A few months back I had the pleasure of attending a press lunch with Natural Foods Chef, Fitness & Sports consultant, and Healthy Living Advocate Pooja Mottl, an up-and-coming health and wellness superstar. She’s fit, she’s gorgeous, and she’s putting her degree from the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts, with a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from Cornell University to great use. Pooja is well known for her inspirational fitness coaching, and although she claims not to have much of a sweet tooth, there was one particular thing I loved more than anything: Pooja’s use of CHOCOLATE.
And by chocolate, I mean CACAO. (Which, according to Pooja, can be used interchangeably with cocoa. Cacao usually refers to the whole bean or tree, and it just sounds healthier.) Raw cacao nibs and pistachios were on the table to nibble on before the meal even started – I’m very much a “Life is short. Eat dessert first” kind of girl, so she immediately had my heart. And she had it in good health; cacao has more antioxidant flavonoids than any food tested so far, including blueberries, red wine, and black and green teas. In fact, it has up to four times the quantity of antioxidants found in green tea.
You know that awful sugar high you get after eating a donut or piece of cake? That can be avoided if you cook like Pooja, with unrefined, natural ingredients. “My desserts are made with as many whole, unprocessed, and quality ingredients as possible,” she says, “so the real flavors can shine through.” Rest assured we didn’t just eat dessert first, we ate it last too. Pooja’s cake you see below was astonishingly delicious, so I wanted to share her recipe. I urge you to consider kicking Betty Crocker to the curb and trying this one next time there’s a birthday. Or a Tuesday. It’s extremely heavy and filling, but leaves you feeling satisfied and energized rather than in the aftermath of an unhealthy sugar-high. Enjoy this hearty, gourmet treat!
Unrefined Hazelnut Layer Cake with Raw Cacao Cashew Icing
Unrefined Hazelnut Cake
Yield: One 8” cake
Total Time: 40 minutes
1 ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup organic Grade A maple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice (juice of about ½ lemon)
2 ½ tablespoons hazelnut extract (organic, if possible)
1/3 cup organic coconut oil, melted, or organic expeller pressed canola oil
1 cup filtered water
- Preheat your oven to 350 F and grease an 8 inch cake pan. Using a large sieve or a sifter, sift flour, baking powder, soda, and salt over a large mixing bowl
- In another mixing bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, lemon juice, hazelnut extract, oil and water.
- Fold your wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir together to combine well using a wooden spoon.
- Pour all batter into the cake pan, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Bake at 350 F for 35 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted and removed cleanly. Remove cake from oven, and let rest for 10 minutes. Then turn upside-down, releasing the cake from the pan, and place cake right side up on a baking rack, allowing it to fully cool another 30 minutes.
Raw Cacao Cashew Icing
Yield: 3 cups
Total Time: 5 minutes
1 ¾ – 2 cups Grade A organic maple syrup
12oz raw organic cashew butter
1 teaspoon hazelnut extract (organic, if possible)
1 ½ cups organic raw cacao powder (Pooja prefers Navitas Naturals brand)
1-2 teaspoons unsweetened almond milk
1/3 cup hazelnuts, roasted, skins removed, and coarsely chopped (for garnish)
- Add all ingredients except for cacao powder into a large food processor and pulse blend for about 15 seconds or until ingredients are just fully incorporated.
- Add the cacao powder and blend, just until all ingredients are fully mixed and frosting takes on a smooth consistency – but not any longer to prevent thinning. You’re now ready to frost!
To assemble cake:
- After cake has thoroughly cooled, cut it delicately in half lengthwise using a serrated knife, if possible.
- Using your desired amount of frosting, frost the top of the bottom half layer of your cake. Then gently place the top half over it and use remaining frosting to ice cake fully (you’ll have frosting leftover). Garnish with toasted hazelnuts and Enjoy!
Check out more recipes and inspirations from Pooja at Poojasway.com.