The other day I was asked by a blog reader for some ideas for her son’s first birthday party — she needed a healthier cake themed blue, white, and gold, and something that would satisfy a large crowd of picky eaters. So I set aside the weird veggies, and came up with a very respectable raw blueberry cashew cheesecake, but also thought to try something baked as an option… and so this classic-tasting cashew vanilla birthday cake was born.
Gluten-free, dairy-free, no eggs, and no refined sugar, but tastes just like a classic vanilla birthday cake. I mean JUST LIKE IT. In fact, my extremely picky husband said this tastes like the kind of cake you get at a kid’s bowling alley birthday party — apparently this is a compliment, he’s assured me :)
Now originally I was thinking this white texas sheet cake could be an option. It’s another classic cake that everyone loves — gluten-free / dairy-free, etc. But it was made with EB fake butter, which I’m ok with for an occasional treat, but since the request was for a “healthier” cake, I thought I’d better leave that out. So instead this lovely vanilla cake needs no butter or oils and yet is so moist, and has this paradoxical delicate-yet-sturdy thing going on — thanks to cashew butter!
As you can see in the pic above, I reshaped it into a layer cake and it worked a treat. The cake base, once cooled, also makes a great cut-out cake for those looking to make a special shaped dessert.
Now this frosting. If you like frosting–this one is incredible! It emerged from the ingredients I had on hand, since going to a store that carried anything remotely relevant wasn’t in the cards for the next few weeks. Luckily, it turned out perfectly, and is probably my first truly WHITE dairy / refined sugar-free frosting.
I wanted to show you the top of the cake above — the top forms a slight crust and is a bit cracked — that is normal. The thin “crust” slices through quite easily and makes frosting a breeze. The cake underneath it though is very delicate and dainty. And once frosted, you’ll see no cracks whatsoever, so worry not.
The frosting needs a bit of good timing to make it work. Once blended, it will be soft. Not ideal for frosting with straight away (unless you’re just doing a layered whip-filled cake, in which case it works straight away). To get a smooth set frosting you’ll have to chill it for at least an hour or longer until it’s at a good, more firm, spreadable consistency. You don’t want it to be too firm though as that will make spreading hard — so just thaw it out a little if you leave it in the fridge too long. Once frosted though, you’re in smooth sailing territory and it’ll stay put quite nicely.
I actually froze mine ahead of time and then just thawed it out when I was ready to work with it. Just don’t microwave it (or if you do, make sure it’s gently) because coconut butter tends to burn VERY easily.
A few notes on substitutions:
For a nut-free cake, go with the original texas sheet cake idea.
For a soy-free frosting, use some pre-soaked raw cashews instead. You’ll definitely need a power blender for the recipe to work (I had to use my tamper for the Vitamix), but with some patience it’ll happen :) You could also use this chocolate frosting instead.
- ¼ cup almond milk (or another plant milk)
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup maple syrup (or agave, coconut nectar, etc.)
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ tsp pure almond extract (or orange blossom water)
- ¾ cup white rice flour
- ½ cup tapioca starch
- 6 tbsp sweet sticky rice flour/glutinous rice flour
- ½ tsp guar gum
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- dash of salt
- ½ cup cashew butter
- ½ cup boiling water
- 12 oz / 240 gr extra firm silken tofu (I used Mori-Nu)
- ½ cup coconut butter, softened
- 1 cup agave or maple syrup
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract (or orange blossom water)
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
- Fresh blueberries, dried edible blue cornflower petals
- Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Oil an 8x8 square cake pan. Set aside.
- In a small bowl combine the plant milk with vinegar and set aside, allowing it to curdle a little while working on next step.
- Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bow. Add in all liquid cake ingredients, including the almond vinegar mixture, and mix everything thoroughly to combine.
- In a separate bowl combine the cashew butter with the boiled water and stir to thin out and dissolve the cashew butter. Add this to the cake batter and mix everything to combine. Pour the batter into prepared cake pan.
- Bake in a preheated oven for approximately 40-45 mins (until the top is nicely golden and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out completely dry). Remove from oven and cool on a cooling rack completely before proceeding to frost.
- While the cake is baking, prepare the frosting by combining all the ingredients except for shredded coconut in a power blender until completely smooth. Add in shredded coconut and mix once more (use the vitamix tamper to help you along, or pause to scrape sides and keep blending until the coconut is incorporated). Transfer into a glass container and refrigerate until cake is ready to be frosted (or for at least 1-2 hours to let it firm up). Once ready, frost cake, decorate with blueberries and flower petals and serve!