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chocolate hazelnut torte with salty date caramel + coconut cream {vegan + GF}

chocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first messchocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first messchocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first mess
I used to subscribe to a lot of weekly emails from life coaches, wellness gurus, motivational speakers and the like. I found some of the tidbits they offered lightly inspirational on a good day, but on a bad one…ooof. the pitches that involved a $1500++ investment disgusted me when I thought of all the decent people just trying to take control of the inevitably volatile parts of life. I removed myself from those lists a while ago because I’ve realized that in terms of age and personal progression, if you’re trying hard enough and your mind is right, everything is relentless forward and upward motion. But more importantly, and in a more everyday sense, the spaces/tones of feeling, commitments, the places we go… it’s all pretty circular.

I turned 29 yesterday and it’s true that the layers of our human existence become more defined as time rolls on. Bits of the past inform us in the here + now, and we grow or lie still in the ways we push or allow ourselves to. Our minds and postures shift as we learn and do more. The spots where we stall, deliberately or by accident, help us to be here now in a more defined way too I think.

I used to have this thing where I thought it might be advantageous, in some way, to get my nails done, wear some eyeliner, or to get a professional haircut for once. There’s a whole aura around grooming and personal maintenance that screams of having one’s shit together, right? I’d get a couple days off and and just when I had psyched myself up enough to call a salon or whatever, I’d see a little patch of redness on my hand from a burn or any number of calluses, scratches, deep wrinkles and rough spots. I enjoy working my ass off and eventually realized that reminders of that, in whatever form, were more important. Having the privilege to plug away at something that was meaningful enough was every indication that I had my shit together.

So there’s that, and the billion other ways of realization and growth. And there’s also cake because what would a birthday be without it? Pretty sure I’m taking liberties with the designation of “torte” here, but whatever. I’m pretty jazzed on chocolate and hazelnut together in almost anything, so I started with an incredibly dense brownie base and layered it up from there with a hazelnut mousse-ish cream and coconut whip. The date caramel has a tiny pinch of tang from some fresh lemon and I find it really makes all the flavours work together instead of the whole thing just being this overly rich experience. A hearty pile of toasty chopped hazelnuts on top and all’s good. Really, really good.

chocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first messchocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first messmaking coconut whipped cream // the first messchocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first messchocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel {vegan + GF} // the first mess

chocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel + coconut cream
serves: makes one 9 inch torte/cake
notes: I give the mousse + brownie/cake base a full 24 hour wrap-and-chill time. I figured the longer the setting time, the less possibility of heartbreak from a runny mousse or too-warm-in-the-middle cake. Also, I know that certain brands of coconut milk tend to be better than others for forming solid layers of cream at the top–this one has been consistently good for me.

chocolate brownie/cake base ingredients:
1 1/2 tbsp ground chia seeds + 1/4 cup water
3/4 cup almond meal/flour
3/4 cup hazelnut meal/flour (you could do another 3/4 cup almond meal if you don’t have hazelnut)
3/4 cup GF oat flour
2 tbsp arrowroot powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup maple sugar (or natural cane sugar)
1/4 cup coconut or almond milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup semisweet vegan chocolate chips

hazelnut mousse ingredients:
1/2 cup toasted + skinned hazelnuts
1 400 ml can of full fat coconut milk, stirred
1 (scant) cup cashew butter (raw or roasted)
1/4 cup maple syrup
pinch of fine sea salt
2 tsp fresh lemon or lime juice
1/4 cup melted coconut oil

salty date caramel ingredients:
7-8 soft pitted dates + boiling water to cover
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
fat pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
big splash of coconut or almond milk

to serve:
coconut whipped cream (1/2 of this recipe)
chopped toasted hazelnuts
etc!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch springform pan with coconut oil and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the chia seeds + 1/4 cup water. Stir and set aside so that it can all gel together.

