Natural Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies (gluten-free)

For Valentine’s Day, a new GF all natural brownie and a not so new classic Red Velvet cake

My favourite episode of Friends is the one where Monica is after Phoebe’s grandmother’s legendary chocolate chip cookie recipe. When the recipe is destroyed in a fire in flaky but lovable Phoebe’s apartment, the determined foodie Monica sets out to recreate it with the one sole cookie she has left from the original recipe as her template. A dash of this, a bit of that, after numerous attempts Monica fails to come up with the illusive magical formula. When Phoebe finally reveals it came from her grandma’s French friend “Nestle Toulouse”, we and Monica realize it was off the back of the Tollhouse chocolate chip packet that sits in every American baker’s cupboard.

This week, with all of the beautiful Valentine’s baking going on in my Instagram and Twitter feeds, I am returning to an old favourite that is, in fact, based on a recipe from the back of a packet. My Red Velvet cake adapted from Betty Adams’ recipe which appeared on the Adams red food colouring packaging in 1969. The famous “cake of a wifetime” (yes I know, but a commentary on the lengthy history of misogyny in advertising will need to wait for another time).

Betty Adams Red Velvet

The stories doing the rounds about the origins of the Red Velvet are very entertaining but the best article I have come across is from the wonderful Tori Avey:  Her recipe is also highly recommended.

In the UK, the Red Velvet has had a big resurgence of late. Or is it just a surgence? Was it popular before?  But the results are not always what one would hope for. There seems to be a lot of confusion over how much cocoa there should be, how red is red, how sweet … My Southern DNA tells me that a Red Velvet should have a hint of cocoa, be red enough to stand out but not so lurid that it feels like eating a bottle of chemicals, the crumb should be gentle and the overall effect (including icing) should be sweet but never cloying. If a cake can be soft-hearted, this is, despite its deceptively dramatic appearance. And it’s perfect for Valentine’s Day.

The changes I have made to Betty’s recipe (pictured above) for my version of the classic cake are: I use all butter (no shortening, no butter flavouring), I use a ½ tsp (max) of red food colour paste like Superflair or Wiltons, I make it in 2 layers not 3 and finish with a traditional cream cheese icing: 600g icing sugar, 50g butter, 200g cream cheese, a squeeze of lemon juice.


Natural Gluten-free Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies came out of my desire to create a cheesecake brownie, and red velvet felt like a more congenial base than a traditional dark chocolate one. Plus I wanted to have a go at a red velvet product that didn’t contain any food colouring. These are a big hit at my stall in Soho. As they contain beetroot and goat’s cheese, I kid myself that I am practically having a salad when I eat one!

Natural GF Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies

IMG_2440 Ingredients


5 large eggs

275g unsalted butter, melted

300g granulated sugar

125g light muscovado sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

100g natural cacao

75ml concentrated beetroot juice

2 tbls buttermilk

1 tsp salt

1 tsp white wine vinegar

230g GF flour blend (I use Dove’s Farm)

Cheesecake Topping

300g cream cheese, 200g soft rindless goat’s cheese, 125g caster sugar, 2 egg yolks, 1 tsp vanilla


Preheat oven to 180 degrees c (160 degrees c for fan assisted).  Butter a 9×13 brownie or roasting tin and line with greaseproof paper, bottom and sides.

In a large bowl combine the eggs, sugars, vanilla, cacao, beetroot juice, buttermilk and salt. Whisk until well blended. I do this by hand. You can use a stand mixer but mix sparingly – brownies should have texture (but not lumps). Add the vinegar, whisk, then add the flour and give it a final blend. Pour this mixture into the prepared tin and set aside.

To make the cheesecake, combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer (or mix by hand) and mix well, for about 2 minutes.

Pour the cheesecake filling over the top of the brownie mixture levelling it off gently with a spatula. Then take a chopstick and “swirl” the cheesecake gently into the brownie mix, moving up and down then across the pan. The red should start to show through and you’ll have a swirl pattern on top.

Bake for 35 minutes. You want the brownie to set but there should be a little wobble at the centre. If you over-bake these they start to resemble cake.

Cool completely in the tin. Trim the edges and cut into 12 large or 15 medium squares. I store these in the fridge and bring to room temperature before eating.








