Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me! (Autumn Delight Cake)

October 29th is my birthday (Yea!). As on any other year, the major decision of what to eat and what cake I will be having plays a central role to my special day. It's always the perfect excuse to celebrate food, as in "It's my party and I'll eat if I want to"! As most people know, calories are free on this magical day (this is actually true).
This year I agonized a little more than usual on which cake I would be enjoying. At first I wanted to have one of my best friend's favorite which is chocolate cake with an orange cream cheese frosting. Then I decided I wanted something that had more of the Autumn flavors and browsed some other sites, including one of my newer favorites, Rosie Alyea's site Sweetapolita. As Autumn is indeed my favorite time of the year, I decided on Rosie's 'Autumn Delight Cake'.

Rosie's aim when creating this cake concept was taking a Thanksgiving favorite most of us in the states are familiar with that has sweet potatoes baked with marshmallows, brown sugar, and pecans, and turning it into a cake. I have to say she did an awesome job! At first I thought, yep- all these things sound like they will taste awesome. It wasn't until the first bite of the cake that I was struck with an OMG moment and said "That does tastes like that Thanksgiving dish". I was very pleased. Only problem is I ate way too much. 

One of my best friends, Andy, who is also my roommate, played a central role in clean up and tasting and remarked quite sarcastically (as we scarfed down the first piece) " yea- this doesn't suck much". Indeed it did not disappoint!  Having so much cake with just the two of us, I shared with three of our closest neighbors who were not unhappy except for one who had an expression on his face that told me that I just gotten him in trouble with his wife (who is on a diet)! He promised he would taste just a little (yea sure, a little...).

The recipe, which you can get from Rosie's site here > 'Autumn Delight Cake' <   is itself a lot of work but well worth it. I started on the 28th by making the cakes, the filling, candied pecans, and then built the cake and stored in the fridge overnight. Yesterday, on the 29th, I made the frosting, frosted up the cake and garnished with the candied pecans and crystallized ginger.

I baked 3 large sweet potatoes on 400F for about an hour and a half and then pureed in a blender once cooled.
Only adaptation to the candied pecans was a generous douse of  Captain Morgan Black Rum

According to recipe: Marshmallow Filling

I only had a couple snags:  

1) I did not weight my Yams (ding dong) so I think my cake turned out a little different to hers based on a photo comparison and I am sure this was the problem. It still tastes awesome- no doubt- but I do like the more 'cakey' texture her photos display.

2) When preparing the eggs and brown sugar for the buttercream frosting, I found that my candy thermometer was way too large for the pot I had and as there was not a lot of mixture in the pot and hit bottom. So as not to break it, I had to put it to the side and just watch the eggs and sugar. While I didn't see it happen in the pan as I was gently whisking constantly, I think some of the egg may have cooked up a bit and the brown sugar not completely dissolve. So important to have a good thermometer and varying sizes, apparently! I could have also moved the mixture to a smaller double boiler creating more depth for the thermometer. Sometime I am lazy and create my own problems!
While moving to the next stage of the frosting that whips the eggs, I could see some granules of sugar and smallish clear but chunky bits which I assume were pieces of cooked egg. You really couldn't tell in the end when all was done and said but when you look at Rosie's frosting, you will see what I mean...hers is pristine, beautiful. I also think I should have whipped it longer in the last half of the process. Next time will hopefully yield a better result.

This cake was a fantastic addition to my Fall Birthday and I highly recommend it for any event or occasion during these holiday months that are already upon us.

A couple special acknowledgments...

I realize my birthday is not just about me...some 38 years ago, after waiting for nine months and excitedly planning for and anticipating the arrival of her daughter, I finally made my appearance to my Mother. It's a big day in the life of any parent who eagerly awaits a child of their own that they get the benefit of sharing a life with. What a special day October 29th was in her life.

To my Mom- Thank you for making my days so special! For the beautiful and generous gifts that you give me. It is so obvious that you want to make me happy and it's that desire that is the true gift that cannot take the place of any other (Love). Happy Birthday to you too, Mom!
To my Step-Dad, Matt, I love you very much and thank you too for all your generosity, support, and love.

