With Jr showing an interest in whatever we eat, I’ve taken to experimenting with healthy recipes, which are just as nutritious as they are inviting and delicious. Since it was just a matter of time before he showed signs of a sweet tooth (it runs in our family), my recent efforts have been directed at perfecting baked treats, which are secretly packed with the non-negotiable ingredients integral to his toddler diet. Think anything and everything from ghee made with milk produced by indigenous cows to sprouted ragi (finger millet flour).
The results have been revelatory, most recently manifesting in a chocolatey tea cake, which is so inviting that our guests have had to reach out for a second slice too. As someone who’s used to handling butter and maida quite liberally in the kitchen, it’s almost unfathomable to imagine that one can achieve a similar soft texture without being reliant on refined sugars. As they say, though, the proof is in the eating, and so here we are with a recipe that you ought to bookmark for your next baking project. In fact, if your toddler is old enough, you could get them involved too! Not only are the actions a conduit for honing fine motor skills, the act of baking can also facilitate an early grasp of mathematical concepts through the mise-en-place, measuring out ingredients. And not to mention, an extra hand in the kitchen is always welcome.
As ever, it is provenance which is key to capitalise on both the underlying health benefits and the natural flavours implicit in this recipe. Most of my ingredients are sourced from Tillage, a niche Mumbai-based organisation championing local and seasonal produce, sustainably sourced from farmers
The hero ingredients of this recipe are the iron-rich ragi and khapli– a long grain wheat native to Maharashtra, which is not only low on the glycaemic index, but is also low on gluten and much lighter on the tummy as compared to regular wholewheat flour. Ghee stands in for butter (and refined oil) with its host of heart-healthy benefits, while unprocessed jaggery imparts its trademark sweetness. If you want to really go the extra mile, use pure cacao powder rather than cocoa powder, as it is has more antioxidants intact.
Also read: How to make toys for your toddler with simple kitchen staples
Eggless ragi chocolate cake
(US cup = 240 ml cup)
¼ cup + 2 tbsp khapli wheat (alternatively use wholewheat flour)
¼ cup + 2 tbsp ragi flour
2 tbsp cacao powder (you can use cocoa powder too)
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp jaggery powder (alternatively, use coconut sugar)
1/3 cup (80 ml) melted ghee
1/3 cup + 2 tbsp (110 ml) milk
1 tsp (5 ml) vinegar
2 tbsp + 2 tsp (40 ml) thick yogurt
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Line a small loaf tin or 6” cake pan with parchment paper, greasing it well.
Sift together the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk well to combine. Next, mix in the jaggery powder.
Stir the vinegar into the milk and then pour it into your dry ingredients, followed by the melted ghee and vanilla extract. Lightly whisk the yogurt separately before adding this in too.
Now gently fold the mixture until the batter comes together and no visible streaks of flour remain. Do not over-mix, as by doing so you run the risk of a heavy and densely-textured cake.
Pour the batter into your cake tin until it is three-fourths full. If you have any leftover batter, you may pour it into muffin moulds and bake these too.
Smoothen out the surface of the batter with an offset spatula and press a few chocolate chips on top (this is optional but recommended!).
Bake the cake for 18-22 minutes (baking time will vary depending on your oven). You may check by plunging a toothpick into the centre of the cake–it should emerge mostly clean with just a few moist crumbs attached. Do not over bake this cake if you desire a soft and spongy texture.
Let the cake cool down on a wire rack and then unmould it. Be careful when slicing it, as it will be soft and delicate. Enjoy with a cup of tea (for you) and a glass of milk (for your toddler).