I wrote this post about my brief experience with Paleo, and it seems to have ruffled some feathers. I did not expect a slice of cake to be so controversial.
A few people seem to think I said Paleo was not a good way to eat. I never said that. I said I loved the whole foods emphasis and that it may be beneficial for people with certain health concerns, but that it’s not right for me. I don’t have health issues and I don’t do well with restriction. If you’re Paleo (or vegan, or something else) and what you are doing works for you, that’s great. I mean that and I said so in the article. But I do feel very strongly (and I said this in the article, too) that you don’t have to follow a restrictive diet to be a healthy person. I wrote that piece for everyone trapped in the mindset that you must to go to extremes with your food to be healthy. I want you to know that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Yes, elimination diets can be helpful. I wrote about why you may want to eliminate wheat, gluten, and grains here. I wrote about dairy here. And sugar here. There’s a chapter on food sensitivities in my book (hooray! my book’s already up on Amazon! The cover is going to change a bit, but still! Can you tell I am excited?).
But it’s my feeling that elimination diets should be a temporary aspect of healing. Work on strengthening your digestion so you’ll be able to eat the foods that cause you trouble again someday (not with celiac disease or a life-threatening food allergy unfortunately though…you must stay away from those foods for good). Focus on ultimately eating more, not less.
Let’s be reasonable and use common sense here, folks. Let’s eat lots of real foods. Traditional foods. Eating like our ancestors did is great, but I really don’t think we need to go back and emulate the cavemen (who’s really sure how they ate anyway???). How about we just try to eat more like people did before all the processed foods, GMOs, and other undesirable stuff came along? How about we learn to cook and do that more often? How about we eat as organic and local as we can? And how about we don’t freak out SO much about gluten (again, unless you really cannot tolerate it or you have celiac disease) and sugar? I used to tell everyone not to eat gluten and sugar and I used to avoid them for the most part myself. I did that for many months before I even tried Paleo, and it did not make me feel any better than I do now that I’m back to including these in my life. (In fact, I feel healthier now because my mind is at peace since I’m no longer forcing myself not to eat things that I like. When I designate foods as “forbidden”, it brings back the feelings I had back when I used to basically starve myself as a teenager…I think I’ll pass on reliving that.)
Eat plentifully of wholesome stuff and don’t eat so much of the stuff that’s not. But please don’t be “on a diet”: don’t eat for weight loss…eat for your health. Your body needs food (all different kinds and and plenty of it) to do everything it needs to do. Don’t eat too few calories. Or fats. Or carbohydrates. Don’t deny yourself real foods that you enjoy. Move your body! Get lots of deep sleep, and some sunlight. Learn to properly manage stress. Strive for balance in terms of what you eat and in your life as a whole: I think that will go a long way toward helping you get and stay healthy. And happy.
Now here’s that cake I was talking about :)
This is a very basic, and very delicious cake. It’s “sunny” yellow, so I’ve dubbed it “Happiness Cake”. I had the lemon curd on hand already and needed to use it up, but if you don’t have any, you can fill this cake with something else. Raspberry jam- a homemade one or a high quality one from the store- would be perfect: feel free to just dust the top of the cake with some powdered (confectioner’s) sugar if you use the jam filling (in lieu of an icing). Another option for this cake would be a more traditional white or chocolate frosting that you’d use in the center and to frost the cake. If you prefer to bake this cake in two separate layers (in order to avoid slicing one in half), use two 8-inch round pans.
Recipe for Yellow Cake with Lemon Curd (aka Happiness Cake)
Yield: one 9-inch cake
Prep Time: 10 minutes, presuming you already have the lemon curd on hand.
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Some notes about the recipe:
*If you can't eat gluten, you can sub in your favorite gluten-free flour mix, or give this a go with a combination of almond and coconut flours, plus a little baking soda (sorry...I'm not sure how much). If it doesn't work out, please don't get mad at me, though: I didn't try it that way.
*If the butter puts you off, we need to talk. (Please eat butter.)
*There's sugar in the lemon curd and the cake. Use organic and everything will be ok (ps everything will be ok if you use regular sugar, too).
*If you can't eat eggs: this just isn't the cake for you. Try "googling" around for an egg-free white cake recipe that you can fill with jam so you can have cake, too :)
*1 cup (2 sticks) softened unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the cake pan
*Pinch of fine sea salt
*1 cup sugar (plus extra for dusting (I used fair-trade, organic sugar)
*4 medium eggs, beaten (I used eggs from my chickens)
*1 ½ cups self-rising flour (I used King Arthur Flour enriched, unbleached, self-rising flour)
*1 to 2 tablespoons milk (optional)
*Meyer lemon curd (my recipe is here) for filling and icing the cake (or use jam: raspberry would be perfect). Note that you will need anywhere between 1 to 2 cups of lemon curd to fill and ice the cake. I was a little heavy-handed with the filling and ran low for the icing: I mixed what I had left with a few tablespoons of mascarpone cheese so it would go further.
*Confectioner's sugar to dust the cake (optional- if you don't use an icing)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch layer cake pan. Line with a circle of parchment paper, if you have it.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar until fluffy and pale. Add the salt, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and enough milk to so that the batter is not too stiff.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until it’s golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing the cake from the pan (peel away the parchment paper if you used it).
4. Let the cake cool completely, then use a long, sharp knife to slice through the center so that you have two layers that are approximately the same height (don’t worry if they're not exactly even, though). Spread the lemon curd (or jam) onto the bottom layer, then put the other layer on top. Dust with powdered sugar, or mix remaining lemon curd with mascarpone and use this to thinly ice the cake. This cake will keep well in an airtight container for 4-5 days: common sense tells me I should have refrigerated the leftovers because of the eggs in the lemon curd, but I didn't...you do what feels right to you.
Adapted from A Country Cook's Kitchen: American Style Icon.
More on restrictive diets not working out:
Top 10 Reasons I’m Not Paleo by Cheeseslave
Breaking Up with Paleo from Hunt, Gather, Love
Susan’s Experience over at Strands of My Life
I Don’t Need the Gaps Diet
My Vegan Diet Caused Health Problems from Kristen’s Raw