Natural Mango Scented Chocolates (raw and vegan)

Raw, Vegan, Sugar Free and Gluten Free

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 Last week of the uni semester is always so rough. This week I wrote two terrible essays for my final assignments, and waded through three hundred (literally three hundred I’m not even exaggerating) pages of notes trying to summarise for my exam next week. How did I manage to write so many pages of class notes? I don’t really know. Did I write down anything important? No. I can’t even understand myself from two weeks ago. In my mind when I take notes I always think “I’ll just abbreviate these words a bit to save time – future Lil will remember what I’m talking about”…

Future Lil never has any clue what I meant. In one of my law subjects this is one of the notes I wrote in class – “mention the dead baby case but the mum was mean so it didn’t work”. What. On. Earth. Was. I. On. About. “Sigh”. 

So instead of studying today I took a break to make chocolate. Because chocolate makes everything better! Especially when it is super good for you too and you don’t have to battle with assignments AND post-chocolate gorging regrets. 

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 My Step Dad very kindly bought my a huge block of cocoa butter a few weeks ago after he heard me raving about coconut butter (bless). I admit for the first couple days I just stared at it having no clue what to use it for. And then I realised there probably wasn’t a better possible way than just making real chocolate! 

So I got researching and it’s actually super easy to make at home. Raw cocoa butter and cocoa powder (usually called cacao) is actually really good for you. It is packed with antioxidants and has been heralded for its benefits to the skin and heart. When you heat it unfortunately you lose lots of those benefits, but you get a big difference in flavour as the chocolate essence transforms from quite a fruity, almost bitter flavour to a more nutty, dark, rich, smooth and complex flavour. (Never too many adjectives). 

I personally like the flavour of raw cacao so I used that exclusively here. If you get a good quality brand the chocolate flavour is still very sweet and strong. If you want the real dark chocolate experience, swap half the cocoa powder with Dutch-processed, or all of it if you prefer. 

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For the liquid sweetener, you can go with a few different alternatives. If you want to use real sugar, use icing sugar so that the texture isn’t grainy. For liquid sweeteners, you can use a scented honey like I have, or for a perfectly suitable vegan substitute you can use agave nectar (the light kind). I have heard of people using maple syrup, brown rice syrup and other fruit syrups as well all with great success. I kind of guessed the quantities from the back of a few chocolate bars and by reading some other recipes, and I think the equal parts method is quite standard. For darker chocolate feel free to increase the cocoa!

We had a jar of mango scented honey in the cupboard that I had been waiting to try out, so that’s what I used here. You can also stir through chopped nuts, dried fruit, coconut flakes or anything you wanted really before the chocolate sets. It sets completely hard like real chocolate but keep it in a relatively cool place to avoid it melting. And you can use it in place of recipes that call for melted chocolate for a sugar-free vegan alternative! Win Win 🙂 

One Year Ago: Carrot Muffins with Bush Honey Icing

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Natural Raw Chocolate: 

100g (3.5 ounces) raw cacao powder, well sifted

100g (3.5 ounces) raw cocoa butter, roughly chopped

100ml (3.5 fluid ounces) raw honey, maple syrup or agave nectar

 Place a pot with a few inches of water over your lowest heat with a bowl placed on top. Heat the water until boiling, then turn off the heat. Put the cocoa butter in the bowl and allow to melt completely at a low temperature, to avoid killing the nutrients. In a medium bowl, mix the cocoa, sweetener of choice and cocoa butter well. Whilst still warm and runny, pour your chocolate into little cupcake moulds or chocolate moulds. Silicone will be easiest to remove later! Allow to cool completely in the fridge and then keep at room temperature. The chocolate lasts well for ages and makes great presents. This amount made 30 tiny cupcake moulds of chocolate, and you can easily increase or decrease to suit. Enjoy!

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Tropical Fruits and Coconut Granola Bars (vegan and gluten free!)

Vegan, Gluten Free, Low Fat, Sugar Free

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 At the end of my two month holiday a few months ago, for the first time in my whole trip I had two days by myself. I left my sister and friend at a bus stop in Sukhotai, Thailand and began the seven hour journey back to Bangkok on my own. I shed a little tear watching my friends getting smaller through the window, knowing I wouldn’t see them for a whole month. It’s strange spending every waking minute with someone for so long, and then suddenly not at all. 

