It’s one of the world’s most simple pleasures. When you take a bite of a delicious, moist, sweet, chocolate cake? Oh, that’s a great moment.
I have always loved to bake. I can remember helping my mom make chocolate chip cookies and brownies and cakes growing up. I never really was interested in helping her cook, but whip out some sugar and I was all about it. (I always remember having a friend come over and we wanted to make chocolate chip cookies. We asked my mom if we needed to go to the store to buy ingredients and she casually brushed us off, saying “We always have ingredients for chocolate chip cookies in this house.” I remember how much I loved that moment.)
I started experimenting with baking on my own in college. My apartment was the location for a lot of college parties, and I loved providing sweet treats for our friends. It was usually cupcakes. One Halloween, I spent a large majority of the day getting ready for the party in the kitchen, making elaborate cupcakes and brownie decorations. I cherished being the girl who baked. My husband, then boyfriend, even gave me a cupcake necklace for my 21st birthday. So yeah, I love baking. There’s a reason I gained 30 pounds in college, and I believe baking was a big part of that.
While I don’t bake as much as I used to, I still find comfort in the art of it. I bake for holidays, birthdays, and events. When I made the decision to go vegetarian, I bought the cookbook Isa Does It. (Read my previous experiences with her book in my post “1 Month of No Meat: What I’ve Learned”.) While her book is technically vegan, I thought it would be fun to try my hand at a few of her baking recipes. I’m not vegan yet, but I think that is my long term goal. I’ll get there eventually. Cutting out meat is a big enough hurdle right now, but I’ll get there.
My mom’s birthday is this weekend, and we planned a lunch get together where the “kids” cooked for her. She does so much for us, we decided to treat her for her day. I, of course, volunteered to make the cake. So, I whipped out my cookbook and found the recipe for Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s “Just Chocolate Cake”. This was only my second time trying my hand at vegan baking, but the first time was such a smashing success, I wasn’t too worried this go-round. (My first vegan baking was Isa’s Rosemary Chocolate Chip Cookies when I organized a Galentine’s Day brunch a few weekends ago – they were divine.)
Most of the ingredients I already had on hand. I always have a carton of almond milk in my refrigerator for green smoothies, and, like my mother, I always have sugar, flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla extract, baking powder, and baking soda in my kitchen. (Old habits die hard – plus, it absolutely is nice to have the ability to whip up a sweet treat when needed.) I did, however, have to go out and buy the apple cider vinegar (although I suspect that will become a kitchen staple soon, too) and canola oil.
The recipe is super simple – mix the almond milk with the vinegar, add the sugar and vanilla, then the dry mix. I was a little nervous before I added the dry ingredients; the batter was so watery and runny. I’m used to baking with butter, which makes it creamy even before the flour gets added. But once all the elements were mixed, I was excited. It smelled like chocolate heaven. It looked like normal chocolate cake batter! I licked the bowl clean.
The cake come out perfectly until it was time to take it out of the pan. I think I didn’t wait long enough (I’m impatient), so it crumbled almost immediately. BUT it tasted marvelous. Tip: Wait until the cake is cooled all the way to release it from your pans. Or spray the pans with cooking spray (I did not do this, and a lot stuck to the pan’s bottom.)
Isa’s recipe calls for a ganache, which I’m sure would have been delicious, but I wanted to try my hand at vegan buttercream. I was curious to see how working with vegan butter would go. This buttercream I found from the Minimalist Baker, ya’ll. I could eat it all by itself. Honestly, you could trick anyone with this cake – no one would know any of this was “vegan”!
I almost didn’t want to share with you the final result. This cake was NOT pretty since it fell apart so badly. I was really disappointed that I couldn’t present my mother with a beautiful chocolate cake. But we put candles on there and it was just too funny, especially since we didn’t have the right number candles to put a top the cake that fell apart.
In the end, the whole family loved the cake and we all agreed it tasted like an Oreo, which is in no way a bad thing. I think next time I’ll try these as cupcakes!
Note: I doubled the cake recipe so I could stack the rounds. I also had to double the buttercream. Truthfully, I probably could have used another mix of the buttercream to truly cover the crumb layer, but I didn’t have the time.
What are some of your favorite vegan baking recipes?
In case you missed the links for the recipes I used, here they are again: