made using Cocofina coconut flower nectar.
I was determined to use some of the coconut flower nectar that I received from Cocofina in a cake, but I didn't have much luck finding a recipe for anything I liked the look of. Most people seem to use it for 'health' reasons, and the resulting recipes are correspondingly specialised, often containing seeds, odd grains and lots of raw ingredients that I just don't keep in stock.
OK - maybe coconut flower nectar does have a low GI, but it has a similar amount of calories to any other form of sugar, so it's not exactly the 'guilt-free' eating that some people like to portray. I just wanted to find out how it reacted to baking and what it tasted like in a cake. In the end, I had a brainwave and started looking for cake recipes made with honey. Even then I had difficulties; so many recipes - even those called honey cakes - used a tiny proportion of honey and the usual amount of refined sugar. Same thing when I looked at maple syrup recipes (maple syrup has a similar viscosity to coconut flower nectar). What I wanted was a recipe where the only form of sugar was honey.
Eventually I stumbled across this US site, the National Honey Board, which had a huge recipe section. I found this recipe for Apricot Honey Bread, which served as the starting point for my recipe, although I made quite a few changes. The biggest alteration was reducing the sweetener (honey) by 1/3, as 300g not only sounded a huge amount, it would use up almost all my supply of coconut flower nectar.
250g spelt flour
100g plain white flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest of half an orange
300mls semi-skimmed milk
200g coconut flower nectar (or honey)
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
1 large egg, beaten
120g dried apricots, chopped
100g naturally coloured glacé cherries, halved, rinsed and tossed with a tablespoon of the measured flour
75g desiccated coconut.
Prepare a suitable baking tin (I used a 2lb loaf tin which was almost too small - I think an 8"(20cm) square deep cake tin might have been a better size). Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
Mix the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and orange zest in a large bowl.
In another bowl whisk together the milk, coconut flower nectar, egg and oil; add this to the flour mix and blend until just combined - don't over-mix. Finally fold in the dried apricots, glacé cherries and desiccated coconut.
Transfer to the baking tin and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a test probe comes out clean. Cover the cake after 40 minutes if it seems to be browning too quickly. Cool in the tin for 20 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
I was really pleased with this cake - although quite sturdy, it had a lighter texture than I expected, and was much more moist too. With such a small amount of fat, and only one egg, as well as using a liquid sugar, I was expecting it to have a much heavier texture.
The flavours of coconut, apricots and cherries complimented each other well, with just a hint of citrus from the orange zest. Reducing the amount of sweetener didn't seem to have a detrimental effect, either. Unfortunately, I think the delicious flavour of the coconut flower nectar was masked by all the other flavours, although it's hard to tell without making the same cake with ordinary sugar and tasting them side by side.
It's good to know that coconut flower nectar can be successfully used in baking, but it's so difficult to find suitable recipes, and adapting recipes can be such a hit-or-miss experience that I doubt I will use it again unless a liquid sweetener is needed in the original recipe. If you are adapting your diet to use less refined sugar, then coconut nectar, with it's low GI, is definitely a good substitute, but for me, it's best used in simpler things such as sweetening cooked fruits or drizzling over natural yogurt (a truly delicious instant dessert!). It's also quite expensive, which is another reason for not using so much in one go - used sparingly in situations where it's flavour comes through means it will go a lot further and probably still do as much good in the long run.