I had a super cool Valentine’s day cake planned for you this year. Truly I did. It looked really beautiful in my head, but in real life, it was a fail. Twice. And by fail, I mean it involved me huddled in the corner of my kitchen with flour covered yoga pants and frosting in my hair. So I ended up totally bah-humbugging my V-Day dessert this year because I just needed to few days to regroup before bringing you a new version of this cake and sharing some final thoughts on my month long vegan challenge. And it’s just in time for my birthday!
Even though I completed my vegan month last week, I still find myself eating mostly vegan because I’ve noticed that I just feel better, lighter, and more energetic. I almost wish this weren’t true so I could just go back to eating a crap ton of cheese and butter. While I’m not ready to switch to a completely vegan lifestyle, this challenge has definitely changed the way I think about food in terms of health, environmental impact, and animal welfare issues. Essentially, I’m just trying to sneak more chocolate into my diet while pretending to save the world. But really, I do want to continue to eat mostly vegan, perhaps by way of the “vegan before 6” diet or maybe be a weekday vegan. I’m not sure yet, but I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have tried anything similar.
The funny thing is that I grew up eating mostly vegan food, but I just never noticed it. My parents are from a part of India where meat or eggs just aren’t a part of the menu. The only time I noticed it was when I wanted to bake cakes for friends or relatives and I felt at a loss without eggs.
Since then, I think I’ve tried every recipe for vegan and/or eggless chocolate cake out there, and the one from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World is always what I go back to. You can use soy milk, rice milk, or almond milk, and it works equally well with natural or Dutch process cocoa powder. I’ve even tried replacing 1/2 cup of the milk with espresso or coffee and I like it even better. I wish that my teenage self had this recipe when trying to make birthday cakes for my grandmother, because it would have saved my family from eating the glue like substance that came out of the oven and pretending to enjoy it for many years.
This recipe makes a 3 layer 6-inch cake, but if you’re not into tall cakes, the PPK recipe makes a 1 layer 8-inch cake. The frosting is made out of coconut cream, which I found at Trader Joe’s (and is a available at most asian grocery stores). You get twice as much cream as a can of regular coconut milk and don’t have to worry about the cream and the water not separating properly. If you can’t find coconut cream, you can use 2 cans of full fat coconut milk and get about the same amount of hardened cream after you refrigerate it for 24 hours.
I have a way of overcomplicating cakes by adding a lot of stuff (hence the overload), but you can simplify it by spreading the frosting in between the layers and serving it without the ganache, mix-ins, or chocolate curls and it would still be delicious. That was my original plan, but then I went crazy with chocolate because eeets mah birthday!
- 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) non-dairy milk
- 1 teaspoon white or apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup (200 grams) unbleached granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable oil, grape seed oil, or canola oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (60 grams) cocoa powder (regular or Dutch process)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 14 ounce can coconut cream, refrigerated overnight
- 1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons Dutch process (or natural) cocoa powder
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
- Optional mix-ins: 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips and/or cacao nibs
- For the Chocolate Glaze:
- 4 ounces (113 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 4 ounces (1/2 cup, 120 ml)) coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional)
- For the Chocolate Curls:
- 4 ounces (113 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil or vegetable shortening
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
- Grease and line 3 6-inch cake pans with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the non-dairy milk and vinegar and set aside for a few minutes to curdle.
- Add the sugar, oil, and vanilla extract and whisk until foamy.
- Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda baking powder, and salt.
- Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.
- Divide the batter between the cake pans and bake for 20-23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Cool the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes.
- Turn the cakes out onto the rack and cool completely before frosting.
- Open the can of coconut cream and pour off any water that has separated from the cream.
- Put the hardened coconut cream in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth.
- Add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder and beat to combine.
- Add the melted chocolate and beat until combined (don't over mix).
- Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
- In a small saucepan, heat the coconut milk until it is just about to boil.
- Pour the heated coconut milk over the chopped chocolate and let stand for a few minutes.
- Add the maple syrup and whisk until smooth.
- You can omit the maple syrup. It just gives the ganache a shiny look (which you can't tell from the picture because the cake was just taken out of the fridge).
- In a heatproof bowl, melt the chocolate and coconut oil in the microwave in 30 second intervals on 50 percent power.
- Stir in between each interval until smooth.
- Using an offset spatula, spread the mixture into a thin, even layer onto a cookie sheet.
- Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes until the chocolate has set.
- Remove the cookie sheet from the refrigerator and use the end of a spatula and push the chocolate away from you to form the curls. If the chocolate flakes, it's too hard and will need to sit at room temperature for a minute or two before you start curling. If it comes off the cookie sheet easily and doesn't curl, it's too soft and will need to set in the fridge longer.
- Refrigerate the curls until you are ready to use them.
- If you plan to frost the outside of the cake, set aside about 1/4 of the frosting for the outside of the cake and mix the chocolate chips and cacao nibs into the remainder of the frosting.
- Place the one layer of the cake on a 6-inch cake board.
- Spread 1/2 of the frosting onto the first layer.
- Do the same with the second layer.
- Place the 3rd layer on top and use the frosting that you set aside to lightly frost the top and sides of the cake.
- Let the chocolate glaze cool slightly and pour in slowly over the top of the cake until it starts to drip down the sides. You may not use all of it depending on how much coverage you want.
- Place the chocolate curls on top of the cake.
Chocolate cake recipe adapted from ppk.com and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World