This recipe has it all. It’s divine. It’s simple. It’s quick. It can be tailored to taste in seconds according to whim. What it doesn’t have–in this post, I mean–is a selection of pictures to accompany it and do it justice.
I didn’t expect to feel compelled to post this dreamy concoction…little F’s turning four-years-old dream birthday cake. There are so many things I didn’t expect to be mulling over lately. Most of all, despite being perpetually nostalgic and overly conscious of time, I didn’t expect quite how much it would floor me that my baby is now FOUR. I didn’t expect to find myself still freelancing, out of the classroom, at this point. Somehow over the years opportunities have kept emerging that have allowed me to keep juggling and prioritizing a flexible schedule I’ve loved. Somehow years of being steadily conditioned to flux hasn’t kept me from being any less surprised when things appear, nor any less disappointed when they end. But somehow the flow keeps going, and it’s all OK.
More than OK. Four is FABULOUS. Four is imaginative, bold, cuddly but increasingly self-assured. Four is taking initiative and sharing the play, wonder and discovery. Four is forming opinions with innocence and genuine reflection. Four deserves this birthday cake…and so does any age after. There is no doubt this cake method is the base of new evolving traditions in our house.
This recipe is owing hugely to this amazingly scrumptious recipe and post from the brilliant Minimalist Baker. And a very liberal take/modified version of this incredible chocolate banana bread turned cake from Chocolate Covered Katie bliss. I short-cutted the simple method even further by laying down three slim layers of the cake/bread mixture in three identical loaf pans lined with parchment paper and baked all at once. All you do after the layers cool is lay down a slightly softened layer of vegan ice cream of choice, top with the second cake layer, then another ice cream layer, then final cake layer; cover with foil or container lid and freeze. When it’s time to serve, let soften enough to invert out of the pan on a plate. I topped with rich, gooey melted dark chocolate with a little bit of coconut milk. Add a candle on top…absolute birthday decadence guaranteed to bring on lasting satisfaction from the wide-eyed appreciative reaction alone. (By the way, our choice of ice cream was a layer of So Delicious almond milk cookies and cream ice cream and another layer of So Delicious coconut milk oregon berry ice cream…swoon!)
This cake was the perfect way to round out a perfect birthday week for one very excited four year old. From waking up to a spangly decorated house on birthday morning to windblown first-time Go Kart excitement as a family in the afternoon to a special 2nd annual birthday hiking party with lovely little friends on the weekend following…everything about turning four has been pretty much magical. This cake complements all that–layers and layers of joy you just want to sink your teeth into and linger over.
Of course, my heart is overflowing and sometimes achy. Because, four came–and will go– so darn fast. Some days I want to sob my heart out with the kind of ice cream diving dose worthy of any respectable rom-com. This cake is good for that, too.
- 3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 1/4 cup almond milk
- ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips, melted
- 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 pints non-dairy ice cream of choice (We loved mixing So Delicious Coconut Milk Oregon Berry with So Delicious Almond Milk Cookies and Cream)
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips
- ⅓ cup almond milk
- Preheat oven to 350 F and line three 9×5 loaf pans with parchment paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine first six ingredients, mashed bananas through melted chocolate. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda baking powder, and cocoa powder. Pour dry into wet, and stir until just evenly combined. Transfer to the loaf pans and spread out evenly.
- Bake approximately 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into loaf layers comes out clean.
- Top one of the cake layers with ice cream (keeping in the pan). Carefully remove second layer from parchment and place on top of ice cream layer. Top with another layer of ice cream and place the final cake layer on top.
- Cover and freeze at least one hour. Let soften 20 minutes before serving.
- Melt dark chocolate with coconut milk in a saucepan over medium low heat, stirring until smooth. To serve, invert onto a serving plate and top chocolate sauce.
This week, this post almost didn’t happen. It would have eventually, but there would have been an inner letdown, a sense of dragging of feet. I am being melodramatic in saying so, albeit in a muted way…meaning, feeling a little let down is hardly the churning emotions of despair, and besides it’s only a blog post. But I wanted to relay some of the energetic buzz I came away with following an inspirational blogger event this week hosted by Sprouts Farmers Market at the Bhakti Chai brewing headquarters. Not only did we lucky attendees get to tour a pristine facility and home to some truly superb products, we got to meet the incredibly talented and driven founder, Brook Eddy, and came away with delicious samples I felt primed and eager to experiment with.
