Birthday Cake Adventures

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The cake pictured above is something I am pretty proud of.

I knew that I wanted to make a birthday cake for myself this year, and I knew that I wanted it to involve beets.  That was it, really. I had been flip flopping back and forth about when I wanted to make it, how I wanted to make it, essentially every variable was considered.  I had pegged from the beginning that it likely wouldn’t work. Baking is just not my thing.  I arranged all ingredients, everything was prepared – and then I gave up, left my house even.  Fearing that it would be a failure, I decided to save it for the next day. Determined to make it work I brushed up on baking 101, refreshing myself on essentials like when to use baking soda versus when to use baking powder. Compared dense flours, grain flours, coconut flour, nut flour, you name it. To sum it up – it took me a grand total of two tries, four days, and two very pink stained hands before I could finally say I had done it. Happy birthday, to me!

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With all the rave about pumpkin cakes, and carrot cakes – I wanted one of my favorite root vegetables to take the spotlight. Beets.  I love them. Must be the Ukrainian in me!  They are so vibrant and beautiful, for myself – a huge fan of eating a range of natural colors – it was a no brainer.  Beets, it had to be beets. I considered blending them, allowing them to lend a bit more color to my cake batter; in the end however, I simply grated them.

Another ingredient I used for this cake has had a bit of buzz around it in the last while, Irish moss. Irish moss is a sea vegetable that has been used in a number of different cultures for many many years. I myself have been looking for it in Calgary for quite some time, stumbling across it accidentally after taking part in a honey lecture. I took the time to speak to some people in the holistic community here in the city – it seems that Irish moss is getting a bad name in the same way that other foods in our world are, it’s all about refining and processing. Carrageenan is a refined and broken down part of Irish moss which can be used as a thickener or stabilizer. Most people who are familiar with this refined additive have opted to omit it from their diets as it is known to cause inflammation. That is why I wanted to get some face to face information about it, from people who were familiar with the actual plant. It was broken down for me like this:  Irish moss in it’s natural form is incredibly good for the skin, it contains trace minerals and since it is mucilaginous it is very soothing for the digestive system as well as grabbing onto toxins and heavy metals as it passes through our system (think chia). Carrageenan is a highly processed version of Irish moss, heated to extreme temperatures and essentially void of anything earth related, being more comparable to a chemical byproduct. So to compare it something more widely understood, sucking on raw sugar cane versus gulping back half a cup of white sugar …  well really there is no comparison, and I suppose that’s my point.  From the information I have gathered, in moderation using something natural like whole Irish moss is not going to have a negative impact on our health. If the use of Irish moss is still something that is unappealing, something like arrowroot powder or agar agar could be substituted.

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Chocolate Beet Birthday Cake

2 Cups of Fine Milled Flour (Spelt is my choice here)
1 Cup Oat Flour
1 Cup Cacao Powder
2 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Black Lava Salt
1.5 Cups Hemp Milk (or other non dairy milk)
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Apple Sauce
1 Cup of Honey
1 Tsp Chocolate Extract
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
2.5 Cups Shredded Beet
1/3 Cup Cacao Butter – Melted & cooled
1.5 Tsp Apple Cider Vinegar

Filling

1 Cup Macadamia Nuts – Soaked for 2 hours
2 Tbsp Lucuma Powder
1/2 Cup Water
Pinch of True Cinnamon
Vanilla Bean – Scraped
2 Tbsp Honey
1/3 Cup Irish Moss Gel

Frosting

2 Cans of Coconut Cream – Chilled
Powdered Sugar (organic cane or coconut)

Two days ahead, soak the Irish moss in water, it can be left out over night on the counter. One day ahead prepare the coconut frosting, this will give it a chance to firm up. In a medium sized bowl or using a stand mixer, empty the coconut cream (note – coconut cream. Not coconut milk. If using coconut milk, only use the fat solids that are on the top – save the water for smoothies. You may need a few more cans) and the powdered sugar together, whip until it’s fluffy and sweetened to your liking, store in the fridge.
To make the Irish moss into a gel, rinse it once it has soaked, make sure there are no loose fibers or sands remaining in it. Mix it with some fresh water in a blender, and whirl away until it heats up with the motor and turns into a thick gel.
To make the filling, blend the soaked macadamia nuts, lucluma, water, cinnamon, vanilla and honey in a high powered blender. Once it is creamy, add the Irish moss and pop it in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 350, prepare two same sized cake pans by lining the bottom with wax paper and rubbing coconut oil up the sides. Mix the flours, cacao powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl – set aside.  Melt the cacao butter over low heat, keep it in the pot but away from heat once it has fully melted. In another good sized bowl, add hemp milk, apple sauce, honey, vanilla and chocolate extracts, beets, and apple cider vinegar. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry, begin mixing the two together right away as the baking soda will start to work quickly. Add the cacao butter in right before the mixture is fully blended. Pour evenly into the prepared cake pans, turning the oven down to 300 and putting those babies in! Bake them for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Allow the cakes to cool completely.  Once they have cooled, place one cake on a cake stand and slather the top with the macadamia filling. It should have firmed enough over night that you can place the second cake on top without it oozing out. Once the second cake is in place, remove the coconut whip from the fridge and frost starting with the top, working down the base.  Keep in the fridge, taking it out one hour before serving.  *I garnished mine with raw, dried coconut strips and fresh flowers, but that’s optional!*

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