In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, hazelnut meal, oat flour, arrowroot powder, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and to that add the maple sugar, coconut milk and vanilla extract. Add the chia gel to the bowl as well. Don’t stir it yet. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the chocolate chips and coconut oil. Melt the two while you stir constantly to avoid burning the chocolate. Once it’s all melted and smooth, add it to the dry + wet ingredients. Stir it all together until you have a stiff and unified batter.

Press the batter evenly into the prepared springform pan. Place the pan on top of a cookie sheet and slide it into the oven. Bake for 30-33 minutes or until the top is firm. Remove and allow to cool completely. At this point I wrap the cake tightly in cling film and place it in the fridge to totally set overnight.

Make the hazelnut mousse: soak the toasted + skinned hazelnuts in the coconut milk for about 20 minutes–just to soften them slightly and to perfume the milk a bit. Once they’re ready, pour the whole mess of it into your blender or food processor. Add all of the other ingredients to the blender pitcher/food processor bowl as well. Blend/process until you have a very smooth mixture. Scrape the runny mixture into a bowl and cover it with cling film, pressing the film onto the surface of the mousse/liquid. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or until the mousse has firmed up considerably, preferably overnight.

Make the date caramel: soak the dates in the hot water for about 15 minutes, drain them (reserving the soaking water) and place them into your blender/food processor. Add the lemon juice, salt, vanilla, and coconut milk. Blend this up a bit just to break everything up. Add reserved date soaking water as needed and blend the mixture again until you have a runny, caramel-like consistency. Scrape into a jar and seal with a lid until you’re ready to use it.

Assemble the torte: place the brownie/cake base on your serving plate. Whisk the hazelnut mousse up a bit and scoop it onto the cake base, smoothing it out or fluffing it up however you like. Top the torte with coconut cream, date caramel, toasted chopped hazelnuts etc and serve immediately. Leftover torte can be covered and kept in the fridge for a couple days.

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Stefanie27/02/2014 - 3:39 am

Oh my goodness. This looks INCREDIBLE! Happy birthday!

cristina27/02/2014 - 3:48 am

oh i do hope your birthday was nice. and this cake, is marvelous

Harriet27/02/2014 - 4:31 am

Happy Birthday Laura! Cheers to being present, and eating cake, and all of the wonderful things that a birthday brings!

Danielle Wynne27/02/2014 - 5:22 am

Wow that looks amazing! I love your idea of date caramel, I have been trying to think of a way to make a vegan/healthier dulche de leche and I think this may be the recipe. How long does it last in a sealed jar?

Jessica's Dinner Party27/02/2014 - 5:33 am

Happy Birthday!!! I turn 27 in a couple months and can totally relate to what you’re talking about. The refinement that comes with age is not always the prim, make-up perfect person everyone thinks that word reflects.

The torte is absolutely beautiful!

Melissa27/02/2014 - 6:01 am

Oh wow this looks absolutely fantastic. Can you send me a piece please :-)

autumn27/02/2014 - 7:28 am

Happy Birthday, Laura! What a stunning treat.

Laura Wright27/02/2014 - 7:42 am

Hi Danielle, I’m honestly not sure on the lifespan of the caramel because I always eat it up so fast. 3-5 days in the refrigerator I would guess.
-L

Caitlin27/02/2014 - 8:29 am

happy 29th birthday to you! i completely understand what you mean about the false dichotomy between grooming and having your shit together. i go through periods of that, too, but i come back to the same conclusion as you. similar with never taking the time to cover the dark circles under my eyes. i’m kind of proud of them. i know that’s weird.

beautiful cake/torte and i’m excited to learn more about your experiences and feelings in the upcoming year ;)

Anon27/02/2014 - 8:39 am

Happy Birthday dear Laura!!!! That cake looks staggeringly good!!

Have you ever come across J Krishnamurti? He is none of those sorts of people you mentioned above, you might find him refreshing!

