2017: the tale of demanding, reincarnating bananas

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Happy New Year! Here’s hoping 2017 treats everyone a little better than last year – 2016 was a rough one for many. But as they say, onward and upward! Preferably with cake, which is where I come in.

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The dead bananas are calling! I had a plethora lurking around my kitchen this weekend and they put me on notice that they really wanted to reincarnate into something amazing… not banana bread again, if you please (my bananas can get a little demanding sometimes…). That being said, I had a hankering for banana cake (fundamentally different from banana bread, you see), so THIS happened!

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Happily so. Have you ever had sautéed dates? No? Get into the kitchen immediately and make them! I love dates anyway, but they are mindblowingly good when given a little bath in some olive oil and sea salt. I’ve always been a salt monster, so salty-sweet desserts are absolutely my jam, and these little powerhouses deliver. Besides that, they’re full of good nutrients (dates are high in vit A & K, plus potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium & zinc. woohoo!).

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This cake is actually full of good things – you have healthy fats from almond flour, hazelnuts, and coconut, and all the good stuff in dates. And besides that, most critically: it’s delicious, which is good for your soul.

Let’s see, what else? Jessie says hello (this is her way of chatting me up during breakfast, adorable cat)

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More drawings, of course! New year, same series! This is the Havens Mansion, built 1884 on S. Van Ness in SF.

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My first activity of 2017! Shocked? Nope.

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More beautiful sky!

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Show your new and improved 2017 self some love with some sautéed dates atop your cake, and revel in all the possibilities of a new year. Onward!

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Banana Date Skillet Cake with Coconut Frosting, Maple Hazelnuts, and Sautéed Dates

Pretty freaking amazing, if I do say so! Lightly sweet banana cake with jewel-like date pieces, coconut frosting and OMG sautéed dates, please make them immediately. Serve with a bit of ice cream or non-dairy biz if that’s your jam! Can’t miss either way. Refined sugar free, grain free, gluten free, dairy free, pretty much paleo. Yield: 1 8″ skillet cake, enough frosting to frost the top (cake is served straight out of the skillet); extra hazelnuts because you’ll definitely want extras… and the amount of dates is up to you (make extra!). Skillet cake adapted from Confessions of a Confectionista, here!

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For the cake:

  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3 eggs
  • heaping 1/8 c coconut oil, melted
  • 1.5 tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • heaping 1.25 c almond flour
  • 1.5 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 4 medjool dates, chopped

For the maple hazelnuts (make ahead, if desired):

  • 1 c roasted hazelnuts
  • 1/4 c maple syrup
  • pinch of sea salt
  • splash of vanilla

For the sautéed dates:

  • 1-2 tbsp good olive oil
  • 7-8 medjool dates, halved & pitted
  • pinch of sea salt

For the coconut frosting:

  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk, chilled upside-down overnight in the fridge
  • 1 tsp coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

I usually make the hazelnuts ahead and store them in a jar until needed. Remove most of the skins from the hazelnuts by rubbing them together; it doesn’t matter if there are skins left, but I try to get rid of the majority. Heat an empty saute pan (not nonstick) over medium heat; once heated, add maple (it will bubble and fizz) and hazelnuts. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring continuously until the maple has caramelized. The nuts will feel a little soft, which is fine. Spread parchment paper on a baking sheet, pour out the nuts and spread them out a bit. They will harden as they cool. Store in an airtight jar at room temp for as long as they last which is realistically about five minutes.

To make the cake: preheat the oven to 350, and grease an 8″ cast iron skillet with coconut oil. In a large bowl, mash the bananas, then add eggs, melted coconut oil, honey, and vanilla. In a smaller bowl, whisk together almond flour, flaxseed, cinnamon, baking powder and soda, and salt. Pour dry into wet, and use an electric mixer to beat until combined. Stir in the chopped dates, and pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the top springs back when touched. The cake will brown because of the honey – if you feel it’s browning too fast, feel free to cover it with foil. Let cool completely before serving.

While the cake is cooling, make the sautéed dates! (good luck not eating them all straight out of the pan). In a small sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is warm, add the dates and sauté, stirring frequently, until they caramelize and are heated through, just about 2-3 minutes (the edges will start to get a little crispy). Watch them carefully, as they burn easily. When done, move them to a bowl to cool and sprinkle with sea salt (be sure to get all of the good oil out of the pan for drizzling!).

Also while the cake is cooling, make the coconut frosting. Open the can of coconut milk rightside up, and scrape out the cream that has solidified at the top, leaving the coconut water at the bottom (save it and use it later!). Scoop the cream out into a bowl, add vanilla and coconut sugar, and use an electric mixer to beat into the consistency of whipped cream. Use immediately, or chill for later use.

For serving: Frost the cake with the coconut whip (make sure to frost the cake once it’s completely cool! otherwise a melty mess will ensue); top with sautéed dates and maple hazelnuts. Indulge responsibly (i.e., have another piece)!

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Happy Solstice! I’m sure the druids ate carrot cake to celebrate too…

img_5339Happy Solstice! Time to really get into it now with the holiday shenanigans — I can’t believe Christmas is Sunday! Sneaky little sucker.

