Berries and Coconut Crème Cake
I was 192848 hours old at five o’clock this morning. In other words, today I turned 22. Since my birthday falls at the beginning of the raspberry and strawberry seasons, they are often at the centre of the celebratory feast. I remember the year I turned 12, making a flan with our nanny Ashleigh and filling it with mascarpone and fresh strawberries we’d picked that afternoon, and enjoying it en famille outside after supper in the warm summer air. It’s funny how the memory of food has the ability to anchor you in a time and place; I don’t just remember the taste of the strawberry adorned sponge, but the laughter at the table, the conversation, and the feelings of contentment that enveloped the evening.
Strawberries and raspberries are synonymous with summer; this is the time when ones grown in Britain are at their best – juicy, packed with flavour (and nutrients such as vitamin C) and not needing much fussing about with. Imported ones really can’t compare! They’ve usually been picked before they’re ripe to avoid bruising in transit and arrive on supermarket shelves lacking the flavour they were intended to have. Sadly, so often we buy them, take them home and on sinking our teeth into one are met with watery-tasting mush. The solution is to try and buy ones that have been grown locally, picked when they are ripe, and have a seductive sweet fragrant smell. If they tick these boxes they will likely taste divine. Also, whenever possible, try and source organic berries – according to the Environmental Working Group, berries have some of the highest pesticide loads of all fruits and veg.
So with ample fresh, juicy, fragrant British berries available, this year, like so many years that have gone before, I fancied a birthday cake that included them. I decided to make a cake – similar in texture to a cheesecake – but which wouldn’t be made from cheese; a creamy almost mousse-like cake packed with berries and other wonderfully nourishing ingredients. Amongst raw foodists and vegans, cheesecakes made from nuts are incredibly popular and this is understandable – given a spin in a powerful blender the nuts (typically cashews) transform into a thick, silky smooth cream which, combined with lemon juice to add a touch of acidity, does a good job at replicating quark, the cheese traditionally used in Germany, the Netherlands, and Poland to make cheesecake. The downside of a nut laden cake is that it can be quite heavy, but I’ve found that using a combination of soaked cashews/macadamias with some fresh mature coconut meat makes the end result a little less dense than one with just cashews, even creamier, and better still, the coconut pairs spectacularly with the berries. If you need some helpful tips for cracking open a mature coconut and extracting its creamy flesh, YouTube is filled with how-to demos. Don’t pour away the coconut’s water, drink it there and then or save it to use as the liquid base for making a smoothie.
INGREDIENTS (organic where possible)
- 75g (½ cup) mix of brazil nuts and sunflower seeds
- 10 soft Medjool dates, pitted
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
- pinch of sea salt
- 140g (1 cup) plain (not roasted or seasoned) cashews or macadamias, soaked overnight or for at least 4 hours
- 75g mature coconut meat
- 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast (optional)
- 1 teaspoon sweet white miso
- 80g (5 tablespoons) extra virgin coconut oil, melted
- 90g (4½ tablespoons) raw honey or coconut nectar
- 100g fresh raspberries
- seeds of 1 whole vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla powder or extract
- 6 strawberries, for decoration
- 1 mint sprig, for decoration
- Grease an 18cm (7'') spring-form cake tin with a little coconut oil, and line the base with cling-film.
- Make the crust: place the nuts, dates and sea salt into a food processor and run the machine until the mixture starts to stick together. Add the melted coconut oil and pulse to combine. Scoop out a spoonful of the mixture and press it between two fingers, if it holds then the crust is ready, if it doesn't then run the machine a little longer until it does.
- Scoop out the mixture and press it into the prepared cake tin, do so firmly, making sure that it's packed down evenly throughout. Refrigerate whilst making the filling.
- On to the filling: drop all of the ingredients, except for the vanilla, raspberries, strawberries and mint into the most powerful food processor or blender you own, and blend on high until creamy and silky smooth. Add the vanilla and blend briefly to combine.
- Pour roughly half of the mixture out onto the chilled crust and gently tap the cake tin down onto a counter a few times to level it out.
- Add the raspberries (reserving 6 for decoration) to the remaining filling mixture and blend until smooth. Pour this pink crème onto the first layer of the filling and use a toothpick to swirl the two filling layers together a little, creating a slight marbling effect.
- Place the cake into the freezer overnight or until solid.
- To serve, remove from the freezer half an hour prior to eating. Decorate with the reserved raspberries, strawberries and mint.
- Run a sharp knife under hot water and cut the cake into slices. Serve on its own, or with additional fresh berries. Store any leftovers in the freezer.