I spent last week eating more cake than one should reasonably be allowed to consume. I baked two cakes, one double chocolate and one carrot, for a cake competition, I made six cakes in seven days—nearly a cake a day!
cake competition: behind the scenes
To be clear, we froze most of it and I did have help with what was left to sample, but after burying my fork into three heavily frosted pieces of chocolate cake and after the hundreds of frosting swipes eaten just before and after an ill-timed dentist appointment, I was done for.
My aching teeth and tender sugar dosed gums screeched, Enough already, enough, put your fork and frosting swiper (aka index finger) down—we surrender!
I’m not one for entering baking competitions. Fancy cakes made in the shape of a sleeping child, horse carousel, or a flowering tree stump to recall several of the mind-bending entries, are entirely beyond me. I appreciate the artistry, of course, but the reason I bake a cake is for the pure pleasure of cutting into it then serving it to those who gather at the table with me. Cake that begs to eaten and made a mess of is my kind of cake.
cake competition: double chocolate cake
A plain chocolate or carrot cake dusted with powdered sugar suits me just fine. For fancier occasions, a bittersweet chocolate or lemon frosting spread with a spoon and covered with chocolate shavings or lemon twists brings plenty of delight. Still, an excuse to bake cake was reason enough so naturally I jumped in as any good hedonist would, spoon first.
I also chose the most difficult category to enter: gluten free and vegan—according to the entry form, the cake had to be both. If you bake, you know this is no small feat. Gluten-free baking without eggs can easily become readymade compost. Measurements need to be spot on and for cakes, I like to use whipped tofu or blended flax seeds with water as egg replacements since they both act as binding and rising agents. I went the tofu route and I must say, the chocolate cake turned out to be both brownie and cake-like, a new one to add to the cake rotation.
I can’t tell you who won the cake competition, it’s still a secret. I left before the judges cut into them. An entire week dedicated to cake and frosting was worth the effort (and toothache) no matter what they decided.
This recipe is both vegan and gluten-free, but if you don’t have issues with gluten flour and would like to use pastry flour, feel free to replace it in equal measure and take out the xanthan gum. The bittersweet chocolate frosting adds a whisper of almonds to the cake that is downright addictive—be sure to leave some for the cake and perhaps a graham cracker sandwich if you’re a light cake froster.
Double Chocolate Cake
Makes one 9-inch round layer cake
Vegan butter or oil for lining the cake pans
½ cup unsweetened full-fat soymilk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
4 ounces very good bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups Gluten-Free Baking Flour Mix (like King Arthur’s G-F Multi-Purpose Flour)
1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons very good cocoa powder
1/3 cup canola oil
2 ½ cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup Firm Silken Tofu (process in a blender until completely smooth)
1 cup boiling water
frost with bittersweet chocolate frosting
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Butter two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust with the flour mix, shaking out the extra flour.
Measure the soymilk in a 1-cup liquid measuring cup and add the apple cider vinegar to the milk to “sour” it (as you would to make your own buttermilk); keep at room temperature and set aside.
Put the chocolate in a metal bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the water does not touch the bowl). Turn off the heat. Stir the chocolate now and then until it’s silky smooth and melted. Remove the bowl from over the pan; set aside.
Sift the flour, xanthan gum, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder together in a medium bowl.
In a stand mixer or with a hand-held mixer, mix the oil, sugar, and vanilla together on medium speed. Add in the blended tofu and mix until very smooth. Add the melted chocolate and mix. Add half the dry ingredients to this mixture, then add the “soured” soymilk and mix until fully incorporated. Mix in the other half of the dry ingredients. Gradually pour in the boiling water and be sure to mix it well.
Since this recipe is gluten-free, you don’t need to worry about overworking the batter, and in fact, the cake will fare better with extra mixing.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Place the pan on a wire rack and allow the cake to cool completely. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Remove the cake from the pan and peel off the parchment paper. To serve, frost each layer with bittersweet chocolate frosting.
Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting
Makes enough to frost one 9-inch round layer cake
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 cups powdered sugar
½ cup (1 stick) vegan butter (like Earth Balance)
½ cup unsweetened full-fat soymilk
¼ cup smooth almond butter (no salt or sugar added)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Put the chocolate in a metal bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the water does not touch the bowl). Turn off the heat. Stir the chocolate now and then until it’s silky smooth and melted. Remove the bowl from over the pan; set aside and let cool to room temperature.
In a stand mixer or with a hand-held mixer, combine the powdered sugar, butter, soymilk, almond butter, vanilla, and salt in a bowl and beat on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, then reduce the speed to low. Add the chocolate and beat until combined, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 1 minute more.