Chef/Author Interviews | 10 March 2016Q&A with Henrietta Inman, author of Clean Cakes Share article facebook twitter google pinterest Henrietta Inman is a woman on a mission. The author of Clean Cakes is setting out to rebrand ‘free from’ foods as a delicious alternative to traditional recipes. She wants to prove that being adventurous and choosing natural replacements for plain flour and refined sugar is a fantastic way to bring new, wholesome flavours to your kitchen that you don’t get from traditional baking. The world’s taking note, with her book currently topping Amazon’s baking book bestseller list (no mean feat!). We caught up with Henrietta to discuss the joys of taking an unconventional approach to baking. You started out as a pâtisserie chef. What prompted you to begin working with alternative ingredients? “I trained as an apprentice at The Lanesborough Hotel and loved those two years – learning the fine details and techniques I needed to eventually become a pastry chef in the hotel kitchen. I worked there for a further two years before transferring to restaurants in London, but eventually grew tired of kitchen life.” “I wanted to run my own business and cook my own food, so I moved back to Suffolk where I started a business under my own name, and took commissions for bespoke cakes. I loved working for myself, but got bored of using standard baking ingredients – flour, caster sugar, butter – every day. There are so many amazing alternative whole grain flours and oils that rarely get a look in when it comes to making cakes, so I decided to incorporate my own love of healthy eating with cake-making and be a bit experimental.” Tell us about the concept behind Clean Cakes. “When I told my mother I wanted to work with alternative ingredients, she said, “you’re making ‘clean cakes’”, and it stuck. So, when I eventually plucked up the courage to approach Jacqui Small with my idea for a book, I pitched it as Clean Cakes and was invited in for a meeting. I was asked to write a plan for the book including 90 recipes, but I only had 40 at the time. So to make up the rest, I reworked old recipes. For example, my courgette, basil, lime and pistachio cake that now uses coconut flour, coconut sugar and coconut yoghurt was once made with self-raising flour, caster sugar and crème fraîche.” Is baking a clean cake different to baking a normal cake? “The basic rules still apply: read the recipe first, use a good set of scales, make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients when adding wet ones, and so on. It’s the flour that makes the most difference in clean cakes. Taking out normal flour means removing gluten, which is the protein that binds everything together and traps air in it to give a lovely rise. In order to achieve the same effect with gluten-free flours, you need to blend several together and add starch to compensate for the loss in strength and texture. By getting this right, it’s easy to make a clean cake just as lovely and soft as anything you’ve ever had.” Could clean cakes become as popular as standard cakes? “I think so. When I talk about my cakes, I try to focus on the good things they contain rather than calling them ‘free from’, which implies that something is missing. Many people assume that clean cakes will be tasteless, but I’m sure they’ll be widely accepted once people taste how delicious alternative flours and sweeteners can be. More and more people are looking for ways to incorporate healthier ingredients into their cooking, which can only be a good thing.” Will eating clean cakes make you healthier? “They are still cakes; they’re not magic, but they’ll make you feel much better than cakes packed full of butter and refined sugar. My customers often say that they feel energised rather than bloated, and this is because my cakes are full of good fats – like the ones found in coconut oil – and protein in the form of nuts and seeds. While I don’t ever use refined sugar in my cakes, I try to cut down on natural sweeteners too, because I don’t think sickly sweet things can ever be good for you.” Who inspires you and your baking? “I take inspiration from the countryside and the seasons, but when it comes to people, I think Mary Berry is amazing. She’s done so much to make baking accessible and she’s still going strong. Less well-known inspirations include the owners of London’s Honey and Co., Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, who create the most amazing flavours, and baker Chad Robertson who owns and runs Tartine in San Francisco with his pastry chef wife.” Are clean cakes exclusively for those with dietary restrictions? “No, and that’s a massive thing for me. I want these cakes to be for everybody – whether you are an expert baker or just someone who wants to play around with some new ingredients. They are great for people with allergies too, but they’re just cakes at the end of the day – cakes that just happen to be packed full of healthy ingredients.” How do you think Instagram has impacted baking with alternative ingredients? “Instagram’s impact on baking with alternative ingredients is part of a much wider, growing interest in healthy eating, which has been helped along by the likes of Deliciously Ella and Hemsley + Hemsley, who both use social media incredibly effectively. My cakes give people the chance to combine healthy eating with the revived national interest in baking that is owed, in part, to The Great British Bake Off, and Instagram is a great way for me to show them off.” What does your larder look like? “There’s a section on how to stock your larder in my book, but mine currently contains a mix of gluten-free flours, including buckwheat and rice flour; lots of natural sweeteners including coconut sugar, local raw honey and palmyra nectar powder; cold pressed coconut and extra virgin rapeseed oils; lots of nuts and dried fruit including raisins, dates, sultans, apricots and figs; nut butters; porridge oats; quinoa flakes and lots of spices.” What’s your favourite thing to bake/eat? “It depends on the season. In the summer I love to bake my courgette, basil, lime and pistachio cake. It’s one of my signature cakes – light and packed full of amazing, fresh flavours. In the winter, I love to make my chocolate truffle teff brownies. They’re called teff brownies because they use teff flour, which is a fantastically tasty alternative.” For the full selection of delicious recipes free from gluten, dairy and refined sugar, pick up a copy of Clean Cakes by Henrietta Inman. Be sure to follow her on Twitter@HensCleanCakes and Instagram @HensCleanCakes to see what’s going on in her kitchen. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.