...And to Andy, who made me a very tasty breakfast, cleaned up the kitchen mess, took me shooting, shopping, and then made me Risotto for dinner! Seriously, I am blessed and thankful for the love and attention.

Recipe from La Bella Vita

If you like the looks of these dishes, check out the links to the sites Sweetapolita and La Bella Vita, I think you will be pleased.

Hope you all have a wonderful and happy day!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Raspberry Ganache Fudge Cake

This post starts a new direction for me personally in the world of all things sweet. No matter how much I love and yearn for refined sugar and floury baked goods (and always will) that are laced with heavy cream, caramel, or topped with meringue, it is my inner health nut that yearns for a healthy and long term option to satisfy cravings. The answer to this issue for me is in the form of raw desserts.

I became aware of raw food desserts during the years I spent living a vegan lifestyle. Not much into cooking or baking at that time due to time constraints, I often bought all my food pre-made. Being a dessert junkie I obviously had a specific need to discover my sources of vegan desserts which were mostly raw desserts, pre-made from Whole Foods.

For those folks unaware of what a raw dessert is, I have taken this excerpt from Wikipedia in which 'raw food veganism' is described this way:
" A raw vegan diet consists of unprocessed, raw plant foods that have not been heated above 40 °C (104 °F). Raw vegans such as Douglas Graham[3] believe that foods cooked above this temperature have lost much of their nutritional value and are less healthful or even harmful to the body. Advocates argue that raw or living foods have natural enzymes, which are critical in building proteins and rebuilding the body, and that heating these foods kills the natural enzymes and can leave toxins behind. However, critics point out that enzymes, as with other proteins consumed in the diet, are denatured and eventually lysed by the digestive process rendering them non-functional. Typical foods included in raw food diets are fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains and legumes."

In addition, Vegans do not consume or use anything that is an animal or that came from an animal. You would be amazed the animal by-products that exist in everything from food to your deodorant and toothpaste, film, and even charcoal to filter wine. The only reason I ended my vegan diet was due to a health issue in which the doctor said my diet exacerbated my problem. In the following years with new doctors and after painfully changing my diet, I came to find out he was full of it. Much of what I learned and followed stays with me and I want to make some efforts to add more of those ways back into my world, starting with one dessert at a time. 

I present you with the Raspberry Ganache Fudge Cake taken from Ani Phyo's book,  'Ani's Raw Food Desserts'. I wanted to start with a recipe that had simple ingredients, was easy to follow, and was chocolate.

What impressed me the most was how fast it was to put this together. I made this dessert while I was in the midst of dinner preparations and really did not take any time to make it look pretty, smooth my frosting, etc. And while you can use a food processor as the instructions call for, I actually used a Vitamix blender instead...much easier to clean. It was kind of a relief not to have to wait for the baking and cooling process before frosting once that was all over.

I also enjoyed the chocolatey taste and didn't have the awareness that what I was eating was made of fruits and nuts. The raspberries give it a brightness and balance that is much needed. I think next time I may do individual mini tarts with the cake bottom, frosting middle, and all raspberries on top. I personally felt the double layer cake was a tad too much cake.


Fudge Cake
3 cups dry walnuts
2/3 cup unsweetened cacoa powder or carob powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup pitted Medjool dates

1/3 cup semi-soft pitted medjool dates
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/2 cup ripe avocado flesh (from about 1 medium avocado)
1/3 cup cacao powder

1/2 cup raspberries


To make the cake, combine the walnuts, cacao powder, and salt in the food processor and pulse until coarsely mixed. Avoid over-processing. Add the dates and pulse until mixed well. Shape into 2 stackable cakes of desired shape and set aside.

To make the frosting, combine the dates and agave syrup in the food processor and process until smooth. Add the avocado and process until smooth. Add the cacoa powder and process until smooth.

To assemble and serve, frost the top of one of the cakes with half of the frosting and top with raspberries. Stack the second cake on top and frost the top and sides. Serve immediately -or- place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to firm up.

The cake on its own will keep in the fridge for many weeks. 
The frosting will keep separately in the fridge for 1 week.
The assembled cake with raspberries will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.