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  • Writer's pictureKelly

"Autumn Harvest" Raw Chessboard Cake (Flavors: Pumpkin Cheesecake, Golden Milk Macchiato, and Fig Caramel) (Raw, Vegan, Paleo, GF, Refined Sugar Free, Oil-Free, Natural, Nut-Free/Coconut-Free Option)

I'm back!! Happy Holidays and Happy 2024 to everyone! As it turns out, I am now able to afford to upgrade and get more storage for The Dimpled Date, which means... MORE NEW RECIPES IN THE NEW YEAR!! (woot woot!). Here's a fall-time recipe that really should've been posted last September or October (and could've been smh), but that I couldn't post based on website issues... it's the next big raw cake on The Dimpled Date: my "Autumn Harvest" Raw Chessboard Cake! It features raw cake slices in three different flavors: Pumpkin Cheesecake, Golden Milk Macchiato Cake, and Fig Caramel Cake. And all are incrrrredibly delicious (and aesthetically pleasing!). The filling in all three flavors of this raw cake is incredibly smooth and silky, and the Fig and Golden Milk Macchiato flavors have an über-sweet, ooey-gooey layer of mesquite date caramel and golden milk date caramel, respectively. The pumpkin cheesecake has just the right amount of pumpkin, sweetness, and spice, and the golden milk macchiato is incredibly rich, spicy, and sweet. The fig caramel cake is satisfying, and you just can't beat the purple filling! And the autumnal colors of the cake and the playing pieces on top of each slice are just too fun and scream fall! Make this cake any time of the year to be transported to autumn paradise!






I'm back (finally)! More new recipes (hOorAY!)!


This "Autumn Harvest" Raw Chessboard Cake gives all the fall vibes and comes in flavors that will keep you going back for more. My personal favorite flavor is the raw Pumpkin Cheesecake, but they're all good. Oh, and if you want you can just make one of the flavors of this cake (instead of 3 separate flavors). To do this, just triple the ingredients for one cake flavor of your choice (so triple the ingredients for the Fig Caramel Cake Filling, the Pumpkin Cheesecake Filling, OR the Golden Milk Macchiato Cake Filling, but NOT the base filling), add these to the base filling, and make it in a 7" square cake ring OR an 8" round cake ring before chilling, slicing, and decorating.


This cake is 100% raw, vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar free, and naturally colored, as always. This time around, it's also paleo and oil-free too! I wish I could provide a version of this recipe that is 100% nut-free and coconut-free too... (I was only 2 ingredients away from having an option to make it nut- and coconut-free. UGH!). For my nut-free readers, check out the "Substitutions" section for some ingredients you can try and experiment with as substitutes to make this cake 100% nut- and coconut-free with the chance of very mixed results!


With this cake I made 5 x 5 rows of slices using a silicone cube mold to make each individual slice (so no cutting required), different from my Raw Date-Sweetened "Nutella" Chessboard Cake (which I made in a large square mold then cut into individual slices). But you can make this Autumn Harvest raw cake in a 7" square mold and cut the finished cake into slices no problem! Besides not needing to slice the finished cake, another benefit of using silicone cube molds is that you can have more than one flavor of cake (here I have 3 separate flavors, which I wouldn't have been able to achieve if using a single square cake ring).





While this cake has a lot of steps, it makes for the perfect cake for fall or an autumn-themed party. And it's well worth it, trust me! The Golden Milk Macchiato flavor is beyond good, think golden milk + caramel. It's got a rich, spicy, sweet, creamy golden filling with a gooey layer of sweet turmeric spice caramel and a satisfying crunchy-chewy pecan-date crust. The Pumpkin Cheesecake flavor has a magnificent firm yet creamy cheesecake-esque consistency and is honestly incredibly delicious, balancing pumpkin, spice, and sweetness impeccably. The Fig Caramel cake is pleasant with a fruity purple filling and a yummy layer of sticky mesquite date caramel. Honestly, the Fig Caramel is my least favorite of the three flavors, but it's still good and just too pretty!


This cake is perfect to kick off fall, for an autumn birthday, or for a harvest-themed party. And all the ingredients are available year-round, except you might have a little more difficulty finding the figs any time of the year besides fall. If your local grocery store sells fresh figs year-round or you grow your own figs and have some defrosted frozen ones, you're in luck! These will work perfectly for this cake. If you're using frozen, just make sure the figs are 100% defrosted before using (I like to pop them in a bowl and place them in the fridge overnight, and by the morning they should be defrosted). To see variations of the flavors of this cake for other seasonal fruits you can use, check out the "Substitutions" section of this post.


This tricolor cake is sure to dazzle with its warm colors, square shape, and the "playing pieces" on top of each slice. Honestly, you can use anything for the playing pieces, so long as it looks good, is edible (or can be removed prior to enjoying), and is ideally fall-themed or seasonal. For my cake, I used halved fresh figs, crushed raw pecans, whole star anise (remove before eating), homemade mini pumpkin energy balls (included in recipe), and the leftover date caramel piped on top of some of the slices. Some other ideas:


  1. leaf-shaped vegan white chocolates (see this and this post for my date-sweetened vegan white chocolate recipes) (color the chocolate w/ red/orange/yellow natural food coloring and pour into leaf molds)

  2. red/orange/yellow/purple kohakutou (Japanese crystal candy) (see this post for a refined sugar free natural kohakutou recipe)

  3. seasonal flowers (e.g. nasturtium, marigold, pansies, rose blossoms, chamomile, violets, lavender, lilac, borage, etc.) (red, orange, yellow, and purple flowers would look particularly nice!)

