Serve up something special at your next intimate dinner that is sure to impress. A gorgeous, delicate dessert to share with the ones you love, including yourself, this Valentines Day. Decadence doesn’t need to be sugar laden confections with butter and flour! You can fully indulge in the rich exotic flavors of vanilla, hibiscus, pistachios and of course a small dose of cacao. Although it appears gourmet, it is quite simple to make in a few easy steps and can be prepared over a few days. Sure to be a crowd pleaser for years to come.
Prep Time: 6 hours (passive) + 30 minutes + 3 hrs (passive).
Cook Time: 0 minutes.
Makes: 8 servings.
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
⅓ cup shelled pistachios, finely chopped (plus extra for garnish)
½ cup almond flour
1 Tablespoons high quality cacao powder
¼ cup pitted dates, soaked
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups raw macadamia nuts, soaked
½ cup canned coconut milk
¼ cup coconut oil melted (use refined coconut oil for more pure vanilla flavour)
⅓ cup pure maple syrup
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla bean powder or seeds from one vanilla bean
2 cups water
1 cup dried hibiscus and rose petal loose leaf tea (with rose hips) (about 1 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup raw coconut sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated organic lemon peel (if no rose hips are in the tea)
Garnish: dried rose petals, hibiscus petals, chopped pistachios, cacao powder
Tools: Food processor, high powered blender
This recipe takes four steps: the sauce, the crust, the filling and the decoration. You can prepare the sauce a few days in advance, and the cake can be frozen beforehand too, so when serving all that needs to be done is cutting and decoration. Break it up as you wish, but each step takes no more than a few minutes.
First, prepare the hibiscus reduction. A reduction is simply thickening a liquid and intensifying it’s flavor by boiling it down gently. For this sauce we are using an herbal tea blend of hibiscus and rose petals mixed with rose hips to provide a deep red color and a floral, slightly sour flavor to cut through the sweetness of the cake. The pectin in the rose hips also helps to thicken the sauce as it is reducing. Start by adding the loose leaf tea to a two cup jar, then bring two cups of water to a boil and pour it over the flower petals to create an infusion. Twist the lid onto the jar and allow the infusion to steep for at least twenty minutes. Pour the contents of the jar into a small saucepan, add the coconut sugar and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the liquid has reduced down to one cup. It is not a lot of water, so don’t leave it alone too long! Once simmering it should take 10-15 minutes. If your tea blend did not have rose hips, stir in the lemon peel and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Pour the infusion through a fine mesh sieve, into a clean jar, pressing the flower petals gently so all liquid is strained through. Chill the sauce and store up to one week.
Next prepare a loaf pan with parchment paper, cutting one piece to fit width wise across the pan with extra put over the sides as tabs to pull when it is time to remove the cake. Create shorter, narrow pieces for the lengths and layer beneath the wide piece. This allows you to lift the cake out once set to cut and serve. The paper may wrinkle and create an imprint on the finished cake, if you want a smooth edge simply cut off the outer edges with a sharp, hot knife before slicing pieces. You can also use an 8 inch springform pan if you prefer.
The filling takes the most preparation time, as you first need to soak the nuts in water for at least six hours or overnight. I used macadamia nuts for their rich yet light flavor and texture, however sunflower seeds also work well here. After soaking, drain and rinse them with fresh water before using.
The showstopper in this recipe is the vanilla, which is preferably added with a real vanilla bean. Appropriate for the holiday of love, these pods are the fruits of a few very particular kinds of orchids, and they require special growing conditions and careful handling to thrive. Once harvested, the pods also have to be dried, cured, and then aged. Like a good relationship they require a lot of TLC and work, but are well worth the effort. If you are using a vanilla bean, which is an incredible sensory experience, make sure you choose a plump, shiny bean that is as fragrant as possible. Carefully chop off the tips, slice it gently down one side, and scrape the seeds out with a paring knife. If you cannot find one or already have vanilla powder at home, it makes an ideal substitute.
Combine all of the filling ingredients in a high powered blender, adding the vanilla seeds last and blend for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture is silky smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides as necessary. If you don’t have a high powered blender, add a touch more coconut milk and after the initial blend, divide the filling in half and work in batches to get it smooth. Taste the mixture to ensure it is to your liking, adding more maple syrup or vanilla if you prefer. Set aside.
Set up your food processor. First add a handful of extra pistachios and pulse until coarsely chopped, then set aside for garnishing. Next prepare the crust by adding the ⅓ cup of pistachios, almond flour, cacao, salt, drained dates, and coconut oil to the bowl of the processor and pulse until well combined and the nuts are finely chopped. Press the mixture into the loaf pan evenly, tapping down the side edges with a spatula.
Pour ⅓ of the filling into prepared pan over the crust. Sprinkle in some of the chopped pistachio pieces and tap pan gently on the counter to submerge. This will create a more interesting texture and create a pop of colour once your cake is sliced. Add remaining filling to the pan, smooth out the top and tap the pan hard against the counter a few times to release any air bubbles.
Place the cake in the freezer to set for at least 3 hours or until completely firm. You can store it until serving up to 3 months in the freezer, in case you want to double the recipe or are just super prepared. Before serving, let the cake thaw in the refrigerator for a few hours or at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving. When ready to serve, plate wide slices of cake, drizzle sauce over the top or along one edge, and garnish with chopped pistachios and dried hibiscus and rose petals.