For Julie’s daughter’s 2nd birthday party this past weekend, I volunteered to make a completely vegan cake. Julie and her family are mostly vegan and Julie was thrilled at the offer. For Christmas this year my dad bought me a vegan cookbook (at my request), Sweet & Easy Vegan by Robin Asbell. I had intended to try out a bunch of the recipes on Julie and her family and Anika’s birthday seemed like the perfect time to do so.
I was a little out of my element in buying ingredients to bake this cake. I went to Trader Joe’s and found most of what I was looking for (the white whole wheat flour, the syrups, coconut oil, lemons, etc.). I was also hoping they would have silken tofu and egg replacer, neither of which I could immediately find. When I asked a team member if they carried either, he said they no longer carry silken tofu and asked me why I couldn’t just buy the regular kind. I didn’t know the answer, but I knew the regular tofu wouldn’t work. When he asked me what egg replacer looks like, I replied with, “No idea.” He looked at me like I had a third eye and asked me, “If you don’t know what you’re looking for, why are you buying it?”
I found both the silken tofu (relatively inexpensive) and the egg replacer (ridiculously expensive, considering I only needed a tiny amount) at New Seasons. Once I’d been to two different grocery stores for ingredients and been shanghai’d into buying some sort of supplement that’s been promoted on Dr. Oz (or so the sales lady told me), I was ready to make the cake.
The cake wasn’t terribly hard to make as compared to a non-vegan cake. The most cumbersome part was pressing the silken tofu. Once I had pressed it of its water, it had shrunken to what seemed like a very small size.
When assembling the cake, I got a bit nervous. The texture of the cake was crumbly, which meant that the crumbs stuck to the frosting as I tried to spread the frosting round the cake. This was the part where I tasted the cake, too. I was not impressed with the flavor. I was so unimpressed, I decided I needed to make a backup non-vegan cake to the party because I was sure this cake was going to be a flop.
On top of tasting really bad, the cake was about the ugliest I’d ever made, thanks to the weird texture of the frosting and the crumbly texture of the cake. I opted to cover the cake in vegan chocolate ganache in an effort to make it more pretty. That actually worked. The party guests oohed and aahed when I uncovered the cake.
I smack talked this cake into oblivion before serving it. I bad mouthed it so much that I think the guests were expecting it to be the sh*ttiest thing they’d ever eaten. Instead, everyone loved the cake. Love, love, loved it. And when I mustered up the courage to taste it, it was surprisingly better than I had imagined it would be.
There are a few things I would change, but all-in-all I was relatively pleased with my first all-vegan (and healthy) layer cake. I would probably make this cake again – if Julie asked me to.
- 4 c. (520 g) flour (the recipe I used called for white whole wheat)
- 1/2 c. (40 g) Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 3 tsp. baking powder
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 c. (240 ml) coconut oil
- 4 oz. (110 g) unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped
- 1 1/2 c. (360 ml) maple syrup (I used a blend of agave and maple)
- 2 c. (480 ml) non-dairy milk (I used coconut)
- 2 T. egg replacer (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
- 2 T. ground flaxseeds (I used golden)
- 4 tsp. rice vinegar (I used cider)
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
peanut butter frosting ingredients.
- 1 lb. (454 g) silken tofu, drained and pressed
- 2 c. (500 g) creamy peanut butter (not freshly ground/natural)
- 1/2 c. (60 g) coconut flour or vegan protein powder
- 1 1/2 c. (360 ml) agave or maple syrup
- 4 T. fresh lemon juice
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- Start with the frosting. In a blender or food processor, puree the tofu. Scrape down the sides and process again until completely smooth. Add peanut butter and repeat. Add coconut flour and repeat. Add syrup, lemon juice and vanilla and process until completely combined. Scrape into a bowl and refrigerate for at least two hours before frosting. The frosting will be a texture very different from what you probably think of as regular ‘ole frosting.
- Start making the cake. In a large bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk until blended.
- In a double boiler, combine the coconut oil and chocolate and cook, stirring every few minutes, until melted. Whisk in syrup.
- In a cup or small bowl, wish the non-dairy milk, egg replacer and flax seeds until frothy. Stir in vinegar and vanilla and mix; then add the chocolate mixture. Mix to combine. Pour into the flour mixture and stir until well combined.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C/ gas 4). Oil two 8-inch (23-centimeter) cake pans.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached.
- Transfer the pans to wire racks and cool for 15 minutes. Remove from pans carefully, using a knife to run around the edges, if needed and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled you can frost immediately or freeze until ready to frost. When ready to frost, spread a good-sized amount evenly and carefully over the first layer. Repeat with remaining layers. Cover the sides with a thin layer. You will most likely need to do a crumb coat first, chill the cake for at least 30 minutes and then do a second coat.
- Optional: cover with Vegan Chocolate Ganache. Let cool completely before serving. If you do this option, you will most likely need to cut your cake by dipping your knife in hot water in between slices. (We did not do this until the very end and ended up squishing most of the cake. It was not a pretty sight.)
- Serve at room temperature. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for about one week.
The biggest thing I would change about this recipe is already reflected in my ingredients list: I would definitely use all-purpose flour instead of whole wheat. Whole wheat has such a whole wheat-y texture that is so obvious in cakes – I just don’t care for it.
Also, be sure to use Dutch-process cocoa. I don’t know for sure what I used but I’m pretty sure it was not Dutch-process. If a recipe calls for a specific type of cocoa powder I would caution against a substitution as the chemical makeup of the dessert most likely depends on that specific powder.