  4. vegan/refined sugar free pumpkin cups (like PB cups, but a pumpkin white choco version)

  5. fresh rosehips (hairy seeds removed) (foraged or store-bought, if foraging just make sure you ID the rosehips correctly and be wary of poisonous look-alikes!)


6. turmeric coconut whipped cream (vegan and refined sugar free)


7. leftover filling creams, piped on top


And any fresh nuts, seeds, berries, or whole spices would work perfectly, as well. Wanna see some of the new recipes I'm working on? Read on!


Below are some images of my Candida-friendly sourdough experiments in the kitchen (yes, you read that right)! It turns out my intestinal Candida albicans infection has come back with a vengeance, but I haven't been on antibiotics or been reinfected with Lyme's (now that I'm negative), so the only fathomable cause of the Candida infection is unfortunately simple: I've been indulging in maple-sweetened and coconut-sugar-sweetened goodies too much. Hence, this "Autumn Harvest" Raw Chessboard Cake is one of the last maple-sweetened recipes you'll see on here for a while. For now, it's back to fruit! Which brings me to my preview of Candida-friendly Sourdough Rolled (Supreme) Croissants that are vegan/gluten-free/date-sweetened/baked/and made w/ homemade gluten-free sourdough starter (100% from scratch, no sachet of GF store-bought starter needed to make it!):







In the last picture above, I had molded the vegan/GF sourdough brioche dough into a rose prior to baking. I'm still perfecting this recipe, so stay tuned for photo updates of the finished product! I'm also experimenting with vegan/GF/date-sweetened sourdough bread in the kitchen and numerous other Candida-friendly sourdough recipes. "Why sourdough? Especially on the Candida diet?" you may ask. Well, it turns out sourdough can be safe for some people with a Candida gut infection, and can be a good way to get in a small amount of healthy fresh yeast and large amounts of beneficial bacteria that can help rebalance the gut microbiome. Plus, sourdough bread makes a great alternative to yeasted bread because pure yeast isn't allowed on the Candida diet, especially when it's not fresh natural yeast that occurs from natural fermentation, and sourdough does the leavening of the bread in place of yeast to make it more like a conventional freshly baked loaf of bread from the bakery. The caveat to sourdough and the Candida diet? You want the sourdough bread to be gluten-free, date-sweetened (or unsweetened), AND made with homemade GF sourdough starter (I make this using just brown rice flour, warm water, and a jar for fermenting!). Sound difficult to come up with a recipe for Candida-friendly bread? Yeah, it is. Hence, why I will be perfecting my recipe and posting it here ASAP to share with all of you! Keep posted..





Psst... hey you, wanna hear some more recipes I'm working on?? Read on!


Valentine's Day (and Galentine's Day) are coming up! So, you know what that means... Valentine's recipes <3 In the past, I've had several Valentine's/Galentine's recipes, such as:



And others. This year, I want to reinvent my delectable Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes (a fan and customer favorite), except make them matcha + white chocolate + rose. I also want to make a black + white caramel version of my lava cakes, made of marbled chocolate and vanilla lava cake batters stuffed with dark chocolate, white chocolate, and caramel. Both of these flavors of lava cakes (White Matcha Rose and Black & White Caramel) would be 100% date-sweetened. I also want to make a raw cake of some sort for Valentine's Day, but I'm not sure what kind to make. Have any ideas? Drop your flavor + color suggestions in the comments!


I've also been experimenting with macarons, like a mad healthy scientist baker in the kitchen trying with everything I've got to make date-sweetened vegan macarons, let alone refined sugar free vegan macarons, to no avail. But I'm not giving up yet! Keep posted for the latest on my macaron experiments.





Substitutions


For the crust, the dates can't really be substituted, but you can use any variety of dates, such as Medjool or Deglet Noor. I can't guarantee this, but MAYBE unsweetened raisins or another unsweetened dried fruit would work in place of the dates. Just keep in mind that raisins and other dried fruits will yield a more fruity crust. The raw unsalted pecans in the crust can be substituted with raw unsalted walnuts, raw unsalted hazelnuts, raw unsalted pumpkin seeds, raw unsalted almonds, OR your raw unsalted nuts/seeds of choice. Use activated if you wish (soaked overnight in cold water w/ a pinch of sea salt, drain & rinse, then dehydrate at 115 F for 24-48 hrs until hard and dry). The cinnamon in the crust can be either Ceylon or Cassia cinnamon, your choice. Or, you could use 1/4 tsp ground cloves OR 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg in place of the cinnamon. Alternatively, you may omit the spices in the crust.


