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Raw Date-Sweetened "Nutella" Chessboard Cake (Raw, Vegan, GF Paleo, 100% Date-Sweetened)

Thinking about a box of chocolates? Think again, because this cake has it all! Another recipe perfect for Valentine's Day, Galentine's Day, or a day for self-love (that is, by making this recipe), this cake is entirely date-sweetened as well as paleo. It features 3 layers: a date-chocolate-hazelnut crust, a Paleo Nutella layer, and a chocolate hazelnut filling layer. And each slice has a unique "playing piece" that takes the form of Chocolate Hazelnut Silk Truffles, Choco-Hazelnut Fudges, piped Paleo Nutella, and crushed hazelnuts, but you can customize the toppings. This is where the cake gets its "chessboard" name from. Even better yet: all the toppings are sweetened strictly with whole dates, just like every layer of the cake itself. Indulge in this guilt-free chocolatey, nutty treat to treat yo' self for Valentine's/Galentine's/or a day for yourself.

Did I ever mention that I never use filters for my photos on The Dimpled Date? Not a single photo for my recipes or on the website is edited nor has a filter. Pretty incredible, right? (Ofc, there were the early Dimpled Date days of crappy, blurry iPhone photos.. OH the iPhone photos... not a proud moment... but you have to start somewhere before you get somewhere great).

But back to focusing on this cake: this Raw Date-Sweetened "Nutella" Cake has a creamy, smooth filling with a rich, gooey layer of my Date-Sweetened Paleo Nutella (slightly adapted for this recipe), and overall the cake is ultra chocolatey, nutty (courtesy of raw hazelnuts), and amply sweet despite being sweetened only with whole dates. And the crust is the perfect duality of chewy and crunchy, made with only 3 ingredients. And it's just so pretty! This cake has a little something for everyone, but if you're not a fan of hazelnut or chocolate, try this Matcha Cookies N Cream Cake instead (also date-sweetened and no-bake!).

I feel like a square-shaped raw cake is just so fun, and mixes things up a little. I also have yet to post my first heart-shaped raw cake on The Dimpled Date (despite having 3 recipes ready for the blog that are heart-shaped). But of course, you can make this cake into an 8" round cake instead of a 7" square cake if you wish.

Another thing I should mention: as with my Matcha Cookies N Cream Cake this cake is LOUD. What I mean is the amount of noise produced when blending the filling is quite loud even with a heavy-duty high-speed blender like a Vitamix, so plan for that. The reason it gets so loud with these cakes is that the filling is sweetened with whole dates, not a sticky sweetener like maple syrup. Thus, the fibrous dates are harder to blend and require turning up the speed higher which produces more noise than my other maple-sweetened raw cakes. Some tips on how to make it less loud:

  1. Blend the Paleo Nutella layer in the food processor. The food processor is significantly less noisy than the Vitamix and can handle blending dates. In contrast, I tried making this layer in my Vitamix and it went into auto-shutoff mode because the mixture was getting stuck and it couldn't handle the dates (shockingly).

  2. Try to blend the chocolate hazelnut filling layer in the food processor too. When creating this recipe, I started this layer in the food processor and it was working quite well whilst making only a fraction of the noise that the Vitamix does. But after a couple minutes, I noticed there were still small chunks of nuts and a graininess to the filling, so I finished blending in the Vitamix to get that silky smooth consistency (and it was still loud despite having already been partially blended it in the food processor). However, I can almost guarantee that if you take enough time and blend as many times as needed while scraping down the sides in between, you will get that silky creamy texture with the food processor just like the Vitamix. It will just take more time, and I wasn't committed enough to put in that time because I was impatient. Just be sure that you give the food processor a minute-or-so long break to rest every 3-5 minutes between blending so the machine and the mixture don't overheat.

  3. If you're gonna blend the filling in the Vitamix: blend the soaked dates into a paste in a food processor first, then add that and the other filling ingredients to the Vitamix. Also, try waiting to blend the filling for this cake when everybody else is out of the house (so you don't disrupt family/friends/roommates' activities). Additionally, use hearing protection if needed.

This cake is 100% raw, vegan, gluten-free paleo, and date-sweetened and is the perfect treat for your Valentine. It may be a little involved, but in the long run it is completely worth it (especially if you or your partner/friend/family member can only eat fruit as a sweetener).

