Vegan Yellow Sheet Cake with Gobs of Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (Adieu, July. . . Hello Tomatoes!)
Yesterday was the anniversary of our mom's passing. It's been fourteen years. My sister and I sort of "dread" it--and probably will as long as we live. And we probably should be over it by now, but seems every year, as hard as I try to "get through just another day" it all comes back to me and I find I must busy my hands and mind to manage my way through the bitter twenty-four hour melancholy. I don't mean to say I sit in a corner and eat cake till the sun sets (well, yes, I sort of do. . . sit in a corner and eat cake until the sun sets). Sister and I spend time on the phone--letting each other know we are both here for each other. Share some memory. Think about what-ifs and all. It really grounds you--this loss. I can't explain why. It's as if having had our "mom" loss way too early in life for any daughter to experience, we've also been granted a very special gift. Last night as my sister and I were checking in with each other (we do that--check in to make sure we're "Okay" on this day)--my sister reminded me once again that with all our mother's faults and all the pent up "issues" we've both carried on through our lives as a result of our mom being "our mom" we still have each other and that, to us, is one of her greatest achievements ever: giving us each a sister.
As with all my cakes, this one ranks as special as it was a cake of my childhood--one that seemed to have a constant presence on our kitchen counter. Mom was no Paula Deen, but when she had a yen for cake, the whole house had a yen for cake. Mom, to THIS day, I love you for that!
So, again, the kitchen served as my prozac. I entered the domain around eleven yesterday morning and did not leave it until seven that evening. (Serving dinner included.) In addition to my all-day, slow cooker marinara sauce that I made from twenty of my roma tomatoes that suddenly ripened on the vine overnight, I wanted a single layer cake, one that could rest in the fridge for the remainder of this week, one that didn't require carefully stacking levels and triple checking for accuracy in proper frosting distribution--it just needed to be: yellow with chocolate frosting. Problem with this was that egg yolk is what gives your traditional yellow cake its vibrant yellow color. This was a nice challenge, a good distraction. Thus began my research. Five cookbooks later and tons of post-it notes scattered here and there: My yellow sheet cake was a success! Nothing could have made me happier. Well, maybe if I'd been able to share a piece with my mom (and my sister). I'm sure our mom had a hand in it somehow. And by the way, I know I've posted another yellow layer cake on my blog before, but seriously, can one ever have enough cake recipes.
It finally rained yesterday. A big, loud, messy rain. Cooled off a teensy bit. Only an inch or so fell according to my garden rain gauge. But rain, nonetheless. Of course shortly after we had the wonderful addition of humidity so high you could stick your head out the window and come back in a hot mess. We needed the rain though. I have all but given up on watering. I think it's futile in this kind of heat. I am a huge proponent of planting a "native" garden for just that purpose: Because there is NEVER a cool, moderate, perfect summer in Missouri. In fact, July in Missouri is synonymous with hell in my book. No one says, "If you're bad you'll go to hell . . . and there's lots of snow and evergreens!" No. Heat equals hell. And while I'm at it, let me share that if you live in a climate where it's been seventy all summer and the eighties maybe one or two days thus far: I have no use for such nonesense, 'kay?!
So after this horrible month, and all of the horrible things we've endured in our household this July, it's a not-so-fond farewell and a few prayers that the remainder of this year be all butterflies and bunnies: a beautiful, crisp, colorful fall, and snow on Christmas Eve, dammit! Is that too much to ask? I think not.
Right after the rain yesterday, I headed out with my camera. My favorite tomatoes by far: the yellow pears. They are coming in like mad right now. Only a few of them make it inside.
Yet more roma tomatoes that didn't even get picked for the sauce.
My big tomatoes are just now beginning to ripen. This is a Big Boy tomato. Not quite ready for prime time.
Every spring, I strategically plant sunflower seeds all around my yard. About now is when I get to see where it is I actually planted them! I always forget. Then suddenly, up shoots this stalk and the slow process of forming a flower unfolds. I love sunflowers. This year I went with a shorter variety because I hate to see the plants destroyed by little varmints climbing up to get the seeds, breaking the stalk in the meantime. So upsetting.
