a low enough heat for long enough to set. If you don’t get it to set the first time, don’t worry. I don’t think any person in the world has got it to set the very first time. 

If you find the jam is still runny once jarred, Pour it through a sieve back in to a pot, reserving the chunks in a bowl so that you can keep the texture. Add another half a lemon and teaspoon of pectin to the jam and repeat the boiling and simmering process again. It might not firm up into a perfect jelly consistency like Orange and Cinnamon Marmalade will, but it will be thick and delicious spread on toast anyway. And the flavour won’t be too affected by the small amount of pectin too. If you want you can try using jam sugar, but I’ve never used it so wouldn’t know how well it works. 

I like to eat this jam on toast for breakfast, but it’s also great with greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream. It would make a great base for chocolate mousse pots or even strawberry tarts, or as the filling for a jam scroll. Or you know, you could just eat it from the jar, which is what I just did.  

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Strawberry and Vanilla Jam: inspired/adapted from Poires au Chocolat and Lebovitz’ Ready for Dessert recipes:
1.25 kilograms (2.75 pounds) strawberries, hulled (about 1.5 kilos or 3.3 pounds unhulled)

750g (3 3/4 cups) white sugar + 3-4g (heaped teaspoon) pectin (or jam sugar with added pectin)

1 whole vanilla bean, split with seeds scraped out

1 whole lemon, juiced

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Hull, wash and cut your strawberries into small chunks. Stir in a large pot with the lemon juice and sugar and leave to macerate for at least an hour with the vanilla bean and seeds mixed in. Once juicy, place over a medium-high heat and bring to a high boil. Allow the jam to boil, stirring occasionally, for at least a minute. Place a small plate in the freezer at this point. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue to cook for at first ten minutes, then take a small scoop and put it on your chilled plate. Return to the freezer for two or three minutes. Take it out and run your finger through it. If the jam wrinkles, it’s ready. Repeat this process until you have the right consistency. Pour the hot jam in your sterilised jars and leave to cool. The jam will last up to six months stored this way. 

To sterilise jars: Wash well in the dishwasher or in hot soapy water. Heat the oven to 100C or 212F and place the jars on an oven sheet. Leave the jars to dry out in the oven before bottling. Hold them in a tea towel because they’ll be super hot.IMG_6750

Lemon and Berry Butter Layer Cake

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Eleven years ago, when I was little, me and my family moved suburbs. We changed primary schools to go to the local public school. I really didn’t want to go! I didn’t want to leave all my friends behind. I didn’t want to wear egg yellow shirts and crimson boy shorts, or have our school initials constantly changed to ANUS. But now I realise that move was the best we could have ever made, because it led me to my friend Maddie.

Our families became friends basically straight away, and almost all my childhood memories are interwoven with Maddie’s family. We moved to within a block of each other, bought a puppy in the same week, bought the same car, went to the same high school, went on holidays together and even went to university together. Maddie and her family don’t realise this, but I’m actually involved in an intense lifelong stalking project.

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For her birthday I made her a classic victoria sponge cake, but fruitified. The sponge is infused with lemon zest because she loves lemon. In between the layers is a strawberry and raspberry curd and sliced strawberries as well. And the whole thing is encased in whipped cream, sort of like a giant jam scone.

I know it’s not quite spring yet but it feels so close! Strawberries are super cheap at this time of year and it was actually warm enough not to wear jeans today! This cake has a feeling of spring about it. I think it’s the sugared violets that are actually three years old but I never deemed a cake worthy enough to use them.

The curd for me ended up turning out too thin, I think because I under-cooked it. Don’t worry I’ve adjusted the recipe, but lemme tell you there were some stressful moments trying to build this cake! I ended up thickening it with some icing sugar and ground chia seeds (so yes this is indeed a very healthy cake), and the flavour wasn’t affected. If you like a super sweet cake you might want to add some extra sugar to the curd anyway, depending on how tart your berries are. 