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It’s been below freezing in the mornings here, which is definitely considered a cold snap around these parts! As if I needed an excuse to run the oven and bake for extra kitchen warmth… I took advantage of the cold to not only bake carrot cake but also to re-season all of my cast iron skillets! They’re all shiny and beautiful now, as they should be.

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Other new things…

Holiday fun in the city! My Christmas isn’t complete without seeing the SF Ballet’s Nutcracker.

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More architecture and drawing, obviously.

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What better way to celebrate the solstice than with carrot cake?!

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I’ve been jonesing for it lately, and thankfully I had a seconded favorable opinion, so… it happened! Lightly sweet, carrot-y, and full of nuts just like carrot cake should be. Carrot cake isn’t carrot cake without walnuts! No way. Aside from that, I was tired of the usual cashew-creme frosting, so I got cray with some macadamia nuts to see what would happen, and luckily it was a favorable outcome. Hooray for new things!

Enjoy your Solstice-day with those you love! Indulge yourself in a little healthier carrot cake, you deserve it.

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Skillet Carrot Cake with Coconut Maple Macadamia Frosting and Maple Walnuts

To me, this is pretty much the perfect carrot cake. Carrot cake and walnuts are a match made in heaven, which is why they’re in this twice! Paleo-ish, refined sugar free, dairy free, gluten free, grain free! Cake adapted from Texanerin Baking – only lightly adapted because this cake is damn perfect as is! Frosting is a Wait are those Cookies original.

For the cake:

  • 1.25 c almond flour
  • 2 tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • scant 1/3 c melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 c runny honey
  • scant 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c grated carrots
  • 1/3 c chopped walnuts

For the frosting:

  • 1 c macadamia nuts, soaked for at least an hour
  • juice of 1 meyer lemon
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • large pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 c maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp coconut butter
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

For the maple walnuts:

  • 1 c raw walnuts
  • 1/4 c maple syrup
  • large pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

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I tend to make the walnuts in advance so that they have time to cool completely. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat until warm, then add maple (it will fizz a bit). Add in walnuts and sea salt, and cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly and scraping up the caramel forming on the bottom, until the maple syrup has mostly reduced and caramelized – about 3 minutes. Turn off heat, stir in vanilla, and pour the walnuts out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet to cool completely. Store in an airtight jar until needed.

I soaked the macadamia nuts for the frosting about an hour, which meant that I put them to soak, made the cake, then made the frosting, which was a great timeline. The cake can easily be made a day ahead and stored in the fridge overnight.

For the cake: preheat the oven to 350, and grease an 8″ cast iron skillet. In a large bowl, whisk together almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, sea salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In a smaller bowl, whisk together eggs, melted coconut oil, honey, and vanilla. Stir wet into dry, add in grated carrots and chopped walnuts, and stir until incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared skillet, and bake for 28-30 minutes (mine was perfect at 30); the top should be lightly browned and firm to the touch, and a tester should come out clean. Let cool completely before frosting and serving.

For the frosting: add soaked macadamia nuts to a high-power blender or food processor (I used a vitamix), and blend until smooth. You’ll have to stop and scrape the sides repeatedly, but it’s worth it! Patience is a virtue, ha. Once the nuts resemble nut butter, add in lemon juice, vanilla, salt, maple syrup, coconut butter and cinnamon. These can be adjusted to taste! I usually just taste as I go, until I’m satisfied. Store in an airtight jar in the fridge until needed; any extra will keep for about two weeks.

To serve: I like to serve the cake straight out of the skillet, so I frost and top with walnuts as is. This cake is excellent with vanilla ice cream (what isn’t) — enjoy accordingly! Store any leftovers in the fridge — covering the skillet with foil works nicely, as does moving the cake to a tupperware.

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Meyer lemons: sunlight in food form

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More citrus! ALL THE CITRUS! Why stop now? It makes my kitchen smell like sunshine, and besides — meyer lemons are in season (at least on the trees I have access to, ha) and they essentially embody sunshine in one little package.

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Which means they were featured for the last round of dessert shenanigans! In two forms, both in a soufflé-cake-pudding hybrid and some lemon curd because you really can never have too much lemon.

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I love December things! Lights, pretty houses, giant trees, and dessert. And tree elves doing yoga, obviously.

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More drawing, of course.

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But, back to the dessert (since I know that’s why you’re all here anyway!) — Light, refreshing and full of lemon flavor — this hybrid soufflé-curd-pie-cake-pudding is damn delicious. Perfect for the wintertime when the pop of citrus brightens up grey days and makes your kitchen smell like sunshine! Also perfect when you want dessert and need a break from the usual heavy desserts of the season.

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Happy holidays! Hopefully you’re enjoying the season with loved ones and eating everything delicious.

Meyer Lemon Soufflé Curd Cake with Lemon Curd, Maple Blackberries and Mint

Paleo, gluten & grain free, dairy free, refined sugar free. Yield: 1 9″ pie dish, serves 2 (just kidding. Only kind of…) — it actually realistically could serve up to 6! But only if you feel like sharing.

