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The roses-and-chocolate version of Valentine’s Day is not one that I ever was able to fully participate in. Receiving these gifts from your parents, sister, or elementary school classmates is nice, but it just doesn’t engender the same kind of feeling that you see in movies and read about in books, when these culturally commodified gestures are mere accoutrements to something more—a meaningful, authentic, indeed chemical love.
Finding “chemistry” with someone is the bane of all my fellow online-daters’ existence. No matter how much we try to convince ourselves that an algorithm can create connection, it can’t. Just like offering someone a box of Russel Stover’s and a dozen bodega roses won’t make them want to become your life partner, a 97 percent match on height, weight, shared vocabulary, and zip codes won’t turn your phone into a love machine. There are certain parts of chemistry that, as much as we like to think we understand and can quantify, remain a mystery.
Something similar goes on when we grow, prepare, cook, and bake (also eat, digest, and eliminate) food. Science has done a lot to break down the chemistry of food—and marketers like to splatter that data in attractive fonts and appealing colors all over packaging to make you think you can buy your way to health and happiness if you just eat this one superfood!
That’s not quite how it works out there in nature, which is where our food actually comes from, friends. The building blocks of food are just like those roses and chocolates—they’re important ingredients, but they don’t tell the whole story. When it comes to the why and how of nutrition, there’s a magical, artful, mysterious thing that happens to make the chemical compounds of food combine into the ingredients we know with a certain color, shape, taste, and smell; and still more magic, art, and mystery when we take in that food and it becomes part of our body. Just pause on that for a moment—the things you eat literally become part of your body, at a chemical, molecular level. Indeed, yoga and Ayurveda even calls the most gross layer of our mind-body-spirit-being “the food sheath”—an ancient throwback to our modern notion that “you are what you eat” (or, more accurately, “you are what you digest”).
I try to pay respect to his alchemy whenever I’m cooking. Take this ostentatiously cliche Valentine’s Day cake I’m sharing with you here—a cake that looks and tastes and smells like all the roses-and-chocolate love stories we crave in our hearts and bellies. The chemistry of the ingredients actually makes it a perfect recipe for cultivating love on a physical and spiritual level.
Cacao, maca, and rose are known as aphrodisiac herbs, offering stimulation to the hormones that make us want to connect in all the ways. Creamy dates and avocado make an irresistibly dense and fudgy cake base, which is delicious on its own even as it acts as a vehicle for the light, whipped rose- and coconut-infused cashew cream frosting on top (the cake vs. frosting debate is one we can have at another time). All these ingredients directly feed the deepest and subtlest layers of our reproductive tissue per Ayurveda, and in turn directly feed our circulating ojas—the silvery, slippery substance of endurance and immunity that serves as a container of our life force, and which originates in our hearts.
That might be enough to convince you to stop reading now and get up to make this cake as an offering to the gods of love. But before you do, I humbly offer a few parting words to ensure it meets your expectations. While you soak and measure and chop and blitz and stir, bake and frost and garnish, pay attention to what you’re doing. Don’t multitask or try to skip the soaking or make it cook faster or not let the cake cool completely. Devote yourself to these foods, the chemicals-plus-magic that will become you.
In doing so, you’ll be infusing your cake with the secret ingredient that doesn’t grow in any remote corner of the rainforest, and can’t be marketed as the next trend in wellness and solution to all your problems. It’s an ingredient you have a never-ending supply of. Your attention, your devotion, your love is what will make this cake—and anything else you cook and eat—light the fireworks of connection we are all hungriest for.
Did you make this recipe? Post a photo to Instagram and tag @jenniferkurdyla #benourished so I can share your creations!
Fudgy Vegan Chocolate Tea Cake with Rose Cashew Cream
- ½ cup Medjool dates pitted and chopped
- 2 tablespoons flax meal
- ½ cup avocado flesh
- 1 cup discard sourdough starter see Note
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ cup water or almond milk
- 6 tablespoons raw cacao powder see Notes
- 1 tablespoon gelatinized maca powder
- 1 tablespoon Dandy Blend or espresso powder optional
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons date juice reserved from soaked dates, see Step 1 below
- ⅓ cup non-dairy chocolate chips
- Culinary-grade dried rosebuds gently crushed, for garnish (optional), see Notes
For the cashew cream
- 1 cup raw cashews soaked overnight
- 2 tablespoon date juice
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon rose powder see Notes
- Soak the dates 1 cup water in the refrigerator overnight. Strain, reserving the soaking liquid (aka “date juice).
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a loaf pan with reusable parchment paper and set aside.
- Combine the flax meal with 6 tablespoons warm water in a large bowl. Stir and let set for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the avocado with the soaked dates in a carafe or small bowl. Blitz with an immersion blender until smooth and creamy.
- Add the date-avocado mixture to the bowl with the flax. Then add the discard starter, flour, water, cacao, maca, Dandy Blend, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and date juice stirring after each addition. Mix well to incorporate all the ingredients.
- Fold in the chocolate chips, then spread the batter in an even layer in the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the center. (I prefer my cake a little more fudgy, so let it be slightly underbaked—i.e., the knife still had a bit of chocolate on it when I tested it.) Let cool for at least 30 minutes.
- To make the cashew cream: Strain the soaked cashews and place them in a carafe or bowl with ⅓ cup water. Blitz with an immersion blender until smooth. Add the date juice, coconut oil, and rose powder. Blitz again until the cream is evenly pink throughout. Set in the refrigerator to chill while the cake is baking and cooling, or until ready to serve.
- Once the cake is cool, use the parchment to lift it out of the pan. Peel off the parchment, and spread an even layer of the cashew cream over the top. Sprinkle the cake with rose petals, if using.
- Store any remaining cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. If you use a lighter hand while frosting, store extra cashew cream in a separate jar or container for up to a week.
I love using discard sourdough starter in baking to 1) not waste it; and 2) give my cakes and cookies a lighter texture and bit of tang (and a little love to my gut microbiome). If you don’t have any around, simply use a total of 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, 1 cup water, and add 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar to this recipe.