This was my second commissioned cake and I was darn exuberant to jump at the opportunity! Catering to people is very much different from making food for yourself; there are a multitude of tiny details to look at from the practical to the presentation:
- Recipe development
- Ingredient costing
- Price setting
- Food styling and photography
- Blogging and marketing
Being from the life sciences and knowing nought about business, the whole process was quite a learning journey, to say the least. Fortunately I had taken the course “manage cost and quality control” at The Academy a few months back so I was able to apply some F&B business sense in the process.
The client’s request was a raw vegan cake within a budget of $25 to celebrate a group of friends’ birthdays. As you know, raw vegan cakes commonly feature ingredients such as nuts, dried fruits, fruits, cacao powder, superfood powders, coconut oil and liquid sweeteners which come at a premium price. The Academy taught me that food cost (or the cost of goods, COG) should be kept at maximum 30 percent to have a profit of 70 percent, meaning the raw ingredients should be no more than $7.50. Wow, that’s pretty tight! Cost-counting will be the death of me but sadly, it is an inescapable part of a practical life.
Eventually after a raging brainstorm session, I decided on a raw apple pie because it is admittedly one of the more affordable options in business speak. It was also an opportuinty to experiment with a different combination of nuts and dried fruits for the pie crust. Over here, walnuts and prunes make an exceptional pairing with tart Granny Smiths, which were soaked in an acidic and ambriosiac grapefruit caramel sauce till pliable, mandolined, and patiently – and painfully – laid out in a rose pattern. Cashew prune cream cheese suffice as the glue between apple layers.
There were some leftover apple slices for tastings and I promise that this is the real raw apple pie, as fresh as it can get!
- 2 cups (180 g) walnuts
- ½ cup (80 g) prunes
- ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ cup dates
- ½ grapefruit (or 1 orange)
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 4 Granny Smith apples (divided 2+2)
- ½ cup cashew nuts, soaked for at least 2 hours
- ¼ cup prunes
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon coconut nectar or other liquid sweetener
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Place the walnuts in a food processor a pulse a few times to break into small pieces.
- Add in the prunes and sea salt and continue processing until a sticky paste forms.
- Press out the walnut-prune crust into a tart pan or springform pan. Place the pan in the freezer to harden to the crust.
- In the food processor, blend the dates, grapefruit and spices to a smooth paste.
- Peel 2 apples and slice into 3 mm slices, preferably using a mandoline. Also mandoline the other 2 apples, but leave the skins on. (The apples with the skins on will be more sturdy and give structure to the pie.)
- Place the peeled and unpeeled apple slices in two large bowl and pour the caramel marinade over each bowl. Mix well and let the bowls sit overnight in the refrigerator.
- In a food processor, blend the soaked cashew nuts, prunes, and remaining ingredients until very smooth. Scrape out into a bowl and freeze for at least 2 hours to harden.
- Remove the tart or springform pan and cream cheese from the freezer. Spread a thin layer of cream cheese over the base and the sides of the crust. Working inwards, arrange the unpeeled apple slices in an concentric circle, layer cream cheese, then arrange the peeled apple slices in an inner concentric circle. Repeat until you reach the center of the pie.
- Dab the excess caramel marinade over the pie. Return the pie to freezer to set. Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving.