It's a gorgeous day here in the holler! I nod thankfully toward the sun and my calendar in anticipation of the fall equinox this Friday. I may hit the local "pagan people" store and pick up some sage for a house cleansing. (And then will probably walk out with ten other pagan-like things I don't need: unicorns, crystal necklace, a meditation CD--which is a complete waste of money no matter how good the music sounds in the background at the store. I know not how to meditate. Never have. Dr. Thyme tried teaching me and I laughed so hard he threw his hands up in the air and walked away. The closest I come to "meditation" is nodding off to sleep with a book open on my lap right before bed.) Anyway. . . with sage smudge tools at hand, I'll walk through the house in the geographic order called for by our Native American brethren to cleanse and bestow upon our abode the blessings of health, good tidings, warmth and a white Christmas. (I don't think that's too much to ask from sage.) Yesterday our first cord of firewood was delivered. We've already christened the fireplace and had our first fire. So cozy. The temps are sneaky this time of year though. One day you hit eighty, the next, it's sixty. Sweater and wool slippers to tank top and shorts with flip flops. Welcome to the Midwest.
There was a special occasion recently that called for some vegan baking. I was considering all of the "best" cake recipes I had in my repetoire before settling on one of my all-time-never-fails-me favorites: coconut cake. The last time I made one of these I think I made the three-tier version. Every time I bake a vegan coconut cake, something new pops into mind in terms of how I might ratchet up the coconutty-ness of the flavor and I go with it, fingers crossed the whole way through. Cobbling together a few tips from two veteran baking idols: Ina Garten and Rose Levy Beranbaum, I was able to complete this amazingly delish celebratory homage to coconut cake.
It's a gorgeous cake. It reminds me of snow and snow globes all at the same time.
What I loved most about baking this cake, aside from the fact that the batter was delectable--the cake itself rose to perfect little baked-up layers and it made me happier than you could possibly know. (Because I've been there too many times with cake messes in vegan translations, trust me.) Plus, I am a batter hog of the worst kind--sometimes nearly wanting to just consume the pre-cake mass and altogether skipping my original baking intentions. It's horrible, I know--this cake produced that kind of batter: spoon-lickin' good!
This cake stores best in the fridge. That way you can snack on it for a week or so. I think it gets better with time.
Vegan Coconut Cake
*Adapted from Ina Garten
Makes two 9-inch cakes
3 sticks unsalted vegetable margerine (cut into cubes and set out at room temp. for 30 minutes)
2 cups sugar5 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replace mixed with 1/4 cup plus 1/8 cup of water (or the egg replacer of your choice equivalent to 5 eggs)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract (*this is mandatory--it really makes the cake that much better!)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (use the scoop and sweep method to measure the flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
zest of half a lemon
Preheat oven to 350. Line two 9" cake pans with parchment paper, then spray with non-stick baking spray. In a large mixing bowl (the stand mixer works best)--add the room temperature margerine and sugar and beat on medium speed for about five minutes until the mixture is very light and very fluffy. Next prepare the dry ingredients in a separate bowl--the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk well to combine. Set aside. Next, mix together the egg replacer powder with the water. Now, add this to the sugar mixture and beat on medium speed for another two minutes. Add the extracts to this and mix well. Now you add the milk and flour mixture in the following manner: first add a third of the flour and then a third of the milk to the sugar/egg mixture. Mix well after each addition--about fifteen seconds of mixing--then add another third of the flour mixture, another third of the milk and repeat this step until the flour and milk are all used. Remove the beaters from the bowl and fold in the shredded coconut and lemon zest to the batter with a spoon. Don't overmix it! Next, spread the batter in the cake pans and flatten with a spatula to make sure the batter is even on top. Bake for 45 minutes. The edges of the cake should be golden brown in color and just beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and allow the cakes to cool in the pans for about 30 minutes. Carefully remove the cakes from the pans and allow to cool completely on cooling racks.
Vegan Coconut Buttercream Frosting
5 tablespoons vegetable spread
5 tablespoons unsalted vegetable margerine
1/4 cup vegan cream cheese
3 cups of powdered sugar--or more if needed
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract (*this is a key flavor enhancer!)
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut (for sprinkling over the cake after it's frosted)
Cream together the first three ingredients then begin adding the powdered sugar one half cup at a time. Continue adding the sugar until the desired consistency of your frosting is reached. Add the extracts and lemon and zest. Mix well. If you see that you need more powdered sugar, add only about a quarter cup at a time.