Vanilla, Berry + Lavender Cake (gf + v) & Chickpea Magazine!
This gluten free and vegan cake shines with warm vanilla notes. The texture is so similar to a traditionally-made vanilla cake, with a nice crumb. It slices beautifully without crumbling, and goes so well with the berry-spiked frosting and lavender-tinged filling. Topped with berries, it's a cake for a celebration!
I’ve hinted a little bit about a fun project I worked on in January, and I’m happy to share some more details about that with you today. I first came across Chickpea magazine about a year ago, and each quarter I look forward to seeing their cover photography (always seasonal, and always frame-worthy photography) as well as the mix of awesome recipes, advice for living well, and thought-provoking articles. Did I mention that the publication is completely vegan?
I think we can all benefit from adopting a diet that includes more plants, even those with no intention of eliminating anything at all. It’s all about adding good stuff, in my opinion. When it came to developing recipes for this story, I thought about two things: first, what would I like to eat at a bridal shower? And second, what did my amazingly wonderful sisters and friends serve at my own bridal shower, a few years back? With this in mind, I went about creating a menu that celebrated whole foods and seasonal vegetables with a festive and celebratory feel to it. Everything I made is naturally free of gluten, dairy and eggs but also looks and tastes familiar enough so that even those with a more traditional diet would find lots to enjoy. In keeping with my philosophy of sharing food as love – a way to nourish and take care of the people you hold dear – I just wanted everything to be delicious and full of happy ingredients.
If you’re familiar with the Niagara region, you might be aware that Brock University owns an old mansion called Rodman Hall, which they have converted into an art gallery. It’s beautiful, and became the setting for our bridal shower shoot. One of my closest friends is a really talented designer, and owns an interiors shop in Toronto. She was a huge help in decorating the set and running all kinds of errands for me – she’s amazing and such a shining light. Through this project I got to meet another fantastically-talented lady, Eva. Eva photographed everything for the story and was such a dream to work with. I’m so happy to have met her! It totally blew me away the way that people were so super helpful, sweet and accommodating as I scrambled to get everything in order for our shoot, while perfecting my recipes and dealing with a few bumps along the way. Eva got me in touch with Lesley, who provided some gorgeous props that totally made the set come together. The morning of the shoot, Camille ran out to pick up a few things and as I was icing and decorating the cakes, a few curious gallery visitors popped by. As each wandered in, they’d ask about the set and foods, and began photographing me as I worked – it was a little embarrassing but kind of a funny memory of what turned out to be a wonderful day.
Two of my beautiful sisters are getting married this Autumn, and so the coming Spring and Summer will be full to the brim with wedding preparations of all sorts (and I’m sooo excited for all of it!). One of my sisters has chosen a completely plant-based diet, and the other tends to avoid dairy and gluten. I’m thrilled to have options that would be perfect to serve to everyone at their upcoming showers. Many of these recipes, though, would also be just right for serving guests at a birthday gathering, packed along for a picnic, or just to have on hand for lunches or dinners as the warmer weather comes (I’m looking specifically at the tartine with creamy cashew cheese and shaved vegetables, the watercress and pea shoot salad with edible flower and a minty lime vinaigrette, and the mushroom, asparagus and pesto tarts for that!).
In the meantime, I’m so proud of this cake and because I know how difficult it is to find a vanilla cake that is both gluten free and vegan (and that doesn’t include anything odd or artificial), I am sharing my recipe with you here. It took me 8(!!) trials before I had a cake that I was truly happy with. Recently, I served it at a birthday party with delicious results! This will be my go-to vanilla cake from now on.
Vanilla, Berry + Lavender Cake
Notes: the recipe here is for a 8” three-layer cake and a 4” two-layer cake to place on top (as a tiered cake), or serve alongside (as shown in the photos). You could bake this into two 8" two-layer cakes instead if you prefer.
Be careful not to over-bake the cake as the texture and taste will suffer – a wooden skewer/toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake should come out mostly dry with a few crumbs sticking to it.
You can substitute the cashew milk for coconut milk, if you prefer. I make my cashew milk at home.
The lavender in the filling is subtle, but if you like you could substitute lavender with rose water (start with just a couple drops, taste and adjust from there!), or omit any additional flavourings and just use the strawberry frosting as-is. Any of these options will be lovely.
1 c (100 g) almond flour
1 c (120 g) sorghum flour
1 c (120 g) coconut flour
½ c + 2 tbsp (45 g) arrowroot starch
1 c (140 g) potato starch
2 tsp (8 g) baking powder
1 tsp (4 g) baking soda
½ tsp (4 g) fine sea salt
¼ c + 2 tbsp organic evaporated cane juice (fine grain natural sugar)
2 ½ tsp vanilla bean powder (or seeds scraped from a vanilla bean)
18 ½ fluid oz (2 ¼ c + 1 tbsp + 1 tsp) cashew milk, at room temperature
8 fl oz (1 c) liquid sweetener (coconut nectar or light maple syrup)
1 c + 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
½ c unsweetened coconut yogurt, at room temperature
1 ¼ tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and oil all pans with coconut oil. Line the bottoms of each pan with parchment circles, cut to fit your pans.
Sift the flours and starches, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt into a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine with the evaporated cane juice and vanilla bean powder.
In a separate bowl, whisk to combine the cashew milk, liquid sweetener, melted coconut oil, coconut yogurt, and vanilla extract.
Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry mixture. Ensure that no dry bits of flour remain, but avoid over-mixing or deflating the batter.
Evenly distribute the batter into the prepared cake pans. Place in the oven, and bake for 20-30 minutes (for the 4" cakes) or 25-35 minutes (for the 8" cakes). A toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake should come out dry with a few crumbs sticking to it, the cakes should be lightly golden, and spring back when gently touched. Cool cakes in their pans, on a baking rack, for 10 minutes and then carefully remove from pans and peel back parchment. Allow cakes to cool fully.
While all cake tastes most delicious fresh, it is possible to bake them ahead. If doing so, bake and then allow cakes to fully cool, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze (best) or refrigerate the day before serving. Allow cake to defrost before icing. Cake should be served at room temperature.
Strawberry Cashew Frosting
1 c cashews, raw and soaked for 4-6 hours
½ c full fat canned coconut milk
1 ¼ tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp lemon juice
4 tbsp Strawberry Purée (see below)
2½ c organic powdered sugar, divided
½ c coconut oil, melted
1 c strawberries
2 tsp lemon juice
1/3 of the icing
1 drop of pure food-grade lavender essential oil
To make the strawberry purée, blend strawberries and lemon juice together. Push through a sieve to strain out solids. Leftover purée can be kept in the fridge for 3 days, or frozen.
For the frosting: Add all ingredients except the powdered sugar and melted coconut oil to a high-speed blender, and blend until completely smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add 1 cup of the powdered sugar, and use a hand mixer to combine. Slowly add remaining powdered sugar, one half cup at a time, and mix well. Add melted coconut oil and beat on high speed. Refrigerate for two hours. Beat again on high speed before using.
For the filling, combine the icing and lavender oil. Taste – the lavender flavour should be mild but present. Add just a tiny bit more if you like (but careful, it’s very strong!).
Place the bottom layer of the cooled cake on a serving plate. Spread the lavender filling over each layer of the cake before adding the next layer. Ice the remainder of the cake with the strawberry frosting. Decorate with berries and unsprayed flowers. Serve the cake at room temperature.
A very special thank you to Camille of Cambie Design, Eva of Eva Derrick Photography, and Lesley of Warehouse 84 for their parts in bringing this together: xoxo to you all!