Recovery Cake

A very personal blog about the Emotion of Baking starring two carrot cakes (one Vegan)


I used to wear a T shirt with a quote from French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard:  Cinema, c’est L’emotion. I loved it, but (thankfully) I passed through the pretentious T shirt phase. In the next part of my life I began to actually work in the film industry. I loved that too. And it turned out to be true, that quote. Until, eventually, it overwhelmed me. I was drowning in the film industry, and I was drowning in all that emotion.

Now, as I enter a new phase, I am finally learning what was probably always true. Baking is Emotion. Not the melodrama and intrigue and girl-and-a-gun thrill of the film industry, but simpler emotion. Baking is honest and funny and intriguing. It’s emotional as hell, but a lot kinder

For me this is true in all kinds of ways. The emotion of my frame of mind when I am baking; the emotions brought out by certain ingredients; the way that emotions can take me to new ideas and developing something new.

I left the film industry drunk with emotion and drunk with wine. In the earliest days of recovering from both, my experience of being tea lady at AA meetings led me to a new discovery – baking is emotion! – and a new cake.

The first job (“service”) most people do in recovery is making tea at meetings. I took this role on as if I had just been made head of a film studio: it was everything to me and I handmade all of the cakes rather than buying biscuits at Asda. In a matter of weeks, the attendance at that meeting grew significantly. Everyone loved my cake and soon I had that precious and sought-after thing: an AA nickname. I was Cake Lady.

My most popular cake was Carrot. It started life as a wonderful recipe I’d clipped years before from Southern Living magazine. But as my Cake Lady confidence grew I stopped stressing about the cake and began to look around me, and soon I saw that there were people at the meeting who were not eating anything else during the day. They were seriously vitamin deficient and in need of something nourishing and substantial, plus maybe something that would make them smile. I started loading the cake up. I replaced white flour with spelt. Tripled the amount of fresh carrot. Added more spice. Spiked it with coconut milk. It was my Florence Nightingale moment and it was seriously floating my own needy boat. It was all about emotion: I was Cake Lady. I was making people happy and well. And I had invented Recovery Cake.

If I am honest, this period is what gave me the courage to start to do this for a living, and leave the film studios behind.

For the next emotional curve, fast-forward a couple of years. Recovery Cake (aka Spelt Carrot Cake) became my best-seller in a small but thriving wholesale business which I ran from my home kitchen. I did it like the true Alcoholic that I am: no sleep, not enough help, perfectionist, couldn’t see a damn thing for the trees. I won 2 gold stars in the Great Taste awards (up!) but it was unmanageable on my own and I panicked (down!). Drowning in emotion once again and tempted back for one last spin in the film industry, I sold the business and the commercial rights to the recipes to Lola’s Cupcakes. Someone else could make the cakes.

So I embarked on a period where I finally proved to myself that I am totally done with film as a career (turns out the only fun emotion to be had in film is being in the audience) and that my heart and soul is in baking.

Recovery Cake – Spelt Carrot Cake as it is now called – now belongs to a brand called ‘Lizzie D’s American Bakery’ run by Lola’s, and kudos to them that they won a Great Taste Award for it last year. My heart did a little secret dance of joy for the recovering alcoholic.

And I have landed from this period, fragile but saner, back in the land of real emotion with a stall on Berwick Street and no recipes I can call my own. Can you believe it? I need a carrot cake. Damn.

So here, with all my love and sanity, is Recovery Cake Mark 2.


Carrot Cake (Vegan): A light, citrussy and wholesome cake that works as a loaf or a bundt cake.

For Bundt Cake:                                                             

340 grams flour – plain white, wholemeal or spelt

2 ½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp salt

2 ½ tsp cinnamon

1 ½ tsp ground ginger

4 Orgran “eggs” or the equivalent using any egg replacer (you can also just use 4 eggs if you are not making a vegan cake)

225 grams golden caster sugar

DSC_0089.jpg200 grams light brown sugar

210 ml sunflower oil

210 ml almond or coconut milk

340 grams grated carrot

125 grams dessicated coconut

150 grams walnut pieces

Grated zest of 2 lemons

1 tbsp soya or sunflower margarine plus an extra tbsp. of flour for greasing the tin

For Loaf Cake: 230g flour, 1 ½ tsp soda, ¼ tsp salt, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ginger, 2 ½ egg replacer “eggs” (or 2 large eggs if not vegan), 150g caster sugar, 130g light brown sugar, 130ml sunflower oil, 130ml non-dairy milk, 220g carrot, 75g coconut, 100g walnuts, grated zest of 1 lemon.

