Monday, January 25, 2010

Classic Vegan Chocolate Cake

vegan chocolate cake

In my ongoing effort to make friends in my neighbourhood (populated largely by transient university students who roam the streets in sweat pants, hooting randomly) I invited some people I met in the dog park over for lunch on Saturday. Spencer and Isabelle and their terrier named Darwin recently moved to Ottawa from out west and were also in the market for some neighbourly interaction. When I asked them if there was anything they didn't like to eat, Isabelle said "Spencer hates mushrooms and brussel sprouts, and I'm allergic to dairy products." Obviously the no-dairy thing wasn't a problem at all, and luckily my tentative meal plans did not include mushrooms or brussel sprouts.

Still, I fretted a bit about the menu. No one wants to freak out lunch guests, and I think maybe vegan/vegetarian cooks are extra sensitive in this regard, having had historically to prove that our food is not boring, cardboardy, or flavourless. So I stuck with simple food- carrot soup, lentil salad, and fresh bread- that I knew would please almost anyone.

And for dessert? One certainly can't go wrong with chocolate cake.


This recipe is the same one I've been using since my vegany university days. It's scrawled in a recipe notebook I used at the time and the page falls open and lays flat when I open the book. It is smeared with cocoa finger prints and various other ingredient splashes. My roommates and I made this cake a lot. Once, we even doubled the recipe and made it four layers high, with sugary icing between each layer. I had just been shot down by a person I had a crush on, and the cake was supposed to cheer me up. It did. I have a photograph of that cake, stashed away in my archives. On the back of the photo, written in silver marker, is the title "The Nothing-Sucks-Like-Rejection Cake".

The point is, this cake works for almost any occasion. Celebration, consolation, or a low risk dessert for lunch guests.

Classic Vegan Chocolate Cake

1 3/4 cup of flour
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup vegan margarine or safflower oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup of soy milk "soured" with 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease and flour an 8 inch cake pan.

Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda together in a medium sized bowl.

In a large bowl, cream margarine with sugar, then add vanilla extract and applesauce.

Alternately add portions of the cocoa mixture and the soured soy milk to the sugar mixture.

Mix everything well and then pour into the pan and bake for 50 minutes to an hour, or until a knife in the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Some Notes:

-My foolproof, somewhat lazy way to make chocolate icing is this: melt 1/2 a cup of vegan chocolate chips and stir in a tablespoon of margarine or coconut oil. While the mixture is still relatively warm and liquidy, you can use it to ice the cake. It's not light and frothy like a butter cream icing might be, but I've never been big on that kind of icing myself. I also made a batch of our friend Tal Ronnen's whipped cashew cream to go on the side. It was really, really, good. I want to make it again and eat it on everything. The recipe is here if you scroll down.

-Using chocolate soy milk makes this even more awesome, but I only do that if I happen to have come chocolate soy milk on hand.

-I brought a piece of this to Lesley when I met her to see our friends The Banditas play at the Raw Sugar Cafe last night. She licked the tupperware clean, which I think means the cake was good. I had a few beers, enjoyed the show, and then walked home through empty streets listening to a live Against Me! album at top volume on my headphones. An excellent night.



The Ordinary Vegetarian said...

Kudos to you for making friends in the neighborhood, and for making them such an excellent lunch. What fun!

I'm glad you posted about this cake. I don't have vegan baking staples yet, so I am glad to have your tried and true version of chocolate cake.

T said...

OH YUM. Damn, that looks like it would win you friends, cheer you up from boy troubles, and do your dishes and light your cigarettes... or at least the first two. I've gotta make this soon!

Lise said...

Just what this blog needed! Cake!:-) I've died and gone to heaven now.

J. said...

OV- You're welcome! It's the kind of recipe that works every time. Good to have in the roster.

T - Oh, how I wish this cake would do my dishes. Delicious AND useful.

Lise - Cake certainly has that effect on people :)

Hannah said...

Firstly, I'm truly upset to discover that, after finishing my four years as an undergrad, I never once took the opportunity to hoot at people. What a waste of university tuition.

Secondly, this looks delicious, and I'm rather excited to see your "soured" milk - is this way un non-dairy/vegan folks can do when recipes call for buttermilk?

J. said...

Hannah- All those oppourtunities for hooting wasted! You were probably studying or something less exciting.

And yes, that's the vegan buttermilk solution. Vanilla extract also effectively "sours" milk, so sometimes I just get lazy and do that instead of the vinegar. Also, non vegan cooks who do not happen to have buttermilk on hand at all times can sour regular cows milk with vinegar too.

Pauline said...

Wow! That looks delicious! I have to try it.
Question-Where do you buy vegan margarine? Health food stores?

J. said...

Pauline: I get mine at one of the large grocery stores in my area. They have a whole "healthfood" section. I've also bought it at smaller healthfood stores. Any natural foods store with a grocery section should have it. The brand I like is "Earth Balance".

titaniumhip said...

nom nom

J. said...

Meeka, you're hilarious.

The Voracious Vegan said...

You can never go wrong with chocolate cake! I want to come over to your house for sure.

You're right, I think we vegans feel so much extra stress cooking for people. How many times have I heard from completely ignorant people "'re not going to make me eat...vegan food are you?"


Hilary said...

I've got a vegan icing question. I've never heard of this cashew cream, but could you use it as regular cream and melt it with chocolate to make a ganache?

J. said...

VV: I know! I wonder if that will ever stop, as vegan food becomes more popular.

Hilary: That's an excellent question. I haven't tried it, but I'm guessing it would probably work the same way, given its high fat content. Though I must admit that my baking experience is limited and I've never made a ganache, vegan or otherwise. I am certainly willing to make more cakes and cream, you know, for the sake of experimenting. :)

Danu said...

hey, just stumbled across your blog today and love it!! Am going to make the chocolate cake, but don't have any apple sauce :( Any thing I can supplement it with?
Thanks so much.
Danu x

Jennifer (It Ain't Meat, Babe) said...

Hi Danu,

Yep, you can use 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds mixed with three tablespoons of water. That replaces the eggs just as well.