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For the lemon curd (best to make ahead and refrigerate), lightly adapted from What the Fork:

  • 4 eggs
  • zest of 2 meyer lemons
  • 1/2 c meyer lemon juice
  • 1/3 c honey
  • 1/2 c coconut oil
  • large pinch of fine sea salt
  • heaping 1 tsp of vanilla extract

In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk together eggs, lemon zest and juice, honey, salt, and coconut oil. Continue to cook the curd over medium-low, whisking constantly, until it thickens. It should be about the same consistency as pudding after 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat once thickened, whisk in vanilla extract, and strain (I use a mesh strainer and a flat spatula for this) to remove any errant zest chunks. Once cool, store in airtight jars in the fridge. Keeps for a week or two, but I doubt it will last that long!

For the soufflé cake, adapted from 24 Carrot Kitchen, here:

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • scant 1/2 c full fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 c maple syrup
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of 2 meyer lemons
  • 1/2 c meyer lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp coconut flour
  • large pinch of fine sea salt
  • mint leaves for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350, and grease a 9″ pie dish.

In a non-reactive bowl (I like to use the bowl of my stand mixer), use a hand mixer or the raw power of your biceps to beat the eggs whites until they’re glossy and hold soft peaks. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, coconut milk, maple, vanilla, lemon zest and juice. Whisk in coconut flour and salt. Gently fold in the egg whites until fully incorporated. Pour the batter (it will be relatively thin) into your prepared pie dish and bake for 30-35 minutes. The filling should be set and the top should be lightly browned — if it’s browning too fast, cover the top with a bit of foil. This cake is designed to have a pudding-y layer at the bottom, so be careful not to overbake. Let cool before serving.

While the cake is baking, toss a bag of thawed (or fresh, if you’re lucky) blackberries with a drizzle of maple or honey, and let marinate in their juices until ready to serve.

Serve this deliciousness in a bowl, since the cake won’t slice all that neatly anyway and it makes a gloriously delicious mess when served with extra lemon curd, blackberries, mint leaves and a little vanilla ice cream.

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Tolkienesque Cake for Dessert and Elevenses!

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Welcome to the Shire!

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Happy circumstances dictated that a Tolkeinesque dessert was in the offing (sometimes, you just need themed desserts)… as such, this one was directly inspired by the Hobbit: besides Beorn’s honey cake being mentioned in the Hobbit itself, blackberries and hazelnuts just seem like they’d be something you’d stash in your knapsack during your travels, right? And hobbits seem like the type to have cast iron skillets. So there you go. ALSO this cake is not only dessert but also does double duty for Elevenses (I can attest. I actually ate it for elevenses / brunch / breakfast / lunch, as part of a very complete, Hobbity spread).

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In other news, I went to the opera on a random Tuesday the other week because, why not?

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More drawing!

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And more cake.

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It’s rainy and drizzly today and as such is perfect cake and indoor fun weather; I highly recommend this one. It’s somewhat like a light variation on pound cake, and the blackberries / hazelnuts make for a great textural pairing. Plus ice cream. Obviously. They may not have had ice cream in the Shire, but let’s face it: everything is better with a bit of cream, right?

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Yes, the blackberries in the pictures are frozen — they were subsequently thawed and honeyed and drizzled and got all juicy and delicious, but for ease of transportation, that happened after the photos.

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So! Cake! And a nice revisit to the land of the Shire; I was a little overdue. Be warned, the maple hazelnuts are supremely addictive…. don’t say I didn’t warn you ;)

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Honey Almond Cake with Honeyed Blackberries and Maple Glazed Hazelnuts

Lightly sweet cake that is somewhat akin to a lighter pound cake, topped with tart-sweet blackberries and crunchy hazelnuts. Hobbit-y dessert perfection that also happens to be gluten free, grain free, dairy free, refined sugar free, and arguably paleo (depends on what sweeteners are on your okay list). The cake is adapted from Cookie and Kate, here! One confession: I’m a crazy baking person and for Hobbit authenticity and size preferences I wanted to make this in my 8″ cast iron skillet, which meant that I made a 3/4 recipe of a a full 9″ pan. I will be posting my altered measurements here; if you bake it in a 9″, it will just be a slightly shorter cake (apologies for some of the funky measurements!)

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For the cake:

  • 1.5 c almond flour (not meal), firmly packed
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 + 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 + 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • scant 1/2 c runny honey
  • 1/8 + 1/16 c melted coconut oil
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325, and lightly grease cast iron skillet or pan of choice with coconut oil. Toss a little almond flour in the bottom to finely coat. In a large bowl, whisk together almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together beaten eggs, honey, melted coconut oil, and vanilla. Pour wet into dry, and stir until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan, and bake on the center rack of the oven for about 38-40 minutes. I checked mine at 30 and put it back in for 8; it was perfect at 38. The top should be golden brown and firm to the touch, and the center shouldn’t jiggle when lightly shaken. Remove from the oven and let cool before topping and serving.