For the base filling, the soaked raw cashews are tricky to replace, but you can use soaked raw unsalted macadamia nuts instead. For a nut-free/coconut-free base for the base filling you can *try* soaked raw unsalted pumpkin seeds AKA pepitas. *PLEASE NOTE: I have NOT tried the filling with pumpkin seeds and therefore CANNOT guarantee the same results. This is just my best guess, but be wary that this may yield mixed results. I am perfecting several nut-free/coconut-free raw cake recipes based on pumpkin seeds, so keep an eye out for those. If you try the base filling with soaked raw pumpkin seeds, please, please, please tell me how it turned out in the comments!! (see below for a coconut/butter oil substitute). For the unsweetened plant milk, you can use any kind of plant milk, so long as it's unsweetened (can be homemade or store-bought). Instead of plant milk, you could try filtered water OR coconut water. The maple syrup can be substituted with coconut nectar, agave syrup, date syrup, yacon syrup, OR honey (if not strictly vegan). Keep in mind that the date syrup and yacon syrup may make the cakes darker in color and more molasses-y/denser in flavor. I'm not sure how to suggest using a dry sweetener as a substitute, so I have no recommendations for dry sweeteners. The raw almond butter can be replaced with softened coconut butter OR your raw nut/seed butter of choice, such as tahini, raw walnut butter, raw pecan butter, raw pumpkin seed (pepita) butter, raw sunflower seed butter, raw cashew butter, raw macadamia nut butter, raw hazelnut butter, etc., just make sure it's raw and unsweetened. Alternatively, you could try using roasted almond butter OR another milder roasted nut/seed butter, such as roasted cashew butter OR roasted tahini. The nut/seed butter can't be substituted. The cinnamon is important, so it can't be omitted but you may use either Ceylon ("true") cinnamon or cassia cinnamon. The vanilla extract is important for the flavor of the base filling, but you can use an equivalent amount of scraped vanilla bean, pure ground vanilla beans, OR sugar-free vanilla powder/paste/syrup instead. I do not recommend omitting the vanilla. If you must, use 1/2 tsp natural coconut extract instead. The sea salt can be replaced with table salt. The coconut butter is key for the texture of this cake, but you may use melted coconut oil (melted before measuring) instead OR you could try using your raw nut/seed butter of choice (e.g. pumpkin seed/pepita butter, sunflower butter, etc.) in place of the coconut butter/coconut oil with mixed results. The coconut oil substitute will definitely work, not sure abt sub-ing nut/seed butter for the coconut butter for structural/stability/consistency purposes. I wouldn't recommend substituting with cacao butter because this will add a bold white chocolate flavor. But if you're ok with that flavor potentially stealing the show of all 3 cake flavors, then by all means, that's a perfect substitute for the coconut butter/coconut oil structurally/stability wise (just do 25 to 35 grams cacao butter + 30 to 50 grams of your seed butter of choice, just make sure the total in grams between these two ingredients adds up to 75 grams).


For the Fig Caramel Cake filling, you can use any variety of fresh figs, homegrown or store-bought. See the "Variations of this cake" paragraph, below, for more ideas on fruits you can use instead of the figs + different flavor variations. You can also use defrosted frozen figs instead. For the cinnamon in the Fig Caramel Cake filling, you can substitute ground cloves OR ground nutmeg OR ground ginger. For the cloves, you can replace them with ground nutmeg, ground allspice, ground cardamom, OR even try ground star anise, for adding a light anise/licorice flavor. The orange zest can be substituted with lemon zest OR even grapefruit zest. Likewise, the freshly squeezed orange juice can be replaced with freshly squeezed lemon juice. And ofc you can use store-bought orange juice instead, so long as it's unsweetened. The vanilla bean powder for the Fig Caramel Cake filling can be replaced with 1/4 tsp vanilla extract per batch or may be omitted. The maple syrup can be replaced with agave, honey (if not strictly vegan), coconut nectar, yacon syrup, OR date syrup. Now, you can leave the Fig Caramel Cake filling its natural color (an off-white/beige/brown) or you can color it purple, using purple sweet potato powder OR blue spirulina + dragon fruit powder/beet powder OR your natural/vegan purple food coloring of choice.


For the Pumpkin Cheesecake filling, you can use fresh homemade OR store-bought 100% pure pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling). See "Variations of this cake" section below for alternatives and flavor variations. Instead of the pumpkin spice (AKA pumpkin pie spice), you can use 1 tsp ground cinnamon OR make DIY pumpkin spice: simply mix together equal parts ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, ground cardamom, and ground allspice in a small bowl, mix/whisk together, and use 1 tsp of this in your Pumpkin Cheesecake filling. DO NOT omit the spice. The maple syrup in the Pumpkin Cheesecake filling can be substituted with agave, honey (if not strictly vegan), coconut nectar, yacon syrup, OR date syrup.


For the Golden Milk Cake filling, you can use any unsweetened plant milk, such as unsweetened rice milk, unsweetened almond milk, unsweetened cashew milk, unsweetened oat milk, unsweetened coconut milk, unsweetened pumpkin seed (pepita) milk, etc. You can use homemade OR store-bought plant milk. Instead, you could try using coconut water OR filtered water OR unsweetened dairy-free kefir OR strongly brewed turmeric tea (made w/ just turmeric and/or with other herbs such as meadowsweet/ginger). The ground turmeric is essential because this flavor is Golden Milk Cake. I haven't tried this recipe with fresh turmeric root, and wouldn't be able to give guidance as to how much to use in place of ground. But, see the "Variations of this cake" paragraph, below, for a flavor variation w/o the turmeric. For the Golden Milk Cake filling, you can use Ceylon or cassia cinnamon. The ground ginger can't be replaced. The ground cloves can be substituted with additional ground nutmeg OR ground allspice. Likewise, the ground nutmeg can be substituted with additional ground cloves OR ground allspice. The black pepper is important to enable your body to have a better absorption of the antioxidant curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric that gives it its color and flavor and has health benefits such as gut health and fighting inflammation. If you don't want the black pepper, you may omit it. The cardamom is optional, but you can replace it with a pinch of ground allspice OR a pinch of ground star anise. The maple syrup can be substituted with agave, honey (if not strictly vegan), coconut nectar, yacon syrup, OR date syrup.


For the base date caramel layer, you can substitute the raw almond butter with your raw nut/seed butter of choice, such as raw cashew butter, raw macadamia butter, raw tahini, OR raw pumpkin seed (pepita) butter. Use activated nut/seed butter if desired. The maple syrup can be replaced with agave, honey, coconut nectar, date syrup, OR yacon syrup. The dates cannot be substituted in the date caramel (this is date caramel), but you may use any variety. The vanilla can be replaced with an equivalent amount of scraped vanilla bean, pure ground vanilla beans, OR sugar-free vanilla powder/paste/syrup. The sea salt can be replaced with table salt. The maca powder (not to be confused with matcha) in the base caramel is optional but can be replaced with mesquite powder.