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In other news, the very kind Jessica from Daily Gluttony nominated Sugar and Cinnamon for the Versatile Bloggers Award! I was really excited because I think Jessica’s blog is great, and love reading her recipes and stories. I’m meant to tell everybody seven things about me but my posts are usually full of things about me so I’ll just tell you one little weird thing: I love peanut butter and banana slices on toast. 

I’m not really sure how to nominate my own favourite blogs, but here are some great new blogs that I have read this week, that I think are worthy of a mention: 

Sugary and ButterySinfully SpicyMunchin’ Mel, Tide and Thyme, Half Baked Harvest, Peeps From Abroad, The Baker Chick, Recipes From a Pantry, 350 Sweets, and Cesca

For a longer list of my long-time favourite blogs, check out my library page. Now for the recipe! Feel free to adjust the types of berries you use, and as I said judge the sweetness you think you’ll prefer. You’ll need to start this recipe the day before.  

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Lemon and Berry Butter Cake:
Berry Curd: Adapted from What She’s Having

700g (4 + 1/2 cups) mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, but not blackberries, mulberries or anything too sour)

170g (3/4 cup + 1 tbsp) caster sugar

60ml (4 tbsp) lemon juice

60g (4 tbsp) butter

6 large egg yolks

Cut up all the berries and toss with the lemon juice and sugar. Leave to macerate at least 45 minutes. Blend together and strain into a bowl. It might take some time! Use a spoon to push out the chunks. Pour into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs. Pour a ladle of the berry puree in to the eggs to warm them, then return it all to the pan. Add the chopped butter and stir constantly over a medium-low heat until thickened. Strain into a jug and place plastic wrap directly on the surface to stop a skin forming, refrigerate overnight. If the mixture curdles slightly, either strain out the lumps or blend for a few moments to bring it back together. 

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For the sponge: Adapted from Cook wWith Jamie

225 (1 cup) grams butter, softened

225g (1 2/3 cups) self-raising flour, sifted

225g (1 cup + 2 tbsp) caster sugar

4 large eggs

zest of 1-2 lemons

Either: Make two sponges with this recipe and use a knife to cut them in half once cool, or split the recipe in half and make four sponges, washing your two 20cm pans in between. I find it easier to bake the layers separately but it’s up to you. 

Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease and line 2 or 4 20cm sandwich pans. Cream your soft butter and sugar together until pale. Slowly add each egg, beating well in between additions until smooth and creamy. Sift over the flour and use a spatula to fold it in. Split the mix into two and bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch. Leave to cool, then take out of the pan.

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600ml (2 + 2/3 cups) whipping cream
75g (1/3 cup) caster sugar
250g (1.5 cups) strawberries

Beat the cream in a cold bowl on high until just starting to thicken. Decrease the speed to medium and slowly pour in the sugar. Beat until just thick enough for soft peaks to form.

Assembly:
Cut any domes off the four cake layers. Place one layer on a large plate. Spoon over a thick layer of curd and spread it to one or two centimetres from the edge. Top with sliced strawberries. Repeat with the next two layers. Top with the final layer. To ice, use a large offset spatula to gently spread the cream in waves around the cake. Decorate either with more berries, or sugared violets.
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Cinnamon, Dark Chocolate and Berry Ice Cream Cake

Optional vegan

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I bloody loved Neapolitan ice cream when I was little. We always bought tubs when we went on summer holidays to the beach. By the end of the week there’d always be an empty hole in the middle where the chocolate had been, a half depleted strawberry and a barely touched vanilla. 

It’s funny remembering now because I don’t know why we always bought the Neapolitan tub for so many families and so many kids, when the only flavour anybody wanted was chocolate. Every time at the end of the week we’d have to throw out two or three containers of ice cream with only one third eaten. Why not just buy the plain chocolate? Were vanilla and strawberry ice creams somehow better for you?

