Happy almost Valentine’s Day everyone! As you all know, last weekend was the second First Cake Friday (FCF)! It was time, once again, to venture into the magical world of vegan cake baking. While I may not have my sweetie on Valentine’s day to cook a sweet for, this month’s lessons might come in handy for someone else who loves vegan cake, and has a local beau they can cook for. Chocolate cake is, after all, always in vogue for Valentine’s Day.
On the first FCF, I failed. Now, I didn’t fail completely as things were still edible, but they certainly were not as good as I wanted them to be. The first problem was that I suck at following instructions. I mixed ingredients in my usual way: melted coconut oil, sugar, flour, spices, baking soda/vinegar. This was not what I was supposed to do. The first sign of trouble was when, due to my winter energy conservation principles, my coconut oil began solidifying in the batter. I also refused (absolutely refuse) to use an electric mixer. Sorry, people have been cooking cakes for years using just their arm muscles, and I refuse to contribute to global warming through my own laziness and inability to hand beat batter. However, you simply cannot hand beat solidifying coconut oil. It just doesn’t work.
The cake went into the oven and came out solid (which was very surprising) but very Frisbee like. On the upside, vegan chocolate ganache frosting is the easiest thing known to man. I didn’t even measure anything. I just melted the dark chocolate chips (most dark chocolate chips are vegan, even if they don’t say so… that’s why you read ingredients!) and mixed in powdered sugar, melted coconut oil, and a half a cup or so of soy milk. Eventually the texture looked good, and I put the mixture in the refrigerator.
This FCF I was determined to remedy my mistakes. I followed my cook book’s instructions to the T, and mixed the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the wet in the other. I gave the vinegar time to settle. The result was a very basic, fluffy, light chocolate cake. Not crazy interesting, but I had an edible basic cake! You couldn’t tell that thing was vegan! My ganache went up a level as well. How? I used extra chocolate baking powder. Being on a low sugar diet, adding powdered sugar to the melted dark chocolate resulted in a good, but very sweet frosting. I didn’t want sweet for this cake. I wanted dark as sin. Using the chocolate baking powder in place of the powdered sugar, and with a little bit of soy milk, I made a dark chocolate spreadable ganache to die for. And yes, I did not use an electric mixer. The final touch was 2 tablespoons of ground espresso beans. I licked the bowl. Very thoroughly.
But WHY did this cake succeed where the other failed? After a little investigating, I discovered that vegan cakes need to be prepared differently. In normal cakes, when the butter is mixed with the sugar, pockets of air form. With the addition of eggs and flour, while the cake is baking, the eggs are strong enough to contain these air pockets so that when they expand, they result in a light and fluffy cake. This, and not the baking soda or powder, is the main reason why traditional cakes using this “Cream Method” rise.
Now I never did the Cream Method properly in my non-vegan days. Honestly, I ALWAYS melted my butter instead of waiting for that stuff to reach room temperature. This is why I thought my melted coconut oil wouldn’t be a problem. However, I guess without the addition of the eggs, my vegan batter wasn’t strong enough to hold on to whatever air bubbles were still there. Using chemical, palm oil laden vegan shortenings might yield a different result, buy why would you want to use those?
Vegan cakes, and other cakes that rely on chemical leavening (baking powder and soda) are baked using the “Quick Bread” method. It’s called quick because, you guessed it, you have to get that batter in the oven pronto! The key component that holds these cakes together is the gluten in the flour.
The moral of the story seems to be, that I am going to have a terrible time making my vegan cakes gluten free. However, in the meantime, I have learned that I have to unlearn all I know about cake baking. It’s a whole, new, shiny and big vegan world out there.
For my next project, I’m dreaming of vegan peanut butter banana cake with vegan cream cheese frosting. Until next FCF everyone!
This week in updates: Spontaneous Jesse Visit
Happy days! I got to spend the first part of the week with Jesse. Why? He had a retirement surprise for his father. Though I didn’t get a lot of sleep, I did do a lot of studying for work. That’s what I do when I take vacation. I study things. And write blog posts. Like this one!
The Recipe Review: Vegan Chocolate Cake
This is my current cake bible. With the success of this cake, I think I’ll be able to go a little off script in order to make a chocolate chip banana peanut butter cake next FCF! I am super, SUPER excited about it! However, for all you beginning vegan bakers out there, here is the recipe from have your cake and vegan too, by Kris Holechek. The only thing I did differently, was I used melted coconut oil. If you are interested in vegan baking, I HIGHLY suggest getting this book. I would certainly love a copy. Maybe for a present? (hint, hint)
And, if you are interested in frosting it. Super easy. Just get some vegan chocolate chips, baking cocoa, powdered sugar and soymilk. Melt the chocolate chips and mix. It’s that easy.
A simple vegan cake with no artificial ingredients. How cool is that?
- 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup baking cocoa
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cup non dairy milk
- 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup boiling water
- Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease two 8 inch round pans.
- Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl.
- Whisk non dairy milk and vinegar together in a separate bowl.
- Let it sit a minute to activate the vinegar.
- Add the oil and vanilla, and mix.
- Combine the two bowls of ingredients together now, then add the boiling water.
- That should be everything.
- Right away, as soon as everything is mixed, pour the batter into the pans and bake for 28 to 32 minutes, or until a fork inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let cool before removing it from the pans and icing.