I'm working on perfecting the recipe for the Chocolate Hazelnut Silk Truffles in this recipe to improve the texture, but the flavor is spot on and tastes just like the maple-sweetened ones I learned to make in my raw vegan pastry course that I became certified through! For coating the truffles, I used crushed hazelnuts, cacao powder, and a mixture of espresso powder and date sugar. And The Choco-Hazelnut Fudges that top this cake are simply an adaptation of my Healthy AB Choco Fat Bombs.

For decorating this cake, you can use the toppings I used (Chocolate Hazelnut Silk Truffles, Choco-Hazelnut Fudges, piped Paleo Nutella, and/or crushed hazelnuts) and/or other toppings such as fresh fruit dipped in my Date-Sweetened Dark Chocolate (or 100% dark chocolate), 100% dark chocolate curls/shaved chocolate, a drizzle of raw hazelnut butter, cacao nibs, rose buds/rose petals, etc. Get creative!

Have any cakes/desserts/baked goods you want to see me make in March? Like this post, and leave a comment! P.S. I have some St. Paddy's Day recipes planned... stick around for 'em. But in the meantime, feel free to check out my St. Paddy's Day recipe from last year: Baileys Almande Matcha White Chocolate Truffles.

This cake has so many fun textures and flavors and is really one of my favorite of the raw cakes I've made thus far. For others of my show-stopping raw cakes, check out:

  1. My Raw Peppermint Bark Cake (maple-sweetened)

  2. No-Bake Matcha Cookies N Cream Cake (entirely Date-Sweetened, "Oreos" and all!)

  3. "Pink Poinsettia" Raw Cake (maple-sweetened)

  4. Raw Unicorn Zebra 2-Tier Cheesecake (both maple- and fruit-sweetened)

  5. Raw Lavender White Chocolate Cheesecake (entirely date-sweetened w/ an option for coconut-sugar-sweetened Vegan "Honey" Lavender Lemon Cheesecake within the recipe post)

Website Renovations, More Goodness on Its Way to The Dimpled Date

Keep posted for the latest and the greatest of my recipes. And follow me on Instagram @thedimpleddate !

One new feature I'll be adding to the website is including the ingredient measurements in both Imperial (U.S.) and metric measurements. As you can see with this recipe, I'm slowly making the shift to including both. My Mini Heart Chocolate-Covered Cherry Cheesecakes recipe is going to fully include both measurement systems, and that is one of the next recipes I'll be posting on The Dimpled Date!

Chocolate and hazelnut is a pretty legendary flavor combo, but I still have so many classic, gourmet, and new flavor pairings that I have to experiment with. Have a favorite flavor combo you wanna see more of around here? Drop your suggestion in the comments and don't forget to like this post!

As always,

Enjoy! <3


Raw Date-Sweetened "Nutella" Chessboard Cake (Raw, Vegan, GF, Paleo, 100% Date-Sweetened)

Soaking Time: overnight (2 overnights if making activated raw hazelnuts)

Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes (incl. for the toppings)

Cook Time: 0 minutes

Chill Time: at least 5-6 hours (or pref. overnight) PLUS 30 minutes

Total Time: at least one overnight plus 7 hours (this sounds daunting, but it's mainly soaking and chilling time)

Servings: one 7" square cake (yields 16 slices)

Ingredients (for my Paleo "Nutella," slightly adapted):

-2 cups raw unsalted hazelnuts

-good pinch sea salt

-2 cups // 385 grams Medjool dates

-1/4 cup cacao powder (can sub cocoa powder)

-1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

-1/3 cup (measured first) // (metric): 55 ml (melted first) coconut oil

Ingredients (for the crust):

-150 grams dates

-200 grams dry raw unsalted hazelnuts OR activated raw hazelnuts (AKA hazelnuts that are soaked overnight, then dehydrated for up to 24 hours or until completely dry)

-15 grams cacao powder (can sub cocoa powder)

For the "Nutella" layer:

-400 grams my Paleo Nutella (recipe above)

Ingredients (for the chocolate hazelnut Filling):