I made this ice cream for my boyfriend’s birthday. And I just have to tell you, I’m not really bragging, but it’s the most incredibly amazing combination of ice creams in the entire world. My boyfriend is mildly lactose intolerant, but he loves ice cream and sorbet (and frozen yogurt, and milk…and cheese). I didn’t want to make three layers of cream-based ice creams and then have to watch him eat it and get sick, so two of the layers are sorbet! And the third is optionally vegan made with almond milk.

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The base is a rich brownie layer made from a Woman’s Weekly cheesecake brownie base recipe. You can sub in a natural nut and date base for a vegan option too. On top of this is a strawberry, raspberry and vanilla sorbet that is soo fresh and summery. The next layer is the richest dark chocolate sorbet in the world. Do you even have to ask where I got that recipe? Of course it’s David Lebovitz. I have never tasted a more delicious chocolate sorbet, even in a gelato shop, than this recipe. It’s so creamy considering there’s no milk! The real star of the show though, is the top layer. It was a little bit of a guess, informed by some reading here and there, but it was the most delicious ice cream flavour I’ve ever tried.

It’s basically a cinnamon ice, because there’s no custard involved. It sure freezes harder than ice cream but in an ice cream cake that’s a good thing, because by the time you come to cut it it’s soft and creamy. The two whole cinnamon sticks crushed in to the milk are so fragrant and really change this cake, so don’t leave out this flavour! Please!!!! A good tip for making homemade ice cream and using it for a cake, or just for plain eating- if you want it smooth and perfect consistency without the wait, just cut it up with a fork or knife and blend it for 30 seconds, return it to the freezer until ready to eat and enjoy smooth and creamy ice cream.

 Want to see some more great ice cream cake recipes?

If you want to construct a masterpiece from the ground up

For extra brownie layers

If the phrase “candied cocoa nibs” makes you drool

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 Cinnamon, Chocolate and Berry Ice Cream Cake:
Brownie base:Adapted from Women’s Weekly

120g (1 scant cup) dark chocolate, broken into chunks

100g (7 tbsp) butter, cut into chunks

200g (3/4 cup + 1 tbsp) white sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

120g (1 cup) plain flour

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 23cm cake tin with baking paper, right up the sides of the pan. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water, and stir to combine. Stir in the sugar and vanilla over a low heat and leave to cool. Sift the flour well. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs with the vanilla extract. Mix the eggs into the slightly cooled chocolate mixture, and then sift over the flour. Pour into tin and bake for about 10-12 minutes, until crispy on top. Allow to cool completely before adding any ice cream. 

OR: blend 1.5 cups walnuts with 1.5 cups medjool dates and 2 tablespoons cocoa powder for a raw and vegan base.

Strawberry and Raspberry Sorbet: Adapted from David Lebovitz

500g (around 3 cups, 1 pound) cut up strawberries

200g (1 cup) raspberries

150g 3/4 cup) sugar

1 tbs lemon juice

1.5 tsp vanilla paste

Cut up the berries and stir in all the ingredients. Leave to macerate for about an hour until all the sugar is dissolved. Chill for at least 8 hours and than freeze in an ice cream maker according to instructions. Once frozen, spread in an even layer over the brownie base and put back in the freezer. IMG_5741Chocolate Sorbet: From David Lebovitz

170g (1 3/4 cups) dark chocolate

550ml (2 +1/3 cups) water split into 375 ml (1.5 cups) and 125ml (1/2 cup) bowls

200g (3/4 cup + 1 tbsp) sugar

75g (2/3 cup) cocoa powder

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk 375ml (1.5) cups of water with the sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Bring to a boil and whisk frequently. Boil for about 1 minute until completely combined and glossy

Break up the chocolate in a bowl and set aside. Pour over the hot chocolate mixture and leave to melt. Stir together until completely incorporated, then stir in the rest of the water and the vanilla. Cool in the fridge over night then churn in ice cream machine. Spread in an even layer over the strawberry layer. 
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Cinnamon Sherbet:Guided by this recipe

 1 litre (1 + 1/3 quarts) full-fat almond or regular milk

150g (3/4 cup) sugar

2 cinnamon sticks, crushed

Heat the milk with the sugar and cinnamon until boiling. Leave to steep for about an hour. Strain out the cinnamon and chill for at least 8 hours. Freeze in ice cream machine and spread on the top layer. Freeze for at least 8 hours before cutting. 