For the honeyed blackberries:

  • 1 bag frozen blackberries, or fresh if they’re in season
  • 1 tbsp runny honey

Thaw blackberries, if frozen, and toss with the honey…. and that’s it! Let sit for a few hours if you have time — they get extra juicy that way.

Maple Glazed Hazelnuts:

  • 1/4 c pure maple syrup
  • 1 c roasted hazelnuts
  • sprinkle of sea salt

Remove most of the skins from the hazelnuts by rubbing them together; it doesn’t matter if there are skins left, but I try to get rid of the majority. Heat an empty saute pan (not nonstick) over medium heat; once heated, add maple (it will bubble and fizz) and hazelnuts. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring continuously until the maple has caramelized. The nuts will feel a little soft, which is fine. Spread parchment paper on a baking sheet, pour out the nuts and spread them out a bit. They will harden as they cool. Store in an airtight jar at room temp for as long as they last which is realistically about five minutes.

For serving: Top cake with honeyed blackberries & glazed hazelnuts, and preferably ice cream.

Store leftover cake in the fridge; covered with foil in the original pan is just fine. I’m here to attest that this cake is fabulous the next morning for breakfast!

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Fig season is upon us!

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It’s fig season!!! Another reason to love fall, as if I didn’t have enough already.

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As much as I start missing the fresh summer berries, it’s so refreshing when the seasons start changing (ish. Emphasis on ish. It’s been in the upper 90s over here for the last few days…um okay I get it! We’re making up for lost time?! But seriously, enough). Figs are so fun with their little tiny seeds. I used to not be such a fig fan, but they’ve won their way into my heart. Especially when they hang out with goat cheese and hazelnuts and honey. But really, I’ll eat them in any form.

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Especially when rice pudding is involved… I never ever say no to rice pudding. EVER.

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This version is baked into a cake/tart type thing, and is sliceable and delicious and fantastic for breakfast as well as dessert. I could wax rhapsodic about this dessert but you really should just make one and thank me later. It’s delicious! It doesn’t use much sweetener either, which is a giant plus in my book and also makes it doubly acceptable for breakfast (also it’s excellent with coconut gelato… just looking out for you!)

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Handily enough, it also comes together quickly and doesn’t require any wildly unusual pantry ingredients.

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I’m reminded of the Italian cake Torta di Riso (I did one years ago and it’s somewhere on the blog… I used blood oranges for that one) — basically a rice custard that is baked into a sliceable cake. This one is a little denser than the Italian version (definitely NOT a bad thing), and is infinitely adaptable to whatever fruit is in season (though I highly recommend figs).

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I’ve also had some time to draw again lately, which I love. Baking + drawing = happy days.

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Enjoy fig season in all its glory and bask in some rice pudding. Happy Equinox!

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Baked Coconut Rice Pudding Cake with Honeyed Figs

Gluten free, dairy free, and refined sugar free! Densely textured, lightly sweet cake perfect for dessert and breakfast. If you love rice pudding, this cake is for you. Yield: 1 9″ pie pan (mine is the deep variety, about 2″ deep). Recipe lightly adapted from A Fork and a Pencil, here!

  • 1 c arborio rice, rinsed
  • 1 c water
  • 1 1/3 c light coconut milk, divided (should be exactly one standard 13.5 fl oz can)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 4 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2.5 tbsp coconut sugar
  • figs to your heart’s content (I used 4), halved
  • enough small dollops of honey to drop into each fig half

In a saucepan, combine rice, water, and 2/3 c coconut milk. Heat over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until it just barely boils. Cover, Reduce heat to low and simmer until the rice has absorbed the liquid, no more than 10 minutes. Once rice is cooked (it should still have some chewy bite to it) and the liquid is absorbed, remove from heat and let cool briefly while assembling everything else.

Lightly grease your pie plate with coconut oil and preheat the oven to 350.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs together, add vanilla, sea salt, maple, and coconut sugar. Pour the cooked and cooled rice into this bowl, and stir to combine. Pour the whole thing into the prepared pie dish (don’t freak if there’s some leftover liquid on the top of the dish, it will be fine! Promise). Halve the figs and press them into the rice, dropping small dollops of honey into the center of each fig half.

Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, until the top is firm when touched and the surface is golden brown. Mine came out perfectly at an hour. Let cool for a bit before slicing. I like it cold, so I refrigerated mine for a few hours before eating, but that’s your call! Store any leftovers covered in the fridge (foil over the pie plate works just fine). Enjoy for dessert with your fave ice cream or gelato (coconut is marvelous) or for breakfast alongside your eggs and kale!

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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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Lousy weeks = Angel Food Cake (Science. Obviously)

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Sooo…. Hi! It’s been awhile.

You can thank grad school for that (and for being a royal pain in my butt). My stomach was being a real winner today too, rude. On the bright side, one of the things it seems to tolerate with a minimum of fuss is this cake! Probably because angel food is basically egg whites and air and fluff, in the best possible combination. I’ve always loved angel food — I asked for it for a birthday cake at some point when I was a kid, and I’ve always thought it was delicious.