For the golden milk caramel layer, you may omit just the turmeric and keep the other spices for a plain chai spice caramel. All other spices in this caramel shouldn't be substituted or omitted.


For the pumpkin energy balls for the playing piece garnish, you can use any nut or seed butter, raw, activated, or roasted OR you can use softened coconut butter. The coconut flour can be replaced with superfine blanched almond flour OR gluten-free oat flour. The date paste can be replaced with 2 to 4 Tbsp maple syrup/agave/honey, to taste. The pumpkin spice can be replaced with ground cinnamon. The vanilla can be replaced with a pinch of ground vanilla beans, or it can be omitted. The pinch of sea salt is optional but can be replaced with a pinch of table salt. The pumpkin puree can be substituted with cooked sweet potato puree OR cooked butternut squash puree. To make little stems on the pumpkins, you can use unsweetened cacao nibs (tiny edible cacao/cocoa bean fragments) OR your mini vegan chocolate chips of choice (sugar-free, as needed). Alternatively, you could try a raw sunflower seed OR a whole flaxseed stuck in the top of each pumpkin energy ball! For a green "leaf" on the pumpkin energy balls, you could try a small football-shaped pepita (raw pumpkin seed) stuck near the "stem."


Variations of this cake: instead of Golden Milk Macchiato Cake, you can make it a Chai Macchiato Cake. Simply omit the turmeric in the filling and date caramel, and to the filling add a pinch of allspice and replace the plant milk with strong-brewed black tea. Instead of the Fig Caramel Cake, you can try using a different fruit instead of the figs, such as fresh or defrosted cranberries (color the filling pink/red using dragon fruit powder or beet powder OR natural food coloring AND adjust sweetness w/ additional maple/agave/honey as needed). OR you can replace the fresh figs in the Fig Caramel Cake filling with fresh pears OR fresh chopped apples. And instead of Pumpkin Cheesecake, you can try substituting the pumpkin with cooked and mashed sweet potato OR cooked and mashed butternut squash. Alternatively, you could replace the pumpkin puree with unsweetened apple butter for an Apple Pie Cheesecake sort of thing.






Future Recipes Sneak Peek... Once Again!


It's that TIIIME! The "Future Recipes Sneak Peek" is here yet again because of my long absence from The Dimpled Date between Fall and early Winter of 2023. But I'm back, and as a thank you for holding out, I will reveal another 3 new recipes headed to The Dimpled Date soon, even though I only give this sneak peek once every three posts (I did it in my last post too). 3 new recipes I've been experimenting with and that are on their way to The Dimpled Date soon include:


  1. Healthy Spirulina Smoothie (High Protein, Veggie-, Fruit-, & Superfood-Rich!)

  2. Date-Sweetened Quadruple Peanut Butter Cookies (Surprisingly Low-Fat and High-Protein)

  3. Healthy Mini Rainbow Funfetti Vanilla Baked Cake (this one is previewed on the new "Gallery" section of my website!)


...AND MORE. Stay hungry!


Thanks for checking out The Dimpled Date, hope you like this recipe and try some of the other ones! :)


Enjoy!

-K.



"Autumn Harvest" Raw Chessboard Cake (Flavors: Pumpkin Cheesecake, Golden Milk Macchiato, and Fig Caramel) (Raw, Vegan, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar Free, Naturally Colored, Oil-Free) (see notes for nut-free/coconut-free option)


Soak Time (inactive time): 8 hours

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 0 minutes

Chill Time (inactive time): at least 5 to 6 hours (or pref. overnight) PLUS 30 min

Total Time: at least one overnight PLUS 6 1/2 hrs (don't be intimidated the vast majority of this is inactive time)

Servings: 30 one-inch square slices of cake (made in 1" silicone cube molds) OR one 7" square cake if doing only one flavor (OR one 8" round cake if doing only one flavor)


Ingredients (crust):


-150 grams // 1 heaping cup pitted dates (pref. Medjool), soaked 20 min in hot water


-200 grams // abt 2 cups dry raw unsalted pecans OR raw activated pecans (can sub raw walnuts OR raw hazelnuts OR raw pumpkin seeds AKA pepitas)


-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (pref. Ceylon)


Ingredients (for the base filling)*:


-200 grams // 1 1/2 cups raw unsalted cashews, soaked overnight in cold water w/ a pinch of sea salt OR 1 hour in hot water*


-75 ml // scant 1/3 cup unsweetened plant milk (homemade or store-bought)**


-115 ml // 1/2 cup 100% pure maple syrup (can sub agave, coconut nectar, OR honey)


-50 grams // 1/4 cup raw or activated almond butter (OR softened coconut butter OR raw or activated nut/seed butter of choice)***


-3/4 tsp ground cinnamon (pref. Ceylon)


-2 tsp vanilla extract


-1/4 tsp sea salt


-75 grams // 6 Tbsp softened coconut butter (measured before melting) OR 75 ml melted coconut oil (measured after melting)*


Ingredients (for the Fig Caramel Cake filling):


-150 grams // approx. 1 cup fresh figs (can sub defrosted frozen)


-1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (pref. Ceylon)


-1/8 tsp ground cloves (can sub nutmeg, allspice, OR cardamom)


-(optional): zest of one orange (can sub lemon zest)


-1 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice (can sub lemon juice)


-1/8 tsp pure ground vanilla beans OR 1/4 tsp vanilla extract


-30 ml // 2 Tbsp 100% pure maple syrup (can sub agave, coconut nectar, OR honey)