By the time I arrived in Bangkok the sun was setting. By the time I got to my hotel and checked in, it was well and truly dark. I had told myself I would get my last street food meal for dinner that night, but I confess I got a veggie subway and a bag of fresh fruit instead. Sitting in my hotel room eating mango slices, watching reruns of The Texas Bachelorette, I felt homesick for the first time. I missed my dog, I missed my family and the friends who I hadn’t seen in weeks. But mainly I just missed talking to people I knew. 

In the airport (which I accidentally arrived at 6 hours before my flight…curse you 24 hour time!) I spent all my remaining money on presents for my family, including two huge bags of dried fruit for my Step Dad. My plans were to make him some tropical granola bars as soon as I got home, because he love granola bars. 

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 My grand plans got sidetracked by a number of other exciting dishes that had to come first, and somehow three months passed before I could get around to it! Better late than never right?

These granola bars are packed full of tropical flavours and they’re the best I’ve ever made, hands down! I have so many issues with granola bars. I hate when they crumble. I HATE IT. I hate when they’re overly sweet or so chewy your teeth almost fall out. Granola bars aren’t something I wanted to settle with, they had to be juuust right. 

It’s hard to get a balance between making a super healthy bar, which is so easy considering how much goodness you can pack in, as well as making them taste as good as a cafe-bought bar. These bars have found a happy compromise. They are rich from a maple syrup and coconut butter caramel, but also bursting with superfoods like goji, sunflower seeds, coconut and mango. 

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 I’m sad that the granola bars were oh so good, but the photos came out oh so bad! Sometimes I just can’t even deal with my photos. I mean, please. There needs to be an intervention. Someone needs to come and sit me down and explain everything there ever is to know about anything to do with my camera because my brain has turned to mush after all the uni work I did this week and I can’t improve by myself. I JUST CAN’T. 

You’re just going to have to trust me with this one. It’s such a great recipe, I know I’ll be using it from now on when the need for granola bars arises. You don’t have to take it down the tropical road if you don’t want to, that’s just an idea I had while I was waiting in Bangkok airport for my lonely flight home. 

I also ate four scoops of banana and chocolate ice cream while I was there, but that’s another story. 

If you try adding different flavours, let me know how it goes! And happy May! 

One Year Ago: Chocolate and Caramel Banana Muffins

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Tropical Granola Bars: Adapted from Ottolenghi

45g each hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds and desiccated coconut

190g rolled oats

30g ground almonds 

50g dried mango

50g dried pineapple

50g dried goji berries

1 ripe banana

 

For the caramel:

75g raw sugar

85g coconut butter, or oil I think would work too

85g maple syrup (or honey for non-vegan)

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Method:

Preheat oven to 160C (320F) and line a 20 x 23cm tin with baking paper. Soak the fruit briefly in water to soften a bit. Cut into small chunks, about the size of the goji berries. Roughly chop up the nuts. Stir together all the ingredients except the caramel and the banana in a large bowl. 

In a small saucepan, melt the coconut butter and syrup and sugar and stir well so that everything is combined. Cook for a minute, then pour over the dry ingredients. Stir well. Mash the banana and stir through the mix. Pour into the lined tin and bake for about 20 minutes, until golden on top. Allow the bars to cool completely before chopping with a serrated knife. 

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Caramelised Banana and Mango Coconut Tarts (using Coyo!)

Vegan, Sugar Free, Gluten Free 

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When I was little I had what you could call a “dairy addiction”. I ate a lot of dairy. A LOT of dairy. I had a daily addiction to ice cream, I used to buy cartons of plain milk at school and chug them, I just loved all forms of dairy. I remember once eating a litre of dark chocolate ice cream whilst watching Gilmore Girls with my friend. (It was glorious). 

But last year I discovered to my horror that I’m lactose intolerant! Weep with me 😥 It started with a month or two of going without any dairy to see if that was causing my stomach pains, and lets just say when I tried introducing milk again…it was messy. I’ve pretty much found a substitute for everything now except yogurt. Yogurt is my life, I can’t really live without it for any stretch of time. That’s why the discovery of coconut yogurt for me was a BIG DEAL. And this coconut yogurt is really good!

