Vegan Mofo 4: D is for Daring Durian [Birthday] Cake

I may be failing slightly in my commitment to Vegan MoFo but it’s all for a worthy cause – conceiving and creating my first birthday cake. I considered attempting one of Fragrant Vanilla Cake’s beautiful creations, or trying my hand at the equally luscious raw cakes by the Nouveau Raw. Yet somehow I knew I would not be satisfied by just following someone else’s recipe; it had to be an expression of my creativity, and of course, feature my favorite ingredients. Hours of brainstorming and kicthen labour later, this baby was born: Lemon & Rum Durian Mousse with Dark Chocolate Sherbet Surprise.

In the making of this cake, I unearthed some unexpected discoveries and acquired new kitchen knowledge. Like where to find the cheapest nuts (Albert Centre Food Market, Level 3; sold in bulk) and cheap durian (a makeshift stall opposite Bugis Market). Threateningly huge Mao Shan Wang (Cat Mountain King) durians sold at $15 per durian – can you beat that?! To put that in perspective, two durians yielded three large boxes, all for $30, and all of premium quality – small seeds with undulating layers of potent creamy rich non-fibrous bittersweet deep yellow flesh. In terms of culinary skills, it was the first for many firsts – making coconut whipped cream, homemade ice cream/sherbet, using xanthan gum and chocolate art. All in all, making this cake was a pretty insightful experience.

Oh yes, and a spanking new Bosch food processor as a birthday gift from Mum! Although KitchenAid is by far the most popular in the (American) market, it is unfortunately not sold in Singapore and I was put off by the hassle of shipping it. Nevertheless, this multi-function Bosch food processor packs quite a mean punch too – it comes with multiple attachments including the S blade, cutting disc, shredding disc, slicer, grater and dough hook, as well as juicer and blender. In fact I’m not sure if I’m ever going to utilise all its functions! So far it works like a silent workhorse and I’m more than pleased!

So back to the cake. This completely vegan, almost raw frozen cake is full blown TREAT. YO. SELF. birthday territory. The ingredients are decidedly luxe with durian (a whooping 800g), copius coconut milk, dark bittersweet Valrhona, and lots of nuts. It’ll take a bit of time, with multiple washing of the processor after making each layer, manual stirring the sherbet every so often (no ice cream machine), messy drippy chocolate and more washing of various kitchen equipment. But it’s my birthday and an excuse to create my ultimate birthday cake and have fun in the kitchen!

I understand that durian is not a readily accessible fruit, but at least you can learn some chocolate art, the resource and links which I have put up below. Believe me, waking up at 6AM to pipe chocolate on templates is very therapeutic.

I’m a pretty visual person, so I like to plan recipes visually. The crust is a basic nut/date crust but with cacao added in. The durian mousse is separated into two contrasting flavours: a lower boozy rum/vanilla layer and an upper zesty lemon layer. Sandwiched in between the two creamy durian layers is an icy bittersweet dark chocolate sherbet “surprise”. Indeed, there is a lot going on here but the play of flavours and textures all works out beautifully. The subtle hint of tartness of the lemon durian mousse provided just enough to cut through richness, while the creamy-icy-creamy-nutty mouthfeel was simply delightful. As for the cake decoration, I got my inspiration from the breathtaking delicate chocolate art from 100daysofevelyn, or more specifically her chocolate cage cake. However as a beginner I went for a simpler design of flower ornaments.

Lemon & Rum Durian Mousse with Dark Chocolate Sherbet Surprise
1 8″ cake.
Vegan. Gluten-Free.

You may also refer to the image above for the ingredients for each layer
For the Crust

  • 1 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup soft medjool dates (about 9), pitted and chopped
  • 8 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Rum Durian Mousse

  • 450g durian flesh 
  • 3/4 cup whipped coconut cream
  • 1/3 cup cashews, soaked
  • 1/2 cup silken tofu
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp rum essence

Dark Chocolate Sherbet Surprise (inspired by CakeBoule’s Raspberry Blast Secret Centre)

  • 3/4 cup gula melaka (coconut palm sugar) syrup (100g + 200ml water)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 100g dark chocolate (I used Valrhona Guanaja – 70%)
  • 2 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1/4 tsp pectin (optional, supposedly lowers melting point)
  • 1/8 tsp xantham gum (optional, for stabilization & texture)

Lemon Durian Mousse

  • 350g durian flesh 
  • 140ml whipped cream
  • <1/3 cup cashews, soaked
  • <1/2 cup silken tofu
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 tsp lemon zest

Lemon Cashew Frosting (from the Nouveau Raw)

  • 1 cups raw cashews, soaked
  • 6 tbsp coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp raw agave syrup
  • 1/4 tsp each of vanilla, rum
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 6 tbsp coconut oil, melted

Chocolate Decoration

  • Dark chocolate, melted (I used Valrhona Guanaja – 70%)

For the Crust
Add nuts, cocoa and salt into food processor and process until nuts are fine crumbs. Then add dates and process until the mixture is smooth and holding together. Press into 8″ cake pan. Set aside in the freezer to firm up.  
For the Durian Mousse Layers
Place tofu, soaked cashews in food processor and blend until smooth. Add in durian flesh and and vanilla/rum and blend until just combined.
Prepare coconut whipped cream. Measure out 3/4 cup and fold into durian puree to form mousse. Pour mousse on top of the crust and place back into freezer.
Repeat the same for the lemon durian mousse layer, except replacing the vanilla/rum with lemon juice/zest.
Dark Chocolate Sherbet Surprise
First prepare the gula melaka syrup. Place chopped pieces into a saucepan and add the water. Bring to boil and stir until all the sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5-10 mins until the mixture thickens slightly. Pour out syrup into a large bowl.
Measure out 3/4 cup of the syrup and return it to the saucepan. Then add in almond milk and coconut milk and heat until simmering. Add in chopped chocolate and cacao powder, stirring until everything melts and dissolves. Add xanthan gum and pectin, if using. Then pour mixture into a aluminium baking tray and place into freezer (no ice cream maker method). Stir the mixture vigorously every 30 mins to break up large ice crystals.
After about 4 hours of frequent stirring, chop up the chocolate sherbet and place into the blender and blend until very smooth. Then pour the mix on top of the rum durian mousse.
Chocolate Decorations
I got the floral ornament template from Sabrina Sue (hey, we got the same name!).
Print out the template and place it on top of a rough flat surface (eg. bread board). Place wax paper over. Melt your chocolate using a bain marie or microwave. Pour into pipig bag (I used a ziploc). Cut a very tiny hole at the tip and trace according to the pattern (note: best to let chocolate cool until lukewarm for easier control). Place wax paper in freezer. About 5 mins later, peel off the decorations and stick onto sides of cake.
Remove cake from freezer about 15 mins before serving.

I had so much fun making [and eating] this no-holds-barred dream durian birthday cake. The texture of the mousse layer could certainly be improved (it was a bit icy rather than moussy); otherwise just treat it as a giant ice cream cake!

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Sabrina is passionate about all things health, wellness, conscious living and good vibes.

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