Today is my twin sister and I’s birthday (!!). I checked the calendar once again to make sure there was no mistake… and it looks like we’ve made it to 34 years on this little planet. Is this when we finally call ourselves adults?
One more year under my belt, of experiencing this crazy adventure that we call life. One more year of ups, downs, and everything in between. Surprisingly, the more I grow old, the more I’m in peace with the fact of growing older. I might not be smarter, I might not be exactly where I want to be, but I’m moving forward. I’m learning. Every second and every day. Sometimes slowly, sometimes poorly, but learning and growing nonetheless. Isn’t it what it’s all about anyways?
This past year has brought me back home, where my heart and my loved ones are. After nearly five years in Toronto, I moved back to Montreal. And today, things are great. Things are awesome, I should say. It feels good to be here, in this very moment, and in this very city I love so much. I could barely be any happier, and it’s truly the best feeling in the world.
I celebrated my last birthday with this classic chocolate cake, but this year I wanted something a little different. Something more refreshing that would remind me of the Dairy Queen cakes my mom would get us every year for our birthday.
Chocolate + hazelnut being one of my all-time favourite combinations of flavours (more here and here), I knew this year’s birthday cake would be all about this bomb duo. A few real, wholesome ingredients blended up and I almost magically got this rich, decadent, completely dreamy cake.
I say almost raw because there’s no cooking involved, but just a quick step of roasting the hazelnuts to bring out their lovely flavour. It really does wonders. This cake is vegan, gluten-free, and refined sugar-free too. And it tastes like heaven. Nothing else a girl can ask for on her birthday. 🙂
Notes: This cake can be served almost frozen – similar to an ice-cream cake – or thawed for a softer, almost mousse-like version. Whichever way you prefer it, it’s absolutely divine.
- 3 cups raw, unsalted hazelnuts
- ½ cup packed soft pitted dates (approx 100 g.)
- 2 tbsp + ¼ cup raw cacao powder, divided
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1 cup coconut milk (I used full-fat)
- ½ cup pure maple syrup
- ¼ cup melted coconut oil
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¼ cup chopped dark chocolate (use vegan if needed)
- Line the bottom of a 7” springform pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until their middle is slightly golden and they start to smell delicious. Let cool and remove the skins by rubbing the hazelnuts with your hands.
- Place ¾ cup of the toasted hazelnuts in your food processor and add the dates, 2 tablespoons of cacao powder and a pinch of sea salt. Pulse until it forms a thick paste. It should be sticky and should hold together. If it's too dry, add one of two more dates.
- Press the dough into the prepared pan - keep a bit of the dough to shape balls for topping if you'd like (optional). Set aside in the fridge while you are preparing the filling.
- Place 2 cups of toasted hazelnuts in the same food processor (keep the remaining for topping). Blend on high for a couple minutes, until it forms a creamy butter. Then add the coconut milk, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla extract and sea salt. Blend again until everything is combined and you get a smooth consistency.
- Pour about half of this mixture on top of the crust. Chop the remaining hazelnuts and sprinkle about ¼ cup on the filling. Place in the freezer to set, at least 20 minutes (to have two distinct layers, keep in the freezer for at least an hour or until very firm, otherwise the two layers will blend together slightly, creating more of a marble effect like in these photos).
- Add ¼ cup of cacao powder to the remaining filling, and blend until smooth. Once the cake has set, pour the chocolate layer on top. Place back in the freezer to set until firm, about 2-3 hours.
- Remove the cake from freezer and allow it to thaw at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before removing the outer ring of the pan. Transfer gently to a serving plate or cake stand and allow it to thaw for 20-30 more minutes before serving. (For a softer cake, let sit at room temperature a little longer.)
- In a double boiler (or a stainless steel bowl placed over a pot of simmering water), melt dark chocolate, stirring with a whisk until smooth.
- Drizzle the cake with melted chocolate and let set for a few minutes. Form balls with the remaining chocolate dough. Top the cake with the balls and remaining chopped hazelnuts.
- To serve, cut cake into slices with a sharp knife. Store leftovers in the freezer.