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Lucy’s Cake: The Non-Dairy Version

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Several years ago, I shared my daughter’s very favorite birthday cake, which our family lovingly calls Lucy’s Cake. Lucy’s Cake is a creamy confection that my sweet friend (and cheesecake-baking superstar) Elizabeth Williams taught me how to make. It’s modeled after the cake at the old Grotto and Ciao Bello that our daughters used to order after our many lunches there together when the girls were little. When the Grotto changed ownership and Ciao Bello closed, we needed to take this cake into our own hands. Since then, we’ve had Lucy’s Cake in bed for every birthday I’m lucky enough to have her home to celebrate.

In the time since I shared the original recipe (which is still delicious), a couple of us have cut the dairy from our diets. So when I went to make the cake for Lucy’s birthday last week, I realized we had to change things up. Instead of cream cheese and whipping cream, we used coconut milk yogurt and non-dairy ricotta (which, amazingly, is made from cashews; find it at Central Market in the dairy section). 

Here is the happy ending of that experiment. It’s still pretty, still yummy, and, best of all, did not raise an eyebrow. In fact, I was told by Lucy herself, “You can’t even tell the difference.” Dairy-free, and all good.

Lucy’s Cake: The Non-Dairy Version

This non-dairy version of Andria Dilling's daughter Lucy's favorite cake was beloved by the family, including the birthday girl, who said, "You can’t even tell the difference.” 

Lucy’s Cake: The Non-Dairy Version

For the filling:
8 ounces coconut milk yogurt
8 ounces non-dairy ricotta
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch of kosher salt

For the cake: 
1 store-bought angel food cake
1 cup strawberry jam
9-ounce container dairy-free whipped topping (we used Cool Whip, which does have a small amount of dairy, but you can buy other brands like So Delicious Coco Whip that work well and contain no dairy)
16-ounce container of strawberries, hulled and sliced thin

In a medium bowl, use a fork to whisk together the ingredients for the filling. Mix well until smooth.

Line another medium-sized bowl with plastic wrap, leaving some hanging over the edges of the bowl. Cut the cake into (approximately) 1-inch slices. This does not need to be perfect. Arrange a few slices of cake in the bowl, creating a 1-inch (or so) layer of cake. You will need to tear some cake and piece the pieces together; don’t worry about being precise. Use the back of a spoon to spread ½ of the strawberry jam over the cake layer, then spread ½ of the filling on top of the jam. This will be messy, and that is okay! Repeat with another layer of cake, jam, and filling, and end with a layer of cake. 

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap is in direct contact with the cake. Weigh the cake down with several plates that roughly fit the circumference of the bowl, then top those with a couple of unopened cans from your pantry, or a jar of pie weights if you have it. Refrigerate the whole thing for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.

When you are ready to serve the cake, remove the weights and plates, then remove the plastic wrap from the top of the cake (which will soon be the bottom of the cake). Turn the cake out onto a serving platter, and remove the remaining plastic wrap. Frost the cake all over with the whipped topping, then arrange the sliced strawberries over the frosted cake. Garnish with whole strawberries on top.

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