This decadent and easy recipe is inspired by our recent travels to Portugal and I have decided to make it in celebration of my birthday. During our time in Porto we were told that nearly every restaurant will have Bolo de Bolacha on the menu. This ubiquitous Portuguese cake is usually made with condensed milk, cream and eggs but I have managed to veganize it using coconut cream.
A Bolo de Bolacha is a cake made from layers of thick cream and neutral Maria biscuits soaked in coffee. The final product is a bit like a quick tiramisu without the alcohol. We were fortunate to try a vegan version of this curious local delight at Black Mamba in Porto and it was clearly a local favorite amongst the diners that day.
Maria biscuits are light, barely sweetened, dry tea biscuits and are readily available in most European and Latin American countries but can be difficult to find the United States. In the US, animal crackers will work as an ideal substitute for Maria biscuits since they are also mild in flavor, moderately sweet and similarly dry. Rich tea biscuits are also as a suitable substitute.
Production and effort are minimal but you’ll need to be patient because for best results you will want your cake to rest in the fridge for 4-8 hours, or overnight.
Vegan Bolo De Bolacha
Yield: Three (4-inch) round cakes or one (7 or 8-inch) round cake
- 1 (measurement) cup espresso or strong coffee, at room temperature
- 1 lb or 500g organic animal crackers or Maria biscuits*
- Dark chocolate shavings, for garnish
For best results, cool your mixing bowl beforehand for a couple of hours. Remove the refrigerated coconut milk and chilled mixing bowl from the fridge. Flip the can of coconut milk upside down and open the can. Once open, remove all excess coconut water from the can. The coconut water can be poured into another container and saved for smoothies or other recipes. Once you have removed the water, proceed to scoop out the hardened coconut cream and place in the chilled mixing bowl.
Using a handheld or stand mixer, whip with a wire whisk until smooth. Add vanilla extract and ½ cup of powdered sugar and whisk again. Stop, stir and incorporate any ingredients on the edge of your bowl and add the remaining ½ cup of powdered sugar (or less depending on your taste). Whisk again until soft peaks begin to form on the top of the coconut cream. If your cream isn’t thick enough to hold small peaks, add 1/4 teaspoon of tapioca starch or if you want a slightly richer consistency add 1 tablespoon of vegan butter. The consistency should be similar to a partially whipped cream. Refrigerate for 2 hours and stir before using.
To assemble the cake, start by setting aside one cup of animal crackers or biscuits to crumble and use as a topping in the end. Take the remaining biscuits and quickly dip them, one at a time, in the room temperature coffee and layer along the bottom of your springforms. Be sure not to leave them in the coffee too long or they will become difficult to handle and quickly fall apart. As you are layering the biscuits you may need to break them to fill in the gaps. Spread a thin layer of your coconut whipped cream on top of the biscuits and repeat the layering process until you reach the top of your pans. Finish the cakes with a layer of coconut whipped cream and place them in the fridge for 4-8 hours or overnight.
When ready to serve, remove the pans from the fridge and gently run a thin knife around the outside of the cakes to separate them from the walls of the springforms. Unclamp and remove the springforms. When ready to serve, take the biscuits you set aside earlier and crumble them as fine or coarsely as you choose – it’s the primary textural component in the dish – and sprinkle on top of the cakes. Using a peeler or a microplane, shave or grate a bar of dark chocolate over the top of the cakes for an additional garnish. Layers of the biscuits and cream should be visible around the outside of the cake.
You can substitute rich tea biscuits for organic animal crackers. I went with the animal crackers since they are organic and have fewer ingredients. Rich tea biscuits are a type of moderately sweet biscuit similar to a Maria biscuit and generally consist of wheat flour, vegetable oil and sugar. I also highly recommend Maria biscuits if you can find them, they are available on Amazon.com, Latin food sections in some grocery stores or specialty markets. One noticeable difference between a rich tea biscuit and a Maria biscuit is that the Maria usually has vanilla flavoring added to it while the rich tea biscuit does not.
Please note, tinned full fat coconut milks have different flavors and consistency across the many brands available in stores today. I like working with Thai Kitchen Organic Coconut Milk and Natural Directions Coconut Milk.
I used three mini 4” x 1.75” springforms. If you would like to make one cake, use a springform with about 6 cups capacity – this will likely be 7-8” in diameter.