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It’s fun to make, too! Egg whites are my favorite piece of kitchen chemistry. I love watching them go from foamy… to glossy… to peaks! I never get tired of it. And besides, even though I am the one who hardly ever uses a mixer unless I really have to, angel food gives me the chance to get out my beautiful red kitchenaide stand mixer! Wheeeeee! It looked so happy to see me. And don’t tell me inanimate objects don’t have feelings… KITCHEN APPLIANCES totally do. They feel neglected and sad when you just leave them to languish in the pantry… which is also why I love my pegboard so much. It means that my pots and pans and whatnot can hang out and watch the action from their corner (and egg me on. It’s like “use me!!! I am so great for making eggs!!! … constant ruckus from the peanut gallery).

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But actually.

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I will stop anthropomorphizing my appliances for the time being in order to get back to the cake. But admit it… if you love to cook and bake, your favorite pans and appliances become your friends. Don’t try to deny it, I know you. You know where they stick, how they heat, if they affect the consistency of whatever you’re baking… they’re like friends!

But also, in other news…

Mother Nature puts on some pretty amazing shows:

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Day 4 of the Drawing Challenge! Favorite Place… this one was easy :)

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And E and I had a fun date night at the British pub Fox and Goose, in the historic R district of Sacto. Fun fun!

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But. Back to the regularly scheduled programming…

THIS CAKE! IS AMAZING!

Yep. still obsessed with this app.

Yep. still obsessed with this app.

And is gluten free, refined sugar free, and beyond delicious. When I made this, I actually ended up with a much denser consistency than angel food usually has (I have reason to suspect my oven; firstly, it is wee. It’s like half the size of a normal oven, so consequently all of my sheet pans are quarter sized. I feel like a Barbie. But also I do believe it runs hot and heats unevenly. Further research is required; until then it’s an interesting challenge) — but I don’t care, because it is AMAZING! It’s almost… custardy. But also kind of fluffy?! If you can possibly have custard and fluff at the same time, this is it. Mine got a tad overdone on the top half, and I actually pulled it out far sooner than it was supposed to go (hence the suspicion  that my oven runs hot), since it was done and browning quickly. It didn’t rise as much as they normally do, but it has that custardy wonderfulness so E and I definitely don’t care. Add to that, it’s tummy friendly and lower in sugar than most angel food cakes, so it just wins all around.

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That all being said, I highly recommend making it on a Friday afternoon when your week has been rather wretched and you just need some cake. Not that I speak from experience or anything. Nope. Not me..

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Grain Free Maple Angel Food Cake

Made of arrowroot starch, this cake is tummy friendly for IBS, gluten-free, grain free, and paleo. It’s also refined sugar free and lower in sugar than most angel food cakes, which is a bonus in my book for sure. Recipe from Deliciously Organic, here! I didn’t change a thing, as it was perfect as is. Yield: 1 cake (standard angel food pan).

  • 12 egg whites (I used 1 carton = to 10 whites + 2 whites from whole eggs for convenience)
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1.25 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c maple sugar, divided
  • 1 c arrowroot starch
  • whatever toppings float your boat for serving — I made a simple raspberry compote and topped it with a little shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350, and get out your *un-greased* angel food tube pan. You might want to put a cookie sheet down below the cake pan in the oven to account for any leakage — my tube pan tends to leak just a bit out of the bottom. Adjust the rack for the cake to be in the middle of the oven.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites with the lemon juice on medium high until foamy. Add salt, cream of tartar, and vanilla, and continue beating on medium high until soft peaks form, about 1 to 2 minutes.

With the mixer running on medium, slowly add 1/2 c of the maple sugar, a spoonful at a time. Sift the remaining maple sugar and arrowroot starch into a small bowl, and, with the mixer still running, slowly add this to the mixer bowl. Once it’s all added, whip on medium high until completely incorporated (you may need to scrape the sides of the mixer bowl, I did). Pour the batter into your tube pan, and bake for 35-45 minutes*, until the top is golden brown and the cake is puffed.

*Normal ovens are probably done at a minimum of 40 minutes. Mine was excessively brown at 35, and done, though not as puffy as it could be.

Remove the cake from the oven, and immediately invert over the neck of a wine bottle to cool completely — about 1 to 1.5 hours. Cooling it upside-down helps maximize loft! Once the cake is completely cooled, run a knife around the inside of the pans to loosen the sides, and pull the cake + the removable bottom out of the pan. Run a knife along the bottom between the pan and the cake to loosen it fully, then lift off to the serving plate. Decorate at will!

Angel food cake keeps well at room temp for a day or two if it’s not too hot or humid where you are. I’m keeping mine in the fridge and it’s totally fine — cover it with an inverted bowl and it will stay good for several days in the fridge.

Enjoy your perfect bits of cake fluff!

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Sanctioned Birthday Indulgences (ie. Vati’s Annual Cake Nirvana)

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Happy Birthday, Vacuum Vati!

