Vegan Strawberry Almond Layer Cake

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

I couldn't agree more with that passage, and although we should think about treating others with love every day, since Valentine's Day is coming up, the day which is supposed to be all about love, how appropriate is it to remind ourselves of that?! As you can tell I am not into all of the commercial spend lots of money aspect of Valentine's Day.  It is not all about the flowers and expensive jewelry that so often people get so wrapped up in. By the way, when did every holiday become all about spending lots of money?  To me, Valentine's Day should be a day to share our love for others family, friends, significant others, whomever we have in our lives that we love.  My perfect Valentine's Day doesn't involve going out for expensive dinner, jewelry and involves time to appreciate each other .  Going out and enjoying nature, maybe hitting a museum to admire the art together.  A home made dinner and dessert, alone time to relax with each other. Just low key, but the things I really enjoy.  After all, love is about feeling happy, seeing every day the things you love in that other person and appreciating them.  Knowing that they will be there for you in the future, and thankful that they are in your life.  Being grateful that you have gotten through tough times with that person and the relationship becoming stronger in the process.  Being patient with them when they do stupid things that you don't agree with sometimes, and taking their good advice to change when you are the one doing the stupid things.  So, to me Valentine's Day should be a day to reflect on all of this and appreciate the one you love for who they are.

Although I share my love in many ways, one of the ways I express my love is through food in case you couldn't tell that already.  I enjoy making things for those I am close to in my life and sharing.  The latest thing I made to share was a Vegan Strawberry Almond Layer Cake last weekend.  Truth be told, I wanted a cake with pink frosting and that was why I made it to begin with.  Plus as I have mentioned in some previous blog posts, Valentine's Day is an excuse to use strawberries in desserts when they are not necessarily in season.  I know, shame on me...but they are organic at least, and the good news is that you can use frozen in this recipe.  For the cake part, I made it gluten free, laced with strawberry puree, and 3 hits of almond.  Milk, oil and extract.  Which all made for a delicious moist cake!  For the frosting I kept it pretty simple, no added jam layers and whatnot, just pink strawberry frosting with a hint of white chocolate in the form of cacao butter and a secret ingredient to make the color extra pretty. Beets.  Yes, I used beets in the frosting, and no you can not taste them.  This cake was fabulous!  I shared it with my special someone, my boyfriend Eric who loves desserts even more than I do.

Vegan Strawberry Almond Layer Cake
Makes 1 6 inch 4 layer cake

2 6 inch cake pans

1 3/4 cups Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup virgin coconut oil, warmed to liquid
1/4 cup almond oil
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup pureed strawberries
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 Tbsp cider vinegar

4 cups young coconut meat*
2 cups chopped raw red beet
2 cups fresh strawberries
3/4 cup raw coconut nectar, maple syrup or agave nectar
1/2  tsp sea salt
seeds of one vanilla bean, or 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup coconut butter, warmed to liquid
1/4 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, baking soda, sea salt, and sugar in a large bowl to blend well.
Whisk oils, almond milk, berry puree, vanilla extract and almond extract 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 pan 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 process 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 fridge until the consistency of whipped cream.
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.  (place any remaining frosting in a pastry bag and pipe decoratively over the cake).  Store cake in the fridge.
*If you do not have access to young coconut meat, you can use 4 cups soaked cashews instead along with the other cashews.
**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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