Happy Friday! Here’s a quick and easy sweet treat to make without an oven or even a stove. There are many variations online, but mine are on the less sweet side with a lot of added “superfoods” to give them more nourishment. It’s an easy recipe to fudge with, so feel free to experiment with whatever ingredients you have at home! I do believe the brown rice syrup is very important due to its stickiness/viscosity; its what keeps the bars together. I have also added melted chocolate like these “hippie crispy treats” but then they start to veer into “not so healthy” territory. Very delicious though.
Healthy Rice Crispy Treats
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup brown rice syrup (cannot be substituted)
  • ¼ cup almond butter (or other nut/seed butter)
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1½ - 2 cups crispy brown rice cereal (not puffed)
  • Optional (up to ½ cup)
  • popped amaranth
  • chia seed
  • flax seed
  • chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. In a medium sized bowl, mix together brown rice syrup, almond butter, and maple syrup. Microwave for 30 seconds to melt ingredients all together. Mix well, then add brown rice cereal and mix together. If using optional ingredients, add them now. If not, add an additional ½ cup brown rice cereal.
  2. Press into a container (no need to be gentle) and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes or until solidified.
Notes
Variations:
1. Add 1 tbsp cocoa powder to wet ingredients and mix well.
2. Switch ½ cup cereal for rolled oats for a more granola bar like texture
3. Add chopped nuts and dried fruit for more sustenance
4. Spread melted chocolate on top and sprinkle with flaked sea salt

 

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This past Sunday I hosted the very first LA Cake Club meeting! It’s safe to say we all had a great time and can’t wait for the next one. I was super nervous no one would show up but everything fell into place at the end. Thank you to all the wonderful ladies (and gentlemen) that came out! And a special thank you to Gary for helping me set up and take our group photos.

My contribution were these gluten free almond berry friands with cream cheese frosting. Recipe to come!

Missing a few more who showed up after this photo. Such great baking work!

More photos of all the desserts will be on the LA Cake Club instagram. If you would like to join in on the fun, follow along on twitter and instagram, both @LAcakeclub. For the latest updates sign up for our mailing list! The next cake club meeting will be in 6-8 weeks.

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About a year ago my friend Ami was working on a personal project that featured entrepreneurs and asked to include me. She came over to take photos at my old apartment kitchen and ask me a few questions. While she decided not to go through with the project, Ami just recently sent me the photos and I thought I’d share them here, as well as the interview. It’s been interesting to look back at where I was almost exactly one year ago. Thank you Ami for the great photos and for the opportunity to capture this time capsule of my little business!

Why Matchbox Kitchen?
Matchbox Kitchen originally started as a blog to be shared between my boyfriend, Gary, and myself. He went to culinary school and cooks more savory foods while I was baked mostly as a hobby. I wanted something gender neutral and though we hadn’t moved out yet, we were planning to in the next few months and knew our first apartment would be very small. Hence, Matchbox Kitchen! We have since moved out and indeed, our kitchen is rather small.

Can you talk a little about your background and how you got into baking? Did you always know you wanted to be a baker?
Around 2009 I had been reading several blogs that would keep on mentioning a book called Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. These weren’t food blogs, but they’d always crank out beautiful loaves of bread, bagels, brioche, donuts, pretzels, all from the same cookbook! The next year I made it my New Year’s resolution to purchase the book and learn how to make bread. After having some success it snowballed from there. It was so exciting to make something look so professional, yet came so naturally. I loved learning the hows and whys behind baking and just kept practicing.

I don’t think I ever thought I’d become a baker. I actually went to college for graphic design, and if you asked any of my friends they would’ve said the same thing. Back then I still baked cakes and cookies from boxes (which now makes me cringe).

What was the biggest factor that made you make the leap into making baking a business?
I always knew I’d want to create something with my hands and started off selling stationery on etsy, but I wasn’t making any progress and kept it as a hobby. After baking for fun for a year or so and when I remembered that Unique LA was coming up and I thought I’d try applying for it.  I was tired of not taking risks and not doing anything with my life. My friend helped design packaging for me and I took some photos and created a website. It was actually all fake for the application! I told myself that if I got in then I’d have to go through with it, and even if it was a a horrible experience I wouldn’t have to continue. Thankfully I had an amazing time and I’ve stuck with it since.

Currently you work part-time while running your business. What is it like juggling a part-time job and your business simultaneously? Is it harder/easier than you imagined?
In the first half of 2012 I worked part-time at a bookstore while my own business was starting to pick up. My day job hours were not very flexible and it was a struggle to balance both At the end of May I decided to quit that job and work on Matchbox Kitchen full time. It was exhilarating to be able to be on my own, but after six months it started to wear down on me. There stress of having to make a certain amount of money was too much to bear, and being alone to my thoughts all day was not helpful! Thankfully I found another part time job, this time at a bakery. I truly have the best coworkers that are all supportive of my business and I have a much more flexible schedule. At this moment, working part time takes a lot of pressure off of me and allows the business to grow at my own pace. I work better when my time is filled up, so having another job gives my days more structure as I can get into a bad habit of procrastinating!

What is a day in your life like?
Most days I wake up around 8 and check my email/instagram/twitter from bed. I usually make a to do list on my phone the night before so I go through that. If I have any cake or cookie orders I start working on them so they’ll be ready to be shipped out. If not, I will try to work on the other side of the business, such as updating my website, get my paperwork and taxes organized, order supplies, etc. Some days I’ll experiment in the kitchen and take photos for my blog. Unfortunately I get sidetracked easily and will take breaks cleaning the apartment, play with my cats, or read blogs. I try to go to the gym twice a week and I work part time three times a week. Other than that, any free time is spent either baking or on the computer!

You wrote an insightful blog post on celebrating the one-year mark of running your business and the struggle that you felt during that time. Can you elaborate on that? What keeps you motivated during tough times? For you, what have been those tough times?
At the time I wrote that blog post I was under a lot of stress to push my business forward. My savings account was dwindling and I wasn’t sure how to use my last pennies to keep myself afloat. I had a few big baking jobs that went horribly (at least in my eyes). Not only were they large orders, they were bigger clients that could potentially give me my “big break,” which put a lot of pressure on me to make sure everything was perfect! Unfortunately things didn’t go swimmingly and I really wanted to give up at that point. I had lost motivation to bake and holed myself in my apartment. It was a tough couple of months, but I still had some online cookie orders and cake orders coming in and kept going even though I wasn’t enjoying it. I can’t say that I was very motivated during this time, other than feeling an obligation to my customers to keep baking.

One of the biggest concerns for new businesses is how to grow and reach clients. Do you do a lot of in-person or online networking with people one-on-one? You’re also fairly active on social media, have you found that it’s helped in the growth of your business? What do you think has been your biggest contributing factor to your growth?
I am the worst at promoting my own business, especially in person! My blog and Instagram have been tremendous help in promoting my business as they allow my photos to speak for me. The biggest factors to my growth have been working on my food photography as well as surrounding myself with a group of fellow small business owners. My friend Erin Dollar (of Cotton & Flax) started a small business group that meets up monthly to discuss our goals to help us stay accountable. Not only that but because we’re all in different stages of ownership they’ve given me so much valuable advice!

What are your ultimate goal and hopes for Matchbox Kitchen? What would mean success for you?
My ultimate goal for Matchbox Kitchen is to open up a shop/cafe/studio space. Although I mostly make desserts right now, my goal for Matchbox Kitchen is to promote a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. I want to serve healthy options as well as indulgent ones, using only locally grown, organic ingredients. For the shop portion I’d offer sustainably produced home goods such as reusable bags, wooden cutting boards, and tea towels. As for the studio space, I would love to host classes and partner with other local businesses, such as teaching a container gardening class.