Lemon glaze

Juice of 2 lemons and approx. 225 grams icing sugar, ½ for loaf cake.


Preheat oven to 180 degrees c or 160 c for fan-assisted. Grease the Bundt tin with sunflower or soya margarine, lightly flour, tap out any excess flour and pop in the fridge while you prepare the cake.

For the loaf, grease the tin with oil and line the bottom and sides with greaseproof paper or a ready-made loaf tin liner.

Prepare the egg replacer by following the instructions on the packet and allow for it to sit for a few minutes.

Combine the flour, soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger in a medium bowl and set aside. In a stand mixer bowl or a large bowl if you are not using a stand mixer, combine the egg replacer, sugars, oil and milk and mix well. Gradually add the dry ingredient mixture until you have a smooth batter. Fold in the grated carrot, walnuts, zest and coconut, ensuring that it is thoroughly blended.

Pour the thick, chunky batter in the tin and bake for 50-60 minutes, check it at the 50 minute point. It is done when a toothpick comes out clean. Make sure you check well into the cake. This is dense and may appear done on the outside whilst still being a little raw at the centre.

Allow to cool. For the Bundt, reverse the tin on the rack after it has been out of the oven for about 10 minutes and allow to cool for 20 minutes or so upside down before removing the tin.  Prepare the glaze (fresh lemon juice and icing sugar) to your desired thickness and pour over the cooled cake.


Copyright 2016 Elizabeth Draper  All rights reserved

The Skinny: gluten/sugar-free muffin


Some thoughts on Free From baking

When I was at Brick Lane Market I had a lot of requests for vegan products. So many that I actually felt worried and confused. Had the world gone vegan and I missed it? Turns out, my space in the Vintage market had previously been occupied by the talented vegan baker, Ms Cupcake. There were all sorts of online vegan directories pointing people to my spot and I was there offering them the most buttery, buttermilky, eggy Southern cakes on the planet. The vegan customers were the ones who were genuinely confused.

So I started to make a few vegan cakes. Brownies, muffins, a great fig cake…and I learned a bunch of stuff. I’ll impart the baking learning through the recipes on this blog in future and links to some of the great vegan blogs out there. But there was one lesson of another kind about choices which has proved to be a defining moment for me as a baker.

I have always been a brownie fanatic and the brownies on my stall were getting a lot of traction. People were coming back just for those. I had developed a salted caramel brownie that, two years later, was awarded 2 stars by the Great Taste judges. I naturally (or so I thought) turned my attention to creating a delicious vegan version. The reality is that I wasn’t as happy with it as I was with its buttery sister. A young friend was helping me on the stall and one day I took a long break and came back to find that the salted caramel brownies were untouched and the vegan brownies had sold out. Long story short, the products weren’t very clearly tagged and my friend had sold the vegan version to everyone in search of my legendary brownies. Ego explosion. Tears. Shouting. Completely inappropriate blaming of friend who, talk about confusion, had been so thrilled at the sales she had racked up in my absence.

What was I doing? Was I making vegan cakes (and at this stage gluten-free was also being introduced) to satisfy requests but with a completely different standard in place? Should my display be marked “the good stuff” on one side and the “compromised” on the other? My friend suggested better labels and she was right. Not least for considerations of allergens. But after I calmed down and she forgave me, we agreed that the only real solution to this was for me to never, ever, put anything on sale that I wouldn’t be 100% able to stand behind to any customer. It might not be to their taste, but I need to love what I make and the sales will flow from there. Or not. But in any case, I will be able to live myself.

