Vegan Dark Chocolate Blood Orange Layer Cake (gluten free)

Last Saturday on Valentine's Day, Eric and I decided to take a trip to the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts for a date.  I had planned on going for a nice walk outdoors somewhere, and as it worked out, Mother Nature did not cooperate and it was about 5F degrees that day.  So, the art museum was a warm and comforting place to go.  It was romantic walking through the museum and admiring art together.  They had an event going on where you place a red paper heart in front of your favorite piece.  So we carried the hearts with us for most of the date, and finally when we had already seen most of the museum, I saw the piece I loved the most. I was about to say so when at the same time Eric said "This one!" Turns out we both picked the same piece.  Funny because we have very different tastes, so it was pretty awesome we agreed this time.

After the museum, we took a trip to the Wedge Co-op, and the first thing I saw when I walked through the door was a display of beautiful blood oranges.  I had to get some. I had been waiting for blood oranges for what seemed like forever and none of the stores near my home had them yet.  So, I was all over them.  I wanted to make a cake of some sort featuring them.  I asked Eric if he preferred a raw cheesecake or a layer cake, and layer cake it was!  This was going to be a post Valentine's Day Cake, since I just wanted to spend time with Eric and why not make Valentine's Day last two days and have cake on Sunday!

I ended up making a chocolate cake with a fluffy coconut based white chocolate orange frosting that tasted like creamsicle.  It was delicious, and this cake ended up being a little like me and Eric's taste in art.  He prefers chocolate, I prefer vanilla or fruit flavored.  But we both agreed that this cake was wonderful.  The best of both, and something we could share.

Vegan Dark Chocolate Blood Orange Layer Cake (gluten free)
Makes 1 6 inch 4 layer cake

2 6 inch cake pans

1 1/2 cups all purpose gluten free flour (or gluten free oat flour)
1/3 cup cacao powder
1 cup coconut sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup pureed apple
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp orange zest
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp fresh blood orange juice at room temperature
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 cans organic full fat coconut milk, chilled
2 cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours in water and drained
2/3 cup blood orange juice
2 Tbsp blood orange zest
3/4 cup raw coconut nectar, maple syrup or agave nectar
1/2  tsp sea salt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups coconut butter, warmed to liquid
2/3 cup raw cacao butter, warmed to liquid**

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and position rack in center of oven. Line two six-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides with parchment paper. Coat parchment paper and pan sides lightly with coconut oil so that the cake doesn't stick and line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment fit to the pan.
Whisk flour, cacao powder, baking soda, sea salt, sugar in a large bowl to blend well.
Whisk apple puree, oil, vanilla, orange zest and juice together in small bowl to blend well, then whisk into the flour mixture until well blended. Whisk in the cider vinegar until bubbles form.
Transfer cake batter to prepared pans and bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.
Cool cakes completely in pan on rack, about 1 hour. Cut around sides of pan to loosen. Turn cakes out onto platter; peel off parchment paper. Let cool completely, then place in the fridge to chill until very cold to make slicing easier. When chilled, slice cakes horizontally in half so that you have 4 layers.

Meanwhile, to make the frosting, combine all ingredients but the coconut butter and cacao butter in a high speed blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  With the motor running, add the coconut butter and cacao butter and process a minute more.  Pour the frosting into a bowl and let sit in the freezer until the consistency of whipped cream (this may take anywhere from 1/2 hour to an hour depending on how warm it has gotten).
When ready to frost, place one cake layer on a plate. spread frosting about 1/2 inch thick over the first layer, then top with the second.  Repeat the frosting, then another cake layer, then more frosting then the last cake layer. Spread frosting over the top and down the sides of the cake.  Decorate the top of the cake with blood orange slices just before serving.  Store cake in the fridge.

**If you can not get cacao butter, you can substitute more coconut butter or coconut oil.

***if you would like a 4 layer 9 inch cake, double this entire recipe and bake in two 9 inch cake pans.
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