Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I-Can't-Believe-There's-No-Butter: Accidentally Vegan, Intentionally Delicious Chocolate Cake

I'm well aware that I've been posting a lot of sweet and guilty recipes lately, so I thought I'd try to balance it out a little by posting one that only looks sweet and guilty.  Well, it's still sweet but this rich chocolate cake has a healthy little secret - it's vegan.  I'm a bit ashamed to say that this is the first consciously vegan recipe I've ever tried and, yes, it comes from that standard of vegan cookery, the "Veganomicon" (by way of Kim O'Donnel's blog for the Washington Post).  I'm also ashamed to say that I tried it by accident - but I'll certainly be making it on purpose in the future.

And this awful picture is the only one I got of this delicious cake! I wish it did it justice...

How exactly does one make a vegan cake, or any cake, by accident? Well, you see, Matt and I decided to have some friends over on a whim one night last week, and I'm the kind of hostess who always wants to have something sweet and tasty to serve her guests - mostly because I like to eat sweet, tasty things, and it gives me an excuse to bake more frequently.  You've already heard, more than once, that we only have bread flour left in the house (before this move is over, I could probably write a whole book of recipes using only bread flour) but we've also run out of eggs and butter, so now baking requires some serious determination and creativity.

I spent about ten minutes racking my brain for any suitable eggless, butter-less recipes when I suddenly realized that vegan recipes are, by their very nature, butter- and egg-free!  Until now, I've been as skeptical as the next person about vegan baking, but desperate times call for desperate measures.  I googled 'vegan Bundt cake' (because I also have a shiny, new Bundt pan I've been wanting to christen and because I thought that Bundt cakes, being slightly more dense than other cakes, would be less likely to be affected by the use of bread flour) and hastily began making the first one that appeared.  I don't think I even realized it was from the Veganomicon until after it was in the oven, but by then I was certain it would be a success and now I've added the book to my Amazon wish list.  This list has become a repository for all the books I crave but can't splurge on at the moment so I hope that, someday, I'll actually get around to buying it.

In the meantime, I'm going to go right on enjoying this Chocolate Bundt Cake recipe because it does make an exceedingly good cake (just like Mr. Kipling, for all the British readers out there!).  Of course, I had to make a few modifications based on what was on hand - and my fondness for almond extract - but if my version makes a good cake, I'm sure the original one is excellent.  I served it with an icing of my devising (which also turned out to be vegan!) and it made for a simple, elegant and delicious end to our evening.  It's also worth noting that not a single one of our guests (all the manliest of manly, chocolate-cake-loving men) would have guessed that the recipe was vegan and they even came back for seconds!

I won't torture you with too much of a history lesson this time, except to say that the Bundt cake shouldn't really be 'Bundt,' but 'Bund.' In German, the word Bund means 'gathering' and the original desserts, derived from the ring-shaped, Eurpoean Kugelhopf, were called Bundkuchen. The German pronunciation of the 'd' led to the American transliteration 'Bundt' by H. David Dahlquist, founder of Nordic Ware, who trademarked the aluminum ring-shaped pans in 1950.  The earliest Bundt cake recipe in America actually dates back to 1889, but the cake soared to popularity in the 1960s when the Tunnel of Fudge Cake made the finals of the 1966 Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest.  That year, Pillsbury sold $25 million worth of Bundt cake mixes and the rest, as they say, is history.  It may be a long leap from the Tunnel of Fudge to a vegan Bundt, but my cake was still baked in one of those aluminum Nordic Ware pans so I guess things haven't changed that much!

I-Can't-Believe-There's-No-Butter Vegan Chocolate Cake
adapted from "Veganomicon" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

1 3/4 cups freshly brewed coffee (I cheated, using a packet of Starbuck's Via, and it worked wonderfully!)
2/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
Scant 1/3 cup Canola oil
1/3 cup sweetened applesauce
1/4 cup bread flour
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 Tablespoon flavored coffee syrup, optional (I used Starbuck's Toffee Nut syrup)
1 cup bread flour*
1 cup whole wheat flour*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar to dust, or icing
 *the original recipe uses all-purpose or whole wheat so feel free to substitute

Preheat oven to 325 F.  Lightly grease an 8- or 10-inch Bundt pan and dust with a mixture of flour and cocoa powder.  Shake out excess flour mixture.

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, bring coffee to a gentle simmer.  Reduce heat and whisk in cocoa powder until it dissolves.  Mixture will thicken slightly.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  To facilitate cooling (if you're in a rush like I was!) place pan in a cold water bath or  remove mixture to a mixing bowl.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together granulate sugar, oil, applesauce and 1/4 cup bread flour until the mixture becomes uniform.  It will be very thick and almost paste-like.  Stir in extracts and add cooled chocolate, folding in with a wooden spoon.

Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.  Gradually add dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture, stirring until smooth and well combined (about two minutes by hand).

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (better to under-bake than over-bake, especially since there are no eggs to worry about and the cake should set up a little after coming out of the oven).  For an 8-inch pan, cooking time should be adjusted and may be as long as 55 minutes.

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate.  You can ice the cake while still warm if you're using a glaze, but for frosting or powdered sugar, wait until cool.  Makes 12 servings (or 10 man-sized chunks of delicious cake).

This post has been linked to:
33 Shades of Green: Tasty Tuesdays
Mom's Crazy Cooking: This Week's Cravings
Sweet as Sugar Cookies: Sweets for a Saturday


  1. Rachel,
    I love the Veganomicon cookbook! I bought it las summer and I've been very slowly working my way through some of the recipes. So far, I've really enjoyed everything in there. Last night I made the Sunshine muffins,with a few modifications, and they were seriously some of the best muffins I've ever eaten!

  2. Can't go wrong with vegan chocolate cake. I honestly don't know why all chocolate cake just isn't's always delicious and nobody ever knows.

  3. Christi - after your recommendation, I'll HAVE to buy the cookbook! I loved this chocolate cake recipe and also tried out a coconut version which I'm sure would have been delicious if I hadn't doctored it so much! Sunshine muffins sound wonderful :)

    Kelly - I completely agree! I actually don't like most, 'normal' chocolate cakes, but I loved this one!