My story with sugar is long (my whole life long) and a bit convoluted. I was raised by hippies in the the 1960s. We lived on communes, as one did. Until I was about 7 it was really the only life I knew, so never struck me as unusual. It wasn’t until I started to attend school that I understood that my life in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont wasn’t the way the whole world lived. It was sugar that was the first and most profound indication. I’d grown up thinking (being lead to believe) that raisins and other dried fruits were candy. I was perfectly happy with this, until I went to kindergarten and someone produced a Twinkie from their Mickey Mouse lunch box. WTH is that? I was mesmerized and completely distracted by this sweet smelling cylinder of cake. I must have convinced that kid to give me a bite and there began my obsession. It became my life’s work to get more of it. This was no easy chore, considering all I had to trade were peanut butter and honey sandwiches. And when I say peanut butter, I mean the kind we ground ourselves and honey from our bee hives, on bread my Aunt Melissa made from wheat we milled. Today that sandwich sounds like heaven, but wasn’t so popular with those kids eating Ho Ho’s and Twinkies. Every once in a blue moon I’d score something sweet and be amazed.
Eventually in college I went through a naturally sweetened phase. I couldn’t exactly admit that my parents had been right to deny me all the sugary snacks, but I found myself pushing them aside for honey and maple syrup. This was right around the time I started to bake and was really curious about how to make baked goods that were delicious and had a wonderful texture, without sugar. There weren’t a lot of people doing this, not in a graceful way, and I didn’t have the skills to make the recipes up. I eventually went to culinary school to figure out the food science behind baking, with a notion that I’d retool pastry with natural sweeteners. But, their pantry was stocked with sugar and I was too impressionable to resist. I loved what the sugar could do. I was fascinated not only by it’s ability to transform flavor, but it’s ability to take on structure. When heated to just the right temperature I could make candies, both hard and soft, or spin it into gossamer threads. I didn’t really look back to honey and maple, except as a flavor, until I had my boys.
You guessed it. I didn’t let them eat sugar until they discovered it on their own. Yep, I did exactly what my parents had done, and I was a pastry chef. They were little and just didn’t need the sugar, then they got bigger and had a similar discovery that I went through. I wasn’t as hard core about denying them sugar and how could I be, since I worked with it all day. I think I struck a healthy balance and my boys ate their fair share of sweets, but all homemade and I think they didn’t have a Twinkie until they could pay for it themselves and they weren’t as impressed as I had been.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love sugar and all that it can do. I also love playing with honey, maple, agave and other natural sweeteners. They have some nutritional value, true enough, but more importantly they are amazingly delicious. Back in the day, when I was going to culinary school, everyone there looked at me crosseyed when I wanted to make meringue without sugar. Now there are many books on the subject and I am creating all kinds of gorgeous treats that even my folks would have allowed me to eat in my commune days.
These Tea Cup Rose Cakes have no sugar. NO SUGAR! They are also gluten-free (not an issue for me, but is for many of my friends and readers), Dairy-free (if made as the recipe was written, but I did use butter). And, they are delicious and so beautiful, no one will ever know they’re remotely healthy.
The chocolate cake and buttercream I used to make these chocolate rose cakes are both from My Paleo Patisserie by Jenni Hulet, a gorgeous book lent to me by one of my favorite food bloggers, Stephanie Meyer, who knows a thing or two about healthy living. but the tea cup rose design is all me.
My Paleo Patisserie Chocolate Cake:
Makes one 6-inch round cake or 6 tea cups
1/3 cup palm shortening or ghee (I had neither, so I used coconut oil), melted and slightly cooled
3 large eggs, room temperature, separated
1/2 cup (120 ml) maple syrup or honey (I used honey)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (super easy to make your own)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 3/4 cup (175g) almond meal (almond flour is the same thing)
1/3 cup (35g) cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Honey Buttercream also from My Paleo Patisserie
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup maple syrup (I used honey)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups (270g) palm shortening (I used butter)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (super easy to make your own)
I also added a few drops of cocao bitters from Easy and Oskey Bitters that I had made. You can add flavored extract or keep it simply vanilla.
To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 325°F
If baking in the pan, grease a 6×3-inch Cake Pan and line with parchment paper. If baking in tea cups, make sure they are safe for the oven and grease them.
Mix together the melted palm shortening, egg yolks, honey, vanilla, and vinegar.
Whisk together until blended.
My almond meal was frozen and had lots of lumps, so I put it in a Food Processor and blended it with the cocoa, salt and baking soda.
Mix the almond meal mixture into the egg mixture until smooth.
Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks. Fold them into the chocolate batter in 3 additions.
Scoop the batter into the cake pan or cups. Make sure they are equally filled, so they bake evenly.
Place them on a cookie sheet and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes or just set on top. The cake pan version may take a touch longer.
Allow to cool completely before decorating.
To make the Honey Buttercream:
Follow these directions for making buttercream, but use the honey in place of sugar.
Once your cake is cooled. You are ready to pipe the rose. Here is a post on setting up the pastry bag, so you will have the colored tipped roses. You can make the roses as I do in that post, but below I will show you an even easier way to pipe them. It’s really just a few seconds.
First, you want to anchor your cup to the Revolving Cake Stand, so that it doesn’t move around while you are spinning the table.
Here is a super short video on how I piped the rose. My son helped me capture the video from my Snapchat page zoebakes1, so it is pretty rough, but hope it helps.
Repeat with all the tea cups.
These chocolate rose cakes are adorable and super tasty.
If you want to try these pretty tea cups, but would rather make them with my Devil’s Food recipe, that will work perfectly. You’ll only need to make a half batch and it may make more than 6 tea cups.