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 I don’t know if you’ve heard of Coyo, but it’s a delicious all natural product made out of pure coconut milk. They have fruit flavours, plain yogurt, and even ice cream which I can affirm is very creamy and lovely. Coconut is packed full of health benefits. It can aid in weight loss, indigestion, blood pressure, it boosts your metabolism and is wonderful for your skin. It’s high in fat, but this ‘saturated fat’ is not the terrible idea of saturated fat you have from pictures of beef lard and butter. The fat from coconuts is low in palmitic acid, which is the bad stuff in animal sources of saturated fat. While it does raise your bad cholesterol levels by a degree, it also raises your good cholesterol levels. 

Basically if you’re trying to decide between ice cream and coconut, coconut is the healthy option. It doesn’t deserve it’s reputation as a dangerous fat source. (Coconut oil on the other hand is a whole other kettle of fish and I personally don’t cook with high amounts of it). Anyway my point is, Coyo is a very healthy and creamy product. It has no added nasty’s so doesn’t last long in the fridge, but it tastes pure and sweetly of coconut and is a very nice alternative to yogurt. 

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 I’ve decided that this week should be coconut appreciation week. In honour of that I’m making coconut recipes all using Coyo to show you my favourite ways of eating it. (I will admit a lot of it was eaten from a spoon standing in front of the fridge). The caramelised banana and mango combination was inspired by this weeks beautiful clear weather. Goodbye Summer! There is a coconutty walnut base, creamy sweet banana slices and a topping of delicious mango flavoured Coyo sweetened with a little maple syrup. 

This was just the way I wanted to take these tarts this morning. You can be as creative as you like! Fill the bases with whatever flavour you choose and I bet fresh berries on top wouldn’t go astray. Make sure you keep these little babies in the fridge so that the bases keep strong. And always use a clean spoon when eating your Coyo! Because there are no added preservatives you have to be a teeny bit more careful. Hope you enjoy!

One Year Ago: Brownie and Fresh Berry Cheesecake

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 Coconut, Banana and Mango Tarts:

Base:

1 cup walnuts

1 cup sultanas or dates, soaked briefly in water

1/2 cup desiccated coconut

Drain the sultanas or dates well and blend everything together until it forms a loose dough. If you don’t have a strong blender, make sure you crush up the nuts and cut the fruit first. Line 8-10 small tart moulds with plastic wrap or paper and press in the dough on the bottom and up the sides (make sure the bottom is quite thick). Keep in the freezer until ready to fill, to make them easier to use. 

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For the filling:

1 banana, sliced into dimes

1 tablespoon coconut butter 

2 tsp raw sugar

1 tub mango coconut COYO

2-3 tablespoons maple syrup or agave syrup, depending how sweet you want it

Combine the coconut butter and sugar in a small pan. Once melted, add in the banana slices and fry until just caramelised on each side. Place 2-3 pieces in each tart. Blend the coconut yogurt and agave together well. Spoon over the banana pieces. Keep in the fridge until ready to eat. Enjoy! 

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Summery Green Smoothies

Raw, Vegan, Refined Sugar and Gluten Free

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 I finally did it! I’ve jumped on to the green smoothie bandwagon. I know, I know. Green smoothies are so 2013. But if it helps, I actually made this smoothie way back when in November last year! I’ve been away so long I haven’t posted it until now. How’s that for a time warp! Helloooo from the paaaast. There’s only so many stunning photographs of fresh, healthy looking green smoothies a person can take before you absolutely have to try making one. Even if it does look like Shrek’s pond juice.

I decided to play it safe for my first foray into green smoothies and look at some recipes. They all seem to follow a similar guideline, but one helpful person (which I’ve completely forgotten where I read it…I’m sorry!) warned against diving into green smoothies head first. So I decided to leave out the cucumber and celery and avocado for the first time. Instead this green smoothie is packed full of baby spinach, kale and a big handful of mint. Yum!!
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This green smoothie was so so good. It was rich and creamy from the coconut juice and flesh, plus the whole banana. Lots of recipes said to use frozen banana, but I would instead suggest just a very cold banana and an ice cube or two. When you freeze and then defrost bananas they lose their creaminess and become kind of…weird. Watery and super runny. Great in a banana bread, gross in a drink.

