I had been without cake for two days. The sun has not been out for a full day in nearly a week. Need I say more? And sorry to post this chocolate decadence here on Ash Wednesday. So call me a heathen. I was long overdue for a good cake smack down.
I won't lie and tell you this is the prettiest cake I've ever made. But those of you who've followed me know I would eat cake no matter how it looked. For some reason, I have way too many cookbooks without photos accompanying EVERY recipe. I take forever to make up my mind as it is (my sister and close friends can attest to this--my propensity for indecision can be quite "wearing"). Pictures would help, 'kay?
I woke on Monday not feeling quite well. Sunday, there was a silent auction I volunteered for (plus donating a dinner for eight to be made by yours truly)--I had spent the better half of Sunday at the auction with other volunteers: setting up, waiting for guests, waiting for bids. Then freaking out over the bidding of my dinner--my dear friend kept coming up to me saying: Oh, Kelly, the dinner bid is at blah, blah. My nervous-o-meter would jump every time. I kept telling myself, This isn't about me, it's about the dogs. To say this caused a "bit" of anxiety for me, well, that would be an understatement. THEN, I find out the winner of said Vegan Thyme dinner knows me from waaaaay back! God, St. Louis can be such a small town. I've never put myself out there other than through this blog--in my anonymous sort of way (losing my anonymity a little bit every year). I'm not in a witness protection program nor do I work for some secret cell organization--it's just that my generation--we tend to be less about "putting it all out there"--that's all). To have your whole "cooking-ness" and real identity on display for someone else to consider, and re-consider, and bid on, and not bid on--all while you are in the same room, whew.
I have this cake book by Carole Walter called Great Cakes. I think I bought the book sight unseen going on the title alone. Carole is well-known throughout the baking world for her incredible pastry expertise. She has a very straightforward style of recipe writing. I feel like she'd be wonderful to have over and dish on all things dough. Her website says: Good things come to those who bake. (Don't you just love that?)
Craving chocolate, but maybe not an ALL chocolate cake, I thumbed through her cookbook and landed on her "Chewy Chocolate Nut Cake". Sounded delish. But as I waded through the instructions, I knew with the vegan substitutions that my adaptation would yield a bit of a different cake. And as is the case with most vegan pastry changes, you DO end up with a different cake, but a MUCH better cake in terms of fat, dairy and cholesterol. I felt so good about this cake and so enjoyed the ever-so-slight taste of chocolate and lovely cake texture, that it not only sufficed as an after dinner treat, it worked just beautifully as a three o'clock snack. I believe in the principle of never denying yourself the food you crave. Eat in moderation. Enjoy life through cake. The rest will follow.
The cake is baked in a 9" springform pan, thus allowing the release (and inverting of the cake) to be not quite as scary.
This chocolate mixture serves two purposes--as the bottom or "crunch", then as the top layer--after you turn the cake right side up, plus, as a wonderul fudgey middle layer.
Almost spread over the top. . .
Chocolate layer on top of first layer of batter. Then you top this with more batter.
Vegan Chocolate Crunch Cake
*Adapted from "Great Cakes" by Carole Walter
1/2 cup unsweetened vegan chocolate (I used Ghiradelli) *You have to sift this before measuring it.
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup Florida Crystals sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup unsalted vegetable margerine
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts--up to you)
2/3 cup unsalted vegetable margerine at room temperature
1 cup Florida Crystals sugar (be sure to process it a few times in the food processor)
3 eggs (used Ener-G Egg Replacer: 4 1/2 teaspoons EER, plus 6 tablespoons warm water)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 1/4 cup sifted cake flour (I use King Arthur Cake flour--sift first, then measure!)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat your oven for 350. Spray a 9" springform pan with cooking spray. Then cut out a piece of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of the pan, place this in pan, then spray it as well. Add all ingredients for the crunch part in a food processor and pulse about five or six times. Set aside. Prep your egg replacer now and set aside. Measure out your milk, set it aside as well. Now prep your dry ingredients. For all good cake making--the best tip I've read concerns the sifting of flour. So, before you measure your flour, sift it onto wax paper. Then, carefully spoon the flour into the measuring cup, level with a knife, then place in bowl. After you've got all your dry ingredients in a bowl, sift all the ingredients together. I do this by placing my dry stuff into a strainer and hold it over a bowl, carefully tapping the sifter. Set aside. Now prep the wet ingredients for the batter. In the bowl of a stand mixer--add margerine. Mix with paddle attachment for a good minute or so--til it gets nice and creamy. Add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time (AND make sure you processed it into a fine consistency through the food processor--critical to do this)--mixing the sugar into the butter for a good half minute or more after each addition--should take you five minutes to complete this step. Next, add the Ener-G egg mixture, one tablespoon at a time--mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract. Now, add the dry flour mixture, alternating with the almond milk. You begin with the flour, then add milk, then flour, then milk, finishing with the last addition of flour. Do not overmix! Just give the paddle a whirl to just combine the dry ingredients into the wet. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. First, spread about a third of the crunch mixture on the bottom of the 9" cake pan. Next, spoon 2/3 of the cake batter into the cake pan over the first layer of crunch, then sprinkle the remaining portion of the crunch mixture over this. Next, add the last bit of cake batter over this, spreading it with an offset spatula all the way to the edges of the pan. It's okay if some of the crunch part seeps up into the batter--the cake police won't get you! Bake for approximately 50 minutes. The cake is ready when a cake tester comes out nearly clean--and the top will begin to brown a bit. Remove from oven, allow to cool for ten-to-fifteen minutes in pan on a wire rack. Then, carefully place cake pan upside down on a cake keeper, release its sides, and carefully lift off the bottom, peel off the parchment paper. Allow the cake to cool completely before slicing. Store in cake keeper for about five days. Snack. Dessert. Whatever. It's a gosh darn good cake.