As cheesy as it sounds, success to me would be to leave a positive impact on the world, knowing that I made it a better place.

What is your advice for other who want to pursue owning their own bake shop or other creative venture?
Don’t compare yourself to others, just keep working hard in pursuit of what you love.

What is your favorite item in your shop to make/eat?
My favorite thing to make and eat are cakes! I love carefully assembling each layer, smoothing out delicious frosting, and combining different flavors and textures.

All photos by Ami Martin.

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In honor of reaching 5000 followers on Instagram I’ve decided to do a giveaway for one of my cakes! The winner will be chosen at random and will win one 6″ round cake. You get to choose the flavor! Cake must be picked up in Los Angeles and be redeemed by August 23, 2014.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Lately I’ve been craving cookies at all times of the day. Not wanting to make something just “eh” or nutritionally void, I came up with these! They’re filled with all types of nuts and seeds and are almost gluten free. I sweetened them with sucanat which gives it a darker color and richer flavor. No, they’re not a typical doughy, chewy cookie but it definitely satisfies my craving.

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In other news, thank you to everyone that RSVPed to the first LA Cake Club meeting! Every spot filled up in less than an hour, so next time I’ll be sure to let you know well in advance when the eventbrite page will be up. I’m excited to see how it all turns out and meet new people! But the big question is… what cake am I going to bring?! Any suggestions?

Seed-y Cookies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 T flax seeds
  • 1 T sesame seeds
  • 1 T chia seeds
  • 1 T hemp hearts
  • 1 T millet
  • 2 T chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
  • 2 T almond meal/flour
  • 3 T chocolate chips
  • ⅓ c spelt flour
  • ½ c rolled oats
  • ¼ c coconut oil, melted
  • ¼ c sucanat
  • 1 flax egg (1 T ground flax + 3 T water)
  • ¼ t baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Make flax egg by combining ground flax and water. Set aside and let stand for 5 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl mix together dry ingredients (everything minus the flax egg, sucanat, and coconut oil).
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together flax egg, oil, and sucanat. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir thoroughly.
  5. Place heaping tablespoons of dough onto a lined baking sheet. You can keep them rough and craggly or smooth them out. Keep in mind the cookies do not spread that much.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes until slightly browned around the edges. Cookies will be slightly soft and fragile, so let cool completely before enjoying. Makes 8 cookies.

 

 

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Did any of you grow up eating those orange flavored chocolates shaped like an orange that you had to whack on a counter top so they’d split into segments? They were definitely a childhood favorite, yet somewhere along the way I must have forgotten about them. Luckily for me, this cake tastes just like it! Every bite brings me back to attempting the perfect whack to get the chocolate to fall apart just so.

This cake version of the candy bar is much better for you. Made with almond flour instead of wheat flour, it’s gluten free and grain free, sweetened with brown rice syrup and a whole orange, with no butter or dairy in sight. The longest part of the process is boiling the orange. Yes, you boil a whole orange in water until it’s soft enough to cut through. For my smallish/medium sized orange, that took about 35 minutes.

The results are a rich, chocolately, soft yet slightly dense cake. The almond flour makes the cake surprisingly filling that I don’t need more than one slice to feel satisfied. One more serving and it puts me over the edge (ask me how I know). It is seriously so good that I am always so tempted to go in for another piece. I don’t believe in labeling desserts “guilt free” because those types of feelings shouldn’t be associated with food, but I don’t feel the slightest bit bad for indulging in something made with such wholesome ingredients.

I garnished my cake with a pouring of chocolate ganache and maldon flaked salt, but a dusting of cocoa powder would also be beautiful and delicious!

Chocolate Orange Cake - Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 medium orange
  • 2 tbsp oil (such as coconut, walnut, avocado, sunflower)
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp brown rice syrup
  • ¾ cup almond meal
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
Instructions
  1. Boil orange in water until soft, about 35-45 minutes, depending on size. Remove from water and let cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 325° F and grease 6" round cake pan.
  3. Using a blender or food processor, puree entire boiled orange until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and continue to blend until smooth. Batter will be thick.
  4. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  5. Let cool in pan, then remove and garnish with cocoa powder or ganache.