Lisa @ Simple Pairings27/02/2014 - 9:09 am

Wow. Your photographs are absolutely breathtaking! This torte looks like it is to die for! The hazelnut mousse looks incredible, too. What a fabulously indulgent cake! :)

Lisa

Emma Galloway27/02/2014 - 9:52 am

Crap this looks SO good!!!!!! This is exactly how I’d like to celebrate my next birthday! Enjoy your last year in the 20′s :-)

Katie @ 24 Carrot Life27/02/2014 - 10:03 am

Not only are these pictures beautiful (as usual) but I NEED this cake. It looks so good and it won’t make my stomach hurt from lots of dairy and sugar. Happy birthday!

Lindsey27/02/2014 - 10:31 am

Wow, yeah, totally understand your disgust w/ hustle-hungry gurus; there seem to be quite a few people who prey on people’s weaknesses. Anywho, I totally thought my 20s were my trial, that I’d have figured shit out by 30. It turns out (in my case) that even at 30, life is still a continual assessment of shit-togetherness! 29 was a rad ride for me, and I hope this (and every year) brings you clarity, questions and good times! HB, Laura!

thelittleloaf27/02/2014 - 10:35 am

This looks all kinds of amazing. I could eat the hazelnut mousse stuff by the spoon. Is there a reason you use cashew butter rather than hazelnut? Hazlenut overkill perhaps? Happy belated birthday too by the way!

lynsey27/02/2014 - 10:47 am

the perfect treat for celebrating life, birthdays, and having your shit together. xo

Laura Wright27/02/2014 - 10:47 am

Kate, you nailed it! Sometimes toasty hazelnut has a bitter edge, so I thought I’d just temper it with some fatty cashew butter to help carry + enhance the hazelnut flavour and not overwhelm the whole thing with nuttiness. Thanks for your kindness too :)
-L

cynthia27/02/2014 - 11:01 am

Happy birthday!!!! I’m so in love with this cake (so many flavors that I love, all in one!) and your phenomenal photos — beautiful.

Ashley27/02/2014 - 11:02 am

Happy Birthday! Love your photos and way with words, as always. They always make me think. Plus, I’m positively drooling over this cake and am seriously debating how soon I can get some arrowroot powder to make this….then NOT tell my husband it’s not from a box (his fave).

molly yeh27/02/2014 - 11:11 am

gahh this is GORGEOUS! and i hope you had a very very happy birthday!!!!!

Mandy27/02/2014 - 11:37 am

This sounds AMAZING!

Question- Do you HAVE to use a springform pan? Or would it turn out okay in any other sort of pan?

Stacy27/02/2014 - 11:44 am

Such smart thoughts on life, getting older and being okay with the reflections of that. I know exactly what you mean about being tempted to question yourself (and the scars and lines, etc.) and then realizing that these are good reflections of life well lived, things to be proud of. And: what a cake! I hope it was the happiest of birthdays! You deserve only the best, and I hope this new year is a beautiful one for you.

Grace27/02/2014 - 12:10 pm

Happy birthday! This torte looks and sounds incredible. I’m hoping someone close to me has a reason to celebrate soon so I can bust out this decadent dessert. After college I went through the same thought thinking if I regularly got my nails done, got “real professional lady” haircuts and the right clothes I’d feel like a real adult. Some years later now I rush to work after sweaty yoga with no time for makeup and feel more put together than ever. It’s good to find the things that drive us and give us the irreplaceable sense of self-worth and ultimately make us happier than any superficial sense of self ever could. Cheers to you!!

sandra27/02/2014 - 1:05 pm

this cake looks delectable. so rich and creamy AND vegan. Love it.

