Spa Foodie: Pooja’s Unrefined Hazelnut Layer Cake with Raw Cacao Cashew Icing


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

  1. 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
  2. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, lemon juice, hazelnut extract, oil and water.
  3. Fold your wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir together to combine well using a wooden spoon.
  4. 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)

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. After cake has thoroughly cooled, cut it delicately in half lengthwise using a serrated knife, if possible.
  2. 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

Eat For Beauty: Dr. Perricone’s 3 Day Skin Care Diet


I’ve concluded that the only reason we human beings need skin care is because we eat crap.

What!? Okay, before I cut to the conclusion, let’s rewind to one of the best facials of my life: by Estella at the Perricone MD Flagship Store and skincare spa in New York City, a glistening Upper East Side skin care mecca created by beloved skin expert and author Dr. Nicholas Perricone. Estella has been named by our partner Allure Magazine as one of the top 10 estheticians in America—she even used to do Dr. Perricone’s facials! After she cleansed out every last pore on my face with deep yet delicate extractions followed by an Intraceuticals oxygen infusion, my skin was positively radiant, and it lasted for days and days—every blemish soothed, every surface smoothed. She didn’t even leave any redness! Needless to say, I was going to listen to anything she told me.

Estella instructed me to try Dr. Perricone’s 3 Day Skin Care Diet before my next important event—it’s a strict anti-inflammatory regimen that is proven to give dramatic, immediate results of bright, clear, firm, glowing skin. She said all her brides do it, and it works every time! So, right before hosting the red carpet for the Spa Week Media Party, I did exactly that. And now, I’m leaving on Friday for a 10-day vacay in LA/Santa Monica (woohoo!) feeling less than luminous, so this morning I started it again for a second time. I already am seeing a difference in 12 hours. It’s truly incredible and I’m SO excited to share this with you!

Why the 3-Day Dr. Perricone Diet?

The diet is very restrictive, but for only 3 days anything’s possible, right? All your menu items are delicious, so actually, you should be excited to start. For 3 days you will be eating only specific foods rich in anti-oxidants and specific fatty acids; these foods aren’t just “not bad for your skin” – they are all tremendously good for it. The diet will control inflammation and fluid retention with foods containing DMAE, astaxanthin, and essential fatty acids that increase skin’s radiance, glow, and firmness. Best of all, it’s extremely easy to get started because your shopping list is outlined for you:


Dr. Perricone 3 Day Diet Shopping List

For the main course (breakfast, lunch, or dinner):

  • 1 dozen fresh eggs.
  • Old-fashioned oatmeal. (Instant oatmeal will rapidly raise your blood sugar, triggering a burst of inflammation.)
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds of fresh salmon minimum, cut into 6 portions.
  • 8 ounces of thinly sliced, low-salt turkey or chicken breast.
  • 1 can of sardines packed in olive oil, or 1 can of low-sodium tuna packed in water. I don’t like either, so I skipped this

Low-glycemic fruits:

  • 2 ripe cantaloupes
  • 1 pint of strawberries
  • 1 pint of blueberries
  • 1/2 pint of raspberries
  • 1/2 pint of blackberries
  • 3 green (e.g. Granny Smith) apples
  • 2 pears or an additional 2 green apples
  • 2 lemons

Green vegetables:

  • 1 pound of asparagus
  • 1 pound of broccoli
  • 1 pound of fresh spinach Try baby organic spinach (pre-washed for super-ease). Read about the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 for a guide on which fruits and veggies to always buy organic.
  • 2 heads of romaine lettuce

Good sources of healthy fats:

  • Olives, fresh or canned
  • Raw, unsalted almonds I’m allergic to raw nuts, so although you see roasted nuts pictured above, I ended up not eating them to remain strict.
  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • 8-ounce bottle of extra virgin olive oil My savior for the week, and the best ingredient on Earth! Read about how to taste olive oil – from my trip to Tuscany.

