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raw chocolate cherry mousse cake + birthdays


It was my birthday this past weekend! We ran to the city for a couple of days and had a really wonderful time. A cozy and delicious dinner here, some craft cocktails, lots of coffee, my favourite pizza in the world here, picked up a really great new magazine and popped into some favourite shops. The air is getting a bit warmer all around, I just started a new job (complete with a crazy-hectic opening week) and I’m another year older. Change is all about. It feels sunny and welcome.

I don’t usually aim for a fancy to-do on the big day. Several years have seen a snow storm on the exact day or right around it anyway, ruining much anticipated childhood birthday parties (and much anticipated birthday cakes for that matter). A good meal, time spent with people I like and some sort of treat with a candle in it makes me pretty happy. And so my adult birthday celebrations have gone, fairly quiet with minimal fanfare. Generally some cozy brunch is involved too. There’s a certain warmth and intimacy to that kind of celebrating, just a little elevation above the norm. I find life is pretty amazing on any given day, so I’m grateful for every little bit within and around the ordinary.

And in the vein of being grateful, I’m bringing you a recipe inspired by the best raw dessert cookbook ever. Cafe Gratitude’s book is my go-to for healthy and mind-blowing desserts. I’ve made countless variations of their treats to rave reviews and total bedazzlement every time. Everything is gluten, sugar, refined flour and animal product free and so, so luxurious. I will offer a little tidbit straight up: this cake isn’t cheap to make. About 5 cups of raw nuts total, virgin coconut oil, dried sour cherries, raw cacao, lots of vanilla… I know, I know. Considering the occasion, I opted to wallow in a bit of abundance.

Thinking about this cake as an investment in your health wouldn’t be too much of a stretch though. It’s a much more wholesome alternative to traditional cheesecake. Rich in healthy fat, protein from the nuts, natural sweeteners, plenty of fruit (fresh and dried) and some antioxidant action. Instead of feeling lethargic, you can relish in the surprising amount of energy and clarity you feel post-dessert. That is truly something to celebrate.


raw chocolate cherry mousse cake
serves: makes one 8.5-9 inch round cake
special equipment: a 8.5-9 inch spring form pan, food processor and a blender (you might be able to do the filling in the food processor too)
notes:  I think the cashews could get pulverized enough in a food processor. I haven’t tried it, but it seems likely. Omit the diced beet if you’re using the processor for the filling though (it’s mostly for colour anyway).

crust:
2.5 cups raw almonds
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/3 cup dried sour cherries
8-10 pitted medjool dates
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil

mousse:
2.5 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight
1 2/3 cups almond milk
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil, warmed to liquid
1/2 cup raw honey (or maple syrup or agave nectar etc.)
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup frozen pitted cherries, thawed
1 small beet, scrubbed and small diced

Lay overlapping sheets of plastic wrap inside the ring of a spring form pan. Place the bottom disc on top of the wrap and snap the ring into place. Set aside.

Make the crust: place the almonds in the bowl of the food processor. Flip machine to high to break the nuts a bit. Stop the machine. Add the cacao powder, salt, sour cherries, dates, vanilla and coconut oil. Pulse the mixture a bit to begin the mixing. Flip the machine to high until the almond pieces look quite small and the dried fruit is evenly chopped up/distributed throughout the mix. Stop the machine and pinch some of the mixture together with your fingers. If it holds, you’re set.

Dump the crust mix into the prepared spring form pan. Spread it around evenly and start applying pressure to firm it into the pan. I use the bottom of a measuring cup to make the crust a bit smoother. Set aside.

Make the filling: Combine the cashews, almond milk, coconut oil, honey (or maple syrup), lemon juice and salt. Bring blender to high slowly. Blend the mixture on high until smooth and liquified. Pour all but 2 cups of the mixture into the prepared spring form pan. To the remaining filling, add the pitted cherries and diced beet. Blend on high until smooth. Pour remaining mixture quickly and confidently into the centre of the cake. Then, with about 1 cup of filling left, start to lightly drizzle the hot pink filling around, creating a marble effect within the cake.

Cover the cake with plastic wrap (it will be quite liquid at this point) and gently slide it into the freezer. Let it firm up for about 2 hours. Transfer to the fridge once solid so that it’s ready to serve whenever the craving strikes.

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la domestique28/02/2012 - 12:33 pm

Just discovered your site via Adrienne Eats blog, and the cake looks so pretty! Happy birthday to you.