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His birthday was actually Sunday, but since my classes started again last week, I’m back on grad school time which means that all fun, personal things occur at least a day after I actually want them to, if not a few days or a week. Ha. Because grad school is just rude like that sometimes…

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A few days late, but I never want to miss out on a cake opportunity around here. Because, CAKE! Cake is awesome. Especially for birthdays (because then indulgences are sanctioned).

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Since we went chocolate-dark on the cake last year, Vati requested a lighter bourbon cake this year — sort of “dirty south” flavored, with bourbon, vanilla, and pecans. I lifted the cake recipe nearly intact from the Food Network, which is rare, but it was almost exactly what we had in mind, so why mess with a good thing?! I did, of course, make it whole wheat and reduced the sugar (though not quite on par with my usual reductions — it is a birthday, after all!), but then I put my spin on the glaze and candied the pecans (why use just toasted ones when you could candy them?!… Exactly).

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And since I actually made this on Sunday, Vati has been enjoying it since then with a verdict as such: delicious flavor combo, but the cake itself is ever so slightly dry. Solved by means of ice cream liberally spooned over the top, or an extra splash of bourbon poured over to hydrate it… because neither of those things is a bad thing when it comes to this cake.

Happy Birthday Vati!!! I know this year is going to be fantastic and I am thrilled you loved your cake :)

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Bourbon Vanilla Cake with Candied Pecans and Bourbon Glaze

Bourbony vanilla cake that has a lighter texture than a pound cake but is still fairly dense, complimented by a bourbon glaze and candied pecans. The whole wheat flour and addition of coconut sugar takes the sweetness down a notch, but this cake is definitely an occasion cake! And don’t feed it to the children (unless they have a taste for bourbon?!). Recipe adapted from the Food Network, here. Yield: 1 bundt cake + glaze + pecans for extremely liberal garnish.

Ps. This recipe isn’t complicated. But it will basically contrive to dirty every single bowl in your kitchen. Just saying. BUT. It’s worth it!

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For the cake!

  • 2 2/3 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2.25 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 c bourbon
  • 1/2 c milk bev (mine was 1% milk, as that’s what was on hand)
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) of salted butter
  • 1/2 c melted coconut oil
  • scant 1.25 c sugar (mine was about a 1/2 c coconut sugar, the rest white; use whatever blend suits you) + 1/4 c white sugar, divided
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

For the pecans:

  • 1 c raw pecans, chopped
  • 2 tbsp salted butter
  • 3 tbsp coconut sugar

For the glaze:

  • roughly 1 c confectioner’s sugar
  • liberal 1/4 c bourbon
  • 2 tbsp salted butter, soft
  • 1 tsp vanilla

For the pecans (I like to do them first, or even on another day, so that they’re cool when I need them). In a saucepan over medium heat, toast the pecans until fragrant, just a few minutes. Add butter and coconut sugar and toss to combine, stirring frequently until the pecans are evenly coated, the butter is completely melted and the sugar is incorporated. Take off the heat, remove from the pan and let cool in a heatproof container until needed or stored.

For the cake: preheat the oven to 350, and liberally grease a bundt pan with coconut oil or butter. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sea salt and cinnamon, and set aside. In a liquid measuring cup for easy pouring later, measure out the bourbon, milk, and vanilla and whisk together. It will look like it gets a little clumpy, but that’s okay! Set that aside too. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, cream together butter and coconut oil until fluffy. Add 1.25 c of the sugar (whatever blend you choose is fine), and beat to incorporate until fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the liquids, in four batches starting and ending with the dry.

In a non reactive bowl, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form, then dump in the remaining 1/4 c of sugar, and whip until you get stiff peaks, about five minutes more. Fold the egg whites into the batter in thirds. Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan, and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes. This crust makes a great “crust” which forms down at the bottom (when you flip it right-side-up) of the bundt pan — that was my favorite part! Let cool until you can turn it out without burning yourself, then let it cool completely before glazing.

While the cake is baking, make the glaze! Combine powdered sugar, bourbon, melted butter and vanilla in a smallish bowl and whisk vigorously until it’s all combined and delicious. Adjust to your personal taste, but I prefer it heavily bourbony!

Once the cake is cooled, go to town with the drizzle factor and liberally garnish it with candied pecans. And then eat it in rapture because isn’t that what cake is all about?

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Any excuse for a cake

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So! Fourth of July! Always fun in the dessert department, because who doesn’t love an excuse for a celebration-type of dessert. And hold the phone, is it possible that I put something up here that isn’t a bar?! …. *pin drops* No. can’t be.

But it is!

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Shocking.

A CAKE! And a layered one at that, because really, if you’re going to make a cake, why not go big?

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And despite it giving me much grief in the assembly (hot weather and butter-based icing are not really the best of friends), it did turn out rather pretty— Props to E’s mom Jana for the cute little flags! This is a pretty simple cake to put together as well, as the lemon curd can be made ahead of time, and the buttercream comes together in about five seconds.