-200 grams raw unsalted hazelnuts, soaked (pref.) overnight or technically at least 1 hour in hot water

-310 ml homemade hazelnut milk (1 cup soaked raw hazelnuts + 2 cups fresh water, blended then strained thru nut milk bag/cheesecloth) (can sub store-bought unsweetened hazelnut milk OR technically store-bought unsweetened plant milk of choice)

-50 grams raw hazelnut butter OR raw activated hazelnut butter (made w/ activated hazelnuts // can sub store-bought raw hazelnut butter if you can find it)

-300 grams Medjool dates, soaked (pref.) overnight in cold water OR technically 2 hours in hot water

-3 Tbsp cacao powder (can sub cocoa powder)

-2 tsp vanilla extract

-pinch sea salt

-80 ml coconut oil, melted first then measured

-20 grams cacao butter, measured first then melted

"Chess pieces" toppings ideas:

-my Chocolate Hazelnut Silk Truffles (below)

-my Choco Hazelnut Fudges (below)

-piped Paleo Nutella leftovers

-piped filling leftovers

-crushed raw hazelnuts

-fresh fruit dipped in my Date-Sweetened Dark Chocolate (or 100% dark chocolate)

-100% dark chocolate curls/shaved dark chocolate

-a drizzle of raw hazelnut butter

-cacao nibs

-dried rose buds/rose petals

-chocolate-dipped coffee beans

Ingredients (for the Chocolate Hazelnut Silk Truffles topping):

-150 grams my Paleo "Nutella" (recipe above)

-1 cup dates, soaked 20 minutes in hot water

-60 grams cacao butter, measured first then melted

-20 grams cacao paste, measured first then melted

-75 grams cacao powder (can sub cocoa powder)

-1/4 cup filtered water

-2 Tbsp date sugar (date sugar NOT date palm sugar)

-2 Tbsp homemade hazelnut milk OR unsweetened store-bought hazelnut milk

-1 Tbsp vanilla extract

-pinch sea salt

For coating truffles:

-espresso powder + date sugar (1-2 tsp espresso powder to 1 Tbsp date sugar)

-cacao powder OR cocoa powder

-chopped raw hazelnuts

-100% dark chocolate, melted

-freeze-dried fruits

Ingredients (for the Choco Hazelnut Fudges topping):

Dark Chocolate Layer:

Hazelnut Layer:

-1/4 cup // 50 grams cacao butter, measured first then melted

-1/4 cup (solid) // (metric): 60 ml (melted) coconut oil

-1/2 cup // 115 grams activated or raw hazelnut butter

-2 Tbsp date paste OR pure monk fruit, to taste

-1 tsp vanilla

-pinch sea salt


1. If making activated hazelnuts, start prepping them at least 2 days in advance (one overnight or 8 hrs to soak the raw hazelnuts, then up to 24 hours for dehydrating them at raw temperatures until completely dry inside). If simply using dry raw hazelnuts straight from the bag, there's no need to prep. Make sure you've prepped all of your ingredients for the filling by soaking the hazelnuts and dates overnight in cold water, making homemade hazelnut milk (1 cup soaked raw hazelnuts + 2 cups filtered water, blended then strained thru nut milk bag/cheesecloth), and making the raw hazelnut butter (if making activated hazelnut butter, activate AKA soak then dehydrate at least 1 1/2 cups raw hazelnuts starting 2 days before you want to make the cake. Once the hazelnuts are activated, blend into a shiny, smooth nut butter in a food processor or high-speed blender like a Vitamix, taking breaks in between for the machine to rest so it and the hazelnut butter don't overheat. If simply making raw hazelnut butter, blend at least 1 1/2 cups raw hazelnuts in a food processor/Vitamix into a shiny, smooth nut butter, taking breaks in between for the machine to rest so it and the hazelnut butter don't overheat. Ofc you can also use store-bought raw hazelnut butter if you can find it). Soak the dates for the crust and the dates for the Paleo Nutella in separate bowls in hot water for 20 minutes. Prepare 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 cutting 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.

2. Make the crust: Add the raw/activated hazelnuts and the cacao powder 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!).

3. 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, until it becomes more cohesive and dough-like.

4. 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 the 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.