Zita28/02/2012 - 12:34 pm

I have a similar cake on my blog (raw raspberry cashew cake) but this looks oh so yummie! :)

Kelsey28/02/2012 - 1:34 pm

Happy Happy Birthday, love! This is breathtaking and a perfect way to celebrate. :)

jeni28/02/2012 - 1:47 pm

happy birthday! i wish that this recipe had gone up a smidge sooner so that i could make it for my boyfriend’s mom. it was her bday this weekend too!

Erin28/02/2012 - 2:56 pm

Happy (belated) Birthday Laura! This is an absolutely gorgeous way to celebrate your birthday (and I have to imagine, I wouldn’t miss the real cheesecake! This sounds delicious!)

Margarita28/02/2012 - 3:16 pm

Happy late birthday! This cake looks like heaven… P.S. That pretty plate with the green edges, I almost bought it at TJ Maxx… but I didn’t. I’m officially regretting that decision after seeing how pretty it really is.

Adrienne28/02/2012 - 5:05 pm

Happy Birthday, Laura! This looks + sounds amazing!

raechel28/02/2012 - 5:51 pm

Happy birthday! What a gorgeous cake!

Jacqui28/02/2012 - 8:24 pm

Oh man, that is definitely a “cheesecake” I could really get into! Yum! And happy birthday to you too!

sarah28/02/2012 - 11:12 pm

Gorgeous! I love these pictures.
And happy birthday! I hope this year brings you a lot of beauty and goodness.

Melissa // thefauxmartha29/02/2012 - 1:03 am

Wowzers! This is beautiful. And raw. I’m impressed! Happy Birthday and cheers to a lovely year ahead!

Jennifer29/02/2012 - 1:39 am

Happy Birthday!!! That mousse cake looks amazing, you wouldn’t know it was raw and that the mousse didn’t contain dairy!

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar29/02/2012 - 7:47 am

This is absolutely lovely! So pretty!

thelittleloaf29/02/2012 - 9:11 am

I’m so excited to have discovered your blog – it’s incredibly beautiful! And although this cake may have cost a bit to make it looks absolutely worth it – simply stunning :-)

Laura29/02/2012 - 11:20 am

I just found your blog via Happyolks via Green Kitchen Stories and I just love your site! I love your food philosophy and that you have a real connection to the earth and seasonal eating. You’re photos and recipes are beautiful and inspiring and I look forward to stopping by your site more often. Happy belated birthday!
Laura V.
BG, Germany

Erin29/02/2012 - 12:32 pm

This looks delicious! I was excited to see that it was vegan, but because it has honey in it, it’s technically not :/

Laura29/02/2012 - 12:44 pm

Hi Erin,
You could use maple syrup or agave nectar (as noted) if you wish. The flavour will be virtually the same.
-L

Sofia29/02/2012 - 2:30 pm

I don’t normally go out of my way to eat a raw or vegan diet, but this mousse looks better than any baked cream version I’ve seen in a while! Will have to try it sometime, thanks for sharing =)
Just discovered your blog, love it, can’t wait to explore more!

Koko01/03/2012 - 7:33 pm

Wonderful ingredients and beautiful product! Happy birthday!

Anna @ the shady pine02/03/2012 - 12:11 am

That pink colour swirling through the cake is so pretty. I LOVE the ingredients you’ve used here!

Andrea02/03/2012 - 12:59 pm

Wow, Laura, you’ve really outdone yourself this time! I’m so impressed!

art and lemons02/03/2012 - 10:42 pm

Happy Birthday to you, Laura! Sounds like a fabulous birthday and this mousse cake is as sunny and delightful as the change you speak of. Thanks for sharing.

Kasey03/03/2012 - 11:45 pm

I have yet to try a recipe for Cafe Gratitude’s book, but for years, I lived just around the corner from the restaurant! I have to admit that some of their dishes were hit or miss. I’ve been fascinated by these types of cakes (I saw a similar version of My New Roots) and your photos certainly make it look to die for. Hope you had a fabulous birthday!

Cookie and Kate05/03/2012 - 10:12 am

Happy belated birthday, Laura! Your cake is a real stunner.

celia07/03/2012 - 8:57 pm

This is a beautiful dessert! I especially love that you added chocolate and cherries to this cake, makes it sound and look even more delicious!

[...] I will leave you with something truly beautiful: a raw cherry and cacao mousse cake! The First Mess is one of my new favorite blogs (found via The Rebel Grrl Kitchen) and I am so [...]