The problem was the usual–finding time. Lately the trend of squeezing more productivity into increasingly less time has built to a sort of tipping point where I find myself weighing options (e.g. sleep vs X) in terms of number of potential gray hairs that might be encouraged or spared. This week I’ve been especially focused in an attempt to stay on top of tasks and get ahead of work priorities where possible because in days Little F and I are visiting our precious new baby cousin/niece. Struggling to fit everything in, an obvious cut to the to-do list would be a verbose addition to personal blog, particularly as I wouldn’t feel right posting without having a recipe or two to share incorporating awesome Bhakti product.
For a change, the rational me almost won out in scrapping blog post focus for the week.
Bhakti Chai founder Brook Eddy was a single mother of baby TWINS, going through a divorce, when she founded her company, which happens to be zero-waste, vegan, socially responsible, compassionate and health conscious. Eddy began brewing her own recipes for the beloved spicy tea after a trip to Mumbai, India. When she hit upon a recipe that was undeniably striking and delicious, she decided to start a company.
Ms. Eddy is a vibrant, charismatic entrepreneur. But even the most energized individuals need sleep here and there. How she grew her grassroots business into the successful, innovative company it is today, working full-time by day, brewing at night, raising twins… is simply astounding. Bhakti Chai merges its founder’s background in social policy with her passion for good food and flavor. A B-Corps, the company has made social action a part of its mission. Early on, it began donating to nonprofits, primarily those serving women and girls, and continues to do so. Just thinking about the origins and evolution of this company is pretty breathtaking… certainly enough of a dose of perspective to stir up a kitchen frenzy in small pockets of time over a couple of days. Besides all that, what is more simultaneously soothing and the fragrant aromas and complex spice notes of chai?
The first round of experiments was too hasty. I had a vision for a healty, vegan coconut pistachio chai tea (er, coffee but actually tea) cake. I turned out something almost yummy, which is to say in fact yucky. Lovely looking, except for the sloppy way I drizzled cashew cream glaze. I tried to convince myself it was blog-worthy, and came close to succeeding, but inside I knew. This secret knowledge was confirmed when at breakfast the next day I presented little F with a wedge of pretty breakfast “cake”. His eyes went wide with delight. “Ooooh, CAKE!” he exclaimed. Upon taking one bite, he pushed the plate away and chose to chomp down on an apple instead. Not to say the idea is dead, however. I’ll keep you posted.
Second try, though, went soooo much better, and successfully good-for-you too (OK, there is some chopped up crystallized ginger and the decidedly important inclusion of dark chocolate chips). I was hesitant about it at first. Because, muffins. Too easy? Too obvious? It doesn’t matter. I love them. They’re sweetened with mashed banana, but the banana isn’t overpowering. In fact, it blends so beautifully with the chai flavor that the result doesn’t actually taste banana and thus, the exclusion of that yellow goodness out of the recipe name. The chocolate chips are a must-have, but I think that tablespoon chopped crystallized ginger is really what gives this easy recipe the edge.
These muffins won’t last long (if they’re not already gone), and will definitely be filling our house with their heady but healthy, tempting aroma again very soon, along with some other treats and repeats. The next day, with dear friend Melissa, Little F and I we made some scrummy and deceptively light oatmeal chai blender pancakes and that famous whipped frozen banana ice cream all of us health foodies know and love elevated with a blissful Bhakti kick. Those recipes will have to wait, though. The second, probably forever (because you already know it really), and the former just for now. Not because of fretfulness over time constraints and fatigue. Just because there’s a limit to how long even an openly rambling post should be, and here I am. Happy weekend! 🙂
- 1 cup sprouted wheat flour (I used One Degree Organics Khorasan) or gluten-free blend
- 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, finely chopped
- 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
- 1/2 cup Bhakti original chai concentrate
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 2 flax eggs (2 tablespoons ground flax meal whisked in 5 T water and allowed to sit a minute)
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate/vegan chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Mix first five ingredients, flour through ginger, in a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
- Add remaining ingredients, stirring to combine.