 

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Uh oh, do I feel a new hobby coming on? I always thought tempering chocolate was a task too difficult for me to take on, especially without fancy equipment. Maybe it’s just after years of practicing patience in baking and a better understanding of sugar that I am able to tackle chocolate.

Armed with my digital thermometer this was my process:

  • Melt couverture chocolate in a bain marie up to 120° F
  • Seed it with some tempered chocolate around 85°
  • Bring temperature down to 80°
  • Bring it back up to 89-90°
  • All while stirring like crazy to make sure those beta crystals were thoroughly distributed.

Will you believe that it worked?! I certainly didn’t. I tested the chocolate for fingerprints, melting, blooming, and many other suspects of untempered chocolate a million times, but they never showed up.

Then, after seeing my candied meyer lemon cake last week, my friend Natalie came over to candy some more citrus from her backyard trees. We candied grapefruit, orange, blood orange, and lemon. Of course, I had to try dipping these in chocolate as well. I might create a tutorial on how to candy citrus if there is interest (let me know by leaving a comment!). It’s simple and straightforward with satisfying results. Perhaps a great homemade Valentine’s gift!

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A few days ago I came across a group in Australia called the Canberra Cake Club. I was immediately intrigued by the name (obviously) and had to find out more. Turns out it’s exactly what it sounds like: a club where members bring cake to share and enjoy! Of course, the next logical step was to ask Twitter what they thought, and now a Los Angeles Cake Club is in the works.

The club will meet every month or so (perhaps every other month) and everyone is asked to bring a small cake or dessert, a container to take home others’ creations, and a positive attitude :) Follow along on twitter for more updates: LACakeClub. Once I get things going (soon, I promise!) An events page will be set up so you can RSVP and receive the location.

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For this week’s cake I decided not to make something gluten free/sugar free/dairy free. Many people get turned off by these words so I thought I’d try making something a little more approachable. With citrus season in full swing I decided to make a wholesome meyer lemon cake. Whole wheat flour and cornmeal were used to give the cake some heft and texture, but rest assured there is still enough butter and sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth. I topped off the cake with candied lemon slices which could not be easier to make. Simply slice your lemons and simmer them in simple syrup (1:1 ratio) for about 30 min to 1 hour. To make the cake more visually appealing I dusted it with the slightest bit of powdered sugar.

On a more somber note, this cake is dedicated to an acquaintance of mine that I met a couple years ago. We had only met a few times but instantly bonded over kale, sauerkraut, kombucha, and SQIRL. Unfortunately I just learned that she recently passed away from cervical cancer. While we were not close, anyone that has met her can attest for her upbeat attitude and inspiring outlook on life. She was a beam of light and happiness, and I hope this cake does her justice. This one is for you, Lauren!

Whole Wheat Candied Lemon Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • ¼ c sugar
  • ½ c whole wheat pastry flour
  • ¼ c cornmeal
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • juice and zest of ½ lemon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 6" cake pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk dry ingredients together (flour, cornmeal, baking powder).
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together butter, sugar, and lemon juice and zest until light and fluffy. Add a third of the flour mixture and mix together until just combined. Beat in 1 egg until thickened, then continue alternating with flour and egg one more time, ending with flour.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  5. Let cool then garnish with candied lemon and a dusting of powdered sugar.

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I am excited to announce that I will soon be offering cake classes! The idea has been mulling in my head for the past year now, but it is only now that I’ve mustered up the courage to host them.

My first class will teach you cake baking and decorating basics. First, we will go over how to make a classic butter cake–properly measuring and preparing ingredients, how the cake batter is supposed to look like at each step, and how to know when your cake is finished baking. Next, everyone will get to assemble and decorate their own 6″ layered cake. This includes learning how to torte layers, crumb coating, decorating with buttercream, and adding final embellishments like flowers. You’ll learn helpful tips and tricks to make your cakes look and taste like they are straight from your favorite bakery. All materials and supplies will be provided and everyone will go home with their very own 6″ cake!