[...] don’t think there’s anything more I could want from a man… or from this cake, which I made to celebrate four years of [...]

[…] off and I was searching the Internet for a nice vegan, fairly quick dessert with cherries. Came by this recipe and absolutely loved it. We didn’t have all the ingredients in the house, but hey, when was the […]

almond sweet potato biscuits + mushroom gravy


I went to a music festival in the south a few years ago and one of my main takeaways (actually) was how good the food was. I mean I had a really good time running around, dancing to whatever, not washing my hair, sharing an RV with 6 other people etc (actually!). But the food… it was surprising. I had packed a good amount of fruit and Larabars thinking the situation would be nutritionally inadequate. I’ve since learned that you should just bring a snack for the ride down and worry about food at the destination. Spontaneity! Making do! That’s travel. And it’s certainly a very healthy approach in its own right.

Anyway, so we were in Tennessee on this farm. It was crazy hot, dusty and muddy at the same time, people on all sides, music, drum circles, spontaneous yoga sessions, dancing, fountains, glow sticks, the whole thing. And there’s food trucks/stands everywhere just ready to serve up really awesome stuff–some of them locals, some travellers, some with the festival officially, just a potent mix of yums for real. Within 5 minutes of our little campsite, there was delicious, vegan french toast with bananas and maple syrup, fruit smoothies and fair trade espresso. On one bright morning, having just fetched my plate of morning awesomeness, I went in search of some pals. I caught up with one, also on a breakfast mission, and I um… got a bit grossed out.

He had a plate of biscuits with sausage gravy. Like white, meaty, greasy-ish gravy. In ridiculous, sweltering heat. Steaming hot, meaty, shortening-laden chunkiness on a biscuit. Seeing as I was in a high-and-mighty-on-health phase, I wasn’t feeling it (slash was totally appalled). My friend, however, was crazy about it. With a little space, I couldn’t help but think that the dish had a lot of potential as a concept though. Slightly sweet and rich biscuits with a hearty, herbed gravy on top, all piping hot with lots of fresh black pepper. I could (actually) be into that.

So here’s a plant-based version without gluten! These almond-based biscuits don’t rise terribly much so they’re ideal for smothering with hot gravy and herb-y mushrooms. They’re herbal, sweet and moist with a nice crust on the outside. Leftover biscuits? Cube them up, toss with a bit of oil and pepper and bake in the oven for 10 minutes and you have heavenly croutons for garnishing soups, mixing up with roasted root vegetables etc.


gluten free sweet potato biscuits with mushroom gravy
Adapted from Roost here and here
serves: 6 -8
special equipment: a blender is helpful but mashing with a fork/heavy stirring is an option
notes: If you’re buying stock, make sure you go for a no sodium variety. Ditto if you use canned beans. The miso adds so much (delicious) saltiness.

biscuits:
2.5 cups almond meal
1/2 tsp fine salt (I used Himalayan pink salt for fun)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1-2 sprigs hearty herb (sage, rosemary, thyme), leaves removed and chopped
1/2 cup fully cooked sweet potato, mashed up
1/2 tsp ground chia or flax seeds
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp neutral oil (I used grape seed)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup

gravy + mushrooms:
3/4 cup cooked white beans
1.5 cups vegetable stock
juice of 1 lemon
1.5 tsp miso
1 tbsp almond butter
2 tbsp grape seed oil
5 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
3 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Make the biscuits: combine the almond flour, salt, pepper, baking soda, baking powder and chopped herb in a large bowl. Combine the mashed sweet potato, ground chia seeds, oil, vinegar and maple syrup in the container of a blender. Puree the mixture completely and pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Mix everything together until a dough forms/everything clumps together without being too sticky.

Lay a piece of parchment paper down on the counter and dust it with a finer gluten free flour (rice or chickpea flour). Scrape the dough from the bowl onto the parchment and flatten out slightly. Lay another piece of parchment on top and roll out the dough to about 1 inch thickness. Cut 3-4 inch rounds out of the dough with a biscuit cutter or rocks glass dipped in flour. Lay the rounds on the baking sheet, spaced about 1/2 inch apart (they don’t spread). Bake for 15 minutes or until well browned on the bottom. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

Start the gravy: combine the beans, vegetable stock, lemon juice, miso and almond butter in the blender pitcher. Turn the motor onto high until mixture is pureed. Set aside.