-(optional): 1 1/2 tsp purple sweet potato powder OR vegan/natural purple food coloring of choice (to color purple)


Ingredients (for the Pumpkin Cheesecake filling):


-50 grams // 3 Tbsp 2 tsp 100% pure pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling) (can sub cooked mashed sweet potato OR cooked mashed butternut squash)


-1 tsp pumpkin spice (can sub ground cinnamon)


-30 ml // 2 Tbsp 100% pure maple syrup (can sub agave, coconut nectar, OR honey)


Ingredients (for the Golden Milk Macchiato Cake filling):


-30 ml // 2 Tbsp 1 tsp unsweetened plant milk (homemade or store-bought)**


-1 tsp ground turmeric


-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (pref. Ceylon)


-1/2 tsp ground ginger


-1/4 tsp ground cloves


-1/4 tsp ground nutmeg


-few cracks black pepper


-(optional): pinch cardamom


-45 ml // 3 Tbsp 100% pure maple syrup (can sub agave OR coconut nectar OR honey)


Ingredients (for the base date caramel layer for Golden Milk Macchiato and Fig Caramel Cake flavors):


-75 grams // 1/4 cup raw or activated almond butter OR raw/activated nut/seed butter of choice (can sub roasted nut/seed butter)***


-75 ml // scant 1/3 cup 100% pure maple syrup (can sub agave, coconut nectar, OR honey)


-275 grams // heaping 1 3/4 cup pitted dates (pref. Medjool), soaked 30 min in hot water


-2 tsp vanilla extract


-1/2 tsp sea salt


-(optional): 1/2 tsp maca powder (NOT matcha) OR 1/2 tsp mesquite powder


Ingredients (for the Golden Milk Caramel layer):


-1/2 tsp ground turmeric


-1/4 tsp ground ginger


-1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (pref. Ceylon)


-1/8 tsp ground cloves


-1/8 tsp ground nutmeg


-few cracks black pepper


Ingredients (for the Pumpkin Energy Balls for playing piece garnish) (optional):


-150 grams // 1/2 cup nut/seed butter of choice (such as almond or cashew) OR softened coconut butter


-20 grams // 3 Tbsp coconut flour (can sub almond flour OR oat flour)


-abt 75 grams // 1/4 cup date paste (Detoxinista has a great recipe!)


-1/2 tsp pumpkin spice (can sub ground cinnamon)


-1/4 tsp vanilla extract


-pinch sea salt (optional)


-30 grams // 2 Tbsp 100% pure pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling) OR cooked & mashed sweet potato (can sub cooked & mashed butternut squash)


Ideas for garnishes for playing pieces:


-Pumpkin Energy Balls (above) either natural color or dipped in naturally orange-colored vegan white chocolate or naturally orange-colored melted coconut butter w/ a cacao nib or mini vegan chocolate chip as a "stem" (see photos)


-whole star anise or other whole spices (remove before enjoying)


-halved fresh figs or other seasonal fresh fruits (e.g. fresh cranberries, etc.)


-a swirl of the date caramel layer piped on top


-crushed raw pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, or crushed raw nuts/seeds of choice


-leftovers of filling creams piped on top


-turmeric coconut whipped cream piped on top


-vegan/refined sugar free mini pumpkin fudges


-mini leaf-shaped vegan white chocolate naturally colored red/orange/yellow (see this recipe for my whole-date-sweetened vegan white chocolate recipe and this one for my vegan Silky Smooth White Chocolate recipe sweetened w/ date sugar [scroll down to recipe])


-naturally colored red/orange/yellow kohakutou AKA Japanese crystal candy (see this post for my natural/refined sugar free kohakutou recipe [scroll down to the decoration part of this recipe])


-seasonal edible flowers (e.g. nasturtium, marigold, pansies, rose blossoms, chamomile, violets, lavender, lilac, borage, etc.) (red, orange, yellow, and purple flowers would look particularly nice!) (just make sure they're edible!)


-vegan/refined sugar free pumpkin cups (like PB cups, but a pumpkin white choco version // for a vegan/date-sweetened white PB cup recipe, check out this post)


-fresh rosehips (hairy seeds removed) (foraged or store-bought, if foraging just make sure you ID the rosehips correctly and be wary of poisonous look-alikes!) or other fresh edible berries (e.g. fresh blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, lingonberries, goldenberries, etc.)


Directions:


1. If making raw activated nuts/seeds for the crust and nut/seed butters, start prepping them at least 2 days in advance (one overnight or 8 hrs to soak the raw nuts/seeds, then up to 24-48 hours for dehydrating them at raw temperatures until completely dry inside). If simply using dry raw nuts/seeds straight from the bag, there's no need to prep. Make sure you've prepped all of your ingredients for the fillings and raw date caramels by soaking the raw cashews for the base filling overnight in cold water (OR 1 hour in hot water) and soaking the dates for the base caramel in hot water for 30 min (or 2 hours in cold water). Soak the dates for the crust in hot/warm water for 20 min. Defrost the figs in the fridge overnight if using frozen. Ensure you've made the homemade plant milks and homemade nut/seed butters (if using homemade) (see "NOTES" below for tutorials). For the Fig Caramel filling, zest and juice the orange. For the base filling, soften/melt the coconut butter or coconut oil just until softened/liquified. If making the Pumpkin Energy Ball playing pieces, make sure the date paste is made ahead of time.


