Thursday, February 18, 2010

Project Valentine's Day

Project Valentine's Day was something I coined a few weeks before the big day. I knew right away that I wanted to make something lavish for Kelli. She deserves it...and lots more! I had a vision in my head, and of course not all visions come to fruition lol. Nonetheless, Project Valentine's Day was a success! What did I make you ask? A box of chocolates and a heart shaped cake!

The box of chocolates was an easy one to conceptualize. Chocolate is rather an easy thing to make. A little cacao, agave and ground nuts, you have yourself a winner!

I bought an empty heart shaped box and little paper guys from a restaurant supply store. I headed off to Chef Dara's ( house to get to work. When I arrived, long behold she had "caramel" already prepared in her fridge. Perfect! I went ahead and started with the cake while she prepared the chocolate dough.

Once the cake was in a stage where it had to sit in the freezer, I rolled little balls of chocolate and caramel. It was easy to get creative. Some were stuffed with dried cranberries, others were plain chocolate rolled in cacao or coconut flakes. I added pecans to a few as well.

Once I was done playing with the dough, I put them in the wrappers and placed the whole box in the freezer so it would keep longer :).

The real project was the heart shaped cake! At first I thought about making a triple layer chocolate cake. Kind of sounds like the Shawn White's Double McTwist 1260 in the halfpipe Olympic competition, a nearly impossible feat for the average person.

Dara handed me a raw dessert bible, Cafe Gratitude's Sweet Gratitude. Those guys have it down! If you haven't been to a Cafe Gratitude, GO!!!! Eat any one of their desserts or milkshakes and you'll be flying high through the clouds for the next day or two.

I flipped through the book and landed on a Strawberry Shortcake. How appropriate!!! It was broken into two parts, cake and filling. The basis for the cake consisted of 24oz of dates to 8C of grounded nuts (or nut flour). In this case I used almonds, the queen of nuts. The filling was a cashew cream (cashews, agave, coconut oil, vanilla) with chopped strawberries.

What was interested was that in the book it called to use a mixer to mix the dough. Perhaps in the "cooked" world of food, a standard household has a mixer. I've never heard of using a mixer in the raw food world. Well, we were short a mixer so my hands had to do the work! After about 20 minutes of massages, you can only imagine what my hands and arms felt like. With each minute the dough was getting more dense. It was rather sticky so I knew I had to had something of a powder form, be it more ground almonds or another form of powder. I choose powdered coconut. This worked really well!

I then divided the dough in half, one for the bottom layer and one for the top layer. I put a few drops of coconut oil on the bottom of the heart shaped spring form pan to keep the dough from sticking. I shaped the dough on the bottom of the pan and pressed it down firmly.

Next up was the cashew cream. I wish I could remember what all exactly was in there but I only remember the few mentioned above. This was created using the Vitamix. It tasted so good!

I poured half of the cashew cream over the dough. I reserved the other half to use as a frosting. I placed chopped strawberries in the cream. Next, I placed the pan in the freezer to allow the cashew cream to set. It took about an hour to get to the point where I could work with the top layer.

Traffic on the 405 was building up so I had to leave Dara a nice mess in the kitchen and hit the road. I took my project on the road! 50 minutes later, I got home and immediately placed the cake in the freezer.

The next day I removed the pan from the freezer, I had to shape the top layer. It's kind of difficult to shape a cake layer on top of a cream so I pre-shaped it. I did this by making rounding and flattening the dough, to about the thickness I wanted, on a cutting board. I placed pan on top and pressed down. This acted like a cookie cutter. I just removed the outside and voila!..another heart shaped layer. I placed the layer on top of the cashew cream and filled in the gaps with the dough pieces I removed earlier.

I had leftover dough so I used those in the box of chocolates as well :).

I let the whole thing sit in the freezer overnight because I didn't want Kelli to see.

I took it out of the freezer and prepared to frost it. This is where cake decorating skills would come in handy! I've never frosted a cake so only you could imagine! Yikes!!!!! My sister got the decorating genes, I just all the math stuff.

Dara suggested using beet juice to dye the cashew cream pink to use as a frosting. Great idea Dara! I microplaned a little beet and strained it through a nut milk bag. Pure juice! This works perfect if you only have to use a little juice. It's easier than setting up your juicer and having to clean it all.

I reblended the cashew cream frosting and while it was blending I added a little beat juice until I got the color I wanted. It was a nice light pink :). I used this to frost the cake. Not so fun! I think the trick is to use a lot of frosting, freeze it, use more frosting, freeze it, then shape it. I'm sure Meagan would disagree though; she's the resident pastry expert! That was just my logic given the experience I had.

After frosting the cake, I realized that I didn't do a very good job, expecially on the top part. I was not happy whatsoever so I covered it up with chopped strawberries :). At first I was just making a mess everywhere....but then it started to come together.

After I laid all the chopped strawberries on top I decided to add a little more flare. I piped the outline of the heart with a darker shade of the frosting. Note to self: freeze frosting after blending or it'll turn into liquid quickly and make a mess!

Don't ask me why but I added sliced strawberries across the sides and piped those as well. Not fun when strawberries are sliding down off the cake.

Finally, I was done!

KELLI LOVED IT. Or at least she gave me that impression hehe. The cake tasted fantastic! I still have a little left ;-). She also loved the box of chocolates! Her favorite was one made from all chocolate and powdered in cacao.

Piece of cake!

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