On any average day I would taut myself as a lover of vanilla; the light, creamy, floral flavor that contributes a deep natural sweetness to all that it’s paired with. This chocolate cake does not represent that side of me but rather the part of my mind and body that says all that is deep, dark, and rich is right. When I visualize what this recipe came to be I see velvety layers of chocolate, soft cake and rich berry color and flavor. The bittersweet ganache melts into every bite of cake and offsets the tart strawberries sitting on top of the super sweet hazelnut spread. Very little dairy and a lack of refined sugars or flours make this an indulgence that feels praiseworthy rather than guilt inducing. With a layer cake, you are given a blank canvas for creativity-any other berry or fruit and jam middle would be wonderful as would a pastry cream. With this chocolate cake a whipped coconut cream and toasted coconut flakes on top would be divine but chocolate is what was in my kitchen and therefore the ganache came to be. I’ve yet to experiment with a non dairy ganache but I rationalized with myself that all would be alright for the dairy sensitive considering the lack of milk sugar (lactose) in the heavy cream-but I’m not sure who I’m trying to kid considering that milky nutella overflow.
A cake on the table perched high on a glass cake plate surrounded by white doily has always meant celebration to me as I’m sure it does for many others. I’ve recently celebrated my graduation from college with friends and family and baking a cake was in order. I’ve been a devoted pastry baker and dessert provider for family gatherings for a long while and I’m thoroughly enjoying the new challenge of making recipes using natural sweeteners and different flour choices that feel good to eat. I think that in the experience of a meal followed by dessert, the last thing you want is to be left feeling jittery and uncomfortable. Dessert is an opportunity to linger a little longer with your company and continue to feel good; with a rich cake like this you can rest easy knowing that it’s junk free and just a little bit will do you right.
1 cup whole spelt flour
½ cup white rice flour
½ cup brown rice flour
1 tbs tapioca flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt
1 cup maple syrup
1 ¼ cup almond milk (or milk of your choice)
3 tbs unsalted butter, melted (all coconut oil would work but I was running low!)
3 tbs coconut oil, melted
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
For the filling:
½ cup strawberries
2 tbs cherry berry jam
1/3 cup Nutella (a thin almond butter would also be a good pairing)
For the chocolate cream:
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
¾ cup heavy cream
¼ cup agave
1/ Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk together flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Grease and flour two 8” cake pans or line with parchment paper.
2/ In a separate bowl, combine almond milk, melted butter and coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and apple cider vinegar. Add wet ingredients to dry and whisk to incorporate. It is best to work quickly as the spelt flour is highly absorbent and will thicken as it sits.
3/ Pour batter into prepared pans, bake in the oven together for about 25 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the middle remove cleanly from the cake when done.
4/ When the cakes are completely cooled, put one layer on your cake plate. Spread the nutella and place a layer of thinly sliced strawberries over top. Spread your choice of jam over the berries to fill in the height between the berries and nutella layer. Cover with second layer cake.
5/ For the ganache topping, chop chocolate and place in a bowl. Whisk agave syrup and heavy cream together in a sauce pan or double boiler and warm on low heat until slightly simmering at the edges. Take off the heat and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let sit for a minute and then whisk until all the chocolate melts and a smooth, thick consistency forms. Pour and spread over the top of the entire cake.
6/ Ideally, let the cake chill in the fridge until serving so it will be easier to cut. I didn’t have space in the fridge so it sat out at room temperature but the ganache still set up nicely and was just slightly more difficult to cut due to its super soft crumb.