I have lately taken to carrying my camera around in my purse again. For too long now, I have relied on my phone as my primary camera, and the result has been that I no longer remember to take daily photographs. Habits are important to me, little rituals to keep me focused; without them, I flounder around forgetting to do simple things like washing my hair, or going to the grocery store.
We had dinner at a friend's house last night, and I was so glad I remembered to bring my camera. The evening was lovely, and deserved to be commemorated. There was a scrumptious African sweet potato stew, a baby who charmed us with his gummy grin, and the only two pictures I have of myself and A.M. together were taken about 25 years apart. Last night would have been a great time to have taken another, and to have gotten a snapshot of that glorious stew.
If only I had remembered to take my camera out of my purse.
At least the first part of the day was preserved for posterity's sake. After suffering through the excesses of Christmas, we have gone mostly dessert-free around here for the past few weeks, but I finally reached the end of my rope. I needed chocolate, you see, and I had one particular recipe in mind.
My friend B.S. (you have no idea how happy I am that those are her initials) has a little bit of cake magic in her, and she has been known to show up at tough times with magical foods. It will likely irritate her that I mention her inherent goodness in a public setting, but I don't really care.
She turned up at the hospital last year when my grandmother was having surgery, and put her hilarious pudgy baby into my anxious mother's arms. Then she reached into her purse and pulled out a few pieces of this cake, wordlessly handing them over to me. I nearly wept. Not because it meant so much to me that a friend would come to the hospital with goodies (even though that was weep-worthy), but because the cake itself was so ridiculously delicious.
I mean, it is a vegan cake. How good can it be, right? This cake is absurd, it's so good. So moist it is shocking that it even holds together, with a tender, chewy crumb, and a purity of flavor. There is no butter, which is normally the overarching taste in a cake (not that there is anything wrong with that). In this case, rather than butter, there is coffee and chocolate, melding together into a perfect simple essence.
Love songs should be written about cakes like this. The recipe is from my favorite vegetarian restaurant The Grit, which means it already has The Boy Wonder's stamp of approval - he has, after all, eaten his way across their entire dessert case and back, at least twice. As a matter of fact, this is probably the fourth of their cake recipes that I have now baked at home (although one or two of them had to be replicated to the best of my ability, because those recipes were not in their cookbook).
This one is in the cookbook, but because B.S. (best initials ever) serves it without the frosting, and that is therefore how I crave it now, I chose to go without the icing as well. Also, I did not want to trouble myself with running to the store to pick up some silken tofu.
Other than that, I changed very little about the recipe. I made it using raw sugar and homemade vanilla extract, and because I do not care for caffeinated children, I used decaf coffee in the recipe. Decaf does not have the freshest flavor though, so if you can hide the cake from your own
Also, since it's vegan, feel free to call this cake a health food (even though it is the farthest thing from it).
CHOCOLATE VEGAN DEATH CAKE, adapted from The Grit
Note: I used a 10-inch, super deep springform pan for this cake. You can also use a Bundt pan, but do not fill more than 3/4 of the way - if there is leftover batter, just make a few cupcakes and freeze them (this cake freezes beautifully). If making a layer cake and frosting as well, bake this in three 9-inch round cake pans.
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- 1 Tbs baking soda
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
- 2 Tbs pure vanilla extract
- 3 cups strong brewed coffee
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- Grease and flour pans (see head note), and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In the large bowl of your electric mixer, sift the dry ingredients together.
- Add oil and vanilla extract.
- On low speed, blend until fully combined.
- Increase speed just a little, and gradually add coffee.
- When mixture is smooth, reduce speed to lowest setting, and add vinegar, blending only until combined. Do not overmix.
- Divide batter between pans, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, just until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the middle.