Laura Wright27/02/2014 - 1:23 pm

Hi Mandy, You don’t have to use a springform pan at all, I would just recommend greasing your pan up real proper and maybe using some parchment so that the cake de-pans cleanly once it’s totally cooled.
-L

Alanna27/02/2014 - 2:29 pm

Oh wow. This is an amazing work of art, and just look at that beautiful ingredient list. A dream come true. Thank you for sharing, and happy happy birthday. :)

Chelsea//TheNakedFig27/02/2014 - 4:04 pm

Whoa, girl. You just took it to a new level! This looks INCREDIBLE. Sending birthday wishes your way. So grateful that your birthday means me getting my hands on this recipe. So generous of you!

sarah27/02/2014 - 5:18 pm

Happy Birthday Laura! And, thanks for this post. I have so many days of feeling like the worlds biggest mom-slob, glancing around at well-groomed souls that seem to hold perfection in their grasp. But I feel the same – I like my scars and unpolished nails, laughter wrinkles and long un-fancy hair. It’s how I’m most comfortable, anyway. But sometimes I forget. xo

Emma27/02/2014 - 5:24 pm

Holy cow!! This looks incredible! That hazelnut mousse looks so pillowy I want to dive into it.
Happy happy birthday. I love your attitude.

Katie @ Produce on Parade27/02/2014 - 6:28 pm

Oh my dear lord. This is incredible. Period. Hazelnut and chocolate are the best together!

cheri27/02/2014 - 8:10 pm

Happy Birthday to you. Beautiful cake. Love your pics.

jade27/02/2014 - 8:20 pm

Happiest of birthdays to you Laura!
Can I just say, you have absolutely floored me with this one. I have a very good (vegan) friend’s birthday coming up, and as usual I am chief birthday cake maker. I had already planned exactly what I was making – UNTIL I SAW THIS! Whoa!
And your photographs! Jeepers!
Gold stars everywhere.
Thanks for the amazingness.
Jade. X

hannah27/02/2014 - 9:20 pm

Happy Happy Birthday Laura!

I hope this year brings you as much joy as your recipes bring me :)

Lisa | Je suis alimentageuse27/02/2014 - 10:02 pm

Happy Birthday! I love hazelnut and chocolate together, and that coconut whipped cream on top? Jackpot.

It’s true, even people who look well-groomed don’t necessarily have their shit together. Screw looking refined, just continue being awesome =P

Sonja27/02/2014 - 10:02 pm

All I can say is WOW.

[…] vegan chocolate hazelnut torte with salted caramel from another excellent vegan food blog, The First Mess, looks incredibly […]

Kasey28/02/2014 - 2:25 am

Happy birthday, beautiful lady! Those marks are worth being proud of, I agree. 29 is a big year!! Bring on the cake! xo

[…] Not one for a sweet tooth, but man, this hazelnut torte looks so inviting. Bonus, it’s […]

Kathryn28/02/2014 - 6:02 am

I really think the last couple of years of your twenties/beginning of your thirties are the best years filled with moments when you realise that you know who you are better than you ever have before. Happy belated birthday lady, this cake looks like the best (and only) way to celebrate.

Michelle28/02/2014 - 6:22 pm

I have GOT to share this with my GF friends, this looks incredible. Oh he!! I’ll share it with all my friends!

Irina @ wandercrush28/02/2014 - 7:45 pm

Stunning textures, as per usual. Happy belated 29th and thank God for rough spots, deep wrinkles, and date caramel.

Hannah28/02/2014 - 7:48 pm

Oh my, this looks insanely good!!!!!!!!
Just a question before I rush out to make it — is there anything that can be used instead of the oat flour? I know oats can be gf but they contain a similar substance that a good percentage of coeliacs react to, my boyfriend included.
Can you think of any replacements??
Thankyou!!!!!
:)

Laura Wright01/03/2014 - 8:19 am

Hi Hannah, you could certainly use brown or white rice flour instead of the oat. I’ve made the brownie base before using both and it was great. Also, I think any GF all purpose flour mix would be suitable in this too. Hope this helps!
-L

Harvest and Honey01/03/2014 - 12:48 pm

My goodness. This looks wonderful. So happy to have found your site, btw. The flavor combo of Hazelnuts and Chocolate makes me sort of crazy, like in a good way. Always looking for fun new ways to put them together, and I’m itching to try this one! Thanks for this :)

Heather01/03/2014 - 3:21 pm

Happy Happy Birthday Laura! This cake is a real stunner. I love how you have captured the beauty in these photos – the colors and stunning light. Fancy-face personal grooming is so overrated. Once in a while, my sisters or friends will convince me to get my nails done, and the next day bits of nail polish begins to chip away, possibly in my dinner. Who knows? Three weeks ago I had the worst haircut ever, so that was a real waste of time. And whenever I put on a bit of mascara for fancy occasions, it seems to stay put for weeks even with a diligent scrubbing. It all seems a bit unnecessary. This cake is absolutely necessary though, and a perfect way to celebrate a birthday. Cheers to you!

