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A sexy vegan fig & rhubarb birthday cake with vanilla almond cream.

Posted Feb 05 2013 5:42pm
One year ago today I wrote my first blog entry for My Wholefood Romance! So, I thought it was only fitting to make a cake. I have chosen a fabulous recipe from wholefood icon Jude Blereau , and only made tiny changes, mainly because I didn't have the ingredients! May I say, this is probably the best cake I have ever made. I know it's hot today Melbourne, but run, don't walk, to buy the ingredients and make this cake - STAT! You're welcome.
In other hot news, stay tuned for the up and coming post featuring an interview with said wholefood icon. Jude generously shares her views and thoughts on a number of topics, including kids nutrition, eating well on the run, and her journey to where she is now. I can't wait!

So, back to cake. Figs are in season here, so I had to use them! They have such an air of 'special occasion' to me, and are lusciously high in calcium, iron, magnesium, and B vitamins - what's not to love! And let's face it, figs are sexy! 
The rhubarb got a guernsey thanks to my gorgeous Grandad who gave me a bunch from his garden on our last visit. It's a perfect fit for this cake. The figs and the almond cream are a party in your mouth, and the rhubarb provides enough gentle tartness to compliment the sweet.  
This is not a quickie. It is a loving process that will take you over an hour, but what a beautiful way to spend time. One of the reasons I love to cook is that it relaxes me, and sets me back on the straight and narrow if I have had a crazy day. It's a time for grounding and creating, pretty cheap therapy really!

Sexy Vegan Fig and Rhubarb Cake with Vanilla Almond Cream
Adapted from Jude Blereau's 'Spring Cake' in her first book 'Wholefood'

For the Vanilla Almond Cream:
1/2 cup almonds, preferably soaked overnight
3 tbs cornflour
1 vanilla bean
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut milk

For the Cake:
310g / 2 1/2 cups unbleached spelt flour
1 tbs baking powder
1 1/2 cups ground almonds (*Note: I used the almond pulp left over from making the almond milk for the cream, and then extra ground almonds to make up the 1 1/2 cups. If you choose to do this, you will need to squeeze as much liquid out as possible, and rub the almond pulp through the flour with your finger tips to break up the clumps. I wasn't overly concerned about getting every little clumpy bit out, and it was not an issue with the end result.)
250ml rice or nut milk
1/2 cup almond oil (or macadamia)
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 tsp natural vanilla extract
4 tsp apple cider vinegar

For the fruit layer:
2 cups rhubarb (or raspberries or plums)
1 tbs raw sugar or honey

3-4 figs to adorn the top of the cake

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius / 325F
Line a 22cm cake tin with baking paper, and lightly grease the sides.
First you are going to make some almond milk.
If you have soaked your almonds, give them a good rinse, and add to a blender with 1 1/4 cups water. Blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a bowl or jug lined with a double layer of muslin (or through a nut milk bag if you have one) and squeeze out the pulp to create about 1 1/2 cups of lovely almond milk. Set aside.
Pour another 1/2 cup of water through the pulp, squeeze, and set this weaker milk aside to use to then your cream at the end of you need to.

Split your vanilla bean longways and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and the pod to a saucepan with  your 1 1/2 cups of almond milk and heat to body temperature. Remove from the heat and cool for 15 minutes (in the fridge if it's summer).

For the cake, add the flour and baking powder to a large bowl. Add the ground almonds (and almond pulp if using) and whisk together. In a separate bowl, put 3/4 cup of your rice/nut milk, almond oil, maple syrup, vanilla extract and apple cider vinegar. Add this wet mix to the dry ingredients. You will see the vinegar reacting with the baking powder by creating a little bubbling chemistry experiment. Let sit for 5 minutes, and then add the rest of your rice milk. I actually forgot to do this, and it was still perfect. Thanks Jude for creating such a flexible recipe! 
Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 65-70 minutes, or until the centre is cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin before removing. This helps to maintain the integrity of the cake and prevent cracking and breaking.
While the cake is cooking, continue to make the cream. In a small saucepan, add the cornflour, vanilla and maple syrup. Slowly pour in enough of your almond milk while stirring with a whisk or spoon, until a thin paste is formed. Put the saucepan over a low heat and slowly bring to the boil. The mixture needs to bubble to make sure the cornflour is cooked out, but only just, so remove from the heat as soon as you see some bubbles. Transfer the mix into a bowl and pop into the fridge to cool.
Spoon the mixture into a blender or food processor, add the coconut milk and the remaining almond milk, and blend for 5 minutes or until very smooth. Put in the fridge until you're ready to use it.

For the rhubarb, add the fruit to a small saucepan with the sugar/honey and cook over low heat, stirring often, until it is all soft and jammy. I don't like the fruit layer to be overly sweet, but you can add extra sweetener here if you like.

When the cake is cool, cut in half horizontally, and place the bottom layer on your serving plate. Spread with the rhubarb and top with the vanilla almond cream. Carefully add the top cake layer, and slather with the rest of the almond cream. Cut the figs in half and arrange on the top as you like.
P.S. Jude's recipe uses rose geranium leaves in the almond cream - how delightful! You could also try a few drops of rose water.

There you have it! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. x
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