Picking a favorite chocolate cake is like asking a teacher to choose a favorite student, or a parent a child. Narrowing down the categories is hard enough: molten, Nutella torte, layered… But if I could only go with one, it’d be the classic layers. Specifically, this vegan chocolate cake.
Vegan or not, this cake is all about the balance. The first thing you taste is the chocolate—not the sugar (nor any off flavors). The frosting (previously paired with chocolate-potato cake) is like a whipped truffle. Although the cake was developed by the perfectionists at Cook’s Illustrated, I replaced the vegan butter substitute with virgin coconut oil, which has a mellow sweetness and texture akin to real butter.
Although coconut oil is high in saturated fat, it’s not the same kind that’s found in animal products. In fact, the medium-chain fats/lauric acid improve cholesterol ratio levels and may speed up metabolism. I’m not saying you should eat gobs of it, but it’s not as unhealthy as previously thought. Don’t worry, the cake won’t taste like Hawaiian Tropics.
You may be wondering: why can’t I make that easy “dump” cake from Joy of Cooking? Will this recipe really turn out? I used the Joy of Cooking recipe for years, but it’s a snack cake. Something you might eat while watching an action flick. This recipe is something you eat at a fireplace with classical music in the background.
Cake adapted from Cook's Illustrated. Frosting adapted from More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts Naturally by Fran Costigan.
Vegan or not, this cake is a winner for its delicate texture, deep chocolatiness, and truffle-like frosting.
- Position racks in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350° F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
- Sift sugar, flours, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl, then whisk to combine.
- In another large bowl, combine cocoas and chocolate. Pour hot coffee over mixture and whisk until smooth.
- Combine coconut milk, vinegar and vanilla in large cup. Place coconut oil in a medium bowl and add the coconut-milk mixture in two additions, whisking until smooth after each.
- Add the coconut mixture to the chocolate and whisk to combine. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients, folding gently with rubber spatula until just incorporated and no flour streaks remain.
- Divide batter evenly between pans and bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, switching pans and rotating them after 12 minutes. Cool cakes in pans to room temperature, about 2 hours.
- Combine the drained tofu, oil, and salt in a food processor, and process about 1 minute until pureed. Use a rubber spatula to clean the sides of the bowl and add the sugar, cocoa, and vanilla. Process 1 to 2 minutes, until the tofu mixture is smooth.
- Add the melted chocolate and pulse the processor three or four times to incorporate. Process 1 to 2 minutes until the mixture is very creamy. Refrigerate in the processor for 20 minutes. The cream may need to chill for 1 to 6 hours in order for it to become firm enough to spread.
- The degree of firmness will determine the amount of soy milk needed to create the final texture. It should be thick but easy to spread. Dip an icing spatula into the cream to test to the texture. If the cream is too stiff to use, add 3 tablespoons of the soy milk and process 1 minute. Add more soy milk, 1 tablespoon at a time as needed. When the cream is ready to use, spoon it into a bowl and begin to assemble the cake.
- Level off the top of the cakes (mine always come out domed): With a serrated knife in your dominant hand, keep your cutting arm against your body and bend your forearm so it’s parallel to the cake. Steadily place your free hand on top of the cake and turn it counter-clockwise (if you're left handed, rotate the cake clockwise) into the knife. Do not move your cutting hand. Keep pushing/rotating the cake into the knife, and you’ll get a clean cut.
- Top one layer with a cup of frosting (when in doubt, it's easier to work with more frosting than less). Spread the frosting to the edges by rotating your wrist. To prevent stray crumbs, lift the spatula off the cake as few times as possible and gently nudge the frosting rather than making sweeping movements.
- Place the second cake layer on top and cover the top and sides with frosting. After one day, store cake in fridge.
- Save the leftover frosting for vegan truffles!