Jacqui02/03/2014 - 6:31 pm

Hey, happy belated birthday Laura!! This torte looks incredible! I’m starting my list of b-day dessert ideas early for my 30th this year and this one’s made the list for sure!

Sarah03/03/2014 - 2:52 am

This is seriously the most delicious looking thing I have ever seen! I dont own a springform pan though… Can I use a pie dish??

Laura Wright03/03/2014 - 11:21 am

Hi Sarah, you could use and 8 or 9 inch cake pan if you want. Just make sure you grease it real good and allow the cake to cool totally completely before de-panning it.
-L

dervla (the curator)03/03/2014 - 12:24 pm

happy birthday, Laura! I’m on a new non dairy quest, so this cake looks perfect :))

ATasteOfMadness04/03/2014 - 3:15 am

Holy moly, this is gorgeous!! I have a whole bunch of hazelnuts ready to me used, and I would love to use them on something this beautiful ;)

Tamara04/03/2014 - 8:15 am

Ohhh, I am so making this for my birthday on Monday! Was opting for a classic orange-chocolate raw cake until I saw this gorgeousness. Thank you for sharing. And belated happy birthday from almost-springlike Slovenia! :)

Tamara

Tamara04/03/2014 - 10:47 pm

Oh, another thing. Can I use honey or agave (not my favourite) instead of maple syrup? I usually replace it, but you never know… and I want this “torta” to be just right. Thanks.

Laura Wright05/03/2014 - 12:59 pm

Hi Tamara, any liquid sweetener (except for stevia drops) you like would be fine! So brown rice syrup, agave, honey etc. are all fair game.
-L

Kathryne05/03/2014 - 6:13 pm

Laura, your posts kill me. In the best way possible. Love your reflections on growing older. I doubt that you have calluses on your fingers from your camera shutter button or keyboard, but it’s abundantly evident that you work your ass off in this space, too. This dessert looks stellar. I’m on a homemade brownie high right now but my brownies aren’t so redeeming. Here come the jitters.

phi05/03/2014 - 7:36 pm

some time ago after some convincing from others, i went in for a “real” haircut that came out looking like the worst shoulder pads since the 80′s. since then, i’ve been growing my mane to the floor just for fucks – i’m going to be that old woman on the porch one day and if i get grumpy, i am going to cut it all off and use it as a weapon. don’t let them take away your weapon!

happy birthday dear.

[…] finally, I can’t wait to try out this recipe. Scary, scary […]

Sophia09/03/2014 - 5:41 am

This torte looks and sounds so so so wonderful. Love the flavours you combined here and the texture looks out of this world!

Tamara11/03/2014 - 2:53 am

Ok so I made this for my birthday yesterday and was simply the best cake ever. Honestly. I ate it for breakfast today without feeling un-healthy (as a nursing mom), even gave my thumb dipped in the caramel to my wide-eyed five month-old, and even my family who are humungus sceptics when it comes to health foods… adored it. Thank you, will be on a cake priority list from now on. ;)

[…] Wright from The First Mess has pretty much ruled Pinterest since uploading the photos from her Chocolate Hazelnut Torte […]

Catherine McCord24/03/2014 - 1:13 am

Be still my heart! This looks unbelievable. I can’t believe it’s gluten free and vegan. Must try! I wonder how it would be with almonds?!

[…] (inspired by this recipe from TheFirstMess) Ingredients: 9 big pitted medjool  dates (soaked 15min in boiling water […]

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