2. As far as molds/pans go: if you use two 15-cavity silicone cube molds (with each cube cavity being about 1"), you don't need to prep these molds at all. Just set them out on the counter, and you're ready to go! FYI: I found my silicone cube mold on Amazon, just search "cube cake mold" or "silicone square mold." Otherwise, if you're only doing one flavor of cake, you can use a cake ring, either square or round. To prepare the cake ring: Prepare either one 7" square cake ring OR one 8" round cake ring by placing it on a large cake board or a large flat cutting board lined with parchment/wax paper and cut 4 equal-sized pieces of acetate strip the length of each of the 4 walls of the square cake ring OR (if using a round cake ring) one piece of acetate the length of the circumference of the round cake ring. Slip those inside the cake ring so they nestle up against the inner walls of the ring. A little overlap of acetate strip is fine. The acetate strip is completely optional but it gives your cake those really crisp, clean edges. Also technically a 7" square springform pan OR an 8" round springform pan would work, but the edges of the cake will be uneven, not sharp, and likely cracked or sloppy. But if presentation isn't an issue, go with a springform if that's all you have.


3. Make the crust: Add the raw/activated pecans (or nuts/seeds of choice) and the cinnamon to a food processor. Pulse 10-15 times to finely chop the pieces of nuts. You want a little texture to your crust, so don't blend too thoroughly (unless you prefer fine pieces of nuts!).


4. Add the soaked & drained dates and blend for 30 seconds or until the mixture gets stuck. Then remove the blade and mix the crust by hand (use gloves to avoid sticky hands), until it becomes more cohesive and dough-like.


5. If using a silicone cube mold: scoop 1/2 Tbsp of the crust into the bottom of each of the 30 cavities in the silicone cube molds (between the two 15-cavity molds). Pack it down and try to make the crust flat and even in each cavity (I bet a muddler would work great for this!). Try to avoid getting the crust on the walls of the cavities. You may have leftover crust, if so roll the crust into energy balls, using abt 1/2 Tbsp per energy ball! If using a cake ring: Spread the crust out into the bottom of the prepared cake ring, pressing into a uniform even layer, using your hand or a flat-bottomed object like the base of a glass or measuring cup. You really want a nice even crust, but try to keep the edges of the acetate strip clean. Also make sure not to make the acetate strip settle wonky. Don't chill the crust, simply set it aside for now.


6. Make the base date caramel layer: add all base caramel ingredients (dates, maple syrup, vanilla, sea salt, & optional maca or mesquite powder) EXCEPT for the raw/activated almond butter to the jar of a high-speed blender like a Vitamix (or a food processor will work too). Blend on high until thick, smooth, and thoroughly combined, helping with a tamper as needed. This should take around 30 seconds. On a low-speed setting, scoop in the raw/activated almond butter through the hole in the lid of the Vitamix/blender and into the blending ingredients while the machine is turned on (or thru the feeder tube hole in a food processor into the blending ingredients while the machine is turned on). Turn the speed to high and blend for 15 to 20 seconds, then turn off. Divide the caramel in half. Half you'll leave plain for the Fig Caramel Cake and the other half you'll be adding spices to for the Golden Milk Caramel in the next step (the best way to divide the caramel in half is to weigh the total amount of caramel and divide it into two equal portions by weight. But you can divide the caramel by measuring it in cups/tablespoons and dividing equally or by eyeballing it). Transfer one of these portions to a piping bag (no piping tip). Alternatively, you can use a spoon for Step 8 if you don't have piping bags.


7. Make the Golden Milk Caramel layer: add the other half of the caramel back to the Vitamix and add the spices for the Golden Milk Caramel (turmeric, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg). Blend until thoroughly incorporated, scraping down the sides as need be. Transfer the Golden Milk Caramel to a piping bag (no piping tip). Alternatively, you can use a spoon for Step 8 if you don't have piping bags. If you're only making one cake flavor in the cake ring, make only one of these caramels (this Golden Milk Caramel or the date caramel in the step above), or you can skip the caramel altogether (if making the Pumpkin Cheesecake flavor, which doesn't have a caramel layer).


8. Make a layer of date caramel and golden milk caramel for the Golden Milk Macchiato and Fig Caramel cake layers: snip a small bit off the tip of the piping bag with the plain date caramel. In 10 of the cube cavities, pipe a thin layer of the plain date caramel overtop of the crusts (see photos for thickness of caramel layer). Use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon if needed to make the caramel layer smooth and even. Alternatively, you can add the caramel to the cavities by spooning a little overtop of the crusts before smoothing out. These will be the Fig Caramel cake slices. Be sure you remember which ones have plain date caramel and which ones have the Golden Milk Caramel. Snip a small bit off the tip of the piping bag with the golden milk caramel. In 10 different cube cavities, pipe a thin layer of the golden milk caramel overtop of the crusts (see photos for thickness of caramel layer). Use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon if needed to make the caramel layer smooth and even. Alternatively, you can add the caramel to the cavities by spooning a little overtop of the crusts before smoothing out. These will be the Golden Milk Macchiato cake slices. You will have leftovers of both flavors of caramel. Simply seal/secure the bags so they don't leak caramel and transfer to the fridge. We will be using the caramels for decoration tomorrow. Tap the base of the silicone molds lightly against the countertop a few times to make the caramel layers level and even before placing the molds on an old baking sheet and placing in the freezer for 30 minutes, so the caramel layer can firm up and doesn't mix with the filling layers. The last 10 cavities without caramel in them will be for the Pumpkin Cheesecake slices (the Pumpkin Cheesecake flavor doesn't have a caramel layer). If only making one flavor and using a cake ring: pipe/spoon/spread a layer of your caramel of choice (golden milk or plain date) overtop of the crust, and smooth out to create an even layer. Pop in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes. If you're only making the Pumpkin Cheesecake flavor in the cake ring, lucky you! You don't have to create a layer of caramel or freeze in between, simply move on to the next step (and keep the crust in the cake ring at room temp until you add the filling).


