Sunday, January 30, 2022

Fear Of Baking And The Vegan Chocolate Cake

I did not grow up eating homemade cake. Both of my grandmothers were excellent cooks but they specialized in different areas. My mom's family were New Orleans French Creoles, and came to California in the 1840s looking for gold. That side baked delicate meringues, and what I found out later was actually called Bananas Foster (served without the booze for us kids). 

My dad's family were Italian immigrants from Florence, and Lucca, so the desserts they made were cookies, nougats, and of course Buccellato. For big events such as Pasqua, (Easter) they'd buy a St. Honore Cake from San Francisco's famous Victoria Pastry Bakery, in business since 1911. As you can see from the picture, these dudes were serious about their cake...they still are.

My grandparents all died when I was 8 years old, the fancy homemade treats stopped and my mom, the woman who never believed in pre-heating an oven, and never met a boxed mix she didn't like, took over. 

We were served a series of things that didn't quite turn out. Cakes that would be raw in the middle, or totally burned.  Either way it put me off baking for a long time. My mom just didn't like cooking, not everyone does. I happen to, and I started out cooking at our house when I was in high school, inspired by The French Chef on TV.  My parents watched Julia Child religiously always hoping she would drop something, or seem slightly tipsy. They lived for that. Meanwhile I was taking mental notes and I asked for a copy of The French Chef for Christmas. They bought it for me, but I never went near the baked goods part. I was a savories person, not a dessert or baking person until I stumbled on the Cafe Beaujoulis. 

Cafe Beaujolis is a restaurant up in Mendocino California. Someone (can't remember who) gifted me their cookbook back in the late 80's and for some reason one recipe made me try and attempt  cake. It's called Amazon Chocolate Cake, the recipe was very simple, and I thought achievable. Also, I had all the ingredients right in my pantry. I've never had a bad experience with this recipe. It was the basis of every family/friends birthday cake I baked for years. It also makes great cupcakes, and as I said, it's vegan!

So, this is the recipe that killed my Fear of Baking. I hope it makes you as happy as it's made me.

Vegan Chocolate Cake

Here's What You Need:

3 cups all purpose flour

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

2 tsp baking soda

2 cups sugar

1 tsp salt

2 cups cold water

1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs vegetable oil.  (canola or corn)

1 Tbs vanilla

2 Tbs white vinegar or strained fresh lemon juice

fresh raspberries

Chocolate ganache recipe

1 bag freeze dried raspberries 


Here's What To Do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar, and salt.

Sift these ingredients together.

In a separate bowl mix together the water, vegetable oil, vanilla, and vinegar or lemon juice.

Whisk together the wet and dry mixtures

Pour the mixture through a strainer into a bowl.

Break up any lumps, and press them through.

Now, depending on what you are planning to bake, you can either, pour the cake mix into two greased 9 inch cake pans, or cupcake pans, or as I did here a fancy Bundt cake mold.

After you pour the cake batter in, tap the edge of the pan against the counter or drop it from 6 inches to the floor several times to pop air bubbles. 

NOTE: only do the floor drop if the dog is out of the kitchen.

Bake at 350 degrees If you are baking this in two 9 inch pans this takes about 25 to 30 minutes. Baking it in a larger Bundt pan it takes longer I'd give it a good hour or so but keep an eye on it after about 40 minutes . It's done when a skewer or toothpick inserted comes out clean . 

   I made a chocolate ganache frosting and drizzled it  down the curves of the cake.

Then I took a bag of freeze dried raspberries and crumbled them on top of the chocolate ganache.

I decorated the top with a few fresh raspberries I had. This was our pre-vaccine quarantine Christmas cake  from December of 2020. This serves about 12 people. Normally I'd have had that and more for our Christmas this was a lot of cake for a small group but no one complained.

So there it is, a pretty simple vegan cake that I'll bet you have everything you need to make this right at home already.

 PS: here's the cupcake version with vegan icing

Coming up next, more Indian treats and also if anyone's interested I dipped into my chefs book from the restaurant and found these terrines I made when I was consulting for the Cocoa Planet French Cafe here in Sonoma.

Pork, cherry, pistachio terrine

...and a vegetable terrine.


   Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

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