5. Make the Paleo "Nutella": in a food processor, blend the raw hazelnuts and the pinch of sea salt into a shiny smooth nut butter, taking breaks in between for the machine to rest so it and the hazelnut butter don't overheat.

6. Once you have a hazelnut butter, add the rest of the "Nutella" ingredients, EXCEPT the melted coconut oil. Blend until smooth, thick, and well-combined.

7. While the food processor is turned on, slowly drizzle in the melted coconut oil through the feeder tube hole in the food processor and down into the other ingredients and blend until just incorporated.

8. Pour/spread approx. 400 grams of the Paleo "Nutella" on top of the crust, and make a flat even layer. Use an offset spatula/the back of a spoon as needed to get it really smooth and even. Try to keep the acetate strip clean.

9. Move the pan with the crust and "Nutella" layer to the freezer for 30 minutes. This will ensure that the "Nutella" and chocolate hazelnut filling layers won't mix. Scoop the leftovers of the Nutella into a piping bag fitted with a coupler and place in the fridge. Tomorrow, you'll be able to pipe this on top of the cake!

10. While the "Nutella" layer is chilling, make the chocolate hazelnut filling: add all ingredients except the hazelnut butter, coconut oil, and cacao butter to a food processor or a heavy-duty high-speed blender like a Vitamix (***I HIGHLY recommend trying to blend this filling in a food processor. It will be significantly less loud if you do it in a food processor. You may just need to blend longer and scrape down the sides more frequently in the food processor. If going w/ a Vitamix to blend this filling, see tips in the earlier part of this post, here). Add the soaked & drained dates and hazelnut milk first. Blend until smooth and very well-combined, scraping down the sides and re-blending as many times as needed. If using a Vitamix or other heavy-duty high-speed blender, use a tamper to help force the ingredients down towards the blades to blend the ingredients. If the mixture gets stuck, "open" the blade by creating an airspace underneath the blades to allow it to "breathe"(In other words, using a spatula push the filling that's under the Vitamix blades out from under the blade. You should hear a release of air, that almost sounds like a breath or a puff of air). Your goal w/ the Vitamix is to get to as high a speed as possible, using a tamper until you have a smooth consistency. You don't want chunks of nuts or too much graininess. If using a food processor, be sure to give it a 1-2 min break after every few minutes of blending so the machine and the mixture don't over-heat.

11. While the machine is turned on, slowly drizzle/scoop in the hazelnut butter, melted coconut oil, and melted cacao butter through the feeder tube hole (in a food processor) or the tamper hole (in a Vitamix/high-speed blender) and down into the other ingredients and blend until just incorporated. If using a Vitamix, briefly increase the speed to high and blend for 10 to 15 seconds. That's it, the worst noise is over!

12. Pour approx. 480 grams of the filling into a large piping bag fitted with a coupler. Move this filling to the fridge. By morning, it will be more like a cream or "frosting" with a pipeable consistency. You can use this leftover filling cream to decorate some of the slices of this chessboard cake, pipe it on top of cupcakes as an extra healthy "frosting," pipe it on top of pancakes, use it in dessert cups, or use it like a chocolate whipped cream. Pour the rest of the filling over the "Nutella" layer of the cake until the pan is filled just shy of the top. Smooth out the top into a nice, even layer and tap the pan on the countertop a few times to release air bubbles.

13. Freeze the cake preferably overnight (8 hours) or at least 5 to 6 hours.

14. While the cake is freezing, make the "chess playing pieces" as toppings for the chessboard cake. For the Chocolate Hazelnut Silk Truffles: blend the dates into a paste first in a food processor. Then, add the date paste and all the other truffle ingredients except the cacao paste and cacao butter to a high-speed blender like a Vitamix (alternatively, you can add the rest of the truffle ingredients except the cacao paste & cacao butter to the date paste in the food processor). Blend on a low speed until well-combined (I used speed 3 out of 10 levels on my Vitamix). You just want to mix the ingredients, not blend thoroughly.

15. Then, slowly drizzle in the melted cacao butter and melted cacao paste through the tamper hole and into the other ingredients and blend until just incorporated.

16. Scoop/pour the truffle mixture into a bowl and smooth out. Leave in the fridge to chill for 2 hours or until scoopable.

