“Nourish Cakes: Baking With a Healthy Twist.” By Marianne Stewart, Quadrille, 2018. $22.95.

I am not a baker.

But I have been binge-watching “The Great British Baking Show.”

So, I decided I was qualified to review a cookbook that is well outside my comfort zone.

Not only does Stewart’s scrumptiously illustrated book take on the precision of baking, it is all about recipes that intend to make desserts healthier while accommodating food allergies and intolerances.

Each recipe is labeled to let readers know whether it is wheat-free (WF), gluten-free (GF), dairy-free (DF) or vegan (VG). Many tick off all four “free-from” boxes.


Among the most common alternatives to traditional milk, butter and flour are forms of coconut (cream, oil), various nuts and rice flour. Several of Stewart’s recipes, including the cover-photo cake called Lime, Coconut & Courgette Cake, also use vegetables. (We borrow our word zucchini from the Italians; the Brits use the French word, courgette.) It’s worth noting that these are not low-calorie, sugar-free cakes.

Published in the United Kingdom, “Nourish Cakes,” has several unfamiliar “English” ingredient names. Fortunately, each is followed by its American name but some left me scratching my head. For instance, why is soft, white, powdery confectioners’ sugar called “golden icing” sugar in England? It doesn’t look golden at all.

Measurements are also listed in U.K. metric gram weight as the first option, followed by U.S. imperial (ounces) and cup measurements. Stewart notes that every ingredient should be weighed carefully, and advises you not switch back and forth between measurement standards.

Which could have been part of my problem when I tried the no-bake, frozen dessert called the Ginger-Chocolate & Orange Frozen Tart.

A precise digital scale like the ones I see the best bakers use inside the “British Baking Show” tent would have been helpful, particularly when it came to ingredients I was unfamiliar with, like coconut oil and coconut cream. It wasn’t hard to imagine Paul Hollywood giving me a dubious raised eyebrow as I fumbled about with one of the simpler recipes in the book.

I struggled with the crust consistency. Once the melted coconut and chocolate was added to the finely ground ginger cookies I had a flavorful but very thin batter. Trying to push it up the sides of the tin was next to impossible. After putting the mixture into the freezer to thicken, I was able to get a very thin coating on the sides but the more I worked it with my fingers, the more it loosened, which made the base too thick. My guess is I used too much coconut oil.


Another trouble spot came when trying to whip the combination of coconut cream/juice/zest tart mixture into the level of stiffness I imagined the recipe was asking for. Adding some additional confectioners’ sugar (i.e., the golden icing stuff), helped thicken the tart mixture but in the end made the tart too sweet according to my taste-testers. Plus, even though I’d used the finest grater available in my kitchen to zest the orange and lime, there were noticeable slivers of zest that lingered unpleasantly when eating.

My shoddy technique in crust construction and tart making – and that I skipped the candied orange slices (another 24 hours needed for them to set) – would have surely put me at or near the bottom of a “British Baking” technical contest. That said, the actual flavors were refreshing and pleasing and on a hot day, it didn’t require turning on an oven. My family members who actually do know how to make desserts later made two suggestions: chill the coconut cream first and simply smash the cookies, instead of blending them in a food processor, to make a thicker crust composition.

Overall, I doubt I’m going to be using this cookbook much but for someone with better skills, there are plenty of recipes that look appealing.


Makes an 8-inch tart



45g (1.5 oz / 1/4 cup) coconut oil

65g (21/4 oz) vegan dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

15g (1/2 oz /1 tbsp) maple syrup

200g (7 oz) gluten-free stem (preserved) ginger cookies


Juice of 1 orange, about 90g (3 fl oz / 1/3 cup)


Juice of 1 lime, about 40g (11/2 oz / 3 tbsp)

Finely grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lime

40g (11/2 oz / 1/4 cup) coconut oil, melted

130g (41/2 oz / 2/3 cup) golden icing (confectioners’) sugar

350g (121/4 oz / 1 cup) coconut cream

Candied Orange slices to decorate


1. Gently melt together the coconut oil and chocolate in the microwave or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Once melted, add the maple syrup and stir thoroughly.

2. Process the ginger cookies in a blender or food processor until fine. Tip into a bowl, add the chocolate mixture and blend well with a silicone spatula.

3. Line the base of a 20-cm (8-in) loose-based tart tin with a circle of baking parchment. Tip the chocolate crust mixture into the centre and use your fingertips to press into the bottom and up the sides until it is evenly lined. Place in the freezer while you make the filling.

4. For the filling, mix together the juices, zests, coconut oil and icing (confectioners’) sugar.

5. In a separate bowl, whip the coconut cream with a hand-held electric whisk for 30 seconds to loosen, add the juice mix, and whip again for 1-2 minutes until well-blended and forming soft peaks. Tip the mixture into the well-chilled tart case, spread out evenly and freeze for 4-5 hours until firm.

6. Before serving, place the tart in the fridge for 30 minutes to soften slightly. Decorate with the Candied Orange Slices, then remove from the tart case and cut with a large warmed knife.

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