I love the Advent season. Advent is a season to hunker down and get quiet and reflective. We feel how dark and deep these days are. We feel the weight of all that has been making us weary this year.
But it is not a season of despair. It is one of great hope – for a rescue and redemption from our human suffering. We anticipate the joy that is coming on Christmas morning. And not just for presents or egg nog.
Christmas morning symbolizes the moment when God reached down his hand to humanity and said, “You can quit all your striving and despair. Here, I will take care of you. No matter what happens, no matter what you go through…and it won’t all be a piece of cake. But remember this – and use Christmas as a reminder: all the badness and suffering and pain will be ultimately defeated. You can carry a small light even through the darkest of days, because of what happened on Christmas Day.”
I love that about Christmas.
No matter what faith (or no faith) that you ascribe to, we could all use a bit more hope and reminder to choose joy. Every day. Choose to be joyful, find the good, and hold onto that bit of light, even when it gets dark.
This season of Christmas/New Year/my birthday always is a very reflective one for me, and I’m taking stock of my values and goals going forward, and hoping for Christmas morning more than ever.
This Christmas season, I am also doing something that brings me great joy – baking! Especially this recipe for Gingerbread Cake that I found on detoxinista.com, and tweaked a bit. It is spicy and warming and just barely sweet, which I appreciate. And for being gluten free, it stays super moist because of an amazing secret ingredient – zucchini! Be sure to blend it to a liquid puree, so you don’t get any unsightly green chunks.
Buckwheat is a gluten free whole grain that is high in tryptophan. Tryptophan can help synthesize serotonin – a “feel good” neurotransmitter. In fact, if you can find buckwheat tea, it is great to sip before bed, as it has a calming/drowsy effect on some people. In culinary school, we would joke that we needed mandatory naps after making recipes with buckwheat.
I dusted this cake with a little powdered sugar, using a paper snowflake as a stencil. It’s super easy and super classy, especially if you want to bring this to a holiday party. But beware: the powdered sugar will eventually “soak” into the moist cake, so dust with sugar just before serving.
(gluten free, dairy free, vegan option)
- 1 cup buckwheat flour
- 1½ teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
- 1 cup zucchini puree
- 2 Tablespoons blackstrap molasses
- 6 tablespoons pure maple syrup (I used 6 tablespoons of coconut sugar instead)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon ground flax or chia seeds (I used one whole egg instead of flax and water)
- 3 Tablespoons water
- Preheat your oven to 350F and line an 8″ x 8″ baking dish or round cake pan with parchment paper, to prevent sticking. In a small bowl, stir together the tablespoon of ground flax seed with 3 tablespoons of water, and allow to sit for 10 minutes, until gelled together (skip this if you are using an egg instead).
- In the meantime, whisk together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, including the buckwheat flour, spices, baking soda and salt.
- In a medium bowl add the gelled flax mixture OR the egg with the melted coconut oil, zucchini puree, blackstrap molasses, maple syrup and vanilla extract and sweetener.
- Mix the wet ingredients into the dry and combine until a uniform batter is formed.
- Transfer the batter to the lined baking dish, and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes, or until the top begins to crack and the center is firm.
- Allow to cool completely, then slice into bars and serve! Top with a sprinkle of sugar, for presentation, if desired.