17. Once the truffle batter is done chilling, using a 1 Tbsp measurer or a 1.5-Tbsp cookie scoop, scoop up a chunk of the batter, and roll between the palms of your hands to form a ball. Place on a lined plate. Repeat with the rest of the batter until there's none left. Pop the truffles back in the fridge briefly so they don't warm up too much.

18. Prepare the coatings for the truffles: chop the raw hazelnuts finely, put a little cacao/cocoa powder in a small bowl, mix together the espresso powder and date sugar in another small bowl (1-2 tsp espresso powder to 1 Tbsp date sugar), melt the 100% dark chocolate, crumble the freeze-dried fruits slightly and put in a shallow dish/on a plate, and/or prepare whatever other coatings you might want for the truffles. Alternately, you can leave the truffles plain, although they look and taste best with coatings.

19. Remove the truffles from the fridge and coat in desired toppings, e.g. roll in the crushed hazelnuts, dip in the melted 100% chocolate, etc. Place back in the fridge until ready to decorate the cake.

20. Make the Choco-Hazelnut Fudges: for the chocolate layer: make 1 batch of my Date-Sweetened Dark Chocolate as per the directions in that recipe. Don't chill yet.

21. For the hazelnut layer: Melt together the cacao butter and coconut oil until liquified. Transfer to a heat-safe glass bowl and whisk together.

22. Add the raw/activated hazelnut butter and date paste and whisk thoroughly to combine (you won't get the date paste fully incorporated and that's OK).

23. Add the vanilla and sea salt and whisk in.

24. Using an immersion blender (stick blender), break up the pieces of dates left from the date paste and blend them into the hazelnut mixture as best you can (use a circular motion and try to break up any pieces of dates that you find. Also: to avoid a mess, keep the immersion blender immersed in the mixture when it's on and running). It's OK if you don't 100% blend all of the date paste into the hazelnut mixture (actually, you won't be able to fully blend the date paste into the mixture, so don't get hung up if the date paste isn't completely incorporated).

25. Grab a small buttercup silicone mold (AKA a peanut butter cup mold w/ small cavities. I use one that makes bite-sized PB cups and has 30 cavities) and place on a flat object like a baking sheet. Have both your dark chocolate and hazelnut layers ready and grab one spoon for each. Scoop up a little of each layer and pour both into a single cavity of the mold at the same time, moving the spoons slightly to change up the pattern while still keeping the layers inside of the cavity (and not all over the place). Repeat with the rest of the cavities until there's none of either layer left. Using a toothpick, swirl the chocolate and hazelnut layers together for a marbled effect.

26. Pop the fudges in the freezer until set, 20 to 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can let them set in the fridge, which can take up to an hour.

27. The next morning, unmold the cake. Lift it off of the cake board/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.

28. Defrost, the Raw "Nutella" cake in the fridge for 2 to 4 hours, until soft enough to cut.

29. Check to see if the chocolate hazelnut filling cream and "Nutella" in the piping bags are pipeable by attempting to pipe a few shapes with each. If not, defrost the cream and "Nutella" at room temp if need be, until pipeable, up to 1 1/2 hours before you plan to decorate your cake. If the "Nutella" is a good consistency straight from the fridge, leave it in the fridge until ready to decorate.

30. 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 your 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.

31. Decorate each slice of the "chessboard" cake with the "playing piece" toppings: the garnished Chocolate Hazelnut Silk Truffles, the Choco-Hazelnut Fudges, the piped Paleo "Nutella" and filling, crushed hazelnuts, chocolate-covered fruit, chocolate curls, cacao nibs, dried rose buds/rose petals, chocolate-dipped coffee beans, etc. (use my photos for inspo but come up with your own unique decorations!). For the round cake, each slice can have multiple toppings if desired. Part of the fun of the toppings is mixing it up and trying to have enough variety. Use a little piped filling cream to get the toppings like the truffles and fudges to stick if need be.

32. Serve immediately. Serve with a hazelnut mocha latte, vegan Italian/French/Spanish hot chocolate, or a dairy-free hazelnut martini. 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.

*Please note: all the different ingredients in all the components of this recipe make it rather hard to calculate the nutrition facts. I hope to update this post soon when I have the time to calculate the nutrition.

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