It started raining on me this morning while I was taking this picture of the cake on the back deck. Perfect. Just what I need on day four of living in No-Sun-St. Louis in the middle of winter. Not that we're in the sub-zero's or anything. It's just that when it's cold AND sunless here in the Midwest (close to the Mason-Dixon line) with temps hovering in or about the thirties combined with rain and/or snow (which is what is predicted), it feels somehow much worse than if it were snowing a blizzard and a mere ten degrees. Don't ask me why, it just does.
Late yesterday afternoon my cake yen crept back in. The cake keeper had been sitting empty for over a week. It was time for cake. When I get to this point in my cake want, I plant myself in the middle of my kitchen floor and begin pulling cookbooks down around me, flipping through titles and recipes, reading until something calls to me. Yesterday, I happened upon a wonderful little gem of a cookbook in my collection: Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott. Maybe it was the word "Southern" in the title that gave me extra pause. Born and raised in the North, transplanted as a Southerner at fifteen--I find my Southern side emerges often when it comes to cakes.
This cake comes from a recipe shared with the author by a former inn-keeper who always kept this buttermilk cake on her menu to rave reviews. Problem number one, the original recipe calls for four eggs. Depending upon my stamina, I sometimes won't touch a vegan adaptation for a cake that calls for any more than two eggs. It's the science and chemistry that scare me. Failed desserts, let me count the ways. Sigh.
I decided to throw caution to the wind and jump in. Plus three layers. What's not to love. More cake equals more frosting. And yellow cake with chocolate frosting is husband's all-time favorite cake. This cake's for him.
While the three layers of cakes baked, I watched through the oven glass in anticipation. Would it rise? Would it bake up evenly? (My "newly cleaned" oven glass, that is. All this time I thought I had tinted oven glass. But after my oven light went out last week, I changed the oven light bulb and replaced it with a new one then scrubbed the heck out of the oven door glass, it was like I had a brand new oven. Miracle!)
Of the three layers, this one layer seemed to have "issues", albeit minor. I really whipped the heck out of my butter and sugar before I began adding anything esle. I was hoping to give the batter extra lift and prevent any uneven baking. All in all, I was very pleased as the other two layers baked perfectly. But even with a small cave-in the middle of this one layer, it was nothing that couldn't be repaired with frosting-spackle. Frosting-spackle is your friend.
Having "buttermilk" in the title may cause some to overlook this cake. In fact, in my pre-vegan-I-make-cakes-from-the-box days, I'd nearly flip out over lack of buttermilk on hand. I had to keep a quart of it for "emergencies". I can't tell you how many cartons of buttermilk sat unopened until the expiration date screamed at me. Take heart and know that buttermilk for vegan baking is so simple, it outta be a sin. Just measure out a cup of milk--add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Let the milk sit for about ten minutes, viola: buttermilk. I made two adjustments to this recipe: I cut back the sugar a bit, and for the four eggs, I re-adjusted the egg replacer in a manner I felt (from my baking experience) would help me and other vegan cake lovers have more success and more accuracy when it comes to adapting this recipe from its four eggs, plus I added almond extract to the batter. In a word, all worked beautifully. I could not have been happier with how this cake turned out. Bless its heart.
Good Lord. See what I mean. Dark, gloomy, rainy-cold. Totally cake weather.
Vegan Buttermilk Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting
*makes three 8" cakes
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (use the scoop and sweep method to measure)
2 teasppons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (or two sticks) unsalted vegetable margerine at room temperature
1 3/4 cup sugar
5 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 1/3 cup water
1 cup unsweetened almond or soy milk mixed with 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat oven to 375. Lightly spray three 8" cake pans with non-stick cooking spray and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper. Set aside. Get your margerine out and slice up and set it aside in a bowl to come to room temp. while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Measure out your Ener-G powder but reserve the 1/3 cup of water for mixing in until just before you add it to the batter. Pour your almond milk or soy milk into a glass measuring cup and add the tablespoon of applecider vinegar and set it aside. In a medium mixing bowl, measure out all of your dry ingredients. Whisk them together. In the bowl of your stand mixer, place the margerine and sugar and mix well until light and fluffy--about five minutes. Next, add water to the egg replacer and whisk well--then add half of this to the butter/sugar mixture and mix on medium speed until incorporated. Add the remainder egg replacer and mix well. Next, add 1/3 of the flour mixture and half of the buttermilk. Repeat this step, ending with the flour and mix on low speed just until blended after each step. Add the extracts as the final step and mix on low speed for about five seconds. The batter will be thick so you will need to spread it out evenly in the cake pans. Divide the batter equally among the three pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. (And until the edges of the cake are golden.) Remove cakes from oven and place on cooling rack. Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.
Vegan Chocolate Fudge Frosting
*you'll want to make a bit more frosting for this cake--and pile it on in the middle of the cake between layers for extra yum
1/2 cup of unsalted vegetable margerine
1/2 cup vegetable sticks (Crisco works)
3/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup or more of unsweetened almond or soy milk
1 teaspoon vanill extract
1/2 teaspoon chocolate extract (*optional but totally makes a difference)
3 cups powdered sugar (or more)
In making a really good fluffy chocolate frosting like this, you have to make sure your margerine and vegetable sticks are at room temp. Please don't take this out of the fridge and begin mixing--the results won't be the same. Add the margerine and veggie stick to a large mixing bowl. Mix well until light and fluffy. Add the cocoa in 1/4 cup increments to the butter mixture and mix well after each addition. Add the soy milk and extracts and then, begin adding the powdered sugar in small increments, mixing well after each addition. Eyeball and taste for the consistency and fluffiness. You can always add more soy milk if you think the frosting is too thick.