You could get a bit creative with this. It’s a very simple recipe! I used mango and banana as sweeteners but you could use apple if your blender was powerful enough, or add in some berries (they might make it go brown though). Try throwing in a couple of dates or agave nectar for a sweeter breakfast experience. Add chia, chopped nuts, pineapple, whatever your heart desires. And tell me how you go with that celery…
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Try and use organic greens in these smoothies, not just because they’re good for the environment! They’re also better for you. I’m conflicted about buying organic because it’s unsustainable on a large scale, but chemicals are so yucky and just bad for our bodies. When you’re drinking something as healthy and antioxidant packed as a green smoothie, I feel like you just have to go organic. It’s just one of those things.

And if you can’t get your hands on a whole coconut, using just coconut water is fine. (Not coconut milk. Ew). If you can, cut off the top and put some of that coconut meat in the smoothie! By the way does anybody know of an adjective describing the inside of a coconut that isn’t “meat” or “flesh”? It’s just creeping me out… so meaty. Enjoy your green smoothies! Perfect for a new year.
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Green Breakfast Smoothie:
1 cup baby spinach
1 cup de-ribbed kale
handful of mint (don’t leave out the mint!)
1 banana from the fridge
half a mango
1 whole coconut, juice and flesh, or one cup coconut water
a few ice cubes

Blend everything together in a powerful blender. (If you don’t have one, borrow your friends. You can’t really make the greens break down in a piddly blender) Drink while it is still cool, or store in the fridge for an hour or two.
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Vanilla Mango Frozen Yogurt

Gluten Free, optional Vegan and Refined Sugar Free

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 I hope you all had a Merry Christmas everyone! New Year is just around the corner and this is a super easy light dessert you can make in advance, for guests, or for you and you alone. I won’t judge.

I think I have a serious addiction to frozen yogurt. It started with lemon curd frozen yogurt, which was so rich and tangy I still dream about it sometimes. Then there was the berry and honey frozen yogurt, so sweet and refreshing. And the epic cinnamon and banana frozen yogurt! It seriously tasted like banana bread. I could not deal. But my favourite flavour by a million miles is todays recipe: mango frozen yogurt. My two loves combined in a beautiful marriage. 

I wondered whether or not I should post this recipe because it’s so damn simple and easy. I’m pretty sure a blind person with no hands could make this if pointed in the direction of the fridge. But I make it so often I realised it would be plain silly not to share it with the world. So go out there! Get some mangoes and full fat yogurt and get ready!

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I use mangoes because they’re my absolute favourite fruit in the world. And besides, the frozen yogurt in the photos was made with three mangoes out of thirty that had somehow entered our house with no purpose or reason…But you can substitute peaches or nectarines, berries or even banana. Just taste the fruit and adjust the sweetness accordingly. Look how yellow it is! I didn’t even adjust the saturation in these photos! Is that yellow or what?!?!

Now for the nerdy part. I sweetened my frozen yogurt with honey, which is a mixture of glucose and fructose sugars. Because of the levels of glucose, honey shares lots of properties with invert sugars (sugars that have been heated to the point that they remain in liquid form). Invert sugars don’t freeze solid, which is why lots of recipes call for glucose syrup in things like sorbet and icing. If you are one of those people that hates hard-freezing homemade ice cream and sorbet, you may want to add glucose syrup to your recipes. It’s a super high concentrated sugar so I don’t use it, but if you’re making something full of sugar anyway then I can appreciate the futility of also adding a natural sweetener like honey. Honey will contribute to a softer frozen yogurt, as will taking it out of the fridge 10 minutes before eating it, and chilling it thoroughly before churning. 

For glucose syrup, I’d start by adding about 25mls per litre and going from there. I’m not an expert in the matter at all! I haven’t even used it! But I’ve read recipes that suggest a ration like that with great success. Otherwise just leave it out and enjoy some naturally sweetened deliciousness with me! 

