Raw citrus cream cakes

Raw citrus cream cakes

We returned from a quick trip to Ohio on Tuesday and I always come back feeling emotionally exhausted and a little bit heartbroken. The older I become, the harder it gets to willingly fly 1,100 miles across the country and live my life in what feels like a completely different Universe.

We returned from a longer visit in December and I don’t think I ever fully recovered from the weightiness of that trip. Since then, I’ve spent far too much time sobbing in the shower or at the dinner table, all because there’s a looming gray cloud that reminds me that I’ve not been such a great sister/daughter/granddaughter since we moved to Denver half a decade ago. In fact, I’d go as far to say that I’ve kind of been an asshole. And it’s not cool to be an asshole to your family – especially not when you have a family like mine.

My priorities were different back then. All I wanted was to get the fuck out of small town Ohio and away from the people and their narrow mindedness, but I don’t mind them anymore. I think that comes with the fact that I’m very much firm in my beliefs and am able to overlook the ignorance, or at least laugh when I go to the local Kroger and the checkout lane with the transvestite working is always (ALWAYS) open, even when all the others have painfully long lines. I fly through that lane and usually want to turn around and yell SUCKERS! but I never do. I just carry my groceries out to the rental car with a big smile that eventually fades and turns into tears because how awful it must be to be surrounded by such animosity and cold heartedness on a regular basis.

PecansCitrusCitrusRaw cream cake crustRaw citrus cream cakesRaw citrus cream cakes

Right now I feel numb. Regretful, but mostly numb. And every couple hours I entertain the idea of hopping on a plane that will take me to the tiny airport that sits a mere 30 minutes from my Oma and Opa‘s house. We’d sit around their kitchen table and drink coffee, and eventually my Opa and I would break off and go out into the game room, where we’d sit across from one another in two oversized recliners. He’d tell me stories about his mother (my Great Oma) and the war and how he had to duel with a Frenchman to win my Oma’s heart, back in the 1960s. What I would give to be sitting across from him right now.

But as numb as I feel, I also feel immensely lucky that my family loves me despite the fact that I didn’t make enough time to visit them in the five years we’ve called Denver home. And although I tend to feel guilty and awful about a situation that was entirely my doing, I feel like this is my year to make it up to them (and to forgive myself). So we’re flying back to Ohio in June for a good three weeks to celebrate my beloved grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Then again for my Opa’s 75th birthday, for Thom’s favorite holiday (Thanksgiving), and for baby Jesus’ supposed birthday. And I’m sure there will be a surprise trip thrown in there at some point because have you ever traveled halfway across the country to surprise people who aren’t expecting you? It’s one of the greatest, most exhilarating feelings in the world.

Since we just returned from Ohio, bowels aching from the general lack of fresh produce and my Oma’s home cooking (Thom misses it already), I couldn’t bring myself to make and photograph the cherry hand pies I was originally going to share. Instead I made something that’s naturally sweet (and dare I say healthy?) and perfect as an afternoon snack or evening nightcap. Something I think my Oma would dump in the trash, but something I think she could learn to appreciate, too.

Raw citrus cream cakesCitrus cream cakesRaw citrus cream cakesRaw citrus cream cakes

Notes: If you don’t own a mini cheesecake pan, you can prepare this recipe in a muffin pan lined with paper cups. Or in a round 6-8″ tart/cake pan, like this. You can use any combination of citrus juice you want – I used a variety of oranges and half of one lime. You could also substitute pomegranate juice, blueberry juice, cherry juice, etc. The addition of beet is optional but without it the cream is flesh colored and not all that pretty. So if you’re making this for guests, I highly recommend adding something that will give the cream a bit of color.