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This is the first time I’ve made a fun dessert in quite a while… as I mentioned before a few posts back, I’ve been having quite the run of stomach issues lately, and have been attempting to figure out why my digestive system seems to hate me so much of late. Rude. Still no concrete answers, sigh… but one day at a time. I’ve been experimenting with reduced / no gluten,  though the jury is still out on that one. Well actually, jury is still out, period. So, cake. Because I don’t seem to feel much worse when I do eat it, and it was the Fourth! Celebrations should ensue.

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Apologies for the huge gaps between my posts these days… life has been crazy the last few months and isn’t really getting much calmer (in fact, I start grad school in less than a month, so I don’t expect to be able to keep regular posts coming. We’ll see how things shake out!) E and I move in to our apartment the first week of September, so maybe after that things will get a little more normal. We’ll see, nothing is ever normal around here (because normal = boring. ha)

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Whole Wheat Lemon Cake with Lemon Curd and Vanilla Buttercream

Whole grains, healthy fats, and CAKE. Winner, winner. A lightly sweet, lightly lemony cake is complemented by a rich but not too decadent vanilla buttercream, and tart homemade lemon curd. The cake itself is refined sugar free, but there is powdered sugar in the frosting. If you have the time, definitely make homemade lemon curd. It is eons better than the stuff you can buy in the store, and about ten zillion times cheaper. Yield: a 2 layer, 9″ cake + enough buttercream for the filling and the top. I preferred a naked cake look for this one, as it was hot and nobody really wants a mega glut of frosting when it’s over 90 outside… the cake is light but very satisfying, and doesn’t make you feel like you need a nap afterwards! Cake adapted from I Bake, He Shoots, here!

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For the cake:

  • 2.5 c + 4 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • scant 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 c coconut sugar, divided
  • 1 c avocado oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.5 c buttermilk
  • 4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • zest of two medium/good-sized lemons

For the frosting:

  • 1 stick of salted butter
  • 2 c powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp lemon curd

Lemon curd is the same recipe I used about three years ago (but with regular lemons instead of meyer this time); my recipe is here. Yield is about 1-1.5 c. You won’t use it all for the cake, unless you use the extra to top the individual slices. I used some in the buttercream, and some on the top. I suggest making it the day before, and just letting it hang out in a jar in the fridge overnight.

Raspberries, for garnish.

For the cake: preheat the oven to 325, and lightly grease+flour two 9″ cake pans.

In a medium bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, baking soda, and sea salt. Set aside.

In a smaller bowl, mash together the lemon zest and 2 tbsp coconut sugar, until fragrant. Set aside. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to combine remaining sugar, avocado oil, and eggs. Beat until lighter (though because of the coconut sugar, it won’t significantly lighten) and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. Add in lemon zest + sugar mixture. Combine buttermilk, vanilla, and lemon juice (I like using a liquid measure for easy pouring). Alternating dry ingredients and wet, add them to the larger bowl with the sugar/oil/eggs, starting and ending with flour. Do not overmix. Pour the batter into the prepared pans, and bake for 30-35 minutes—the tops should spring back when touched lightly, and a tester should come out clean.

Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

For the buttercream:

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat softened butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Add in 2 tbsp of lemon curd, and beat briefly to combine.

Frost the cooled cake as desired — I did a layer of buttercream/curd in the center, and topped the cake with the majority of the buttercream + another layer of lemon curd. Be careful of the cake sliding — my kitchen was hot so I ended up skewering the cake for transport, and letting it set up in the fridge for several hours prior to serving. Garnish with raspberries or another berry of your choice! Serve with extra lemon curd, because it’s basically the food of the gods..

Store covered cake in the fridge, assuming you have any leftovers!

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My cakes are a little bit nuts, just like me!

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Happy Holidays!!

And Happy Birthday, Elliott!!! Yayyyyy for boyfriend birthday because excessive CAKE! I had super fun making this huge shenanigan of a cake and surprising him with it. Birthdays are an excuse for excess (like I needed an excuse but shhhhhh), so thank you for making an appearance on this charming blue sphere! Not only do I get to make you cake, but I also get to be in your life!! And that is absolutely the best part :)

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I loooove this time of year. With extra o’s I love it so much. [Side note. I do NOT like grocery shopping this time of year. And as anyone who knows me will attest, I happily can spend forever wandering around the store usually… but not this time of year. No way. I don’t like throwing elbows to get to the last can of pumpkin, thank you].

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Also I LOVE that it is insanely pouring over here in California. We need it like I need almond butter. AND it’s snowing in the mountains and we know what that means! I get to get out my K2 babies again for the first time in far too long. Ahhh. Skiing.

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But first….

Christmas!!!

And lights! And cookies! And family! Raaaaiiiinnnn. Tinsel (or not. Jessie would eat it), cozy fires, blankets, human snuggles, cat snuggles, ginger things, an excess of tea, giving, sharing, loving.

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AND! Elliott’s birthday :) Oh heyyyy, December baby! The birthday boy requested a turtle theme for his dessert… so of course I obliged and then some. Because I really don’t do things by halves. Rich chocolate bourbon cake (mostly chocolatey, with just a touch of bourbon to give it depth) with caramel buttercream topped with salted coconut caramel drizzle+candied pecans. If that isn’t a fitting birthday treat, I don’t know what is… OH and obviously we ate it with Strauss vanilla ice cream because HELLO cake+ice cream = match made in heaven annnnnd really why not?!

