healthy + seasonal recipes that are gluten & dairy-free

Blood Orange and Dark Chocolate Layered Cake with Chocolate Mousse Filling

Blood Orange and Dark Chocolate Layered Cake with Chocolate Mousse Filling

This is a winter cake worthy of a celebration! A dense, deep and dark chocolate cake flavoured with blood orange. It all happens to be gluten free and vegan. Enjoy xo 

Blood Orange + Dark Chocolate Layered Cake with Chocolate Mousse Filling (gf + v) // my natural kitchen

It’s mid-February! Life has been a wonderful whirlwind since the holidays, but absolutely full-to-the-brim. In the last month, I worked on the most lovely freelance project, wrapped up some major work situations, went on vacation (!!), celebrated our third wedding anniversary (!!!!) as well as the birthdays of 4 people we love. On our vacation, we went to California and split our time between San Francisco and Venice Beach. We wandered, climbed, met new friends for tea, dined to our heart’s content (but still didn’t even hit all the places on our lists!), and finally rested. Last weekend actually marked eleven and a half years of officially being together. ELEVEN AND A HALF! Neither of us can really believe that it’s been three years since our sweet little wedding, or that so much time has passed since our first date.


With so much to celebrate, I had the strongest urge to bake a cake. Someone reminded me recently that before long, it will be Spring and all of the wonderful winter foods will be gone. I like that perspective. Usually, I get so stuck on complaining that I can’t feel my toes and that all my boots have ugly salt stains on them that I don’t leave space for enjoying the season after Christmas is over. In a way though, that feels like wishing time away and honestly that’s not the way I want to be. So, join me in celebrating squash, citrus, and being cozy with our thickest socks, so many blankets, and lots of hot chocolate! Plus cake. I hope you enjoy this chocolate cake as much as we do. It’s got a lovely citrus undertone from the blood orange purée, with a nice rich crumb and it’s just so chocolately. The frosting gets its pretty colour from the juice of a blood orange, and it has a nice subtle flavour from that too. The deep dark chocolate mousse filling is a tahini-spiked avocado pudding, and it plays well with the other flavour but you could easily skip it and go for more frosting between the layers. So good, seriously.

Blood Orange + Dark Chocolate Layered Cake with Chocolate Mousse Filling (gf + v) // my natural kitchen

Our time in sunny California was just the break we needed. As much as it feels so good to be home, I really felt like I could be happy if we stayed over there too. Sarah sweetly offered to share some tips and her suggestions were so awesome to have while we were in San Francisco! I’ve put together a list of places where we ate or particularly enjoyed, in case anyone is interested. I’m thinking of compiling these lists for each of our travels and creating a separate page on the blog. I know how helpful it is for people who like healthy food, and especially when special diets are in play, to have some guidance in a new place.

San Francisco

Millennium – We had the most delicious meal here, and I honestly wish we could have eaten there a second time. It was busy there every single night and when we went – on Sunday – we couldn’t even get a reservation until 8:45pm! But the wait for dinner was so worth it, and I plan to purchase the cookbooks to attempt some of their dishes at home. The peanut curry dish that I had was amazing, but I noticed it’s not on the menu any longer. Try the Chocolate Almond Midnight for dessert, but hurry … Alanna filled me in that the restaurant is closing in April due to a lease issue. Such a shame! 

Hops & Hominy – one of Sarah’s suggestions! Nice cocktails, and great menu with Southern-inspired foods. Literally, Zach got fried chicken and he was a happy man.

Samovar – This is a cute place! I got the rice porridge but the ginger and quinoa waffle sounds delicious. I’ve been enjoying the loose-leaf teas I purchased from this place since I’ve been home, and I wish I had also bought the Californian Persian black tea (super nice). 

Tartine Bakery – Definitely not gluten-free. All I got here was an almond milk latte, but it was tasty. This was a stop we made for Zach, and his verdict was that it was good. I had hoped to try Bar Tartine for dinner one evening, but a bit of foresight would have gotten us a reservation. 

The Plant Organic Café – we loved this place and ate there three times, if you count the airport location. We first happened upon it for breakfast, and returned the next day for dinner. It was a great place for “everyone” – whether you eat gluten free, vegan, or omnivore, there are so many options here! 

Redford – This is a bar that serves good food and cocktails. It was an easy, nearby place to grab dinner and my Superfood Salad (kale, roasted beets, chickpeas, pistachios and lots of other good things) was so satisfying. Gluten-free items were marked clearly. 

Bio – This tiny little French breakfast place was a great find! I had their gluten free steel cut oat and quinoa porridge with hemp milk and strawberries (sooo good), a spicy jalapeno strawberry juice, and took the most delicious raw chocolate and peanut butter cup to snack on later. Zach got a brioche sandwich, and he loved it! There were many gluten free pastry options (not dairy-free), and a rose homemade yogurt that made me wish I could eat dairy. 

Pressed Juicery – I picked up a few green juices, and an aloe water, to have on hand to drink in the mornings and they were great! 

Blue Bottle CoffeeAmazing. We first discovered this West Coast gem while we wandered around the Ferry building. The Bella Donovan was our favourite. 

Herbivore – We ate lunch at the Divisadero location and I had such a hard time choosing what to eat, but only because I wanted to eat everything. The menu is completely vegan, with lots of gluten-free items that were clearly marked. I ended up with the Indonesian Noodle Salad (okay, but if we ever go back I’d try something else). Zach was a big fan of their burrito. 

Ferry Building – Such a fun place to explore! Here, we found Dandelion Chocolate and bought 3 gorgeous bars that we are trying our best to ration. There was a gluten free bakery that Sarah recommended, and it was nice to be able to order a falafel wrap without a second thought! We bought the most unique beans at Rancho Gordo, and some pretty items from The Gardener. I wish we went to Out the Door (sounds so good!) and Slanted Door (such great reviews) but we didn’t get to them. 