9. While the caramel is chilling, make the base filling: add all base filling ingredients (soaked & drained cashews, plant milk, maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, sea salt) EXCEPT for the almond butter and coconut butter/coconut oil to a high-speed blender (like a Vitamix, no need to wash out the jar from the date caramel!). Blend on high until smooth, silky, and creamy, scraping down the sides and re-blending as necessary. This could take 30 seconds to a minute.


10. On a low speed, drizzle/scoop in the almond butter and melted coconut butter/coconut oil through the hole in the lid of the Vitamix/blender and into the blending ingredients while the machine is on (or thru the feeder tube hole in the food processor and into the blending ingredients while the machine is on) and blend to incorporate. Turn the speed to high and blend for 10 to 15 seconds, then turn off.


11. Now, if you're making only one flavor of cake in the cake ring, triple the ingredients listed under one of the cake flavors (so triple the ingredients listed under Golden Milk Macchiato Cake Filling OR Fig Caramel Cake Filling OR Pumpkin Cheesecake Filling), and add that to the amount of base filling that you've already made and blend till smooth, and pour overtop of the crust (and/or caramel) in the cake ring. Tap to release air bubbles and freeze for at least 5-6 hours or overnight


12. If you're making all three flavors of cake, divide the base filling into thirds, either by weight or measuring cup quantities. Add one third of the filling to the Vitamix mix jar, and keep the other two portions of filling in a separate bowl.


13. Make the Pumpkin Cheesecake filling: to the portion of filling in the Vitamix, add all Pumpkin Cheesecake filling ingredients (pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and maple syrup). Blend on high until smooth and well-incorporated, scraping down the sides and re-blending as necessary. Once incorporated, pour this Pumpkin Cheesecake Filling into a bowl and set aside. Move on to the next filling. Wash the Vitamix out in between fillings.


14. Make the Golden Milk Macchiato Cake filling: add one of the other third portions of the base filling to the cleaned Vitamix jar. Add all of the ingredients for the Golden Milk Macchiato Cake filling (plant milk, spices, and maple syrup). Blend on high until smooth and well-incorporated, scraping down the sides and re-blending as necessary. Once incorporated, pour this Golden Milk Macchiato Cake Filling into a bowl and set aside. Move on to the next filling. Wash the Vitamix out in between fillings.


15. Make the Fig Caramel Cake filling: add the last portion of the base filling to the cleaned Vitamix jar. Add all of the ingredients for the Fig Caramel Cake filling (figs, spices, orange zest & juice, vanilla, maple syrup, and optional purple sweet potato powder). Blend on high until smooth and well-incorporated, scraping down the sides and re-blending as necessary. Once incorporated, pour this Fig Caramel Cake Filling into a bowl and set aside.


16. Remove the silicone cube cake molds from the fridge, and have your fillings ready. Overtop of the cavities with plain date caramel, spoon/pour just enough of the Fig Caramel Cake filling overtop of each of these cavities to fill it just shy of the top of each. Once the 10 cavities of Fig Caramel Cake are filled, pour any leftovers of the Fig Caramel Cake filling into a piping bag (w/ or w/o a piping tip), seal/secure, and place in the fridge overnight to chill/set. By morning, it will be the consistency of frosting and can be used to decorate your finished cake.


17. Overtop of the cavities with Golden Milk date caramel, spoon/pour just enough of the Golden Milk Macchiato Cake filling overtop of each of these cavities to fill it just shy of the top of each. Once the 10 cavities of Golden Milk Macchiato Cake are filled, pour any leftovers of the Golden Milk Macchiato Cake filling into a piping bag (w/ or w/o a piping tip), seal/secure, and place in the fridge overnight to chill/set.


18. Lastly, in the cavities without any caramel, spoon/pour just enough of the Pumpkin Cheesecake filling overtop of each of these cavities to fill it just shy of the top of each. Once the 10 cavities of Pumpkin Cheesecake are filled, pour any leftovers of the Pumpkin Cheesecake filling into a piping bag (w/ or w/o a piping tip), seal/secure, and place in the fridge overnight to chill/set.


19. Lightly tap the base of the two silicone cube cake molds a few times to release air bubbles from the filling and help smooth it out. If the cavities are too full, don't worry about tapping. Place back on the old baking sheet and transfer to the freezer to chill.


20. Freeze the cakes for at least 5-6 hours (or overnight). If you want, you can prepare the Pumpkin Energy Balls and any other playing piece garnishes for the cake today or tomorrow morning.


21. For the Pumpkin Energy Ball playing piece garnishes (optional): mix/fold all of the ingredients for the Pumpkin Energy Balls together in a small mixing bowl manually until uniform and a dough is produced (I love using a mini spatula for this!). Taste and adjust flavors to your liking (a tiny bit more date paste for sweetness, more pumpkin spice for pumpkin flavor, more vanilla, etc.). Chill this dough in the fridge or freezer for at least 15 to 30 minutes, or until firm enough to roll into little energy balls. Once firm, scoop out about 1 tsp to 1 1/2 tsp of the dough and roll into a ball between your palms. If you want a plump squat pumpkin smush down the two ends to make it shorter and wider. To make it into a typical pumpkin, shape the pumpkin to be slightly more oblong and vertical by rolling it between your hands and lightly pinching/pressing it with your fingers. Repeat with the rest of the dough until it's all used up. If you're not going to coat your pumpkin energy balls in naturally orange-colored white chocolate or coconut butter, decorate the energy balls now. (FYI: I didn't coat my pumpkins in the orange white chocolate. This yielded a more natural look). To make grooves, using a toothpick or chopsticks, make vertical indents/lines/grooves along the pumpkin by lightly pressing the toothpick/chopstick into the energy balls just enough to make an indent. Top with an unsweetened cacao nib or mini vegan dark chocolate chip (refined sugar free as needed) for a "stem." If you want, you can dip the pumpkin energy balls in a little melted smooth coconut butter (use coconut oil to thin out) colored orange naturally with vegan/natural orange food dye or a little melted white chocolate colored naturally orange. To do this, simply have your melted orange coconut butter or melted orange white chocolate ready in a small bowl, push a chopstick into the top of the energy ball, and dip into the white chocolate/coconut butter, twisting to coat the energy ball. Remove from the white chocolate/coconut butter, let the excess drip off, and place on a piece of parchment or a plate to dry/harden (if using orange white chocolate, place in the fridge or freezer to set). Alternately, you can dunk the pumpkin energy ball into the white chocolate, balancing it on a fork. If you coat the pumpkin energy balls, make grooves/lines/indents in them and add a "stem" before the orange coating hardens but after you've dipped them in the white chocolate. Store in the fridge until ready to use.