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Berry and Lychee Vanilla Yogurt Cake (gluten and sugar free)

Gluten free and Refined Sugar Free

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Have you ever had a bite of something, and the smell or taste struck a memory really powerfully in your brain that you’d forgotten you’d ever had? This happens to me always in the strangest of reminders. Whenever I smell diesel and marigolds at the same time, my body physically relocates to New Dehli. Suddenly I see hundreds of colourful bodies carrying overflowing baskets of bright orange flowers on their backs, in between moving cars and spindly rickshaws and heavy, docile cows decorated in cloth. The smell of burning oil and fragrant spices and pollution comes back in waves and I’m left blinking, remembering images I’d seen and forgotten years ago when I was just a child.

It happens whenever I smell melted cheese and corn thins. I can hear faintly Ocean Girl playing on TV, and I can smell the earth and coffee scent that perfumed my Dad’s old house. Meaningless memories of my sister and I eating makeshift pizzas using corn crackers as bases and watching re-runs of the Simpsons, come creeping back to me.

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The same thing happened to me when I recently was eating a tub of froyo (don’t judge me! I may be mildly lactose intolerant and I may have limited funds but I will never stop eating froyo on a weekly basis!) and I ate a bite of the lychee topping. Suddenly I remembered the first dessert I ate as a child, tinned lychees with vanilla ice cream. Always with the red spoon. Always on the kitchen floor or under the table. I hadn’t thought of that dessert in years but after that bite I couldn’t get it out of my head. Out of that bite this cake was born.
In the centre, lychees are blended up with natural Greek yogurt and topped with a strawberry, raspberry, maple syrup and vanilla bean paste compote, then frozen until just set. It is so delicious! Like a tropical flavour bomb. Each layer has its own unique texture and there are so many flavours that somehow come together in the most perfect of ways. 

If you can’t tolerate sugar then it might be hard to find lychees that aren’t in sweetened syrup unless you can get fresh ones. The best thing to do would be to probably replace the lychees with something like banana or mango, that is sweet enough fresh by itself.IMG_5739

The topping is probably the best part, with the tangy raspberries softened by the maple syrup and the burst of vanilla paste. I used an entire teaspoon here because I got too excited, but the flavour spreads out over the entire cake so I don’t think I was being too generous.

Although the flavour profile here is a real winner, you could take this cake idea in so many different ways! There were so many different elements of inspiration for me but I will leave a few links to other alternative healthy cheesecakes that I have ogled at in the past few weeks:

For the classic baked lemon cheesecake

For something pretty and girly

For a vegan berry cheesecake 

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Berry and Lychee Vanilla Yogurt Cake: Inspired from here :
Crust:

300g (2 cups) dried organic apricots, soaked (if not organic, replace with dates)

185g (1.5 cups) walnuts

20g (1 tbsp) chia seeds

30g (1 heaped tbsp) desiccated coconut

45g (1/4 cup) cocoa powder

For the middle:

350g (1 + 3/4 cup or 1 tin)seeded lychees (if using tinned, drained)

500g (1 pound) natural Greek yogurt

250g (2 cups) mixed strawberries and raspberries

15 ml (1 tbsp) maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or extract)

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 Soak the dried apricots for at least an hour before continuing. Note that normal dried apricots as opposed to organic are dried with sulphuric acid (the orange ones, not brown) and will be too sour. Replace with dates. In a blender blend all the ingredients for the crust. Line a 20cm pan with baking paper and press in the crust carefully with a spoon in an even base layer. Refrigerate until firm. 

For the middle, blend together the lychees and yogurt until combined. Pour over the chilled base. Refrigerate until slightly firm. Blend together the berries, maple syrup and vanilla and pour over the cake. Freeze overnight before serving. Remove from the freezer about half an hour before you want to eat it. 

