For my girlfriends birthday I bought her Daisy Lowe’s recipe book Sweetness and Light in the hope that she would try all the recipes (the best presents are those that you get something back from!). So when it came round to my turn for a cake I had a convenient fresh supply of recipes to choose from.
Daisy’s recipe ticked all the boxes. It looked good, was healthy, would not be too sweet and could be enjoyed by Fern, our vegan Cake Crusader. It was also the first cake I didn’t turn on the oven for! Just a fridge was needed.
Reading through the recipe steps I was concerned about some parts of this cake. From my relative lack of experience I was unsure how it would all stay together – more on that below.
Getting the ingredients was a little tricky I admit. I purposely visited larger ‘foodie’ supermarkets and health food stores (not all supermarkets sell macadamia nuts for example).
The cake is essentially made in two halves, a ‘dry’ bottom half consisting of chopped nuts, chopped dates and dessicated coconut. The top half being a ‘wet’ mixture of avocado, banana, cocoa powder, maple syrup and vanilla extract.
Making the actual cake couldn’t be easier. Just add all the bottom half ingredients together into a blender, empty into a cake tin, then pack down.
Then add all the top half ingredients into the blender, mix until smooth then add to the same tin covering the bottom layer.
This would be simple and quick with a normal blender. Unfortunately I only had a small toy-like blender which meant I had to blend in batches. At least 3 batches were required for each half of the cake.
Earlier I alluded to a concern I had with this cake. The bottom half has simply 3 ingredients
- chopped macadamia nuts
- chopped large moist dates (stones removed)
- dessicated coconut
From this list alone I’m scratching my head wondering how these relatively try ingredients are supposed to make a firm base. Judging from the pictures, the base needs to take on a cheese-cake-like firmness. Anyway, I trusted Daisy, so carried on with her recipe.
This is what my bottom half looked like after the first blend. I had measured my ingredients accurately but still wasn’t convinced that there is enough wetness in the dates to balance the dry coconut and chopped dates and hold it all together. I went an added more dates to the mix and gave it another go in the blender; 250g of dates, rather than the stated 210g – a whole 20% more!
Here its looking a little better, but my concerns did not improve. I thought maybe once it was packed down and left in the fridge the dates would congeel and bind the whole thing together. Maybe adding the top half would also help?
Tip: I was worried about how I would ever remove the cake from the tin. I need to lift it out without the use of a palette knife, so I engineered some clever strips of baking paper underneath the base which I could use to lift the cake out whole.
So, as instructed, I packed the mixture into the cake tin and used an identical cake tin to push down and flatten the mixture. I then popped it into the fridge whilst I prepared to topping.
Back to the blender. Just throw all the ingredients in and blend away. Spoon onto the base and pop back into the fridge. Fingers crossed the base would hold up.
Here is my finished cake. I attempted to create the look that Daisy had achieved in her book by marking grooves in the topping and filling with pieces of freeze-dried raspberries. At this stake the cake looked good, but this sense of achievement was short lived.
Cutting into the cake revealed my concerns about the base. It simply did not hold together. The crusaders all asked whether I missed something so I checked the recipe again. The only mistake I may have made is not ensuring the dates were moist enough. My dates were indeed moist and sticky but maybe not enough. This seems an unfair technicality to fail on. Maybe I could have soaked my dates in water to really get the stickiness I needed. Anyway, it tasted pretty good despite the crumbly base. The avocado and chocolate was a revelation and worked really well as an alternative to sugar based icing. On some mouthfuls the avocado taste would overpower the banana and other mouthfuls you got the opposite.
Still, I was disappointed and after discussing the bake with the crusaders I mentioned maybe the cake would be better as combined top and bottom energy-bar style slice. So, off I went with exactly one quarter of the remaining cake. I mashed the whole lot together, then sliced into fingers.
This was a pretty good way of salvaging the cake. The taste was the same as before just in a different form. Ok, the freshness was going out the cake by this point (almost two whole days since it had been made) and the banana was sweetening and this flavour was overpowering.
So there you have it. You can mash up a cake and still produce something quite tasty and presentable. You could in fact just make up this style cake if you want something portable and less fussy. If you attempt to make the intended cake just ensure you have the correct dates first!
Would love to hear your comments. What else could I have added to the base to make it firmer?