Ok, admit it, who hasn’t thought that a cake without eggs, milk and butter would be flavorless, dry, bland and like putting a forkful of hay in your mouth? Sure, vegan bakers get a bad rap because no one can actually wrap their heads around the idea that you can actually make a delicious morsel without the use of any kind of animal product. During the depression, many of these products were rationed, and out of necessity “wacky cake” or “war cake” was born. Of course, back then, no one thought to call it a vegan cake, but that’s exactly what it was.
Moving ahead many decades, and we have managed to refine vegan baking to an art form. Many vegan chefs have worked hard to change the perception of vegan baking, yet the prejudice still exists that vegan=flavorless. So, how do you change the mind set of people set on believing that you need animal fats to make something tasty? Personally, I am not beyond a little mild deception and trickery.
For many years, I worked as a pastry chef for a large hotel. Although that is no longer my line of work, I still get called upon to produce special occasion cakes for family and friends. This year, 2 of my nearest and dearest decided to get married. She-vegan, He-not. He would not listen to the idea of a vegan cake, rolling out that oft heard statement (and I quote): “It tastes like sawdust.” Grrr…a typical man, stubborn, and not to be convinced otherwise, no amount of cajoling would entice him to consider that a vegan cake could be delicious.
Time to roll out the deception and trickery.
We arranged a night for him and his fiancé to come over for a cake testing. I told him that I understood his wanting his guests to have an amazing cake, and although I didn’t agree that vegan would not taste good, Hey, it’s your wedding I’ll bake whatever you want. Of course, secretly I let his fiancé in on my evil plan, which was to bake purely vegan options and pass them off as regular cake.
On the night in question, they arrived to 3 different tasting cakes. The bride sat by watching her husband to be taste all 3, not saying a word, When he pronounced them delicious, and couldn’t quite decide which one would make the best option, she leaned over grabbled the fork, and shoved a huge forkful in her mouth. His jaw hit the table. “What the ?????” Of course, we had to come clean and admit that all of the cakes were vegan. A lot of laughter from the women at the table, and a sense of shock from the groom. He said if I could make it taste that good, bring it on to the wedding!!!
The day of the wedding, cake was served before the groom’s speech. When he thanked me for providing a “wickedly good vegan cake”, all around me I could the whispers “that was vegan?’ I gave out that recipe more times than I can count that night, and would like to think I changed more than a few peoples interpretations of what a vegan cake is!
The Ultimate Vegan Chocolate Cake
If you’re looking for the chocolate cake of your dreams, this is it. No one will even know it’s vegan!
- 2½ cups all-Purpose flour
- 2½ cups white sugar
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2⅔ cups non-dairy milk (such as soy or almond)
- ⅔ cups light oil (such as canola or vegetable)
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
- ½ cup vegetable shortening (see notes)
- 1¼ cup powdered sugar
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 – 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk (if needed)
- To Make the Cake: Preheat your oven to 350F (180C). Prepare two 8″ round baking pans by lightly greasing them, and then cutting a circle of parchment paper to fit into the bottom.
- In a large bowl whisk together all of the dry ingredients, then set aside.
- In a medium bowl whisk together all of the wet ingredients. Ingredients should be foamy, and bubble.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
- Don’t over mix. Divide the batter into the prepared pans, then pop them in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool completely before frosting.
- To Make the Frosting: Use a mixer to blend all of the frosting ingredients except for the non-dairy milk. Blend until whipped and creamy. If the frosting is a bit too stiff, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of non-dairy milk as needed until desired consistency is reached.
- To Assemble the Cake: Run a knife around the edges of the cake pans, and flip the pans over to remove the cakes. Remove the parchment paper and discard. Place the first cake on your cake plate, and spread about half of the frosting on top. Place the second cake on top of the frosted cake, and spread the remaining frosting on top of that cake. Add swirl patterns with your spatula to make it pretty. Store the cake in the fridge or a cool place until you are ready to serve.