Friday, 9 September 2011

The Academic: Raw Cake

Raw Cake

There's a reason I'm "The Academic". I don't cook. It's not that I can't... well, maybe it is. I've just never really had the time or necessity to do it, and when you're surrounded by people who already cook (very well), what are you going to do?

Become a linguist, apparently.

That said, I do have the occasional foray into the world of "cooking", mainly when I decide I want to make something I'm seriously under-qualified for. Excluding two truly awful, awful dishes I made in Grade 8 Home Economics (let's never go there), so far in my life, I've made ravioli and pizza from scratch, and a salmon (pre-vegan!) dish. And a pasta dish I invented.

But that's all in the past. Or so we thought.

A couple of weeks ago, I was searching around online and found "The Raw Chef". I've always been interested in raw food (not as a full time thing, but good (read: gourmet) raw food is amazing), so I thought "Yeah, sure, I'll sign up for your newsletter".

Turns out, if you sign up for his newsletter, he gives you an ebook of recipes! Raw food recipes!

Such excite!

The final recipe in the book was for a raw chocolate cake. So, because I thought it would be interesting, and as a surprise for my darling Matthew, I decided I'd make it.

Little did I know what I was in for.

Ultimately, it was relatively easy. But if you're a first timer, like I was, I have a few tips that could help you along the way, either by making it easier, or by scaring you off before you start.

Cleaning Up
Making the cake wasn't so much complicated as time consuming. And utensil consuming. If you hate cleaning your blender, or your food processor, avoid making the cake, as it uses both. Though the end result is quite delicious, so maybe you'll realise it was worth it.

On the Wallet
It's also quite expensive. While you will probably have at least some of the ingredients already, there are a couple that you probably won't. Cacao/cocoa butter and coconut oil aren't something most of us have sitting around our kitchens, and they can be quite expensive, and sometimes quite difficult to find. Additionally, you only use a small amount of each in the recipe, so you may end up paying quite a lot for a large container of either (or both), just so you can make this one recipe.

The experience alone may be worth it, and you may end up making heaps of cakes, but the last thing you want is to spend $20-30 only to have it sit in your cupboard for months, or years, until one day you find it (or something that used to be it) and have to throw it out.

So, before you invest:

  • Shop around; organic/health food stores are often the best places to look, but (as you're probably aware) they often vary greatly in how they price things, so don't get them as soon as you see them. Then again, your local supermarket might have them, so look carefully!
  • Find other recipes that use the ingredients; then if/when you have heaps left, you have other things you can make with them. Of course, maybe you'll just keep on making the same cake!
Speaking of Cocoa Butter and Coconut Oil...
The reason these are used in raw desserts is that they have quite a low melting temperature, so a raw cake will set in the fridge and then melt in your mouth. This does make working with them slightly tricky, though, as just the warmth of your hands will make them melt. Of course, to make the recipe, you do want them to melt, but you want them to melt in the bowl, not all over your hands (especially after your paid all that money for it!). Before working with them, run your hands under cold water, or wear gloves, so as little as possible will be wasted. You should also start melting them right at the start, so they'll be ready to go when you need them.

You Don't Need a Vitamix!
As much as we'd all like one... We have Kitchenaid blender and food processor, and they performed quite well, well enough for the recipe. Of course, if you don't have a high-powered blender/appliance, you will need to do some things differently. I soaked the cashews before I started the recipe so they'd be nice and soft before I blended them. When it got to the "Blend everything!" part, things got a little trickier. At first, the mixture wasn't liquid enough for the blender to blend, so I had to take matters into my own hands.

  1. Mix the cocoa into the cashew mixture so it doesn't fly around everywhere.
  2. When it's mostly mixed in, remove most of the mixture and put in another container.
  3. Put back some of the more cocoa-y mixture and blend until the mixture seems to settle. Scrape down the sides, add a little more of the cocoa mixture in and blend again.
  4. Take out about half and replace with more of the cocoa-y mixture. Be sure not to over fill or your blender will have a heart-attack.
  5. Repeat step 3 and 4 until all mixture is blended together. In the end, it should all be a similar texture and colour. Don't be too stressed if it isn't, as long as it looks like the cocoa is mixed through properly and isn't sitting in one lump.
It's incredibly time-consuming, and you'll probably get quite messy (as well as that part of the kitchen), but it's that or shell out a thousand or so for a Vitamix.

Well, two thousand, since you're buying me one. Please? :D

In The Beginning
When you're standing in your kitchen about to start, STOP. There are a few things you should do before you even consider starting.

  1. Put the cashews (or whatever other nuts are being used as the base for the cake itself) and water in the blender so the nuts can soak while you're making the base.
  2. Fill a bowl with hot water. Measure out how much coconut oil you'll need and put it in another bowl over the top of the hot water (like a double boiler, but not boiling), so it will melt. That way, it will be ready when you need it. It may be worth giving it a bit of a mix in between the other steps so it all melts. I put it in a glass, so then it's easier to pour when you have to add it into the mixture.
  3. You may also want to sort out the cocoa butter at the start. Otherwise, you can do it after you've made the base so it can melt while you're blending everything else for the cake.
And Just a few final tips:
  1. The recipe I used asked for a 9" torte pan, and even though ours is that size (slightly larger, I think), it's slightly shallower. So, rather than waste the extra mixture, I just made another smaller cake in a bowl.
  2. The cake will have to set, so plan accordingly! This is probably a weekend/day off work/"hi, I'm a university student" cake. If you can, make it earlier in the day and just leave it in the fridge, so it's ready to eat after dinner.
  3. Don't serve it with ice cream! I made that mistake (as you can see in the picture). As I said above, the point of raw cakes is that they melt in your mouth, but if your mouth is really cold, they can't melt as well, so they end up tasting like really expensive, slightly chocolate... nothings, really.
  4. BUT do serve it with something else. The recipe I used had a cream and sauce that it was meant to be served with, but I didn't make them. If the recipe includes something you might consider a condiment, it's probably there for a reason. As such, we just put some jam (proper jam, not IXL!) on top of it, which went perfectly.
End the end, it was a lot of work, but, especially if you're making it for someone you love, it's all worth it.

Will this be my first and last foray into raw food? Probably not. Will I be making any more of it myself? Well... I guess only time will tell.

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