Tempeh Cake

This is the second very special post. It is one other special recipe that was made for some good friends long time ago and it was promised that will be featured on the blog. Promises in a way work like thermodynamics. They tell you if something is going to happen and in what degree, but not when. Time is the elusive dimension that although very interesting does not belong to this blog. Here we talk food… Speaking of which… This is recipe the was kinda featured before to the blog, but never full. It is based largely on the meatloaf cake that I made before for Kathryn for her birthday. This one is very particular, however. Oaklianna, a dear friend, is among the people that have the intolerance to gluten the wheat protein. Damian, her then boyfriend, had always been vegetarian and never head meat. So the plan for the alternative cake had to find another base. That base is non-other than the best thing that ever happened to soy, tempeh.
Tempeh is an amazing repackaging of soy beans that gives them amazing taste, texture and versatility. Tempeh starts with soy beans that are softened by soaking, and dehulled, then partly cooked and then fermented. That’s where things become interesting. In a degree this process shares many elements with beer as the fermentation conditions largely impact of the final taste and texture. One method involves the addition of a mild acidulent, usually vinegar, to lower the pH and promote the selective growth of certain mold. The fermentation then proceeds by adding the spores of fungus Rhizopus oligosporus, the main fermentation agent. The beans are spread into a thin layer, traditionally on bamboo woven mats, and allowed to ferment for 24 to 36 hours at a temperature around 30°C (86°F). A sign of good tempeh, is the development of a white mycelia mat that binds everything together in a large block that is then portioned. Ina different approach other conditions such of lower temperature, or higher ventilation, gray or black patches of spores and fungus may form on the surface. These patches not only are not harmful, but also are responsible for the unique characteristics that the tempeh develops. The final product is firm, much firmer than tofu, almost like a well done burger, has a mild pleasant aroma of yeast, and the texture is very similar to ground meat. The mycelia mat binds together the beans giving a nice flavor contrast and a porous structure that is so well suited for marinate. It has all the benefits of soy or tofu without the very weird texture of tofu and the blandness of soy beans.

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The tempeh. You can see both the beans and the mycelia binder and some black spots from the various funguses on the surface.

Tempeh is now available on line and in most mega marts in the veggie section but quality matters. There are also kits online that you can buy and make your own tempeh at home. Usually they contain the prepared beans and the starter. I was lucky though. Damian’s family has been making Tempeh for years suppling all the restaurants and independent grocery stores in the Gainesville area with the best quality tempeh. So at least for this recipe the access to tempeh was not an issue. Other than tempeh we will need a few or more items:

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We will need:

  • 1/5 lb of Tempeh
  • 3-4 carots
  • 1 red peper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 medium onion
  • A couple of cloves of garlic
  • 1 chicken egg
  • 5 yukon gold potatoes (and if you are a regular reader you probably know that this means mashed potatoes
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 cup of heave cream
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 tbsp of Chipotle adobo sauce
  • A few strings Safron
  • Cherry tomatoes of various colors (for garnish)
  • Some cilantro or parsley

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Step one. Smash the tempeh. Usually it comes in a pouch bag that is ideal for this purpose. Don’t use a blender. it will make it a mash. Here we want to keep intact the unique tempeh texture. So just break it with your fingertips.

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Once done add it in a large metal bowl.

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Time to season it. I am using here my homemade mexican spice mix, but you can use just salt and paper, or nothing (if you like bland food) or your favorite spice mix (preferably homemade).

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Now peel and…

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cut the potatoes and let them boil as we did before here.

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Once boiled, drain them.

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Add half a stick (or more) of butter.

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Mash them and slowly add the cream until they look smooth and creamy.

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Like this. Please don’t eat it now. They look nice but we need them. Repeat the process with the solitary little sweet potato. In a separate preparation please. Don’t mix the two. You will see why soon. Let them both cool completely.

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The mean time dice the rest of the vegetation: carrots

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Red pepper,

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green pepper,

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onion and

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the garlic.

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Add some olive oil in the pan.

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and start sautéing the veggies. Give carrots a head start since they are tougher to cook.

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Add the rest of the veggies.

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Toss around… And make it look fancy.

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Add some soy sauce to the tempeh and…

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Follow it with the vegetation addition and mix well.

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Add the chicken egg. This is somewhat required. We need a binder, something to keep things together. If you want to be 100% vegan you can use some substitute in the appropriate exchange ratio. Mix well until the egg is not visible any more.

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Add half of the mixture in a 9 dish pan to form the first half of the cake.

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Flip this on top of a baking pan on a piece of parchment paper.

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Like this. repeat the steps for the rest of the mixture.

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Bake at 350F until it is golden brown and delicious… Well not really. Just until it starts browning in the edges. Since it has nearly no fat it will never become GDB.

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It will look like this. As you notice it is a on a pan flipped upside down. This is for easy sliding. More on that later.

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Take some of the chipotle adobo sauce and…

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add it in the sweet potato mashers. and mix it.

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The sweet potato mix will be the cake filling. So added on the first layer of the cake.

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Spread it with a spatula or a butter knife.

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Place the second layer on top and now it is time for the icing on the cake.

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The mashed potatoes. Add the entire batch of the top. It is very important to have the potatoes cooled. If not they are so sticky and gummy they will never work.

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Use your hands that you wet first to spread it.

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Then use the same butter knife to smooth it out.

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Work in progress…

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Decorate with the cherry tomatoes. And by the way that’s the reason I think are called cherry tomatoes: to substitute cherries in this applications.

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Decorate with some more as you like…

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And here is the birthday girl cutting the cake.

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To an awesome wedge… What up!?

I am very happy to say that Oaklianna and Damian were married in April 1st of 2012 (seriously no kidding). I wish them a happy life with many many tempehtations.



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