The perfect party cake

Veg-based foodie site Yum Universe (YU) is turning one on August 12, and they’re celebrating with a birthday-themed contest, which involves creating a plant-based, party-themed, whole foods recipe. To me, birthdays are always worth a little extra effort in the dessert department—you’ll never see me making a birthday cake using a boxed mix and frosting from a can, no ma’am. To me, life’s special moments are meant to be celebrated, and for Yum Universe, that comes with a six-layer brownie blizzard ice cream cake.

I was first inspired to create such a decadent cake after seeing the gorgeous photos of the raw peanut butter cup ice cream cake on Sweetly Raw. However, since I don’t currently own an ice cream maker or Heathy’s ice cream cake e-book, I knew I’d have to rely on my own knowledge and experience to get the job done.

I know the recipe instructions below look like they could fill a 100-page handbook, but trust me when I tell you it’s not that bad…and it’s totally worth it. Just think about how proud you’ll be when you can pull off a healthy, whole-foods-based ice cream cake that looks like it came from Dairy Queen. Those dairy- and sugar-loaded DQ cakes were once a childhood favourite of mine, but the thought of eating one now just turns my stomach. Lucky for us, this cake is made with natural, raw and vegan ingredients, like cashews, cacao and coconut, which is much more appealing.

Are you ready for the ride? Here we go…
Layer 1—dense, chocolatey, brownie cake base
Layer 2—smooth, light vanilla soft serve
Layer 3—creamy macadamia nut caramel
Layer 4—almond and chocolate cookie crumbs
Layer 5—more vanilla soft serve, but with thick brownie chunks
Layer 6—topped with a smooth chocolate ganache and more brownie chunks

Review: Clean Start

With the onslaught of “get healthy” books and product advertisements these days, it’s no wonder we’re constantly scrutinizing our own and each other’s daily lifestyle choices. It often comes down to having the “perfect” diet—one that makes you glow, keeps you thin, gives you strength and energy, and is healthy and sustainable.

What we need is a cookbook that doesn’t make healthy eating so intimidating. From the author of the bestselling and highly acclaimed book Clean Food, comes a follow-up, Clean Start, featuring 100 recipes that focus on eating minimally processed foods for maximum nutrition, and involve quick and easy preparation.

A well-known nutritional and culinary expert and educator, author Terry Walters is keen to lead the way in the clean, green and local approach to eating. After reading just a few pages of Clean Start, I was inspired to reorganize my cupboards and put Terry’s sensible teachings into practice. Her gentle and insightful advice guides you along the path to healthy eating without insisting on a militant, do-or-die attitude.

In her own words, Terry writes: “It’s about having a relationship with food that’s not based on living up to somebody else’s ideal, or following a strict regimen. It’s simply about making healthy choices, one at a time, and doing the best that you can do.”

Raw macaroon sandwiches

In the spirit of easy, no-bake summer treats, this raw macaroon recipe is made simply by dehydrating a mixture of dried coconut, dates, agave nectar and coconut butter, along with whatever flavourings you prefer. Here, I made use of my husband’s favourite spiced tea and some vanilla powder to create light and chewy vanilla-spice macaroons.They’re pretty amazing on their own, but why not kick it up a notch? It’s just a matter of blending a few key ingredients into a smooth cacao cream, then sandwiching it between two macaroons and, voilà, you’re in raw dessert heaven.

Can you tell I’m still dreaming about sandwich cookies?

Mango pudding parfaits

I love all kinds of fruit and, for the most part, I don’t discriminate between them. I’ll eat fruit when it’s at its best, local and in season, and sometimes even when it’s not, and so you can imagine how happy I was to see fruit being used in a number of entries to the recent Raw Ice Cream Sandwich Challenge. You can bet I’ll be trying more of these fabulous recipes very soon.

But I have to admit, there are times when I play fruit favourites. On a hot summer’s day, for example, it’s a juicy, ripe mango that will undoubtedly win me over. If you’re looking for a sweet pick-me-up on a sunny afternoon, this mango pudding parfait recipe is a showcase of mango sweetness at its finest. Did I mention it’s easy to make, too?

Challenge winners!

I hope all of you in Canada or the US enjoyed a lovely long weekend. Mine was full of sunshine, long walks, family and ice cream sandwiches!

After the final entries rolled in, Lisa and I spent Saturday morning studying the posts and scoring each recipe against the judging criteria.

I know we said it already, but it bears repeating: we were both incredibly impressed by the fabulous flavour combinations, the creative use of seasonal fruit and the sheer determination you all demonstrated in creating such amazing raw, vegan treats. You have certainly expanded our repertoires and inspired new experiments in our kitchens—and hopefully in many others across the blogosphere. Thank you to everyone who participated in all the fun.

When we tallied the totals, three finalist emerged. As the judging criteria stipulates, creativity and presentation were what set the winners apart from all the enticing entries. If we went on flavour alone, you’d all be winners.

With our list of finalists in hand, it was time to get rolling and churning out some sensational ice cream sandwiches. The best part about ice cream sandwiches is that they take far less time to make than cake pops—and there is no need to MacGyver a special box to hold up ice cream sandwiches. We are getting more seasoned at these challenges and did some important prep work in advance, but we were both quite impressed by how quickly the final products came together.