So I constantly remind myself that everything needs to work on its own terms. This means that you are unlikely to find a dairy-free cheesecake on my menu. The vegan brownie has only just this week made a comeback to my stall after 3 years’ absence. It is now a different beast and can very proudly sit alongside all the others (recipe coming soon). All of my brownies are gluten-free because I discovered that rice flour + butter + chocolate is a softer and more delicious combination than a version with wheat flour. A brownie is not a cake, it is a gooey thing and the less flour the better, in any case. Carrot cake does not need cow’s milk, butter or eggs to be amazing so I only sell a vegan one. I have also learned that if I am not sure about a product, instead of selling it or binning it, I introduce it on the stall as a free taster and get valuable feedback. I may now be smart enough to know that you don’t mess around with your own quality threshold, but I need other people to tell me when I am too close to something or being unduly critical.


One Free From product that seems a fitting start to the New Year is The Skinny: my fruity, GF, wholefood, refined sugar-free muffin. It doesn’t matter how much I try, when I am attempting to eat less refined sugar and wheat, breakfast remains a big stumbling block. I want something bready or cakey and delicious.  I despair at the taste, the calorie-count and the ingredients of the skinny muffins I see out there on the market. So I confess I developed this product for myself. But when I took its picture and put it on Instagram, it got considerably more attention than anything I had ever done before. Looks like I am not in the minority.

A truly skinny and delicious gluten & sugar-free muffin

Makes 12 Muffins

IMG_1727.jpg150 grams oat flour

150 grams sweet sorghum flour

75 grams tapioca flour

1 teaspoon konjac*

1 tbsp gluten-free baking powder

1 tsp fine sea salt

275 grams pure maple syrup or 200 grams date syrup

250 grams 0% fat Greek yoghurt (or use a plain Soya yoghurt to make dairy-free version)

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

125 ml cold-pressed rapeseed oil

150 grams fresh berries

3 medium bananas

*I tend to use this these days instead of xanthum gum in gluten-free baking. It is a great thickener and high in fiber. A ground root or tuber, this has been used in Asian cooking for centuries…a little goes a long way. I bought mine on Amazon.


 Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (180 C for fan-assisted). Line a 12 muffin tray with muffin cases.

In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients by whisking them together: 3 flours, konjac, baking powder, salt. Make an indent in the middle and add the wet ingredients: eggs, syrup, yoghurt, oil, vanilla. Mix it all together by hand with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth batter. Gently add the fruit and fold through.

Using an ice cream scoop, fill the cases evenly. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, then turn the temperature down to 180 degrees C and bake for a further 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Variations:  You can add nuts or seeds, top with GF rolled oats, mix in unsweetened applesauce, orange zest, cinnamon.  The list is endless as long as you stick to the GF/no sugar rule and keep an eye on the fat content. Speaking of fat, one day I forgot the oil and it still worked, if you want an even skinnier skinny muffin.


Copyright 2016 Elizabeth Draper All rights reserved




Wholefood Cherry Pie

About me
For years I spent a lot of the little baking time I had making stuff that had no real connection to where I came from. It was a mirror of what I was doing in the rest of my life. I wanted to be someone different and that someone different, in baking terms, was an éclair-making, crème anglaise, madeleines from scratch sort of a girl. Not that my natural inclination wouldn’t be to make everything from scratch. It was just that my fantasy of my baking self was that everything had to be fancy, and fancy in my Baking-Goddess-Wanna-Be brain meant French. For a while I blamed Julia Child for this, with flashes of resentment towards Elizabeth David, who I discovered later and misread. Which proves yet again that geniuses are often misinterpreted by their most avid fans.

I baked like this, like a stranger in my kitchen, for thirty years. It was delicious – let’s face it, the French know a thing or two about baking. But I wasn’t inventing or expressing anything and I needed to.  I over celebrated the traditional and the complicated and under-valued great ingredients put together in ways that delight and surprise people.

I had a big rupture in my life. In a period of six months, my twenty-five-year- plus career as a film executive suddenly revealed itself as a career I had grown to hate. Around the same time my heavy drinking caught up with me, big style. For a long time I didn’t look like a mess but I was one; now, suddenly I started looking like one. People noticed and the game was up. I’ll talk more about this in future posts. But for now, believe me: the huge gap left by the absence of chilled St Veran in the fridge and the Big Job had to be filled by something connected to my soul or I would not have survived. The something turned out to be cake


I come from a baking family and their provenance is Tennessee and Alabama. I was born in Decatur Alabama in 1963. The Bundt cake had become a household name fairly recently and deep dish pies were in every bakery, diner display and most kitchens. Alabama is pecan and peach territory and these two ingredients still make me giddy. Buttermilk was queen and sweet breads (loaf cakes) were acceptable for breakfast.

