Hi, I'm Kim

Hi, I’m Kim Christensen, M.Om., Dipl.OM, L.Ac. I’m a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, and owner of Constellation Acupuncture & Healing Arts in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Back before going to school and becoming a healthcare practitioner, Affairs of Living was my creative outlet while healing from chronic health issues. These days, I'm in a new phase of life, and this website is no longer updated.

Want to stay up to date? Check out my new website www.constellationacu.com.

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Unless otherwise noted, all recipes on this blog are free of gluten, peanuts, soy, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, shellfish, cane sugar, oranges, and yeast. Most recipes are also free of egg, dairy, and tree nuts (if used, reliable substitutions will be provided for these when possible). Check out my recipe index for a full list of recipes by category. 

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Happy Birthday to Me: Sugar-Free Chocolate Cherry Berry Cake (gluten free, vegan, ACD)

Happy birthday to me!  Yesterday I turned 28 years old. Wow.  28.

I took the day off work and had a wonderful birthday.  My parents came to town, and we had lunch at one of my favorite restaurants. I took them to my garden and I tilled between my young peas and arugula; I dug my hands in the Earth and felt the cool, damp soil under my palms. Later on, we walked through a local city garden, relishing in the beauty of an unusually early spring bloom. Our warmer than usual April temperatures have made everything burst, and Minneapolis is filled with the sweet scent of flowers, the sidewalks sprinkled with a confetti of fallen blooms.  Walking through the gardens today, I had a revelation. I've been wrong about myself all these years - I always thought I was a Fall person, but that is decidedly not true. I am a Spring person; it makes me feel alive, excited, renewed.  I see hope and promise in Spring that is unlike any other time of year.

Today I felt Spring's renewing energy coursing through me. I feel a shift happening in my life right now, and it is so exciting. For the first time in almost three years I feel confident in saying that I am truly feeling better.  My Lyme treatment is going really well and I am noticing a marked decrease in many of my symptoms. Some things that used to trouble me on a daily basis are now less frequent, and some things have almost entirely diminished. It is like a miracle. 

Writing that feels like shedding a heavy cloak; it is so liberating.  I am allowing space in my mind for healing and resisting patterns of identifying as "sick"; I am getting better with each day.  Sure, I still have bad days and lots of symptoms that are irritating and troublesome, but so much is better.  I feel a shift happening in my body that I can't quite explain in words.  Getting to this point has been hard. I've had to delay plans for my future, I've had to forgo things I love, and I've felt a lot of loss, loneliness, sadness, and pain.  But you know what? It's been worth it.  

I have learned that in life we have two choices: either give up when you come across challenges, or approach them with an open mind and a determined heart. I have chosen the latter, and it has proven to be more rewarding than I could have ever imagined.  Before I got sick, I felt stagnant and directionless; I didn't know where my life was going.  Today I feel driven, excited, and creative. I feel like I can take on anything that life throws at me. I have learned how to become more vulnerable, open, and honest with everyone I love.  I am thankful everyday for all I have, all I've learned, and all that I will see in years to come.  Most importantly, I believe in hope.  Hope is a great gift, the most important thing we have.  Without hope, what is there?  I know hope exists because I see it in the blooming of buds, the sprouting of seeds, the unfurling of young leaves. I see it in my eyes when I look in the mirror, but most importantly, I feel it deep in my chest. I warm my hands on it when I feel cold, and I let it light my way when it's dark. 

I started this blog in June of 2008, shortly after embarking on my massive lifestyle and dietary change.  It has been a valuable constant in two years of constant flux; it has been my rock, my refuge, my creative outlet.  The support and encouragement that all of you have offered me have brought a smile to my face on even the darkest, most lonely days.   I have found understanding and kinship that is worth more to me than I could possibly describe. Thank you.  Even if you don't comment, I know you are out there; I see your unique visitor count on my blog traffic reporting, so you can't hide from me.  :)

In celebration of my birthday, I decided to tackle something I've been dreaming over for ages: a chocolate layer cake.  It was a wild success. The cake is moist, dense, and rich, and is even better topped with sweet layers of cherry cashew crème frosting and fresh blackberries.  We all agreed that it was absolutely incredible; the texture was phenomenal, the flavor was amazing, and you really would never guess it was vegan and gluten-free.  I'm coming up on my gluten-free two year anniversary, and I've finally figured out how to make cake.  I served it with homemade coconut milk ice cream that I spiked with cherries, cacao nibs, chunks of chocolate fudge, and sweetened with stevia. It was absolutely decadent, but totally sinless.  It was the perfect end to a light dinner and a beautiful day, shared with my parents and close friends.  Then I met with more friends at a local German bar (they had beer, I had tea), where I shared in laughter, love, and got a baby orchid plant. I came home and ate a midnight snack of cake with another friend, and spent time perusing images from my day.   It was a perfect day. I am blessed.

Homemade cherry nut chip coconut milk ice cream and a slice of cake.

Dad wanted just a tiny sliver more; it gave me the chance to see how thinly I could slice it. Impressive.

Let's have a toast: here's to another year of health and happiness, for all of us. May we celebrate all the opportunity, beauty, and promise that each day has to offer, even in moments of struggle.  May we live honestly and openly. May we know ourselves fully and share all we can with those we love.  May we follow our hearts until the very last beat.  And most importantly, may we have our cake, and eat it too. 



Chocolate Cherry Berry Layer Cake


1 1/2 cups sorghum flour
3/4 cup teff flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
3/4 cup cocoa powder (or carob flour)
2 Tbsp coconut flour
1/2 tsp xanthan gum (or guar gum)
1 3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups pitted fresh or frozen cherries
1 1/2-2 cups water
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
1 Tbsp gluten-free vanilla extract or alcohol free vanilla flavor
2 tsp stevia liquid (I used SweetLeaf brand) 

Cherry-Cashew Crème Frosting 

2 cups raw cashews, soaked 4-6 hours, drained, and rinsed
3/4 cup fresh water
1 1/2 cup pitted fresh or frozen cherries
1 Tbsp GF vanilla extract or alcohol-free vanilla flavor
1/4 tsp vitamin C crystals (or 1 Tbsp lemon juice)
2 Tbsp coconut flour
1/2 tsp stevia liquid (I used SweetLeaf brand)


1/2-3/4 cup fresh or frozen cherries, finely chopped
cacao nibs, chocolate chips, or chocolate shavings 


cacao nibs or dairy-free chocolate shavings or chocolate chips 
fresh cherries or blackberries 


Preheat oven to 375º F and prepare two round 8" cake pans by greasing and lining bottom with parchment.  Set pans aside.

Sift together flours then whisk together with remaining dry ingredients.  Set aside.  Place pitted cherries in blender with 1 cup water, pulse a few times, then blend, adding only enough additional water to bring up to 3 cups of cherry puree.  Add vinegar, vanilla, melted coconut oil, and stevia, and blend until well mixed.  Add to dry ingredients, mixing with a stand mixer or hand mixer until everything is smooth and well blended, scraping sides and bottom as necessary.  Batter will be thick.

Divide batter evenly between cake pans, smoothing surface with a rubber spatula, and place immediately in oven.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes, then flip out onto a rack to finish cooling.  Cool completely.  

While cake cools, place soaked and drained cashews in a blender or food processor with cherries and process until totally smooth and creamy, adding remaining ingredients with machine running, and stopping to scrape sides as necessary. Process until totally smooth and creamy.  Place in refrigerator until cake has cooled completely.  Finely chopped cherries for filling, and set aside, and prepare your cacao/chocolate chips/chocolate shavings. I used unsweetened chocolate and used a vegetable peeler to create little shavings - easy!

Once cake has cooled, even top of cake layer using a large bread knife or cake knife.  Place one layer on your serving tray, and place a large dollop of crème on top.  Spread evenly over the the surface of cake, then sprinkle with a layer of chopped cherries and cacao nibs. Place second layer of cake on top.  Spread sides and top with remaining frosting, then sprinkle on chocolate shavings/cacao nibs and arrange berries on top as desired. 

Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before serving.

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Reader Comments (18)

Happy, happy birthday! What a fantastic post--upbeat, full of life and verve, so inspiring! I love your outlook on spring and, of course, the necessity of hope in our lives. I feel exactly the same way. And SO glad you are truly doing better at last! :D

That cake. THAT CAKE. I hve no occasion but I think I have to make it anyway. And I can eat everything in there! I feel like you just gave ME a present! Gorgeous--hope you all enjoyed every last crumb.

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRicki

Awesome recipe! My birthday was Thursday, and made a cake, but regretted some going completely sugar free. Thanks for the idea, I love it! Also :) Happy Birthday!!

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

Happy birthday!!!!

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCassandra

Happy birthday, belatedly! That sounds like a wonderful birthday celebration. And the cake?! Wow. I didn't know it was possible to create something so lovely-looking, restricted diet or no. I may have even used some profanity to express my general amazement and jealousy and desire for that cake.

