There is no denying that raw cakes, especially when layered or tiered, have a certain wow factor. They have beautiful vibrant colors, and luxurious aesthetics, and are every bit as delicious as traditional cakes, only with the benefit of nutritious ingredients.
In this post, I explain what raw cakes are and how to make them.
Raw cakes don’t mean that they are in any way unfinished. Rather, they don’t require baking or heating above a certain temperature. The exact temperature is often disputed with some saying 107°F/42°C and others saying 118°F/48°C. I settle for around 115°F/46°C.
Unlike traditional cakes, raw cakes are typically vegan (dairy-free, egg-free), grain-free (gluten-free), soy-free, and refined sugar-free. They are also free of processed ingredients and instead contain whole-food alternatives, such as nuts, seeds, fruit, powdered superfoods, and spices. This means that raw cakes taste much fuller, have a denser texture, and have many vibrant colors.
One of the great things about raw “baking” is its simplicity. Unlike traditional baking, it’s not an exact science, leaving plenty of room for creativity. There are many ways to expand on raw recipes and many ways to simplify them. If you’re about to start preparing your dessert and suddenly realize you don’t have a certain ingredient, feel free to improvise and replace it with something similar. If you throw together the right balance of wet and dry ingredients, your recipes will have the perfect texture. There are no rules here and who knows, you might find a variation that works better for you this way.
Note: there are also cakes referred to as no-bake. These cakes also do not require baking, but may utilize some form of heating in the process and may contain dairy, eggs, and sugar.
How to Make Raw Cakes
Raw cakes typically consist of at least two parts – the actual cake and a filling. For many cakes, this means stacking a couple of chilled cake layers on top of each other with a filling in between. But cake can also be dehydrated in long thin sheets and rolled up with a filling. And even cakes without layers are often topped with frosting or glaze to taste and look their best. Finally, a lot of cakes really come to life with the addition of edible decorations.
Let’s dive deeper into these individual components.
The first thing you’ll need to do when making a raw cake is to choose the cake, whether it’s a press-in cookie-like crust, a more distinct shortbread-esque crust, a decadent brownie, or a classic sponge cake. In most cases, the cake is a combination of ground nuts/nut flour, a sweetener (to bind the nuts), and a little bit of coconut oil (to help the cake firm up). The cake layer is usually identical throughout the cake, but it’s possible to alternate between different kinds of cake layers as long as they complement each other.
Now that you have a cake recipe in mind, you’ll need to prepare the cake pans. A good recipe should tell you what type and size of the cake pan to use and how to prepare it. Most raw cakes will use 6- to 9-inch round cake pans with at least 2-inch-tall sides. If a recipe instructs you to grease the pan, simply cover the inside of the cake pan with a thin layer of softened coconut oil, avocado oil, or even non-stick spray. If a particular cake is prone to get stuck in the pan, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and grease the sides.
Once your pans are prepped, it’s time to make the cake. A raw cake is typically made in a food processor (ideal) or a high-speed blender. There is no creaming, emulsifying, sifting, or folding involved. Simply pulse all the ingredients until you get the texture you like – coarse, fine, or anything in between. The mixture should be slightly moist to the touch and sticky enough to form a cake (you can test it by pinching it together with your fingers).
The easiest way to shape the cake is to use springform pans as a guide. If you’re making a dehydrated cake, using a cake ring is best. The top of each cake layer should be smooth and flat. The sides should be even. Working with leveled layers makes assembling a cake a lot easier.
Finally, chill or dehydrate the cake. This might be a little time-consuming, depending on the recipe, but don’t skip this step. Properly chilled or dehydrated cakes are easier to work with and less likely to move around or crack.
While the cake is chilling/dehydrating, choose the filling. There are several types of filling to select from – buttercream, cream cheese, fudge, ganache, fruit puree, preserve, whipped cream, etc. Essentially, anything that goes between the layers of a cake (or inside the cake if it’s rolled up) is called the filling. Some types of fillings can also serve as a frosting. Either way, a filling should complement the flavor of the cake.
A raw cake filling usually consists of soaked nuts (typically, cashews or macadamia nuts), coconut cream (to add creaminess), coconut oil or cacao butter (to help the filling firm up), and a sweetener.
To make the filling, you will almost always need a high-speed blender to achieve a smooth and creamy consistency. The most important thing is to ensure each ingredient is at room temperature (unless you’re making coconut whipped cream, in which case you want the coconut cream to be chilled). All it takes is a splash of cold coconut milk or a little bit of frozen fruit, and the filling will turn into a big firm mess. This is because coconut oil or cacao butter, typically used in raw cake fillings, solidifies very fast when it comes into contact with anything cold. So, take the time to warm things up if necessary, and then blend away.
