Meals on Wheels NSW has partnered with acclaimed pastry chef Christopher Thé (Hearthe) to develop ‘The Unforgettable Cake’. This unique creation not only features ingredients known for their potential cognitive benefits, such as beetroot, spinach, turmeric, olive oil, and blueberries but also draws on a curated selection of native ingredients chosen by Chef Thé (full list provided below). This brain-friendly cake seamlessly blends flavours, textures, and nutrition to address the issue of cognitive decline among elderly Australians.

Beyond its health-focused composition, the cake holds significance in commemorating the 70th anniversary of Meals on Wheels in Australia. Developed in collaboration with some of the country’s foremost nutrition and brain health experts, “The Unforgettable Cake” serves as a tribute to a longstanding community service.

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Contributors include Professor Dr. Johannes le Coutre, UNSW Professor – Food & Health; Professor Kaarin Anstey, Senior Principal Research Scientist at NeuRA and Director of the UNSW Ageing Futures Institute; and Sharon Lawrence, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Board Member of Meals on Wheels NSW.

“When I was first approached about this project, I was intrigued by the challenge of creating a cake which may be beneficial to cognition, using ingredients from different food groups, while also providing an experience for Meals on Wheels customers,” says Professor le Coutre. 

“Along with Meals on Wheels and a team of specialists, we had to consider both ingredients and texture, including how to minimise sugar, and provide a texture suitable for individuals who suffer from dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), which is a concern for some older Australians.

“Using the currently available scientific evidence, we came up with a list of foods that are understood to provide quality nutrition – which is really important as we age – while still allowing for the nostalgic enjoyment of eating a slice of cake, and then we turned this over to Chris for him to work his creative magic.”

Christopher says the project presented by Meals on Wheels NSW prompted him to really think about what can be considered ‘brain food’.

“We presented three very different cake concepts to start with, and we went through a lot of testing, varied our approaches, and challenged ourselves to come up with a single coherent cake that both looks good and tastes great, and can be reproduced in the Meals on Wheels kitchen for their customers.”

The Unforgettable Cake will be delivered to select Meals on Wheels clients from Wednesday 22 November, while slices will also be available for purchase from Hearthe for $10, with $1 from every sale to be donated to Meals on Wheels NSW.

The Unforgettable Cake – composition, ingredients list and brain health benefits:

Strawberry gum biscuit base

  • Strawberry gum is a great source of antioxidants and is considered neuro-protective, while it also contains an essential oil called methyl cinnamate, which helps with mental clarity.

Beetroot, spinach, turmeric and olive oil cake

  • Beetroot has special neuro-protective properties that may improve blood flow through the brain, as well as polyphenols, which limit neurodegeneration and may improve cognitive performance.
  • Spinach is rich in brain-healthy nutrients such as vitamin K, lutein, folate, polyphenols and beta carotene which may help to slow cognitive decline, prevent memory loss and improve cognition.
  • Turmeric contains the polyphenol curcumin, which reduces inflammation, directly addressing one of the mechanisms associated with cognitive decline.
  • Olive oil is famed for its Mediterranean diet qualities, which include the ability to protect the brain, improve memory, and reduce Alzheimer’s biomarkers.

Desert lime and turmeric agar jelly

  • Desert lime is rich in antioxidants and lutein, which is beneficial for cognitive health.

Yoghurt, honey and cinnamon mousse

  • Yoghurt contains probiotics, which have been associated with better self-reported memory function.
  • Honey contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which may have a neuroprotective effect.
  • Cinnamon activates the transient receptor potential A1 (TRPA1) channel, involved with a number of health benefits, while also assisting with facilitated swallowing, important for older persons.

Vanilla ermine frosting

  • Vanilla contains certain compounds, including vanillin and vanillic acid, that may support brain health, while vanilla is a flavour that is universally loved, triggering positive memories.

Fresh blueberries, muntries and finger lime

  • Blueberries are at the top of the list for brain health, contributing essential nutrients including polyphenols, vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese and phytonutrients which help to stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen in the brain, resulting in a lower risk of age-related cognitive impairment, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Muntries contain a high level of antioxidants, as well as Vitamins C & E, which reduce oxidative stress.
  • Finger lime contains Vitamin C, which supports the synthesis of serotonin and norepinephrine.