I am still finalizing the venue (if you know of somewhere in the Los Angeles area with access to a fridge, let me know!) but if you’d like to get the latest updates please sign up for my mailing list. I promise I won’t spam you :)

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For the last few days I’ve been recipe testing a healthy cookie–no butter, no added sugars, lots of fiber, healthy fats, and nutrients. Oh, and grain free and vegan. It hasn’t been going well. It later dawned on me that what makes a cookie a cookie is the starch, fat, and sugar. Taking them out simply produced something more cake/biscuit like which is not what I was going for (although still rather tasty given its components).

Though I haven’t given up just yet, it made me wonder why I was trying to make something with so many restrictions. I’m not vegan, I don’t have a gluten intolerance, and I don’t follow a “paleo” diet. Part of it is because I enjoy a good challenge, but mostly it’s because I believe the best diet is a varied diet. It’s easy to get stuck eating the same vegetables or even the same meals day after day. Go on instagram and see how many #mealprepmonday photos are filled with chicken breast, tilapia, brown rice, broccoli, and sweet potato. Eating “clean” (don’t get me started on that term either, but that’s another story for another day) is definitely healthier than fast food, but there are so many varieties of grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts that offer more than just sustenance. Varying the types of foods you eat offers you a wide range of nutrients you might otherwise not be getting, and sometimes restrictions encourage you to seek out new ingredients rather than relying on old favorites.

Since the cookie recipe has yet to be perfected, I thought I’d share something more up my alley: a cake, of course! Last night I came across a dessert called an apple sharlotka, a Russian/Polish cake that has a large proportion of sliced apples to actual cake batter. The structure is mostly from eggs so I thought it would be a good candidate for gluten free flours. Along the way I came across something similar from Leite’s Culinaria, the drunken apple cake. Still a large proportion of apples but this time with butter creating a richer cake. I made a combination of the two and ended up with a gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free apple cake. No, not as indulgent as the others but delicious nonetheless!

A combination of almond flour and oat flour was used for this recipe, mostly because it’s what I had on hand. I originally planned to use a bit of brown rice flour but that was nowhere to be found. For sweetness I used a combination of brown rice syrup and maple syrup, but I am sure honey would be fine as well. I should really call this an almond maple apple cake instead. The maple really shines so make sure you use a good quality syrup. As soon as the cake came out of the oven I brushed it with a tablespoon of maple syrup then garnished with chopped almonds. The almonds aren’t necessary but it dresses up an otherwise plain cake and adds some nice texture. Next time I might try adding a few tablespoons of rum like drunken apple cake to deepen the flavor.

I’m pretty happy with how it came out. The fat from the almonds, fiber from the apples, plus a hit of sweetness from the maple syrup keep my sweet tooth in check with the tiniest of slices. An unfussy cake fit for a weeknight dessert, I’d say.

Sliced Apple Cake - GF, DF, SF
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free
Author:
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 2 apples, peeled and thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • ½ c almond flour
  • ½ c oat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ c oil
  • ¼ c + 2 tbsp (6 tbsp) honey or maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F and grease a 6" round pan, 3" tall.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, salt).
  3. Using a hand or stand mixer, whisk together in a separate bowl the oil, honey/maple syrup, and eggs until aerated and slightly frothy, about 5 minutes. Add dry ingredients and fold until combined. Batter should be slightly thick.
  4. Portion one third of the batter into the prepared pan, then lay half of the apple slices in a concentric circle. Add a third more batter, and repeat with the remaining apples. Finish off with the last of the batter.
  5. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes inside pan, then invert on stand and let cool until room temperature.
  6. Slice with a sharp knife and serve with coconut cream, a drizzle of honey, or a dusting of powdered sugar.

 

 

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