Enjoy your spring...that's what I miss about having seasons, living in the deep South. That inexpressible joy at seeing spring returning after those long, dark days of winter. No one down here understands that feeling, though I've tried to explain it. I think the spring is much sweeter for having shoveled your car out of a snow drift for six months.

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLeah

Happy Happy Birthday. Your post is such a wonderful reminder that celebration and gratitude can always be a part of life, no matter the challenges one is presented with. And the cake is just lovely. It is inspiring me to substitute raspberries for the cherries and make some beautiful cupcakes.

Thank you for posting such wonderful recipes and being such an inspiration to all of us, in both living and eating :)

Wow! I love the combo of dark cherries and chocolate. Big Happy Birthday to you! I'm so happy to see you are doing so well. I can empathize with what a long hard journey it's been. Much love to you.

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPatricia Biesen

Wow! That is a beautiful cake! Happy Birthday and Happy Spring to you! It's good to have family/friends to share sweet treats like that with, otherwise, if it were me on my own, I'd eat it all up myself. Mmm. Cake. I'll definitely have to copy this into my birthday cake possibilities book since it's always hard to find just the right recipe for special birthday people. I wonder when my two year old will start wanting chocolate cake for her birthday? I am holding off as long as I can, but I imagine there will be a day when she just *wants* chocolate cake on her special day and I won't be able to say no. Somewhere between 5-7 I'd guess. For 3 and 4 I think she'll just like cake--any cake!

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer L.

Oh Happy Happy Belated Birthday to you , and many many more !!! Thank you for sharing your God given gifts and talents with all of us that you have to create such beautiful food and take such beautiful pictures and write such wonderful stories . I really enjoyed everything ! Thank you :)

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

What a gift you are! Thank you, and Here's to a great year.

April 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

I'm the lucky Momma who was able to enjoy this beautiful day with my Wonderful Daughter! This day was a delight to all the senses...but THAT CAKE!!! Dense and flavorful, topped with creamy frosting with scatterings of splendor along side ice cream with tasty tidbits of AWESOME! Thank you for choosing me Darling. I love being your momma.

April 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShar

Happy birthday! Can I pre-book you to come visit me when its my birthday? :P This cake is fantastic, i can't say enough about it!!!

~Aubree Cherie

April 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAubree Cherie

I am one of your blog visitors who doesn't comment much, but I wanted to say Happy Birthday and thank you to YOU for your lovely blog :-) It sounds like you had a great day!

I am most definitely a fall person still, but I have to agree, our MN spring has been amazingly beautiful and warm and sunny this year! I am loving it almost as much as fall...almost :-)


April 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney

Happy belated Birthday! It sounds like you definitely have reason to celebrate.

That cake looks divine too.

April 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlisa

So I know I already posted a comment... but here's round two! I hope hope hope I can get it together enough to try this some time. Aaaand, the photos are gorgeous.

I've linked to this recipe with my Favorite Top Ten Recipes of last week!

~Aubree Cherie

April 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAubree Cherie

A belated happy birthday to you! Your post is encouraging and the cake looks amazing and wonderful!

April 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie

I made this cake today for my daughter's 11th birthday, and I wanted to send you a big THANK YOU! It was fabulous! I've been on the ACD diet for only about three weeks now, and I wasn't sure how to get through the cake and ice cream dilemma with my daughter's birthday approaching. I found your recipe and my daughter agreed to have me make it for her birthday cake... Everyone said it was "the best birthday cake EVER!" I will definitely make it again. I am also happy to have enjoyed such a treat that didn't make me feel "yucky" after eating it. Thank you!!!

September 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie

Hooray! A birthday cake! I am about to turn 28 in a couple weeks and I wanted a cake so badly. I have been on the ACD for almost a year now. I can't wait to bake this baby. However, I don't have coconut flour and I can't get it in this small town where I live. What could I replace it with? Any suggestions?

March 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJess

Hi Jess!
I recommend ordering coconut flour online. There is not any replacement; it is extremely absorbent and behaves unlike anything else. A bag of Bob's Red Bill brand will cost about $8 online, my favorite brand is Tropical Traditions. However, since it is only 2 TBsp and not the base flour, you could try substituting it with 3-4 Tbsp of another flour. Coconut flour is very absorbent, and will thicken and firm up a batter unlike any other kind of flour, so you may need ot add more. But It is hard to say though, and I can't guarantee results with anything else. Hope that helps!

March 15, 2011 | Registered CommenterKim
Sorry, no comments/questions allowed right now.
Hi reader! My schedule as full-time grad student with two part-time jobs doesn't allow me the time to manage comments. I hope you enjoy what you find and can figure out answers to any questions you may have. xo