Saute the mushrooms: heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and minced thyme with a few twists of black pepper. Flip/stir until mushrooms are soft and quite brown (do not add salt). Pour the bean and stock mixture into the pan. Give everything a stir. It should seem to reduce right away. Once hot, remove from the heat.

Place a warm biscuit on a plate and ladle about a cup of the mushroom/gravy mixture on top. Garnish with a few minced thyme leaves or black pepper.

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janet @ the taste space19/02/2012 - 11:44 am

This looks super scrumptious! I love your idea of turning them into croutons as leftovers. :)

Zita19/02/2012 - 1:26 pm

This is a wonderful dish! I love the flavours. I’m going to give it a try!

Sarah19/02/2012 - 1:50 pm

Amazing. Brilliant. Beautiful.

I want this right now.

Emma19/02/2012 - 3:06 pm

Yu-hum! Those pics are calling to me…great that you managed to veganize a dish so successfully too.
I’ve only had good experiences with festival food, despite being in the UK which is considerably less vegan-friendly on the whole than the US. Perhaps it depends on the music..I’m partial to the slightly alternative, hippie type festival :)

Sarah19/02/2012 - 10:45 pm

Laura! These are the majority of my favorite ingredients, all in one recipe. Gorgeous, too. Thanks!

Margarita20/02/2012 - 2:18 am

This is my kind of gravy!

Anna @ the shady pine20/02/2012 - 6:41 am

Those mushrooms look beautiful….will look forward to trying this dsh!

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar20/02/2012 - 8:28 am

I could eat an entire pot of those mushrooms. Awesome.

Dana20/02/2012 - 3:36 pm

These look amazing! I’ve always wanted to try biscuits and gravy but they usually seem disgusting…not these, though!

Just found your blog and it is wonderful!

http://woodstockwardrobe.com/

Jennifer (Delicieux)21/02/2012 - 3:16 am

Oh my, this looks so inviting and comforting. We call biscuits something different here in Australia (we call cookies biscuits) but your sweet potato biscuits look so delicious. I’m bookmarking this to try. Thanks for sharing.

sarah23/02/2012 - 4:57 pm

I used to be terrified of biscuits and gravy, but now love them! These look great – your pictures are so pretty.

Maria @ Scandifoodie24/02/2012 - 1:24 pm

Such a lovely vegan dish! I’ll have to try this, it’ll be perfect for our autumn in a couple of months’ time!

Brittany25/02/2012 - 10:05 am

I will never. never. get tired of sweet potato. thank you for coming up with this new way for me to devour it. now wishing it was easier to get ahold of ground flax in Paris… *sigh*

Kasey28/02/2012 - 2:18 am

I’m so happy I stumbled across your blog for so many reasons! First, I know what you mean about food and music going hand in hand. My husband and I write a site devoted to just that! Second, this dish sounds downright awesome. I can never say no to a good biscuit.

shannon09/03/2012 - 7:24 pm

Your description of Bonnaroo is spot on.

Jeff25/04/2012 - 7:55 pm

I made this tonight. It used sage. It was amazing. Very unique flavors. It was so rich that I only ate half a biscuit, but that a good thing. Good job with this one.

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caitie18/01/2013 - 10:41 pm

I don’t usually write reviews but I just made the biscuits for dinner and used spelt flour instead since i was out of almond meal…but the end result- they are to die for!! I recommend this recipe to everyone. Thanks for the recipe!

Whitney22/03/2013 - 12:36 am

Ohh bonnaroo <3

Risa10/04/2013 - 10:17 pm

Hello!

Beyond the fact that your blog feels and looks like beautiful real perfection (every recipe is a creative homegrown saint!), I am head over heels for the plate shown in this post… might you know where it came from/if there are others to be had?

I would be forever in your debt!

best.

Risa

Laura Wright11/04/2013 - 9:21 am

Hi Risa! Thank you for your generous and lovely comment. I picked up the plate at a Canadian chain store called HomeSense. They have a constantly rotating and changing stock of items because they get ends and discontinued bits from major stores. It doesn’t even have a brand name or anything on the bottom of the plate! So sorry I couldn’t help you more on that.
-L

Anna25/07/2013 - 9:59 am

mmm these look sooo delicious, and i love how you’ve made the mushroom sauce with beans!! i always think cooked vegetables are the best way to thicken a sauce. i think i might try these with pumpkin instead of sweet potato lots of cinnamon instead of herbs… something sweet for breakfast? love this recipe, thanks.

