Fave Human + Birthday = A Very Extra Cake

Alright alright I’m a few days late and SO delinquent on anything resembling regular posts here but….. better late than never.

Charles’ birthday was this week so you better believe there was CAKE! Birthdays are a great excuse to be very extra and bake a layer cake with six layers (yes. I did) – this is the Fave Human we are talking about, after all. He’s cute. He can stay.

Good news is, since I waited a few days to post, I can relay the comments – everyone who ate it thought it was delicious, so I can safely say this one is a winner. Almond cake, marionberry + blackberry and chocolate ganache filling, and vanilla buttercream. Nothing in here is overly complicated; they just are stellar when put together. This is also one of those that can be made in stages, which is such a boon for a busy week. I ended up making the filling over the weekend, the cake layers monday, and then frosting, ganache and assembly on wednesday, his actual birthday. Besides, freezing cake layers actually makes them easier to slice (at least I think) and helps flatten them out a little.

This is a pretty dense cake so a little goes a long way – this was a 7″ cake to feed 6 at dinner, plus about a fourth of it leftover – obviously, who doesn’t love leftover cake. With six layers it makes for a pretty tall slice. It’s sweeter than my average dessert but hey, birthdays only come around once a year. It IS whole grain, so there’s that. Can’t let my dessert morals slide completely….

As to why I haven’t really had anything resembling regular posts on here… I *have* been baking, but a) I keep making variations on the same galette and I don’t need to be spamming your feeds with endless galette variations and b) camp is literally IMMINENT and I have been eyeballs deep in director stuff since basically… May… so that plus a full time job = not so much free time for blog things. Promise I’m still baking on a regular basis even though it doesn’t always show up here! Headed up to camp on the 15th, and I can’t wait.

The summer fruit right now is outrageously good… my philosophy is to mess with it as little as possible so it can shine as much as possible; hence the endless riffs on berry-stone fruit galettes.

case in point.

Anyway. Next time you need a layer cake for an occasion – or no occasion, maybe just for fun – might I recommend this one? I promise it’s delicious :)

I hope everyone has a lovely holiday weekend – hugs from my kitchen to yours.

Almond Cake with Dark Berry Filling, Chocolate Ganache, and Vanilla Icing

Not too sweet almond cake sandwiched with a marionberry & blackberry filling, dark chocolate ganache, and a vanilla buttercream. A celebration cake at its finest. Yield: 1 7-9″ cake, depending on what pan you use; serves several. This recipe is written slightly differently than usual; less of a list and more akin to suggestions. Most components can be made ahead, making this a good one to make in stages.

For the cake:

I use this cake, as written with the exceptions as follows: reduce sugar to a scant 1c per batch (I used fair trade cane sugar here); sub whole wheat pastry flour (*not straight whole wheat, it’s not fine enough).

For a 7″, 6 layer cake (3 layers, halved), I made 1.5 batches. I tend to make them ahead of time, wrap well in plastic wrap (the ONLY time it is allowed in my kitchen) and freeze them, at least overnight. Thaw in the fridge overnight before using or at room temp. Typically I will top them for flat layers, like I did here, but you don’t technically have to (though if you do, you can eat the scraps and everyone knows that’s the best part).

For the marionberry & blackberry filling:

Honestly, just use jam! It’s delicious, easy and just about the perfect consistency. If you’re feeling fancy, you can make a berry curd, like this:

Take 2 cups, ish, of frozen berries (I used blackberries & marionberries), and toss them in a saucepan. Add 1 tbsp maple syrup, zest and juice of one lemon, and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5-6 min, mashing the berries slightly with a spoon, until most of them have burst. Remove from heat, and strain into a heatproof bowl, through a fine mesh strainer, pressing to release as much juice as possible. Discard the seeds, or use them creatively somewhere else (maybe a smoothie or something?) In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp cornstarch + 2 tbsp water and set aside.

Return strained berry juice to the saucepan, and whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Turn the heat back up to medium and whisk constantly, until the fruit starts to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cook for 1-2 minutes more (you’ll see it visibly thicken), then remove from heat and let cool completely. Chill in the fridge before using. Can be made up to one week ahead; store in an airtight jar in the fridge and stir well before use.

I ended up using a combination of both jam and curd, just for fun and also for flavor. You do you! All jam is completely fine and much faster.

