I had a birthday last Friday. I’m sure that you were expecting a cake. Well, I was too.
So here’s what happened: I had my heart set on making a carrot cake this year. I wanted it to be the tastiest, not-bad-for-you carrot cake ever, chock full of awesomeness like dried pineapple chunks, walnuts, coconut, raisins – the works! And I wanted to top it all off with a vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free, quinoa-based frosting (yup, you read that correctly) that would blow the pants off of any classic ol’ cream cheese number. I had all the ingredients in place, a seemingly solid recipe plan, a couple days to pull it off, and impossibly high expectations.
I knew I’d run into a problem the moment I sliced into the cake to frost it. Even though my toothpick had slid in and out without so much as a moist crumb on it just hours before, my knife was now almost stuck in a dense swamp of carrot cake glop. I panicked. I decided to open it up all the way to see what was wrong, revealing not just two halves of undercooked cake, but some bizarrely-textured sponge resembling pudding. The outside was a picture of carrot cake perfection – the inside, a confusing, sad, unsalvageable mess. Oh. My. Gourd.
I was in denial for sometime, thinking I could just “toast” it, but then it just got crusty and dry on the outside, while remaining a carrot bog in the middle. And the icing, which was so delicious, creamy and dare I say it, revolutionary, the night before, had turned into an acrid, unpalatable ointment. I thought that I could perhaps just take photos of the cake, because it could have fooled anyone from its outward appearance that great things were going on, then re-jig the recipe, go back to the store, and start over.
But what kind of person, may I ask, makes a birthday cake for themselves from a place of panic, and desperation? When I spoke to my friend, a very talented chef, about my carrot cake-tastrophe, she looked at me sympathetically and asked why I was being so hard on myself, inventing a brand-new cake recipe and thinking I could get it right on the first go? I broke down and realized that I was not in fact, a classically-trained culinary robot, but a human. A stubborn, determined, and very pregnant human at that, who feels an immense responsibility to her loyal readers to produce a dazzling recipe every week, but one who could also admit defeat. For the time being anyway.
Which leads me to the recipe. And the truth.
For as many birthdays as I can recall, I’ve made myself a very special breakfast to start the day off right. Inspired by the infamous vice of Elvis himself, I’ve brought together the goodness of bread, banana and nut butter in a hot pan, to make a spectacularly gooey treat that would make anyone feel celebratory. When I realized with great dismay that the cake could not be saved, all I wanted was this sandwich. And so I made it. And it was perfect.
Although I have a couple recipes for nut butter up on My New Roots, I haven’t given you one for a mixed nut butter (a.k.a. Party Nut Butter) or a chocolate version yet. If you are especially into Nutella, or any variation of it, you’ll really appreciate what I’m sharing with you today.
As a side note, I have tried making chocolate nut butter with liquid sweeteners before and it is not all that successful. You see, the fat in nuts is hydrophobic, meaning quite literally, that is afraid of water. When adding honey or maple syrup to sweeten the chocolate paste, the whole concoction seizes up and becomes an un-spreadable (however delicious) unyielding mass. This is perfect for rolling up into little truffles or something, but not for spreading on toast, or fresh fruit, or yogurt, or your finger. A dry sweetener will work however, which is why I have chosen coconut sugar. It blends perfectly into the nut butter without causing it to seize up and remain so delightfully oozy.
Grilled Banana and Nut Butter Birthday Sandwiches
2 slices wholegrain sourdough bread
1 ripe banana
1 Tbsp. each party nut butter and chocolate nut butter
a little ghee, butter, or coconut oil
a pinch of sea salt
honey, to taste if desired
1. Spread your fat of choice on one side of each slice of bread. On the other side spread your choice of nut butter. Slice the banana and place on top of the nut butter, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with sea salt if desired. Place halves together.
2. In a preheated pan over low-medium heat, place the buttered side of bread down and cook until golden. Although it is tempting to blast the sandwich with heat to cook it faster, this will only result in burnt toast and a cold interior. Slow, low-heat cooking is the key to this sandwich.
3. When the bottom of the sandwich is golden, flip and repeat on the other side. The sandwich is ready when the middle of the sandwich should be gooey and warm
Party Nut Butter & Chocolate Party Nut Butter
1 ¾ cup / 200g hazelnuts
1 ½ cups / 200g almonds
¾ cup / 70g pecans
sea salt to taste
cinnamon to taste, if desired
raw cacao powder
1. Preheat oven to 300°F/150°C. Spread the nuts out in a single layer on baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes until fragrant and slightly darker in colour (a good way to check is to bite one in half and check the colour in the center. Instead of white, it should be golden). Remove from oven and let cool completely. If you are using pecans, remove them from the oven a little earlier than the other nuts, as they cook faster.
2. Transfer all the cooled nuts to a food processor and blend on highest setting for 1-2 minutes to finely grind them to a powder. Scrape down the sides of the container. Continue to process the nuts an additional 1-2 minutes until the oils start to be released, and a smooth, creamy, runny paste is formed.
3. To make the nut butter chocolate flavoured, simply add raw cacao and coconut sugar by the teaspoon until the desired chocolatey-ness and sweetness has been achieved.
4. Transfer the nut butter to an airtight glass container and store in the refrigerator. Keeps for 1 month.
Note: This recipe makes a lot of nut butter – I actually took half the regular nut butter out of the food processor and turned the rest into chocolate nut butter. And then I had two kinds of nut butter. And that made me happy.
So there you have it: my real birthday indulgence and the truth of it all. Food blogging is really hard sometimes. Although I always want to impress and delight you, I am just a regular gal experimenting in her kitchen, with no real background or experience in this stuff – just a steadfast obsession – and sometimes that just isn’t the right trait to make a perfect cake on the first try.
I learned a very important lesson last week, which is to be gentler with myself and to forgive my humanness. Sometimes it stings a little to face the truth – that the earth-moving carrot cake didn’t turn out just so – and all I can do is soothe it with the knowledge that I really, really tried. A grilled banana nut butter sandwich doesn’t hurt either.
Lots of love and gentle humanness,