- Pour batter two-thirds of the way up each muffin cup in prepared tin. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
I’m proud of this recipe especially because I didn’t create it. It may not be the most original concept, and I can’t even honestly say that the list of ingredients is accurately detailed as we combined them…twice now with a third visibly on the horizon. In fact, those two separate batches were both eyeballed so certainly created with similar but different quantities, for everything. That’s what made the making of it so without any detriment to taste whatsoever, and this is all coming out wrong. What I really mean to say is, this isn’t my recipe but I love it sooo much more for that, because it’s Felix’s. There are countless versions out there that differ in subtle or no ways at all, but little sous chef is 3 ½, and he doesn’t know that.
“Mommy, can we please, please, please make hot chocolate rice pudding?” Little F asked one unusually chill, wet day. That’s how this began. “We can try,” I told him. “What steps do you think we’ll need?” Little F cocked his head to the side thoughtfully and responded confidently, “Make hot chocolate and put rice in it!” And that is pretty much what we did. Cooked brown rice, almond and coconut milk, vanilla, a scoop of dark chocolate, bit of cocoa powder, a splash of pure maple syrup and a dash of cinnamon. It was a playful and exquisite process with a product to match.
There is a part of me, a very large part, that cannot believe that when I tell you little F is 3 ½ I’m talking years not months. Daily, we’re navigating tumbling seas that are speckled with tormented tantrums pulsing with unimaginable fury so encompassing they can bowl us over and force us to swallow a bit of guilty laughter at the same time. Interspersed are these magical, enchanting rainbows of wonder and discovery that lend lightness to the soul even as wrinkles and gray hairs are etched by the trying back and forth. And underlying everything, for this very fleeting moment, we’ve had a clingy, uncertain phase that means lots of cherished, fiercely loving cuddles alongside stacks of jobs undone until exhaustingly late.
Tantrums, clinging, and even the wondrous energy of exploration–all tough at times. Sometimes really hair-pulling hard. And always painfully bittersweet in how short-lived we know them to be. So it’s easy to say with 100% certitude, even in the most intense heat of the most tempestuous fit, on some level I am always grappling with some grief over the necessary drift that is happening right now. The one where my little sidekick steadily becomes his own leading action hero and we fade, cheering, into the background.
Luckily, there is never enough time in this season we’re in to dwell too much on what’s next, what’s going wrong, who might be judging, etc. Even better, that drift so far is brimming with steady gems that sparkle as if to say, savor this and trust in the journey.
They are little things, mostly. Reassurances that parceled in with all the budding independence comes blooming, shared pride offered with the greatest of love. They are in the cheeky, sparkly-eyed, shyly winsome way a little person tells you one day, sitting naked on the toilet, “Maaaaybeee I gonna just use the potty now, no more pull-ups.” Or when that same little person guides you on a nature hike of his own devising, one that winds around according to “my plan” and incorporates a variety of mystery animal poop shapes, sizes and colors that he had taken note of and remembered. And when an idea pops into his head for creating something so simple, wholesome, and actually scrumptious you just want to make it week after week both for the pleasure of it (because it’s indeed yummy!) and for the memory of how much you want to take a giggling bite out of him.
(By the way, I am sorry and a little embarrassed to mention poop not just once but actually twice in the same post, and one that is meant to be about a snack that happens to be brown at that. At the same time, it just feels appropriate. It’s all as it should be, the push-pulls what they need to be, and it’s good.)
- 1 cup short-grain brown rice
- 3 cups unsweetened almond coconut milk (or equivalent combination of almond and/or coconut milks)
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅓ to 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips according to taste
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Bring 1 1/2 cup water and rice to a boil over high heat. RCover, and reduce to a slow, steady simmer for approximately 40 minutes.
- Add almond coconut milk(s), stirring well, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and allow to cook until pudding has thickened, 20-25 minutes, stirring at regular intervals.