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 Vanilla Mango Frozen Yogurt:

3 very ripe medium mangoes, peeled and cut into chunks

650g (1.5 pounds, 23 ounces) natural full fat yogurt (or full-fat coya for vegan)

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tablespoons honey

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If your mango pieces are frozen, let them thaw or microwave on medium until they’re soft. Blend up your honey, vanilla and mangoes into a smooth puree. Either add your yogurt and blend until combined, or use the fruit puree to swirl through the yogurt, whichever you prefer. Chill the mixture thoroughly before freezing in an ice cream maker, depending on the machines instructions. Eat either straight away, or take out of the fridge a while before trying to scoop. Enjoy!!!

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Layered Chia Coconut & Fruit Puddings

Vegan, Refined Sugar and Gluten Free

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 The first time I made chia pudding I had a horrific experience. I ate too many chia seeds, my stomach swelled up, I didn’t put any yummy maple syrup in it, it was just miserable. I did kind of like the pudding itself though, even though I was still in my early chia pudding days. The chocolate chia pudding I made next was out of this world good. Creamy from avocados, chocolatey, sweet and peanut buttery. But it wasn’t really breakfast material. It was more dessert territory. I wanted to master the perfect fruit chia pudding. And I finally did it. 

I thought I must be some kind of colour goddess when I thought up this beautiful layered effect. But then I went to the bathroom and realised I had made an exact replica of my bar of soap…it’s exactly the same! I must have been subconsciously inspired whilst I was washing my hands! The bottom layer is mango and coconut milk, the middle layer is strawberry coconut and the topping is blueberry and almond milk. This is complete sacrilege because mango is always my favourite, but this time the blueberry was actually the star of the show. It was so sweet and jammy. It tasted like blueberry cheesecake ice cream, which was my favourite flavour when I was nine. Fun fact I know.

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The key to making good chia pudding is to put in lots of yummy ingredients as the backbone of the recipe. Chia has no flavour. None at all. It’s packed full of iron, antioxidants, vitamins and is a complete protein, but it tastes like nothing at all (That makes me not trust it…what is chia hiding from us?). The coconut milk makes the pudding deliciously creamy and rich, and the high ratio of fruit makes the pudding really sweet and hearty. Add some maple syrup if your fruit isn’t very sweet, and only use perfectly ripe and flavoursome fruit. Don’t use mushy or bitter berries, because they will taste even worse mixed up in a pudding.

Feel free to mix up the flavours and layers as well! Use whatever fruit and milk you prefer. You can use rice, almond, or soy. Just remember the flavour- it will come through! And guess what. You can totally eat these for breakfast. Just layer them in a jar, stick in some chopped fruit, and away you go. 

This post is similar to an old chia pudding recipe I made (even the photos!) but the subtle changes really make it so much yummier! That’s why I’m putting it up again. PS whoever can spot where I edited my reflection off the back of a spoon gets a shout out.

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 Layered Chia Pudding Recipe:

For 4 jars of chia pudding:

8 tablespoons chia seeds 

2 cups of coconut milk, almond milk, soy, rice or dairy

1/2 a medium mango, sliced

1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen) defrosted if frozen

1/2 cup strawberries, cut up in chunks

1-2 tbsp maple syrup, optional Image

Separate the chia into three even sized bowls. Put the mango in a blender with 1/3 of the coconut milk and blend well. Pour into one of the bowls with chia and stir until well combined. Wash out the blender and repeat with the other two fruits, until you have three bowls of pudding beginning to set. Pour in your first layer carefully so it doesn’t splash on the sides. Wait to set (about ten minutes, not much longer) and repeat with your next layer. Add the final layer and refrigerate for a couple hours or overnight, so they’re fully set. 

It’s easiest to fill the jars with the pudding when it’s still slightly runny, otherwise it’s hard to scoop in. You don’t need to use jars- cups look good, or bowls as well. Jars are just handy because you can put a lid on them and take them to work in the morning. Add the maple syrup to any fruits that weren’t very sweet, or as a nice top layer add a little dollop that you can swirl through. And remember, chia is really filling! You don’t need much to feel full at all xx

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Mango, Peach and Chocolate Sorbet Layer Cake

Vegan and Gluten Free

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Guys, come on. How epic is this cake! I made my own birthday cake! Before you start thinking “oh no, that’s really sad! The baker’s curse strikes again!” I was actually really excited to make my own cake. Making your own birthday cake equals making your idea of cake heaven. It means creating the most amazing and perfect combination that doesn’t have to please anyone but yourself. 