1 cup raw pecans
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Small pinch of Himalayan salt
4 medjool dates, pitted and soaked 20 minutes

1 1/2 cups cashew pieces, soaked at least 4 hours or overnight
3/4 cup fresh squeezed citrus juice
Thumb sized chunk of red beet, for color
8 medjool dates, pitted and soaked 20 minutes

Flaked coconut
Coarsely chopped pecans

Lightly grease a 12 cup mini cheesecake pan with coconut oil; set aside. In a food processor fitted with the S blade, blend the pecans, coconut, and salt into a fine meal. Add the dates and pulse until combined. The mixture should be crumbly, but should stick when pressed together. Divide the crumble between the wells and firmly press it into the bottom. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until ready to use

In a high powered blender, such as a Vitamix, blend the cashews, juice, beet, and dates on high speed until a creamy mixture forms; about 1-2 minutes. Divide the cream between the cheesecake wells and freeze until firm, about two hours. Remove the mini cakes from the pan and transfer to an air tight container for keeps. When ready to serve, let thaw for 20 minutes then top with flaked coconut and chopped pecans. Cakes will keep frozen for up to 6 weeks.

Yield: 12 servings


  • Reply Ashley 28 March 2014 at 9:31 AM

    These are absolutely stunning!!!!! Love the Ohio/family talk. <3

  • Reply molly yeh 28 March 2014 at 9:34 AM

    holy cuteness these are beautiful.
    and i feel your pain, being so far away from family. it’s so icky. hopefully you’ve got your grandparents set up with a FaceTime account?? that kind of helps :/

  • Reply Belinda@themoonblushbaker 28 March 2014 at 10:12 AM

    I am in love with the colour! My family live sin another country and dearly miss them too. No matter how crazy things can get; they are family.
    The ipad is my saving grace with connecting with extended family in Australia; but skype is also a good tool. However a well written letter with lots of photos is better than any of those.

  • Reply Erika 28 March 2014 at 10:13 AM

    Such a great post..and one that I can whole-heatedly relate to.. These cake are legit- can’t wait to try out this recipe.

  • Reply Medha 28 March 2014 at 10:27 AM

    Reading your post made me smile – I can relate to all of it! I think with the years passing, I learned to accept so many things easily without jugging them! Love your cream cakes – what a great idea to use beet for color! Stunning pictures as always!

  • Reply Jade Sheldon-Burnsed 28 March 2014 at 10:40 AM

    I know that feeling of heartache. Families are tough. I’m still struggling with how to gain a closeness with my family. In so many ways I want it… but there are still things I haven’t forgiven. I know it is hard not to feel guilty but we know we can’t change the past and that we can only move forward and to come to this point maybe you needed to be a bit of an asshole. Forgive yourself.

  • Reply Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health 28 March 2014 at 10:47 AM

    living on the other side of the world, so far from my family i can relate a lot..every time my mom asks me to come down to visit, i avoid it..which is not a good thing to do. on a positive note, they come visit me :) i love these cakes, will be making them soon.

  • Reply Melissa 28 March 2014 at 11:47 AM

    I’m gonna ask that stupid question that you probably haaate—what if I really don’t like dates? Can I use dried apricots? Is that weird?

    • Reply Ashlae 28 March 2014 at 12:15 PM

      Hi lady –

      Ha! You can use apricots. :) I’m actually working on a recipe for raw apricot cheesecake and am using dried apricots instead of dates. Peel the apricots in half and soak them in water for about 10-15 minutes before using them. You’ll also have to use 1.5x dried apricots in place of medjool dates.

      • Reply Melissa 29 March 2014 at 10:32 AM

        You are a gem! Thank you my friend!

  • Reply ale 28 March 2014 at 1:56 PM

    You really touched my heart. In some time or another everybody can relate to that, family is hard work.

  • Reply Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar 28 March 2014 at 2:00 PM

    These are so freaking unique. LOVE this recipe!

  • Reply Erin 28 March 2014 at 2:16 PM

    I just saw the photo you posted on Twitter and beamed from ear to ear. I’m sure you know this, but you are loved and they are just as lucky to have you as you are to have them. My family lives in California and I second what everyone else has said, FaceTime/Skype helps significantly. Sending warmth your way.

  • Reply cheri 28 March 2014 at 3:06 PM

    What a beautiful post! I can almost feel your regret, it’s okay….. families are tough but really necessary. Your cream cakes are lovely!

  • Reply Stephanie 28 March 2014 at 4:19 PM

    Very gorgeous and heartfelt. It’s wonderful that you’ve lined up so many trips back to Ohio within this year– something to look forward to for sure. :)

  • Reply gail shingler 28 March 2014 at 5:35 PM

    One of THE BEST blog posts I have ever read.
    Thank you for putting it all out there.
    Crazy cool.
    Love, Gail

  • Reply Hope 28 March 2014 at 5:52 PM

    Beautiful photos, and a great insight into the family process. xx

  • Reply holly @ themodernproper 28 March 2014 at 9:28 PM

    beautiful and poignant. my husband and I lived 2400 miles from our family for 3 years….during that time we had our first child. talk about feeling like an asshole! Needless to say we ended up moving back to the northwest to be with our families 8 weeks before our second child was born!
    thanks for sharing!

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  • Reply Rachel 29 March 2014 at 9:02 AM

    Ashlae, I know exactly what you mean about returning back to our same, small hometown. every time I drive in through those city limits, I get a little bit tense, my stomach knotting tighter and tighter the closer I get. Because although there’s a sense of warmth and comfort in driving on those familiar streets, on seeing familiar faces, you are no longer the person you were when you lived there. It’s jarring to be someplace that feels almost unchanged as you’ve gone out, gone away, grown into someone more worldly and open. You want the old world and your new world to somehow mix, but it won’t.

    I cringe when I go back and hear people talking about that same Kroger cashier. I think about how brave he must be to live openly the way he wants to, in a place that can be so cruel to anyone who lives just a little bit differently than the norm. How can the place where I spent my formative years be so close minded? I often can’t believe that is the place where I grew up.

    However, I feel a sense of pride in that place. I still love looking out across miles of open field, of the simple childhood I spent there, in being able to pinpoint the distinct smell of a hog farm. I like the experience I’ve had living in such a rural place, while currently living in the heart of a diverse neighborhood in a city states away. I’ve got conflicting feelings about it all.

    Anyway, because this post / literally / hit close to home, I just had to comment. Also, those cream cakes look amazing…gotta try them. I’ve become a big fan of your blog the past few months and am happy to see someone else from that same place doing so well at something they love to do. Keep onward.

  • Reply Marla 29 March 2014 at 9:20 AM

    That “transvestite” is likely a woman who is transgender. There is an important difference. Transvestitism is cross-dressing for pleasure–usually men dressing up as women but not identifying as women. Transgender individuals are assigned a different biological sex at birth than the one they identify with. A transgender woman is a woman.

    • Reply Ashlae 29 March 2014 at 9:57 AM

      Hi Marla –

      He is a transvestite, as he cross dresses solely because he enjoys being made up like a woman.

  • Reply Suzanne @RollWithIt 29 March 2014 at 10:13 AM

    THESE LOOK STUNNING!!!! I’m sure they taste good too!

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  • Reply Cassandra 29 March 2014 at 8:41 PM

    Love this recipe! & I totally feel where you’re at with family. All through college I had no problem living 3000 miles away but this year since graduating, I’ve felt like the worst daughter for staying so far away. It’s a tough balance I’m still struggling to strike.

  • Reply Edlyn 29 March 2014 at 10:43 PM

    This post will stick with me. I read your posts more for your writing than anything else. You have a beautiful gift when it comes to creating, so of course, you’re also great with desserts. I sure feel helpless moving so (like 2 whole continents) far away from my family but I call them a lot and I know they would never wish any ill on me. We do the best we can. Enjoy all your time you get to spend with them.

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  • Reply Ana 30 March 2014 at 11:01 AM

    I can really relate to your feelings and this post. I moved away from a tiny eastern european country all the way to North America 5 years ago, and have visited my family only once for 2 weeks. And my sister lives across the continent from me, and I’ve seen her maybe twice in the last 5-7 years.

    What I’ve learned is it makes no sense to blame yourself – this time has passed and you can’t get it back so no point in blaming yourself or having destructive thoughts. What you are doing is what’s important :) And 2-3 visits a year – that’s awesome!! I hope I can go home and visit my folks soon too.

  • Reply Kathryn 31 March 2014 at 2:39 AM

    Our relationships with our families can be so bittersweet can’t they? They’re inevitably the people that we treat worst, as well as best, in our lives. Enjoy your year of family time + celebrations; I’m sure it means the world to them that you’ll be there.

  • Reply Kristin 31 March 2014 at 12:30 PM

    Stumbled upon your blog, and I just love it. I feel your pain about living so far away from family. I grew up in small town North Carolina and wanted to get as far away after graduating college as I possibly could. But I think everything happens for a reason and a lot of times (especially in the arts world) it’s for the best to get away for awhile for career sake if nothing else. I live in Hong Kong now, and missing family is what ultimately led me to naming my travel blog “Call Home Dear”. I think it’s important to know you can always go home, whether that place is physical or what you carry with you. Lovely post!

    Kristin at http://callhomedear.com

  • Reply Katie @ Produce on Parade 31 March 2014 at 12:36 PM

    I related to this post. My husband is from Ohio. He misses it dearly (mostly family and friends) and wants to move back eventually but I can’t ever imagine leaving Alaska, where I grew up. He came up here for a sort of adventure, found me, married and now he’ll never leave! Muah-hahahah!

    It’s a different place, Ohio. I can relate to the fact that it’s much different from where I live. Alaska is a very conservative state, but we seem leave other people alone if they leave us alone. Sometimes I feel like I would be happier in a hippie, liberal place Portland or somewhere in California, where vegan restaurants are plentiful ;)

    It can be hard to adjust. My heart is with you!

  • Reply chelsey 2 April 2014 at 8:17 AM

    “bowls aching from general lack of fresh produce”… I understand this. I visit my mom’s family in Ohio as often as I can, and this is the craziest thing about it. Iceberg lettuce is oh-so-plentiful…(shivers).

  • Reply Francesca 2 April 2014 at 10:25 AM

    These are gorgeous. What a wonderful way to kick in the spring.

  • Reply Gemma 2 April 2014 at 4:32 PM

    So beautiful! …and I love the fact that they are healthy and yummy all-in-one! :-)
    I think it’s time to venture into the Raw world, I’ve just cooked raw energy bars but I’d love to start trying raw desserts. This one looks like the perfect recipe to begin with!

    Btw, lovely and touching words about your family. One can see how BIG and kind your heart is after reading this post.


  • Reply Jenna House 4 April 2014 at 6:58 AM

    I am looking forward to trying this recipe.

    You deserve to be congratulated!! I just saw your blog was a finalist in the Saveur Best Food Blog Awards. (Totally voted for you. I got your back girl!) This is such a great accomplishment. You are such an inspiring blogger. I especially love that you put quality over quantity. Keep up the great work!

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  • Reply Jenné @ Sweet Potato Soul 7 April 2014 at 10:51 AM

    oh oh oh!! These photos are so beautiful and bright. I’m allergic to cashews but I’ll be making these with macadamia nuts asap :) Love your fabulous blog!!

  • Reply nicolabrown2013 14 April 2014 at 6:50 PM

    I just discovered your blog. Your recipes (and photography) are amazing. i suspect you may actually be a genius!! I am going to make these at Easter. YUM!!

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  • Reply Katey 16 December 2014 at 6:10 AM

    This is such a lovely post, and these cakes look perfect for Xmas dessert! Can I ask a really silly question….Do you bother pre-cooking your beet or do you just chuck it in raw?
    Thanks xx

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