You may have noticed that we here at The Chalkboard have something of a sweet tooth – and who doesn’t love a good cupcake? Most of us have tried a healthy version or two, whether low-fat or gluten-free, but raw pastry chef Raya Belna’s raw and vegan cupcakes blew our socks off! Made with completely unprocessed ingredients, Raya’s cupcakes are beautifully crafted and have even been featured on the Food Network.
Unlike typical raw desserts that are made with agave, Raya’s sweet treats are created with maple syrup. Maple syrup is a low glycemic sweetener and loaded with minerals. We met up with Raya to find out a little more about her and her amazing un-baked goods.
How did you get into Raw Foods?
“I was teaching yoga in San Francisco and became vegan, which lead me to discover macrobiotics and eventually Raw Foods. It was only a casual interest until I moved to South Korea to teach yoga and got really sick with the swine flu. I found the only way to heal myself was to start juicing and was able to make a full recovery without the use of any medication. After leaving Korea, I began the process of educating myself more in depth about Raw Foods and made the transition professionally from teaching yoga to being a chef.”
Give us the down low on how you come up with the recipes.
“I usually begin by taking a traditional recipe or concept and breaking it down to its most basic ingredients, figuring out what the root of the flavors are and how I can deconstruct the dish. All food has a foundation in nature and if we can isolate the base textures and flavors, then we can recreate the dish easily with fruits, vegetables, oils and spices.”
Kids love cupcakes – what has the response been from the little folks?
“Kids love my RAW Cupcakes! It is really amazing to see a child, who may not have been able to enjoy traditional desserts due to an allergy or special diet, eat a cupcake for the first time. Their face lights up and it makes me so happy to know that they are enjoying not only a delicious dessert, but also a clean food.”
What’s your favorite cupcake?
“I definitely have a weakness for my Avocado Fudge Cupcake. It is rich and creamy and decadent. The frosting is made with avocados and has such a unique depth, yet lightness to it. I also love my Chai Apple Pie Cupcake, because it reminds me of traditional apple pie mixed with my obsession for chai tea.”
What’s one fact people might not know about you?
“I was raised Buddhist and lived in an ashram in India for a year as a child.”
Besides being raw and delicious, what really sets your cupcakes apart from other raw desserts out there?
“I think the seasonality of the cupcakes really sets them apart. I shop at the local farmer’s markets and try to create new flavors based on what is in season at the time. I love fig season, because I can make my Lavender Fig Cupcake with Wild Orange essential oil. I was looking forward to strawberry season this year, because I really wanted to make a Strawberry Shortcake Cupcake. We are so blessed in California to have access to so much organic produce year round, that I really like to highlight and celebrate the special fruits when they become available and are at their peak ripeness.”
What advice can you give to people who are trying to prepare raw desserts at home?
“Take your time and enjoy the process. Also, start simple and work your way up. Raw Foods are a beautiful expression of nature and we are all capable of creating the most amazing foods with the simplest ingredients. Some of my favorite meals are the most basic, such as a strawberry smoothie with coconut water, strawberries, sunflower seeds, vanilla and pineapple or a perfectly ripe reed avocado with sea salt.”
You can find Raya’s petite cakes at Erewohn Market in LA or a list of locations can be found on her website at rayabelna.com.