For the frosting:

1/2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c powdered sugar
2 tbsp plain yogurt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp whole milk

This is a very straightforward buttercream – using a hand (or stand) mixer, cream butter until light and fluffy. Add in powdered sugar a bit at a time, beating after each incorporation. Add yogurt, vanilla and whole milk and beat to combine. The frosting should be smooth and spreadable. Can be made ahead and refrigerated; beat before using to fluff it up. I do prefer to make this immediately before using just for ease, but it works just fine ahead of time too.

I like my cakes lightly frosted; if you’re making a cake that is going to be fully frosted with frosting also between the layers, make a double batch of what is listed here. This made exactly enough for me to use a thin layer between the cake layers + frost the whole thing naked cake style, but I only wanted a thin layer so that was exactly what I was after.

For the ganache:

Rough measurements – I used about 1c of dark chocolate + 1 tbsp coconut oil. Stir in a double boiler until melted, then use before it starts to set up again as it cools. Reheat as needed to bring it back to a drippier consistency if desired.

To assemble:

I wanted a 6 layer cake; to do that, I baked three 7″ layers, then topped them to flatten them out, and halved them. A serrated or just very sharp knife works well for this; just go slow.

Spread a thin circle of frosting on your cake stand or plate, just smaller than the cake itself. Plop down the first layer, followed by a layer of frosting, a layer of berry curd/jam, and a layer of ganache, then a layer of cake, then frosting, berry, ganache…. rinse, repeat. Once you have the final cake layer on, use an offset spatula to frost the rest. If you want a naked cake look, smooth it on but let the cake layers show like mine; otherwise, you can do a crumb coat, refrigerate, and then come back for the second frosting layer.

Top with ganache – you can have it drop down the sides, or not (I chose to not) – and fresh berries. Refrigerate before serving if it’ll be longer than a few hours and/or your kitchen is very warm; mine wasn’t so I left it out. It’ll do at room temp for a few hours but refrigerate any leftovers. Serve & enjoy!

Ode to Cake

Happy Eater! I mean… Easter.

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And yes. I have absolutely no excuse for the dearth of posts, minus the fact that grad school owns my life for another 10 weeks (how is it possible that I graduate in 10 weeks… can someone explain this?!). At which point I will hopefully get back to posting on a semi-regular basis… Until then…. we’ll just see. But I’ve missed my invisible internet friends! I hope you’re all doing just wonderfully.

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To tide us over, here is an ode to cake. This is the same whole wheat banana cake with dark chocolate ganache that I’ve made umpteen billion times because it’s basically the most perfect banana cake I know. It’s not vegan, or grain free or even gluten free, but for what it is, I love it. It’s also large enough to feed a crowd, which was called for in this particular sitch.

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I’ve made this for birthdays of loved ones, thank you-s for advisors, and welcome home presents for besties. It’s a winner: silky chocolate ganache surrounding soft, not too sweet, not too dense but just dense enough banana cake. This particular iteration is refined sugar free, sweetened with a combination of date sugar and coconut sugar. Perfect for a mid afternoon Easter treat, no post-cake nap necessary. The link to the original post is here.

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In other news…

Sunbathing adorable Jessie.

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Flowers.

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Perfect avo.

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It’s good to be back! Enjoy the rest of your weekend — I hope it has a treat in it somewhere!

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Happy Peep-Eating Day!

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Happy Chocolate-Bunny Eating Day!

Or something.

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My dad and his brother started the day off by sending each other peep-eating photos. I guess that would make it Happy Peep-Eating-Day?! Or maybe it was a Peep-Off. Apparently my cousin was also photographed eating them, perhaps it’s a family affair? Whatever. The peep-eating trend obviously stops with me…sorry about that. Given that I absolutely abhor those nasty little piles of sugar-coated marshmallowy goop (nothing personal to the peep eaters out there, vacuum vati notwithstanding), I made this instead! Happy cake eating day to me! Because Easter=chocolate. Because…chocolate. Why do you even need a reason??

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And then you add dates and bananas and coconut and more chocolate and mmmmm.

AND you omit the refined sugar and all that gunk. So really, I’m doing vacuum vati a favor by providing some balance to offset his peep-eating ways. Not that a peep (or ten) once a year is a bad thing…. just don’t blame me when you discover your insides are technicolor. Just sayin’.