Others not mentioned:

  • Plain, all natural yogurt This is not on his official shopping list, but it’s on his sample menu, so I’m adding it. Greek Yogurt is my preference.
  • Tea Tea is always good—try green tea or ginger tea, 2 of the most anti-inflammatory ones

Finally, 3 or 4 gallons of spring water. The Dr Perricone 3 Day Diet calls for six 8- to 12-ounce servings of water and an additional 2 glasses of water minimum throughout the day. Try keeping fresh water at your desk at work and in your car.

My Top 2 Go-To Meals

Sunnyside up eggs and satueed spinach for breakfast. Ever since this diet I’ve been having this at least 3 mornings a week. Pour about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil onto an oversized pan – if anyone tells you to use PAM, they are sorely mislead. Crack the eggs, and then place the spinach on the other side of the pan. Toss them around in the olive oil to grease them up good, maybe pour on some more EVOO, then sprinkle salt and pepper and then let them cook till they get stuck to the pan, crispy and brown. This will be your “bread” to soak up the yummy oozy yolk.


Salmon, salmon, salmon. I made so much salmon! The only additions this most versatile fish needs is a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and 12 minutes in the oven on 350 (I like it a bit undercooked). I also love it encrusted in Eden Organic brand’s Seaweed Gomasio, which I discovered recently at a luncheon with Pooja Mottl. It’s a mixture of Sesame Seeds, Seaweed and Sea Salt and adds hearty, seedy flavor to salmon, asparagus, salads and pretty much anything—it’s a healthier alternative to salt. Roll your salmon in olive oil, add the Gomasio, some black pepper (and extra sesame seeds if you like them as much as I do), stick it on a tray with some asparagus (here I used white asparagus), put it on a bed of baby spinach tossed with EVOO, balsamic vinegar, a spritz of lemon and Gomasio, and make yourself a dish that looks like this (my lunch today):


The best part: The Results

When you eat good-for-you food, your body truly knows how to kiss you and thank you for it. I couldn’t believe the results! Over the 3 days, blemishy redness in my skin began to go away, and a beautifully rich, smooth texture and bronzed hue surfaced. Pimples pending under the surface retracted rather than sprouting, my pores appeared to shrink, and I beamed with an A-list  dewy glow. Beyond just my skin looking its best… I dropped a few pounds, I de-bloated and trimmed down both in my body and face, and I felt an amazing, noticeable rush of superwoman energy.

When I went in to get my makeup done for the Spa Week event, 3 hardboiled eggs in hand, my makeup artist Lysette immediately noticed a WOW difference in my skin. Usually there are a few things to cover up and she occasionally uses her airbrush when it’s real bad, but today she was working on a smooth, clear canvas.

This is me at the event with makeup, but believe me, without makeup my skin was just as clear.

Conclusion? I seriously do think that if everyone followed this diet all the time, we wouldn’t need all these toners and moisturizers and skin products. Our bodies would regulate and keep our skin hydrated and healthy from the inside out. But because we are human beings who love sodium in our turkey breast and high glycemic fruits like bananas and bread and cheese and birthday cake… we have to care for our skin from the outside too.

After the 3 days were up, I transitioned slowly back to normal eating, however I couldn’t say goodbye to these results just yet! I kept the foundations of the Dr. Perricone Diet in my every day routine. I load up on salmon and try to eat it every day. I continue to eat lots of berries, pears, melon, eggs, spinach, olives and Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and while doing this after the diet, my skin stayed gleaming for another week and a half.

And here’s the clincher: The very next time I had pizza, I immediately got a pimple. Dairy can indeed lead to skin problems, but come ON! Did it have to be so dramatic?

Please give this diet a try next time you have an event coming up, and let me know what you think! I would love to hear from you, before, after or during… if you have any questions, rants or raves – get me anytime at michelle at spaweekmedia dot com.

Dr. Perricone also has a not-as-strict 28-Day Fresh Start Challenge diet for a longer-term diet plan on your quest to eat for beauty.