Lavender Neapolitan Mini Cakes (Grain Free, Dairy Free)
Worn, fabric covered copies of out-of-print cookbooks stand, leaning against each other, on the kitchen counter in my mothers home. There's a tatty Joy of Cooking -- the pages all marked up and the binding loose, strings hanging off the spine. There are diet books with shiny covers in blue and red, looking out of place. Like the new kids on the bus. There's a series of international cookbooks from the 80's with faded photographs of street food scenes. And one soft blue book with few markings, bound in linen, with a small herbs de provence embossed into the cover. The edges are slightly worn down from being handled over decades. The cover has oil and water stains, signs of affection. That blue linen book is always out in the stack no matter where my mum and dad have lived over the years.
I grew up thumbing through the pages, looking at the pictures of Provence and reading the recipes. I remember I would take it and go sit in a spot of sun somewhere and devour it. It's funny, I don't remember my mother cooking out of it (that I'm aware of). It was more of an inspiration book. You know the kind. You keep it around to give you ideas and reference points for recipes you have half-formed in your head.
I went home this past weekend and my mum brought it out after I mentioned that I was looking for edible flower recipes. Every recipe in the desserts section includes flowers and herbs -- rose "snow eggs" which are like raw meringues in cream, lavender almond tarts, rosemary lemon cakes. Everything is simple and elegant simultaneously. I'm tempted to cook through the entire volume and make my kitchen a French countryside fantasy. Come Spring, I might do just that.
While I was visiting I promised to make my mother a treat as a thank you for driving me in the snow and ice through Baltimore to the Epic Workshop I attended. Cake makes a good thanks for risking your life so I could learn about photography. I had to throw lavender in there after we fell back in love with our favorite kitchen tome together.
What makes these Neapolitan? Chocolate cake + strawberry filling + vanilla lavender frosting. I'm mixing origins here (Italian and French). Italian and French folk of the world, forgive me. The Neapolitan ice cream vibe is the closest thing I could use to describe the flavor combination here.
This is actually three recipes. One for the grain free chocolate cake. One for the quick strawberry chia jam (that I eat by the spoonful). And one for the vegan buttercream. It's all a lot easier than it might seem. Trust me.
- 4 cups almond meal
- 1/4 cup bittersweet cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
- 3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
- 3 eggs
- 1 tbsp vanilla or 1/4 vanilla bean scraped of its seeds
- Strawberry Chia Jam
- Vegan Lavender Buttercream
- *Optional garnish:
- Lavender buds
- Sliced fresh strawberries
- Heat the oven to 325F. Line two 9" cake pans with parchment paper, then oil the parchment with coconut oil. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the almond meal, cocoa powder, baking powder, and coconut sugar.
- Add the melted coconut oil, coconut milk, eggs, and vanilla and stir to combine everything together until you have a totally saturated batter. It will look a bit thicker than traditional cake batter. Almost like a cross between cake and brownie batter.
- Spread half of the batter into the first cake pan, using a spatula to spread the batter evenly and level out the top of the batter. Repeat with the second half of the batter
- Bake your cakes for 25-28 minutes. The cake is ready when its firm and slightly springy to the touch, and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature before lifting the cakes out of the cake pans and removing the parchment from around the cakes.
- Lift the cakes out of the cake pans and set them down on your work surface. Using a 3 inch biscuit cutter (or, if you're lacking as I was, use a clean, dry coconut milk can. Gently press the cake circles out of the can with your finger to remove them. You can also use a thin-walled glass cup).
- Fill a piping bag -- or ziploc bag with the tip cut off -- with frosting.
- Frost a thick circle around the outer edge of the mini cake.
- Add a spoonful of strawberry chia jam to the center of that circle.
- Top with the next layer of cake.
- Do that again!
- Pipe icing over the top layer of cake. Sprinkle lavender over top and add a fresh strawberry slice to the top. Dig in!
- 2.5 cups frozen strawberries
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1 tsp dried lavender buds
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- Cook 10 minutes over medium heat until the fruit is soft and the juice has cooked down and reduced.
- Add the coconut sugar and cook further 2-5 minutes stirring frequently until it's dissolved.
- Remove from heat and add the chia seeds, stirring the mixture to combine.
- Pour the mixture into a heat-safe bowl to cool.
- Let set for a minimum of 15 minutes to allow the chia to plump up and thicken the jam.
- The jam will become even more gelatinous once completely cooled. Store the jam in the fridge until it's ready to use. Keeps for up to 4 days refrigerated in a sealed container.
- 1 cup cold earth balance vegan butter or another vegan shortening
- 1.5 cups powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 teaspoon dried lavender buds
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped of its seeds
- Combine the earth balance, powder sugar, and cornstarch together in a wide bowl.
- Using an electric beater, whip everything together until you have a creamy consistency.
- Add the honey, lavender, and vanilla bean and beat into the frosting to combine.
- Cover and chill in the fridge until ready to use.