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And really. It’s Eater (I mean Easter, whoops. See??) so that means brunch and eggs benedict and cake and chocolate. Preferably chocolate before breakfast or chocolate ganache eaten with a finger spatula (don’t look at me like that. I know you’ve done it). Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, my Easter has included none of these things except a finger spatula (I did make cake, after all).

MY Easter started off at 5 am with toast… and then a sunrise service…and then shadow yoga studies at nine… and then a ravenous stuffing of basil-y and mushroom-y eggs into my face at 11:30 because I was ravenous after yoga and breakfast at 5; before which I had thrown a two layer cake together in twenty minutes. That is winning, that is. Oh. And I recently ate a truffle (salted caramel dark chocolate), courtesy of my mom who knows me SO well and put only intensely dark chocolate things and raw cocoa nibs in my Easter basket. Thanks mom!

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Ramble ramble ramble…

CAKE!

Let’s move on.

Happy eater Easter! Enjoy your chocolate or cake or family or whatever it is that you happen to be doing. Whatever you do, please do yourself a favor and eat something delicious!

Also, one lasty little thingy…. happy 200th posts to me on my bloglet! You go, little bloglet. You’re so cute. I do rather adore you. Consider this a happy 200th-post cake celebration, hooray!

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It's Easter. You get a flower!
It’s Easter. You get a flower!

Banana Date Layer Cake

This cake is not for the sweet-loving at heart, given that it is naturally sweetened and naturally not very sweet! But it IS good, so I would recommend it for those of you who either can’t or don’t eat refined sugar. It makes a dense, lightly sweet cake with a rich chocolate ganache. Despite being lightly sweet, it went over quite well for a mixed audience. I think it would be FAB with ice cream…It can be gluten free, if you choose, and it’s refined sugar free. Sub in maple for the honey in the ganache, and it becomes vegan. It’s also fairly easy to whip together, which is always nice. Recipe lightly adapted from Green Spirit Adventures, here! Serves… a lot. I fed this to a big family Easter dinner and we still have a few slices left over for Vacuum Vati’s breakfast.

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Banana Layer

  • 3 super-ripe bananas (the nastier looking, the better)
  • 3 dates (soaked if needed)
  • 6 tbsp unrefined coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 c unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt

Cocoa-Date Layer

  • 1.5 c unsweetened almond milk
  • 8 dates (Soaked if needed)
  • 6 tbsp unrefined coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 c coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Ganache

  • 200 g dark chocolate (I used two 100 g bars of 73%), broken into smallish pieces
  • 1 c unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3.5 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tsp raw honey
  • a hefty pinch of sea salt

Garnish

  • unsweetened coconut
  • roughly chopped walnuts and pistachios
  • extra dark chocolate chips

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Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly grease two round 9″ cake pans. Bake the cakes at the same time for ease of everything…

For the banana layer. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and set aside. Whiz everything else (bananas, dates, coconut oil, almond milk, vanilla extract) together in a food processor until mostly smooth. Toss wet into dry, and stir until just combined. The batter should be really thick—spread it evenly into the prepared pan rather than pouring it (good luck, it won’t pour..). Smooth the top and set aside until you finish the other layer.

For the cocoa date layer: Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, coconut sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and powder, and salt. Wash out your food processor, and whiz everything else together again (told you this was easy): almond milk, dates, coconut oil, almond and vanilla extracts. Wet into dry again, stir to combine again—this will also be a really thick batter, so spread it in evenly.

Bake both cakes at the same time for about 30 minutes (until a tester comes out clean)—my banana layer went for 30 and my cocoa layer for 35. Let cool until you can handle the cake pans, then turn them out to cool completely on a rack.

For frosting purposes, combine almond milk, almond extract, vanilla extract and tahini in a small saucepan over low heat. Once it’s warmed through, add the chocolate pieces and stir until completely melted (I turned off the heat after a few minutes but kept stirring). Stir in honey and salt.

Once all is said and done, find a cake plate… pick your bottom layer, then slap on a good layer of ganache on top of it. Pour a boatload of shredded coconut and chocolate chips into the middle, then slap on the second layer. Drizzle/pour/gratuitously indulge in being messy the rest of the ganache over the top and sides. The goal here is RUSTICATED! Top with chopped nuts, more chippies and coconut.

Glory in its beauty… then slice and eat. Happy Eater!!

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