To remove from the tin, place the tin in some warm water to loosen the sides before pushing out. Serve with fresh berries! 

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Strawberry Chia Pudding Cups (gluten free and vegan)

Gluten free, sugar free and vegan

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 Whenever I think of chia seeds I think of my last year of high school, when they had just become all the rage. Going to an all-girls school it was almost normal to see girls walking around with water bottles full of ridiculous things like cucumber slices and lemon rind. But when chia seeds started being added as well? I honestly thought they were fish eggs for about six months. I thought they were the grossest thing ever. Like umami plums or quinoa, I associated them with superfood fads and mud face masks and beautiful people like Miranda Kerr. I never wanted to try them in any shape or form if I could avoid it. 

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 But these pesky little seeds are everywhere! Blended into smoothies, sprinkled on porridge, used as vegan eggs, added to bread, muffins, cakes, they are literally taking over the world. I kept reading about chia pudding in places like here and here, and it actually sounded kind of cool. More than just that, I couldn’t believe anything would be that easy to make and not taste like…well fish eggs mixed into milk. I couldn’t find the source of the chia pudding idea, but I first read about it on Pastry Affair and used that as an idea starter. The first pudding I made I got a bit obsessed with the chia seeds. I stirred in one tablespoon to half a cup of milk and waited. Then I poured in another one, waited about 30 minutes, poured in another one, poured in a teaspoon more, and then left it overnight. People, I overdid the chia seeds. It still tasted ok, if a little thick, but about half an hour after I ate it, the seeds expanded in my stomach and I literally couldn’t get off the floor. I was rolling around, moaning, for about an hour. Don’t eat too many chia seeds! They can absorb 9 times their weight in liquid and lemmee tell you that’s like your whole stomach. 

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 Chia seeds have some pretty impressive credentials if you haven’t ever heard of them before. They are super high in dietary fibre and things like Vitamin C and Iron. They turn into a gel when mixed with liquid which makes them ideal for making pudding, because you don’t need any heat or gelatine or eggs to thicken it. They are naturally gluten free, and they can be used to make recipes vegan and dairy free. They have literally no taste at all which is kind of unnerving…but good as well. When dry they’re kind of gross to eat, even though they are a popular sprinkle for cereal and porridge, because they get stuck in your teeth and start absorbing your saliva! But soaked they become most similar to something like tapioca pudding.

I watched a really disturbing American show on chia seeds, where fat women drank three heaped tablespoons mixed with water to “curb their outrageous appetites”. Sorry if you also drink chia with water, I’m sure a little bit is good for you here or there, but the thought of chia slime clogging up your stomach to stop you eating is so gross to me. Eeeew. 

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 This pudding today is a really simple strawberry chia pudding. It’s more of a starting point for what ever direction you want to take it. Lots of people seem to like this for breakfast so there isn’t any sugar in the beginning recipe, but depending on how sweet your fruit is you might want to blend in some honey or maple syrup (or sugar, of course). As well as that, you could get creative with the milk as well. Coconut milk would go well with blended banana or berries, or almond milk could make a lighter alternative. Some people stir in melted chocolate, or cocoa powder and honey, or cinnamon, vanilla, fruit compote, as you can see there are many different ways to take this pudding. Just remember to be patient, and not stir in three more tablespoons than directed. 

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Strawberry Chia Pudding: Adapted from this recipe:

1 cup soy milk (or almond, coconut, or actual milk)

450g (1 pound, 2 punnets) washed and hulled strawberries

1 tsp vanilla extract (good quality, you’ll be able to taste it clearly)

3 tablespoons chia seeds

Blend strawberries, vanilla and milk until completely smooth and chunk free. Stir in the chia seeds well. Pour into 2-4 cups depending on serving portion and chill overnight. Stir after about an hour well to break up clumps, and again before serving. Serve with a drizzle of honey or more cut up fruit. 

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