For me that equalled not even making a cake at all. Instead, I made an ice cream layer cake! Who wants to bother with fiddly layers and boring old cake flavours when instead you can just eat ice cream. Lets be serious here. Especially when the ice cream is home churned and made out  of three mind bogglingly good flavours.

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The bottom layer is of course mango. I know I’m overwhelming people with the mango…it’s getting ridiculous. Imagine if I had a follower that hated mangoes! They’ve probably unsubscribed until March. The good thing about this cake though is that you can kind of choose whatever flavours you like the best. The middle layer (my favourite layer) is chocolate sorbet, and the top layer is an amazingly refreshing peach and raspberry sorbet. 

This cake is similar to the chocolate, berry and cinnamon ice cream cake I made for my boyfriends birthday a while ago. Ever since making that cake I was just itching to make another one. It was so good! My dream would be to have a recipe list full of hundreds of different ice cream cake combinations with all the ice cream flavours of the land! 

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I didn’t bother making a base for the cake because whenever I’m eating ice cream cake, I always want less base more ice cream. AND IT’S MY BIRTHDAY! You could of course make the brownie base from the cinnamon and berry cake, or you could make a gluten free and vegan base like in this frozen lychee cheesecake. Just double the recipe so it’s enough for the larger tin. 

This cake is absolutely perfect for holiday season. It’s actually super easy. Especially if you aren’t as in to making ice cream as me, and instead just buy your three favourite flavours. It makes a lot of ice cream to feed a crowd with minimum effort. And it’s naturally vegan and gluten free! My idea of the perfect birthday cake 🙂 Hope you like it as much as me! Speaking of, I might go eat another slice right now…

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Mango, Peach and Chocolate Sorbet Layer Cake:

Mango Sorbet: loosely based on Serious Eats

3 medium mangoes, peeled and cut into chunks

150ml (2/3 cup) water

130g (1/2 cup) sugar

juice of 1 medium lime

2 tablespoons gin or white rum

Blend all the ingredients together thoroughly. Pour into a bowl, cover in cling wrap and refrigerate until completely chilled (at least 5 hours). Freeze in your ice cream machine according to instructions. 

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 Chocolate Sorbet: Recipe from David Lebovitz

170g (1 3/4 cups) dark chocolate

550ml (2 +1/3 cups) water split into 375 ml (1.5 cups) and 125ml (1/2 cup) bowls

200g (3/4 cup + 1 tbsp) sugar

75g (2/3 cup) cocoa powder

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk 375ml (1.5) cups of water with the sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Bring to a boil and whisk frequently. Boil for about 1 minute until completely combined and glossy

Break up the chocolate in a bowl and set aside. Pour over the hot chocolate mixture and leave to melt. Stir together until completely incorporated, then stir in the rest of the water and the vanilla. Cool in the fridge over night then churn in ice cream machine. 

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Peach and Raspberry Sorbet: Recipe from Cookie and Kate

6 medium yellow peaches

150ml (1/2 cup) water

250g (1/2 pound, 9 ounces) raspberries, fresh or frozen

Cut up the peaches and place in a pot with the water. Put a lid on and gently simmer until the peaches are soft. Turn off the heat and stir in the sugar until combined. Mix in the raspberries and leave to cool. Blend well, and refrigerate for 8-10 hours until cold. Freeze according to manufacturers instructions. 

To assemble: Get a 23cm (9 inch) round springform pan and release the bottom. Slip a sheet of plastic wrap in between the bottom and the sides and secure in place, so that the plastic wrap is curled up around the outside of the tin and covers the bottom. Line the sides either with oil and baking paper, or more plastic wrap. Take out one sorbet and let if defrost until soft. Scoop into the tin and spread evenly. Freeze until hard. Repeat with the other layers, allowing a few hours inbetween to let each layer freeze solidly and prevent them bleeding together. Release the cake from the tin before serving and place a plate on top of the cake, before inverting it and peeling off the plastic. Place a large plate on the exposed base and flip it back over. Work fast so it doesn’t melt! Run a knife under boiling hot water in between slices to get a smooth finish. Eat it!!!

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