Craving Couscous Cake

by Robin on April 9, 2008

in Quick Fix Vegetarian,Recipes,Vegan Planet

I discovered a great post and photo of my Pumpkin Couscous Cake from Vegan Planet on To Live and Eat in LA — a blog that I very much enjoy reading. All the talk about couscous cakes reminded me of how much I like making (and eating) them!
I started making couscous cakes many years ago when I was cooking without flour or sugar. This cake couldn’t be easier to make – it’s basically just couscous and fruit juice. Really. I discovered that, by simply cooking couscous in fruit juice instead of water, it took on a mildly sweet flavor that was both delicious and satisfying. Over the years, I’ve made this cake using apple juice, white grape juice, and pineapple juice. You can also add bits of fruit, nuts, and even melted chocolate to the couscous mixture. When you press the couscous evenly into a springform pan and chill it in the fridge, it comes out looking almost like a cheesecake, although it tastes more like bread pudding. You can garnish the cake with fresh sliced fruit or a pureed fruit topping (or nuts or chocolate, depending on the flavor combination). You can find a recipe for Pineapple Apricot Couscous Cake from Quick Fix-Vegetarian, in my January 16 post.

The first photo shows another variation using mangos (recipe below) — at the last minute I sprinkled some brown sugar on top and ran it under the broiler to caramelize a bit. It was so good! Next time I may use coconut milk and a little palm sugar instead of the mango juice and millet instead of couscous. It’s fun to experiment.


The second photo shows a slice of Couscous Breakfast Cake with Pear and Dried Plum Compote from Vegan Planet. The recipe for this one follows the mango version. A slice of this cake is great for breakfast or brunch. If you like dense bread puddings that aren’t too sweet, you’ll love couscous cakes.


Mango Couscous Cake
This is the easiest version of couscous cake there is, with a minimum of ingredients and a minimum of fuss. To dress it up, you could spread a thin layer of mango puree under the sliced mango and add some finely minced candied lime peel or crystallized ginger to the couscous mixture. It’s also great topped with a sweet cashew-coconut cream sauce or vegan whipped cream.

2 cups mango juice
1 1/2 cups couscous
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 fresh ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and chopped

Bring the mango juice to a boil in a saucepan. Add the couscous, sugar, and ginger and simmer for 1 minute. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside for 5 minutes or until the juice is absorbed.
Press the mixture evenly into a lightly oiled 8-inch springform pan (or individual springform pans). Cover loosely and refrigerate for at least an hour to firm up before serving.
Serves 6

Couscous Breakfast Cake with Pear and Dried Plum Compote
Couscous cake is great for breakfast or brunch because it can be made the day before. Made with fruit juice, the cake is dense and moist without being too sweet – a great way to start the day. For a sweeter cake, add a little maple syrup or natural sugar. This recipe is adapted from Vegan Planet.

2 1/2 cups apple juice or pear juice
Pinch salt
2 cups couscous
Pear and Dried Plum Compote (recipe follows)

1. Place the juice and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the couscous. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside for 10 minutes.
2. Lightly oil an 8-inch spring form pan and spoon the couscous into it, spreading it evenly. Use the back of a spoon or a spatula to press the couscous firmly into the pan. Cover the cake and refrigerate it several hours or overnight to make it easier to slice. To serve, cut into wedges and spoon some of the compote on top.
Serves 6

Pear and Dried Plum Compote
1 ripe pear, peeled, cored, and sliced
4 ounces dried pitted plums (prunes)
2 ounces mixed dried fruit
1/4 cup sugar or maple syrup
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
Zest and juice of 1/2 orange
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups water
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the pear slices, dried plums, dried mixed fruit, sugar, lemon juice and zest, orange juice and zest, cinnamon stick, allspice, and nutmeg. Stir in the water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the pear slices are soft and the dried fruit plumps up, about 15 minutes.
2. Set aside to cool then transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for several hours or until ready to use. Remove the cinnamon stick before serving. When ready to serve, return to room temperature for best flavor.
Serves 6

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 magpie April 9, 2008 at 10:48 pm

This is such an awesome idea. Thank you! I’ll be trying it out soon :)

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2 Foodeater April 9, 2008 at 11:10 pm

You had me at “mango” and “brown sugar”! That sound so good, I must try this one as well now that I’ve already hooked everyone within my immediate circle onto the pumpkin couscous cake… I’ll have to try wowing them with the mango as well :)

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3 Paulina April 9, 2008 at 11:22 pm

Couscous cake sounds so intriguing especially since I too am trying not to use flour and sugar anymore.

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4 keeta April 9, 2008 at 11:50 pm

What a great idea! I have some peach juice in the basement that I’ve been wanting to use and this might be the way to do it!

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5 Andréa N. April 10, 2008 at 12:27 pm

Robin, the other day, the blog Vegan Soapbox raffled one of you books, Vegan Planet (which my husband and I really wanted) and I won! The book arrived yesterday and we are thrilled! It’s even better than we thought! Cheers.

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6 Maya April 10, 2008 at 3:40 pm

It looks wonderful & I can’t wait to make it, but I’m confused – isn’t couscous made from semolina flour? If so, isn’t it still technically flour, just once removed? I swear I’m not trying to be a wise guy, I’m just not sure I understand.

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7 Robin April 10, 2008 at 5:01 pm

It’s great to get so many enthusiastic comments about couscous cake. It has inspired me to have a contest…more on that in my next post.Andrea: Congrats on winning a copy of Vegan Planet on Vegan Soapbox — I do hope you enjoy it!(and thanks to Vegan Soapbox for offering my book as a prize!) Maya: Allow me to clarify what I meant by how I began making couscous cakes years ago when I was “cooking without flour or sugar” — I should have said “when I was trying to avoid white flour and white sugar in desserts” — sorry for any confusion. You are correct that couscous is made from semolina and for best nutrient value, you’d want to opt for a whole-wheat or whole-grain couscous (although,if you are sensitive to wheat you can make the cake with millet.)Anyway, to me a couscous cake has always been more about a tasty way to enjoy couscous and also have a satisfying dessert/brunch item that contains reasonably virtuous ingredients.

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8 Melisser; the Urban Housewife April 10, 2008 at 7:48 pm

SO interesting, I think I’ll have to try it! I have Vegan Planet, so now I have to decide which version to make!

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