When I was small my mother re-married and we left the American South and moved to Upstate New York. I finished my degree in Paris and lived there for several years. Then I came to London, where I have lived since 1986.

When I decided to set up my home kitchen at the age of 48 I had a colossal need to make it work and to express myself through my recipes. I developed a menu that started with classics from the South but soon turned out to be a range of products that are as much about the other places I have lived as they are about the Southern roots I will always refer back to. I opened for business, first in Brick Lane market in the East End of London, which is a busy, happening market of the sort that is always described as ‘vibrant’. Things took off and very quickly I was delivering my cakes wholesale to cafes and to shops including the Waterstones chain.

When I was in Brick Lane, I was bombarded with requests for Gluten free, Vegan and Wholefood. Mystified at first, I soon caught on and so a journey into Free From baking came from the Outside not the Inside. It has been an entirely unexpected gift. I am not sure how else I would have dissected and rethought my methods if I hadn’t had to look at alternative flours, milks, oils, nuts and seeds. The result has been an education and a new freedom in the kitchen. The world got Bigger. If you had told me ten years ago that I would be striving to replace refined sugar in a smart way or trying to eliminate dairy where possible without sacrificing flavour, I would have laughed. Now, it’s what occupies my restless mind.

Taking a classic American Pie and giving it a make-over is something I have had a lot of fun with recently. My favourite is this Wholefood Cherry Pie: an American Diner staple (can’t help but think of Twin Peaks) reworked to be healthier and a little unexpected. I love raw sugar for its texture and intense flavour. The crust is spelt and almond, so doubly nutty and a wonderful colour.


Wholefood Cherry Pie

IMG_2213For the Pastry

  • 275g wholemeal spelt flour plus more for dusting
  • 130g ground almonds
  • 50g raw sugar, I use panela or rapadura
  • 225g unsalted butter, straight from fridge
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 egg yolks

For the Filling

  • 150 grams raw sugar
  • 4 tbls cornflour
  • ½ tsp natural almond extract
  • 700g Morello or black cherries (fresh or freshly frozen is fine)
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tbls fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbls almond butter (use unsalted butter if you can’t get almond)
  • 1 tbls raw sugar for sprinkling

Make the pastry by placing the flour, ground almonds and sugar in a bowl. Add the butter in chunks and combine by hand until you have a mixture that resembles course breadcrumbs. Add egg yolks and combine until the dough comes together. Separate the pastry into two, one portion of approximately 2/3rds of the dough and the other with the remainder, flatten into disks and wrap each in greaseproof paper. Chill for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees c.

If using frozen cherries, part defrost now in the microwave. You want them to lose their frostiness but not their shape.

Roll out 2/3rds of the dough (the bigger disk) on a clean, well floured (use spelt) surface and line a 10” (25cm) round pie dish, leaving the edges over-hanging and rough. This pastry will be soft so don’t worry if you need to patch it a little. Roll out the remaining dough and cut into 10 strips, put to one side.

In a medium bowl, gently combine the cherries with the cornflour, extract, salt, sugar and lemon juice. Arrange in an even layer in the pie shell. Place 5 strips of pastry across the pie in one direction, then place the remaining 5 strips across at a 90 or a 45 degree angle – you are making a simple, unlaced lattice. Press the edges of the pie pastry creating an even design around the edge, either points or waves, making sure that in doing this, you are securing the strips. Using a pastry brush, paint the lattice strips with almond butter. You can soften the butter by heating it a little. Sprinkle with the raw sugar

Cover the edges of the pie with foil or use a pie edge shield if you have one. A homemade version with foil is fine: just carefully fit foil (folded over a couple of times preferably) around the edges leaving the rest of the pie uncovered. Bake the pie on a baking sheet until the filling is bubbling, 40 to 45 minutes, gently removing the edge protector for the last 10 minutes.

Allow to cool and serve with crème fraiche or Greek yoghurt or ice cream, American style. Will keep well for 3 or 4 days if stored in an airtight container once cooled.


Copyright 2015 Elizabeth Draper  All rights reserved