Olivia02/08/2013 - 12:17 pm

I know I’m late to comment, but I have to say this has become one of my favorite meals. So good.

Laura Wright05/08/2013 - 8:25 pm

That’s great, Olivia. Love hearing about peeps cooking from the archives. Actually the best feeling :) Thanks!
-L

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a frequent conversation + a favourite snack


I’ve gotten into the same conversation a bunch of times about my preference for locally procured food. It goes in the predictable, but still challenging, direction every time. So what do you do in the Winter? This query is usually delivered in a “Ha! Gotcha.” kind of tone. Well… I always source the best hoop-housed, hydroponic or stored/cellared option I can find for the cooler months in my region. I preserve the bounty of summer, freeze what I can and rely on grains, beans, split peas etc a little more once the woolies are on. I start to miss broccoli though. And citrus, little spheres of sunshine from Florida and California that remind us of the spring to come. It’s just really hard to resist in its peak months. I also have an undying addiction to avocado. So what to do? I mix some imported items into my daily eats without any guilt whatsoever.

When the Ontario produce is on, I’m in there snatching up every last piece, leaf and trimming I can get. Whether from my own garden, the local grocer or  the farmer’s market, I choose locally-sourced items whenever possible. For nutritional completeness and overall culinary satisfaction, I mix in some imported goods while the snow falls. If I’m making a stew with stored Ontario onions, carrots, garlic,potatoes, heirloom beans, and canned summer tomatoes, I’m not going to feel terrible about stirring some American chard and minced thyme into the pot. Balance, consideration and flexibility is delicious in food, but also in life.

So with that, I give you one of my favourite snacks. Rustic, simple and highly adaptable to whatever greens are available/what you have leftover from last night’s supper. I make an olive tapenade with herbs and almonds to give it some body and a roast-y heartiness, slather it on crusty bread and top all of that with some super garlicky cooked greens and a little sprinkle of toasted almonds. Satisfying, salty, crunchy, mushy; only good things can come of this. You don’t have to actually make a tapenade either. A smear of ricotta or some dijon mustard is nice too.


garlicky greens bruschetta with olive & almond tapenade
serves: 2
notes: The bread is a pretty central ingredient here, so make sure your loaf comes from a bakery of good repute. Leftover cooked greens work wonderfully for this. Just give them a quick heat-up in the saute pan with a splash of water.

tapenade:
1 cup pitted olives (I went for kalamata)
1 clove of garlic, chopped a bit
1/3 cup almonds, toasted + extra chopped for garnish
5 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
zest of 1 lemon (optional but fantastic)
ground black pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

bruschetta:
4 slices of crusty bread
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 small cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
5-6 ounces spinach, roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
pinch of chili flakes
salt and pepper
lemon wedges

Make the tapenade: combine all tapenade ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor. Pulse ingredients about 10 times to get everything chopped up. Put it on high and drizzle the oil in through the feed tube. Stop the machine, scrape down the sides and flip to high again. Mix until you have a smooth, uniform paste. Set aside.

Start toasting your bread. Heat the oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the cabbage and saute until slightly softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the spinach. Saute until slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and chili flakes and season the mix with salt and pepper.Stir and toss around until spinach is wilted but still quite green. Remove from the heat.

Slather slices of toast with about 2 tbsp of tapenade each. Place a mound of cooked greens on top. Serve with lemon wedges either hot or at room temperature.

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Jen14/02/2012 - 12:10 am

I’m with ya. To bide my time, I’m ordering seeds and thinking summery thoughts!

Margarita14/02/2012 - 1:10 am

I try to be seasonal as much as possible, but sometimes there are things that are too good to pass on… Bananas, avocados, pineapple, mangoes, mushrooms, I buy them all without feeling guilty. Somewhere out there it is still business for other small time farmers. That’s how I like to think of it.

Meaghan15/02/2012 - 4:28 pm

I love your recipes! I am a big fan on food gawker. Do you have a google +? I run a google + that distributes food articles and recipes. I would love to start sharing your stuff right from google +!!

kels16/02/2012 - 1:20 am

love olive tapenade. oh yes. only GREAT things can come of this :)

Anna @ the shady pine16/02/2012 - 7:08 am

What a perfect lunch this would be….anything with olives has me won over!

adrienne22/02/2012 - 9:47 pm

I follow along the same philosophy when it comes to local food in the winter months. I love this snack!

[...] Garlicky Greens Bruschetta with Olive Tapenade by The First Mess  [...]