Sweet Jesus. That's exactly what a friend of my sisters exclaimed during his first encounter of what was then my sisters birthday cake but what is now just a collection of tantilising 2D images on my laptop. I'm reliving the entire thing from the comfort of my Airbnb in Berlin, but Berlin's got nothing much to do with this recipe so I'll save that for another time. The cake is the real reason we're all here, am I right? And the aim is for you all to get a Sweet Jesus exclamation out of as many people as possible, okay? Let's go.
Sometimes you just need a birthday cake, and you need it fast. An example of one of these 'sometimes' was last week when I spent the day with my sister and her friends to celebrate her thirtieth birthday. We were on our way home for a quick freshen up of spa faces (you know?) and a light meal before heading to partytown in the form of our local, when the topic of the cake i'd made our other sister for her birthday came up in conversation. It was really good guys, but I literally threw things at the food processor hoping they would warm to each other and get along. It happened, but it was a miracle, a miracle. I wrote a few notes on my phone as i went along but the measurements were not what mattered here, just the end result, and so the specifics were pretty blurry. It was all about taste and texture and I might as well have been blind, which is all good and pretty clever at the time, but not when you're challenged to recreate it another time. That's when the feeling clever wares off. Never the less, as my sister and her friend reminisced about the cake gone by, I took my 1.5 hours, that same food processor (maybe it remembered?) and whatever I could find in the kitchen and I made it happen. Again. I do work well under pressure, but daaaamn, I didn't know I worked this well.
This time, wrapped up in a frenzy of searching and blending and writing and tasting, I somehow managed to add a frosting to the initial version, and thank god I did because the frosting is what really makes everthing you see going on here happen. It's inspired by the crispy, creamy, nutty, chocolatey vibes of fererro rochers, which may seem impossible to achieve with natural ingredients, but is simply what happens when roasted hazelnut butter meets thick, creamy coconut milk. We're all familiar with the phrase having your cake and eating it, but this recipe goes even further and is all about having your cake and your fererro rocher. It's not, however, going to be like eating a fererro rocher. It's going to be so much better. With a brownie-like cake layer (infused with maca and pure cacao) and a seriously smooth topping, it puts those poxy mouthfuls of wafer to shame if anything. Although, I'm grateful for the inspiratoin of course, otherwise where would we be? So thanks Fererro.
+ You'll notice in the ingredients list that there are a few loose options, as certain ingredients in version one were replaced in version two with whatever I had on hand. I can confirm that all options worked perfectly well without much alteration to the flavour, and no alteration to the texture. So approach this recipe freely and tailor it to your own supplies).
FOR THE CAKE
60g hazelnuts (cashews and walnuts will also work)
60g ground almonds
50g flaked or whole almonds
8 tablespoons coconut syrup (or other natural sweeteners such as date paste or raw honey)
2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
4g pinch himalayan pink salt (tamari also works nicely)
1 Tablespoon vanilla bean paste powder or extract
80g cacao nibs
45g cacao powder
12g maca powder
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons almond butter
50g coconut milk powder (I use this one. Coconut flour will also work if you can't get hold of coconut milk powder, but isn't as flavoursome. You could also use roughly 4 tablespoons of a melted bar of creamed coconut)
1 teaspoon reishi powder
1 teaspoon chaga powder
1 teaspoon shilajit powder
1 teaspoon cordyceps powder
1 teaspoon spirulina powder
1 teaspoon mucuna puriens
1 teaspoon ashwaganda powder
FOR THE FROSTING
120G hazelnuts, roasted
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
4 tablespoons coconut milk powder (can replace with 4 tablespoons melted creamed coconut)
1-2 teaspoons coconut nectar or other natural sweetener of choice
Pinch himalayan pink salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract / paste / powder or fresh seeds
2 tablespoons almond butter
3 tablespoons tinned coconut milk - the thick creamy part + 2 tablespoons of the liquid part
Preheat the oven to 150c. Place the hazelnuts from the frosting ingredients list on a baking tray and bake for 10-12 minutes until they begin to brown slightly.
Meanwhile, start pulsing the nuts - including the ground almonds - with the cacao nibs in a food processor. Once the ingredients begin to come to a fine flour-like consistency, add the salt, vanilla, cacao powder, maca and other superfood powders and pulse to combine.
Next, split the dates in half to remove their stones and place them in a small bowl. Cover with freshly boiled hot water and leave to stand for 1-2 minutes.
Add the coconut powder or flour, syrup of choice, almond butter and coconut sugar to the food processor and blend for another minute, first on a low speed, and then on the highest speed for the final 30 seconds.
Next add the dates to your food processor, squeezing each one to remove as much liquid as possible. Blend for another 1-2 minutes on a high speed, scraping down the sides and blending continuously until the mixture is smooth and begins to form a doughy ball.
If you haven't already, check on the roasting nuts and remove from the oven. As they cool, transfer the mixture into you choice of cake tin, dish or even a muffin tin to make smaller individual cakes. I scattered the bottom of my dish with cacao nibs and pressed the brownie mixture onto it which adds a subtly crunchy base layer. You could also add crushed nuts, or nothing at all. Press the dough into your mould/s, making sure it is even and compact.
For the frosting, you can either blend the nuts with their skins or remove the skins by placing the nuts inside a teacloth and rubbing them together for around 1 minute which will encourage the skins to flake away naturally. Whichever you choose, add the nuts to your fresh and cleaned food processor and pulse on a high speed until buttery. This can take up to 10 minutes, and may take some scraping. Add the melted coconut oil and almond butter as the machine is still running. If your mixture still seems dry, these ingredients will help it to loosen up and combine. Now you should have a nut butter consistency. Next add the coconut milk, coconut powder, salt, vanilla and your sweetener of choice. Blend for a further 30 seconds to combine and then spread the mixture over the cake layer. Smooth with a spoon or spatula and if you wish, top with your choice of chopped nuts, superfood powders or cacao nibs. Place in the freezer to set for at least 30 minutes to set - this is what gives it it's chewy, decadent texture. Store here until ready to serve and remove 5 minutes before you plan to enjoy it.
+ If you don't end up making a cake of this recipe, you can break it into two. The cake mixture can be made into bars or balls, and the frosting can be used as a nutella alternative for things like pancakes, crepes, porridge or other desserts.