I think I may well have mentioned that in my old life, I had a fondness for carbohydrates; in particular, cake. So when I decided to ditch carbs, sugar and lots of the other stuff I loved with all my heart in a bid to heal my colitis, I ruefully tried to come to terms with the fact that my cake-eating days were over.
But then, as immense good fortune would have it, after a period of cake-free mourning, it turned out that cake made a comeback.
After tinkering around with various combinations of ground almonds, butter and honey, various nut butters and dried fruit, I discovered that not only was it possible to make cakes with the ingredients I could still eat, but they were seriously delicious.
For a while, I wondered if that was just gratitude talking (beggars can't be choosers, right?) but then I made some for my brother, who is vehemently opposed to anything gluten free, let alone sugar free, on the grounds that it must be inferior. But he not only declared these cakes delicious, he had several of them. In fact, anyone who tried them seemed to gleefully scoff the lot, which is how I knew I was onto something.
I think a lot of 'free-from' foods can taste very compromised, but these little beauties just honestly don't at all - they are gooey, rich, decadent bombs of delight, just like cake should be.
These days, the world is much more attuned to the gluten free movement than even 3 years ago, which is when I started making these cakes, and also thinking about all the other people in a similar - gluten free - boat to me. (A feature of this diet I'm on is that it's pretty unheard of for me to go into a shop or café and just buy something ready-made off the shelf, which is really annoying!).
And that is how I had the idea about making these cakes for everyone to enjoy: I had practically cried with gratitude when I realised that I could eat cake again and I wanted to spread the love. That's partly how I came up with the name for my brand: Lovebomb.
I approached a London-based restaurant chain who seemed open to the idea of healthy food and brought them a bag of my cakes to taste. They liked them a lot and told me they'd like to sell them. I made a few more batches for their head office to try and that led to a meeting with their product development person.
I can't tell you how excited I was. Sure, I had zero experience of cooking anything on any kind of large scale; I had recently had a baby and was returning to a full time job; I didn't have a food hygiene certificate or premises on which to make the cakes; I had no idea how to source ingredients or manage things like packaging, shelf life, stock rotation and transportation, and I have never written a spreadsheet or so much as thought about profit and loss in my life, let alone fix prices to ensure a profit. But did any of that stop me from forging ahead? Being a fairly tenacious person, and now with my vision of Lovebomb cakes being made available to other gluten free cake lovers... no, it did not.
I could actually write a whole book about my Lovebomb experience. But here I'll cut straight to the ending: after months of product development, Lovebomb cakes did not make it to the cake counter. Everyone agreed that the product itself was top notch - and delicious. The problem, which a seasoned business person would have worked out on day one, was that the ingredients are too expensive to create a cake that will make any profit if they are being sold by a middle man.
And that is how I found out that it's one thing having a great product and quite another making that into a successful and profitable business venture. But, on the upside, I learned so much from my Lovebomb experience. I learned that it's really, really hard to make a living making food; that really believing in something and wanting it to succeed isn't always enough; I learned to quit while I was ahead, even though it meant a temporary shelving of my cake dream.
But mainly, I realised that I still wanted to find a way to turn my restricted diet into a positive, and to help other people eat delicious food too, even if I couldn't share the cake-love directly. And that, happily, is how my blog was born.
For more on living with a special diet, take a look at Victoria Young's guest blog, How To Eat (When You Can't Eat Anything At All).
- 2 cups almond flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- 2 large eggs
- 1tsp vanilla essence
- ½ cup honey
- 1 cup peanut/hazelnut/cashew or almond butter (or a blend)
- 50g butter, melted
- ¼ cup raisins
Put the almond flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl and make a hole in the middle to crack the eggs into. Add the vanilla essence to the eggs and whisk together within the hole before stirring the almond mixture in so everything is amalgamated.
Add the honey, nut butter and melted butter and stir again so it's all mixed in before adding the raisins. The consistency at this point should be runny rather than stiff, so if it is too stiff, whisk up another egg and integrate it.
I use individual silicone moulds to cook these but they also work in cupcake case wrappers. But remember as you spoon the mix in that it will rise a bit, so don't fill it too full.
Cook at 170C for 18-20 minutes, depending on the size of your moulds. Try to let them cool for a few minutes before scoffing the lot.