22. If you have other playing piece garnishes that need to be made ahead of time, make them in advance.


23. The next morning, remove any filling creams from the fridge and allow to defrost at room temp if need be until pipeable. If it's already pipeable (try piping a few shapes to test), keep it in the fridge. The leftover caramels do not need to defrost. Unmold the cake(s): for the three different flavors of cake made in the cube molds, remove the cube molds w/ the individual cake slices from the freezer and gently and carefully push up from the bottom of each cube and peel back the mold as you release a single cake slice from the mold. Place on a square cake plate, a square plate, or a serving plate. Repeat with the rest of the cake slices, being careful to maintain the shape of each slice. Don't work with the slices for too long, the heat from your hands can melt the slices if you touch them for for a long time. Arrange the cake slices so they are varied on the plate, putting different colors next to each other (for a chessboard effect) or arranging them however you please. Have 5 x 5 slices, for a total of 25 slices on the serving plate. You will have 5 slices leftover. Immediately transfer all slices to the fridge to defrost for 1 hour (2 hrs maximum, but check after 1 hour).


24. If you only made one whole cake flavor in the cake ring: The next morning, unmold the cake. Lift it off of the cutting board and dislodge the cake from the cake ring (either by pushing up from the bottom of the crust or using a protein powder container or another comparable object with a round lid, placing the cake on top of the lid and holding onto the outside of the cake ring, pushing the ring down to release the ring from the cake. Or you might get lucky and the ring slips right off). Peel off the parchment/wax paper from the bottom of the crust and place the cake onto your serving plate/cake board. Lastly, peel off the acetate strips and discard the acetate strips. Defrost the cake in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours (up to 4 hours), or until soft enough to cut.


25. If making one large cake (in one flavor): once the cake is defrosted, remove from the fridge and cut. Mark 3 equally spaced cuts on one side of the cake, then cut through each of those marks all the way through to the other side of the cake, ensuring you wipe your knife clean with a paper towel after each cut (to get nice clean cuts that aren't messy). You should have 4 long slices of cake now. Rotate the cake 90 degrees, and make 3 more equally spaced cuts through the cake, perpendicular to the other cuts, cleaning your knife after each one. Now you should have 16 square slices of cake. If you made a round cake, simply cut your cake into slices, cleaning the knife in between each cut, like you normally would a round cake. For either of these cakes (square or round, see decorating suggestions in the next step).


26. If you made the three flavors of individual cake slices in the cube mold: remove from the fridge and decorate the top of each slice with a different edible "playing piece." These can be the Pumpkin Energy Balls (1-3 of these per slice, depending on size), a dollop of piped leftover date caramel/golden milk caramel, piped leftover defrosted filling creams, whole star anise or other whole spices, halved fresh figs or other fresh fruit, crushed nuts/seeds of choice, refined sugar free natural kohakutou (Japanese crystal candy), etc. (see suggestions for playing piece garnishes in recipe, above). See photos for ideas. I like to keep the pumpkin energy balls on the Pumpkin Cheesecake slices and the halved figs on the Fig Caramel slices, but decorate however you please. To get a really fun "chessboard" cake, try to put different toppings next to each other to really make the playing pieces and colors of the cake slices pop. Most importantly: have fun!! For the round cake slices, obv it's a little different than with the square cake slices, but you can arrange all the wedges of cake so they kind of look like a pie chart (w/ spaces in between the wedges), and add the playing piece(s) on the thicker part of the slice (closer to the round edge). Get creative, this is your masterpiece!


27. Serve immediately. Serve with a warm vegan/refined sugar free golden milk latte, a fig cocktail, a dairy-free pumpkin spice latte, an unsweetened iced chai latte, a fig smoothie, or your fall beverage of choice. Enjoy! Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days, or store the slices in airtight containers in the freezer for up to 1 month.


NOTES:


*see "Substitutions" section, above, for suggestions on how to make this cake 100% nut-free and coconut-free


**to make homemade unsweetened nut/seed milk of choice, use 1 cup soaked raw unsalted nuts/seeds of choice (pref. soaked overnight in cold water but 1 hr in hot water works), then drain, blend with 2 to 3 cups filtered water for 1 min, then strain thru a nut milk bag or cheesecloth


***to make homemade raw or activated almond butter or raw/activated nut/seed butter of choice, simply blend at least 1.5 cups raw or activated unsalted nuts/seeds of choice in a food processor or high-speed blender (like a Vitamix) until a smooth, shiny nut/seed butter is produced, taking breaks for the machine to rest and scraping down the sides in between. See Step #1 in the "Directions" for steps to make activated nuts/seeds


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