Happy Birthday, E! I love you :)

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Chocolate Bourbon cake with Caramel Buttercream, Caramel Drizzle and Candied Pecans

This cake is really just a wonderful confluence of tastes and textures. It’s not hard to put together, despite having multiple parts… I candied the pecans the day before I baked the cake and made the caramel, and then I made buttercream and assembled it all the next day (Due to travel constraints). Everything turned out perfectly! Everything is refined sugar free (uses maple and coconut sugar), and the cake is whole wheat. And butter is just good for your soul. Store it covered in the fridge after it’s frosted, and eat it with good quality vanilla ice cream. Obviously. You’re already eating cake, why not add a little ice cream?! Life is short.

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Chocolate Bourbon Cake

I adapted mine from the one I made for my dad’s birthday, since that one was so good with whiskey. This one is chocolatey and dense, with bourbon adding a depth of flavor. Original is here.

  • 1.5 c coconut sugar
  • 2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 c lowfat buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c avocado oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c warm water
  • 1/4 (or closer to 1/3… I went heavy handed) c good quality bourbon
  • 1/2 c extra dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350, and grease the living daylights out of two standard 9″ cake pans {I use coconut oil for greasing}. Combine 1 tbsp flour+1 tbsp cocoa powder, and flour the inside of the pans, tapping out all the excess.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, sifted cocoa, baking powder+soda, salt, and five spice until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, avocado oil, and vanilla. Pour wet into dry, and use an electric mixer to beat until just combined. Add water and bourbon, and continue mixing until just barely incorporated (don’t over mix, puhhleeez). Stir in the chocolate chips, and pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean. Let cool on a rack in the pans until cool enough to handle, then flip out and cool completely (the cake, not you. I know the cake is fabby but don’t flip out. You can eat it… soon!!).

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Salted Coconut Caramel Drizzle

Makes more than enough to drizzle over cake while frosting, plus more for drizzle purposes just prior to eating. AND has enough for leftovers later. Win win win. The yield is somewhere around 2.5 cups of caramel. You’ll use at least 1/2 of a generous cup for the buttercream, and then at least another 1/2 cup for drizzle. Originally from this cake, here!

  • 2 cans full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 c pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 c coconut sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • scant 1 tsp fine sea salt

In a saucepan over medium high heat, combine coconut milk, maple, and coconut sugar. Let it boil, then turn it down so it’s just barely boiling, with the bubbles just breaking the surface. Whisking continuously, cook for 15-20 minutes, until the caramel has thickened slightly (though it will still be a runny caramel, that’s fine), the liquid has reduced, and the color is darker. I cooked mine for a bit over 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, butter, and sea salt, and whisk until smooth. Let cool completely in the pan, then store in a sealed jar in the fridge [because we know I store everything in jars anyway].

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Caramel Buttercream

Yields enough to frost the top and and between layers of a 9″, two layer cake with a little leftover. If you decide you want to frost the sides, make a double batch of buttercream. Be aware that this cake tends to pull up into the frosting, so a crumb coat would definitely be necessary if you’re into neat-looking cakes (I do not fall into this category. I want my cakes rustic, messy and delicious. And kind of nuts, just like me). Originally from my Banana Caramel Cake, here.

  • 1/2 c grass fed, unsalted butter
  • 1/2 c caramel sauce (recipe above)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1.5 c powdered sugar

In a largeish bowl, use a hand mixer to beat together butter, caramel sauce, vanilla, and sea salt until mostly incorporated and smooth(don’t worry if at first it looks a little grainy, mine smoothed right out after I beat in the sugar). Pour in powdered sugar, and beat until a silky frosting forms. The texture is a little different than standard buttercream, with the addition of the caramel,  but it is silky and delicious. Chill in the fridge for a few minutes before frosting if you want it a little firmer.

Candied Pecans

  • 1.5 c raw pecans
  • 3 tbsp salted butter
  • 3 tbsp coconut sugar

In a saucepan, toast pecans over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add butter, swirling pecans and butter chunk around until everything is nice and foamy and melty. Toss in coconut sugar, and keep stirring so nothing burns for about 4-5 more minutes. The sugar should start to get sticky, like it’s turning into caramel. Remove from heat and put the pecans into a heat proof container to cool completely before storage or use.

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Assembly!

Pop the first cake layer on a plate of choice. Smear buttercream goodness all over the top, drizzle with some caramel and maybe a few candied pecans, then top all that with the next layer and more buttercream+caramel+pecans. I opted for a naked cake this time since I like the way the layers look, but feel free to frost the sides if that’s your jam (though you’ll need to make extra buttercream). I topped mine excessively with extra caramel drizzle and candied pecans because BIRTHDAY! Store covered in the fridge and eat within a few days for best cakeness (can dry out if not eaten expediently, but it’s so good I doubt that will be a problem).

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