Venice Beach

Café Gratitude – I’ve wanted to check this place out for so long, and it was super lovely to be there. I couldn’t stop smiling as our server described that they encourage patrons to order “as an intention” and enjoyed my raw pizza immensely. It wasn’t Zach’s favourite, which is just a heads up to those who, or whose partners, prefer more traditional foods. In general though, this place had such a happy vibe and it just felt so nice. 

Flake – Now this is exactly where couples like Zach and I should go. I had an acai bowl topped with gluten-free granola, and Zach had a croissant sandwich with scrambled egg, tomato, and bacon. He was in heaven, and so was I.

Moon Juice – Another place that was high on my list! I picked up a few of their superfood powders, and already regret not adding some of their dusts to my bag too. Everything in that place is just magical. The vanilla fig almond milk was insanely good (and I’ve been recreating it in my kitchen since the day we got home). Please, Amanda, open a location over here! 

Real Food Daily – we walked to Santa Monica one morning, did some shopping, and happened upon this very busy restaurant for lunch. It was great – big and hearty portions with really delicious healthy food. I got a Mediterranean salad bowl complete with za'atar flatbread, vegan whipped feta, and so many great veggies. Zach got vegan lasagna that he really loved. Hooray for vegan ricotta! 

Venice Ale House – We wandered into this place on our first night to get a drink and a snack after walking down the strip. I wish we actually got dinner there as they had so many gluten free options on their menu! We ended up just getting some grilled sweet potatoes and cider. No gf beers at this place, but still a fun stop. 

Whole Foods – After so many days of eating in restaurants, which although wonderful, gets old … we were so excited to shop for ingredients to bring back to our little air bnb place. We picked up so many veggies and snacks, a couple varieties of coconut milk yogurts, some raw macaroons, chocolate and had a great time perusing their liquor section – there were a few new-to-me gluten free beers, and some things that stores in Canada don’t carry. 

Hope you enjoy my list, and keep me posted if you check any of them out!

And now onto the cake! 

Blood Orange + Dark Chocolate Layered Cake with Chocolate Mousse Filling (gf + v) // my natural kitchen
Blood Orange + Dark Chocolate Layered Cake with Chocolate Mousse Filling (gf + v) // my natural kitchen

Blood Orange and Dark Chocolate Layered Cake with Chocolate Mousse Filling

Makes two 4-inch cakes, to serve 4-6. This cake is gluten-free and vegan.

½ cup blood orange purée, see below

¼ cup buckwheat flour

1 cup oat flour

½ cup raw cacao powder or cocoa powder

½ cup coconut sugar

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

1/8 tsp sea salt

¼ cup coconut oil, soft

½ cup cashew or coconut milk

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 tbsp maple syrup

Wash the blood orange and remove any stickers that may be on it. Place the orange in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the orange can be easily pierced with a knife. The amount of time will vary based on the size of the orange, but may take between 45 minutes – 1 ½ hours. When the orange is cooked through, drain the water and cut the orange in half to help it cool. Remove seeds, and then place the whole orange in a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Measure ½ cup of the purée for the cake recipe, and proceed. The purée can be made up to 3 days before you bake the cake.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two 4-inch baking pans with coconut oil, and line the bottoms with parchment paper cut to fit. Set aside.

Place the blood orange purée, cacao powder, coconut sugar, coconut oil, milk, vanilla extract and maple syrup in a blender, and blend until very smooth.

Whisk together the buckwheat flour, oat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Pour the orange chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients, and fold together so that the batter is well-combined and no dry flour remains.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, and place in the centre of the pre-heated oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out almost clean, with a few crumbs on it but not wet. Be careful not to over-bake, to avoid having dry cakes. Remove baked cakes to a drying rack and allow them to cool in their pans. Once cool, carefully remove from pans.

Blood Orange Frosting

1/3 cup raw cashews, soaked for 4-6 hours

1/8 cup blood orange juice

1/8 cup cashew or coconut milk

a pinch of sea salt

¼ tsp blood orange zest

2 tbsp coconut oil, melted

¾ cup natural powdered sugar

Drain the cashews from their soaking water, and add to a blender with the blood orange juice, milk, salt and zest. Blend on high until completely smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender with a spatula as needed. Add the melted coconut oil and blend again. Pour mixture into a bowl, and using an electric hand mixer, beat in the powdered sugar until well-combined. Place the bowl in the fridge for 2 hours (or in the freezer for 45 minutes). Before using the frosting to decorate the cake, briefly beat again with a hand-mixer.

Chocolate Mousse Filling

½ a small very ripe avocado

1 tbsp raw cacao powder or cocoa powder

2 tsp tahini

3 tsp maple syrup

a pinch of sea salta

a pinch of vanilla bean powder

Mash the avocado with a fork into a smooth purée. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine until a rich pudding forms. Set aside.

To decorate the cake, place the bottom layer on a decorative plate or cake stand. Use a small spoon to create a circle of frosting around the perimeter of the cake – this creates a barrier to “hold in” the chocolate mousse filling, Spoon the chocolate mousse filling into the centre of the cake and use a spoon to spread it towards the frosting barrier. The mousse should be about 1 centimeter thick (you may have some leftover). Place the second cake on top. Use an offset spatula or a butter knife to frost a very thin crumb layer across the top and sides of the cake. Return the frosting to the fridge as you also place the cake in the fridge to set for 30-45 minutes.

After the crumb layer sets, you can continue frosting the cake. Give the frosting a quick stir before you proceed, and then ice and decorate the cake, as you desire. I used cacao nibs, a slice of blood orange that was baked with a little coconut sugar, and edible flowers.

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