Frosting a cake can be one of the more challenging steps of the cake-making process. While not necessary, a rotating cake stand is very helpful for getting the frosting even and smooth.
The first coat of frosting on a cake is a crumb coat. This layer is meant to trap stray cake crumbs and prevent them from showing up in the finished cake. It also helps fill in any gaps between the cake layers to create a solid surface before adding a smooth, final coat. To crumb coat, pipe a thick layer of frosting all around the outside of the cake. Take a scraper and hold it vertically up against the side of the cake at about a 45-degree angle. Hold the scraper still and then spin the turn table towards you scraping off most of the frosting. Now add frosting to the top and use the scraper to scrape that off. (Put the frosting that you scraped off into a separate bowl than your clean frosting because it will likely have crumbs in it and you will not want to use that in your final coat).
Once the crumb coat is applied, let the cake chill for 30 minutes to let the crumb coat set. Then apply a finishing coat of frosting. Start the exact same way you did with the crumb coat. Just don’t apply as much pressure with the scraper this time. You want to keep a nice coat of frosting on the cake.
And that’s it! Now you have a blank canvas for your cake decorating.
There’s nothing wrong with a plain and simple frosted cake. But if you want to add some borders, swirls, drips, and other fripperies, here’s how. Some of my favorites include:
- Adding drizzles of melted chocolate or caramel sauce to the top of the cake and letting them fall to the sides.
- Covering the surface of the cake with fresh fruit or even vegetables.
- Pressing chopped nuts or shredded coconut into the sides of the cake to add texture and allude to the flavors inside.
- Dressing up the top of the cake with a light dusting of cocoa powder, citrus zest, chocolate curls, edible flowers, or even coconut whipped cream to turn up the cake’s wow factor.
Anatomy of Raw Cakes
A great cake is a symphony of all its many parts, coming together in one delicious whole. Just like baked cakes, raw cakes can have multiple layers and/or tiers.
Raw Layered Cakes
The most simple and straightforward layered cakes require one raw cake recipe and one filling/frosting recipe.
Raw cheesecake (which is technically not a cake) consists of a simple press-in crust and a filling on top. Raw brownies (a form of a sheet cake) have one cake layer and chocolate ganache on top. (One-layer) raw carrot cake is just a cake layer with cream cheese frosting on top.
More elaborate layered cakes will have at least two cake layers of the same diameter with a filling in between and frosting on top. Raw tiramisu or double-layer carrot cake are great examples.
Raw Tiered Cakes
A tiered cake is truly a gorgeous masterpiece. They usually get a lot of attention because of their ‘heightened presence.’
A single-tier cake will typically have three cake layers of the same diameter with filling in between and frosting covering the entire cake. (Yes, a single-tier cake is basically a three-layer cake). A two-tier cake consists of two single-tier cakes with the bottom tier larger. A three-tier cake is the most elaborate with nine cake layers (three cake layers for each tier). Typically, tier cakes will require dowels and cake boards for stability.
Raw Cake Recipes
Now that you know the basics about raw cakes let’s dive into some recipes. Below is a collection of some of my favorite raw cake recipes from the blog.
Combining the refreshing flavor of limes and lemons and the irresistible creaminess of coconut cream, this raw lime cheesecake is a mouthwatering dessert. It’s a wonderful alternative to classic cheesecake.
This chocolate cheesecake is the perfect combination of dense and chewy crust and rich and fluffy filling. It’s everything you want in a chocolate cheesecake, a perfectly rich and creamy dessert that just melts in your mouth!
This raw strawberry cheesecake features a wonderful balance of rich, buttery macadamia nuts and tangy, fruity strawberries. It’s magically decadent yet light.
A sweet cinnamon-spiced cake, tangy ‘cream cheese’ filling, multiple layers … this raw version of a classic carrot cake is sure to impress.
A gorgeous, decadent Italian classic. If you’re a fan of coffee, you’ll almost certainly fall in love with this raw tiramisu.
It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve made these raw brownies, I’m always amazed at how wonderful they are. After making this rich, chewy, fudgy chocolate goodness topped with a thick chocolate layer, you’ll never even think about baking brownies again. Why would you?
Chewy, gooey, chocolaty raw brownies. These brownies are rich and delicious, and will absolutely satisfy your chocolate cravings. Unlike most raw cakes, these brownies are date-free.
Raw Dessert Recipes
This blog is full of raw and no-bake desserts. Raw desserts are definitely one of my favorite things to make. If you want to browse the rest of the raw desserts, check out the main desserts page. And if you want even more (exclusive) cake recipes, there are many in my free raw dessert e-book.