Strawberry, Almond & Pecan Hearts – a deliciously simple low carb Valentine’s Day treat!

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These delicate and delicious strawberry, almond and pecan cakes couldn’t be simpler to make – the perfect dish for Valentine’s Day or equally good at any time of year when you happen to feel like spoiling someone! The sweet perfumed scent of strawberries is complimented wonderfully by the dense, nutty crunch of pecans and soft cloud-like swirls of whipped cream. Quite simply heaven on a plate!

The classic adage goes ‘say it with flowers’. I certainly don’t disagree with that, but flowers and cake are infinitely preferable in my book; so pull out all the stops and show someone you love them with a little bit of good old fashioned baking!

They also say that ‘the way to another’s heart is through their stomach’; but so often with flour- and sugar-free cakes, the results can be a little disappointing. Not so with these however! The taste and texture of this recipe is so similar to a classic sponge-cake that you’d never know it’s low-carb. This makes it the perfect thing to serve up to diabetics, paleo-fans, gluten-intolerants and those on a ketogenic-diet. Both heart and stomach will be won over; so give them a go!

To make the cake, measure up 6oz of xylitol sweetener and 6oz of unsalted butter. I always use xylitol in baking. In my experience, it’s the only sweetener which retains its sweetness once cooked; and its granular texture means that it behaves exactly like sugar in cake-recipes. Cream the two together by hand until they’re light and fluffy, then give your hands a good wash before whisking up the eggs.

Break 3 eggs into a bowl and whisk lightly with a fork until smooth. If you’re using vanilla-pods, scrape out the seeds of one pod and add this to the mix. If you prefer dried vanilla powder (as I used), half a teaspoon should be more than enough. You can equally use vanilla-essence, but this tends to contain liquid sugar-syrup, which isn’t ideal from a carb-perspective. If you choose this option, make sure to read the label carefully!

Incorporate the egg into the creamed butter and sugar a little at a time. Again, I always find that using your hand allows the maximum quantity of air to be locked into the mix. Tilt the bowl at an angle and fluff the mix upwards so that the motion elevates the mix rather than flattens it (as will happen if you go at it horizontally with a spoon).

Weigh up 6oz of ground-almonds and stir in 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. Fold this into the mix; again at an angle, making sure to lift and turn, so that the mixture rises and falls back onto itself. It’s best to use a sturdy metal spoon, as this will afford you the greatest control. Fold the dry ingredients in until you have an obliging dropping-consistency, which is a pale yellow in colour.

Roughly chop a good handful of pecans and three or four strawberries and fold these in at the last minute. Then spoon the cake-mix into your cake-tins. I used small, individual squares, but this can equally go into one larger tin; round or square to your preference.

Bake in a moderate oven for circa 25-30 minutes, until risen, golden but not too brown. The cakes should be spongy and resistant to the touch, and rise back up when pressed lightly with the finger. Remove from the oven and cool thoroughly until room-temperature.

Once the cake is well cooled (it needs to be cool, or your icing will melt); place 6 large tablespoons of double-cream into a bowl. Add half a cupful of table-sweetener (this can be other than xylitol, because it’s uncooked) and a third of a teaspoon of vanilla powder. Whisk the lot with a balloon-whisk until the cream is just starting to form peaks. Make sure not to over-mix or it will separate. We want it still nice and soft – spreadable is the key! Test for sweetness, adjusting vanilla or sweetener levels to your preference.

Layer the frosting generously atop the cakes with a palette-knife. Then slice a strawberry into thin slices, trimming each slice down into a heart shape. Top each cake with a strawberry heart then lift onto your serving plate. I’ve chosen to keep these relatively pure and uncluttered in appearance; but you can equally sprinkle a few more chopped pecans on top to add theatre. The choice is entirely yours…

Serve with a final halved strawberry and a light drizzle of pouring cream for that extra touch of indulgence. Once you’ve made these, love will be in the air with every mouthful! Even St Valentine himself couldn’t resist a second helping!

Browse this and other recipes by picture on my pinterest page: country walks in ketosis pinterest.

Thanks for reading and happy Valentine’s Day from the Low Carb Kitchen!

Adam.

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