I have been baking a lot of yummy vegan treats lately. Back in the fall I thought I was really on the path to being an at-home vegan, and really, for the most part I am. There are oodles of reasons to become a vegan and I’m not going to go into them now. However one of the best reasons I think is that it encourages experimentation in the kitchen. Instead of relying on the same old milk-eggs-butter combination, you are introduced to flax eggs, almond milk, and applesauce as substitutes. In many cases the vegan recipe is tastier and lower-fat than its dairy counterpart. (Chai snickerdoodles are maybe my favourite cookie; and I just whipped up a batch of vegan chocolate chip cookies which are a contender for the title). Last weekend I attempted a raw strawberry “cheese”cake. There is nothing remotely cheesy about this cake so I prefer to call it just a raw strawberry cake. At any rate, I was pleased with the results. Happily, the recipe involves no vegan cream cheese, which is both expensive and not very good: the “meat” of the cake is soaked, pulverized cashews. I think if I had a better food processor the cake would have been smoother and creamier, but alas I’m waiting for it to kick the bucket. This recipe also introduced me to alcohol-free vanilla, something that isn’t easy to find (I got mine at Whole Foods) but I don’t think I’m going back. The alcohol-free version is thicker and richer and just more vanilla-y. I’m a convert!
I’d suggest making this if you have some health conscious friends coming over in the summer: since the cake is raw, you want to use fresh, juicy strawberries. Your friends will appreciate the low fat, fairly healthy dessert: you will appreciate how easy it is to make this cake and the fact that you make it the day before. Not surprisingly, I pilfered this recipe from my favourite vegan website, the Post Punk Kitchen. You can follow the instructions there, or my version below. The original includes a “fluffy white frosting” (which is the white dollop on top of the cake you see in my photo below). I didn’t find this added much if anything to the cake, so I’m not including it the instructions below.
Grease a 9-inch springform pan with coconut oil.
To make the crust, combine in a food processor:
1 cup pecans
1 cup almonds (I used blanched)
1/4 tsp salt
Pulse until fairly fine. Then add 4 pitted and chopped medjool dates; pulse them in until the dough squishes and holds slightly between your fingers. Press into the bottom of a cake pan. Wash out your food processor.
To make the filling, pulse 3 cups of cashews which have been soaked at least 3 hours. 3 hours is totally acceptable but you can leave them overnight if that’s easiest. Once the cashews are nice and crumbly, add:
1/2 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tsp alcohol-free vanilla extract
Puree until the mixture is smooth as you can get it. Add up to 1/4 cup water to ensure a good, smooth consistency. With the food processor running, add in 4 cups of hulled, halved strawberries. I think you might get away with adding another cup of strawberries so if you’re feeling adventurous, give it a try for extra strawberry-goodness. Once the strawberries are incorporated, add in 1/4 cup of melted coconut oil slowly, with the food processor running. Pour the filling into the pan, cover with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
Before serving, combine about 2 cups of chopped strawberries with 3 tablespoons of agave syrup and mash together to make a coulis. Spread a bit of the coulis on each plate and top with a piece of cake.
This is a very un-vegan suggestion, but this cake would probably be extra tasty with whipped cream (is there some way to get whipped cream to taste of strawberry?) or frozen yogurt on the side.