This yellow cake recipe is a breeze to make. You just need to do one strange thing and that is--add a pinch of tumeric to the batter to give the cake a bit of a yellow-ish tint. I am a fan of the tumeric. I never notice a "taste" because of it. I suppose you could use just a tad of yellow food coloring, but why? I think I read about the cheater effects of tumeric from Isa and her Post Punk Kitchen self. So thanks to her for inspiring me on this matter of achieving somewhat of a yellow cake in an eggless world. One other thing: if you don't have a kitchen scale--you can get them at Target for around twenty bucks--nothing fancy, but very helpful--I'd strongly urge you to make the investment.
I turned to two cookbooks in adapting this cake. First, The Amercia's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. Love this cookbook. Love it. Second, and most important is The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. And it bears repeating, Love this one, too! Rose's cake book helped me in the area of what volume measurement I needed to compensate for when I used the Ene-G Egg Replacer. For instance, when you mix the egg replacer your total weight--water and powder combined, comes to about 2 ounces. The non-vegan recipe calls for four large eggs total. I know that four large eggs will yield much more than a few ounces on my scale. So, according to Rose and her recipes, four eggs measure (without the shell) out to approximately 7 ounces. So, I end up mixing the egg replacer per directions, but adding a teaspoon of vegetable oil to the mixture (because the yolk has more fat in it than, say, an egg-whites-only requirement), then enough water to bring my total volume of egg replacer to seven ounces. It's not complicated, but you will need a scale to achieve such worthwhile results in vegan baking my way. I guess I could go all other kinds of egg-replacer routes, but the Ener-G stuff suits me just fine. This cake is superb and better after storing in the fridge.
Vegan Yellow Sheet Cake with Gobs of Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
*Aapted from America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book with help from Rose Levy Beranbaum, too!
**Makes one 9 x 13 cake
2 1/2 cups cake flour (11 ounces--you should sift the flour!)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt (regular table salt)
1/8 teaspoon ground tumeric (*optional--gives the cake a yellow hue)
1 cup unsalted vegetable margerine (or two sticks, room temperature)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup Florida Crystals sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
4 eggs (6 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, plus enough water to equal 7 ounces)
1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk (room temperature)
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray baking pan with non-stick spray. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl--flour, baking powder, salt and tumeric (if using). Set aside. Next, in the bowl of a stand mixer, add the margerine and sugar and mix until light and fluffy--I set my timer for five minutes and let the mixer run. Next, add your egg replacer to this mixture, then vanilla extract. Mix a few more seconds. On low speed, add half of the almond milk (you could use soy milk here, too--but the unsweetened kind only), followed by a third of the dry/flour mixture. Mix in the remainder of the milk and another third of the flour. (You will see a very "separated" looking batter.) Add the last third of the flour mixture and mix for just another thirty seconds or so. Again, the batter will be separated looking and a bit runny. I added about a tablespoon more of cake flour--just to ease my mind about the whole "look" of the batter, but took it on faith that I had a good batter here. Pour the batter into the cake pan, smooth the top out evenly and give it a tap or two on the counter before placing in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes--until the cake is beginning to turn brown around the edges and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow the cake to cool completely. Frost with your choice of vegan chocolate buttercream frosting! Store covered in the fridge--I really think this cake tasted best the next day or after a few hours in the fridge.
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
*To frost a 9 x 13 sheet cake
6 tablespoons unsalted vegetable margerine
6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-to-3 cups powdered sugar
1-to-2 teaspoons soy creamer
Add the margerine and shortening to the bowl of a standing mixer. Beat until creamy. Next, add the cocoa powder a little at a time, or you'll have it everywhere! Mix until well blended. Next, add the vanilla extract and soy creamer and mix for about thirty seconds. Finally, add the powdered sugar in small amounts until you get the desired frosting consistency you'd like!