Friday, December 18, 2009

Classic Yellow Cake

Can I get a little fluff please?

The vegan cooking world is full of forums, discussions and variations on the classic birthday cake recipe - white or yellow cake. The consensus seems to be that most vegan cakes are commonly more dense than their non-vegan counterparts. This is because many white or yellow cake recipes call for an absurd number of egg yolks. Despite my aversion to the cholesterol-laden goo of another species , I have to give credit to the fatty yolks for giving yellow cake a moist, rich, fluffiness that is difficult to replicate without them. I have made the Vegan Chef's Vanilla White Cake several times with success and rave reviews, but I must admit it lacks the fluff.

So as a dear omnivorous friend's birthday rolled around last week, I went searching for a recipe that would more closely match her favorite birthday cake - yellow cake with chocolate frosting - in hopes of instilling that nostalgic birthday glow one emits when they eat their favorite cake that Mom made for them each year after birth until either geography or age appropriateness forbade the tradition to continue. I wanted the yellow and the fluff, but I didn't want to use food coloring of course. So I decided I would trade in the yellow if I could just get some fluff.

Reading through several traditional recipes and nearly every vegan version I could find, most promised a light, moist cake. Others guaranteed a richness that could fool any non-veg. But alas, too many reviews conveyed extreme disappointment: this one is too dense, this one is too sweet, this one tasted like bread at 2nd grade communion (ok I made that one up)... So I decided to venture off on my own and combine several techniques of various vegan cake recipes and apply them to a simple traditional recipe. I found a recipe that called for only 2 eggs, versus the usual 4-6, and figured I could easily adjust.

When it comes to replacing eggs for baking purposes, my default is applesauce. It has a relatively mild flavor that doesn't seem to affect the overall taste of cookies, muffins or cakes. It is lower in calories and lighter in texture. However, I took viewed the calling of 2 eggs as an opportunity to share the glory of egg replacing between 2 different substitutions. I'm not big on powdered egg replacer, although it has its place in certain bread or crust doughs and goes well in pancakes. Flax is a bit too sticky and threatened to interfere with my fluff. At this point I would have done anything to salvage any degree of fluff in my cake. I really like the look and alleged moisture factor of yogurt cakes, like the recipe found in Veganomicon, though I have not made a yogurt cake yet. So I decided to test the waters with yogurt in cakes and go with that as my second egg substitute.

To be quite honest, I don't even know how this turned out yellow. I don't really need to know as I am highly content with the results. It had the desired fluff I was looking for and a decent amount of moisture. I say decent because I think it could use more, but the chocolate buttercream frosting did well to compensate for this. The recipe said to make this in 9" round pans, but as I am inadequately equipped when it comes to bakware, I made this in a 9"x"13 roasting pan and split it in half. The cake rose very evenly (as opposed to other cakes that rise more at the center than on the edges) which worked perfectly for a layer cake.

I have not included the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting recipe here, because I did not use a recipe. If I had to loosely guess, I used not quite a 1/2 cup of Earth Balance, 2-3 c cups powdered sugar and scant 1/4 cup soy milk. For the chocolate, I started using cocoa powder, but after a couple of tablespoons it tasted too weak for me. So I switched to Trader Joe's European Sipping Chocolate which is richer and has much more depth than the icky Kroger's brand I've been trying to get rid of (I have now decided to throw it away).

Classic Yellow(ish) Cake


  • 1/2 c. Earth Balance
  • 1-1/4 c. Sugar
  • 1/4 c. Applesauce
  • 1/4 c. Vanilla Soy Yogurt
  • 2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp Almond extract
  • 1 c. Soy Milk, plain or vanilla
  • 1 tsp Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 3/4 c. All purpose flour
  • 1/2 T Baking powder
  • 1/2 T Baking soda


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F . Grease and flour two 9″ round pans.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
Stir the vinegar into the soy milk. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together Earth Balance and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the applesauce and soy yogurt, then stir in the vanilla.
Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the soy milk, mixing until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pans. Add additional soy milk if batter looks too thick.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely. Frost as desired.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Revival

After a fabulous weekend in Sedona with my family, the consensus was that this blog is due for a revival. Cooking dinner for 11 kept me in the kitchen for no less than 4 hours , and every minute was enjoyable (ok except for when I couldn't find the cinnamon or found out we forgot to bring garlic, but that's why we cook with a glass of wine on constant standby). Amidst the pleasant banter between bites of Greek delicacies, it was stressed that I be more diligent about updating my blog - I should have taken photos of the food before it was devoured to be sure, because there is no remaining physical evidence of our decadent meal.

Oh well, one more opportunity to duplicate and improve a recipe, right?

Vegan spanakopita tyropitas, moussaka, greek salad, italian wedding cake AND carrot cake with cream cheese frosting seems to have produced some kind of appreciation for the vegan diet among my dear and curious carnivores. In thanks and encouragement, I am heeding their advice to spring life back into the documentation of my vegan ventures in order to provoke more curiosity and interest in my vegan world. Perhaps they will read it, and some will pretend to have plans for making some of these recipes on their own, but I would be exstatic if I could could have even a slight impact on the awareness and eating habits of others around me. If, after time, they can distinguish tempeh from seitan, my goals for vegan outreach will be well on track for achievement.

What are my goals for outreach ? I really didn't realize I had any goals until I wrote that last sentence. Hmmmm....Maybe the process of elimination will work. What am I not trying to accomplish?

I am not as focused on turning people toward the meatless lifestyle as I am about highlighting the benefits and necessity of conscious, heathful eating. I do not share the animal rights fervor that many vegans and vegetarians possess, though I do respect the passion and sense of conscience supporting their efforts. I do not want to be the health nut (and by "nut" I do, in fact, mean crazy) that is constantly harping on people for making bad choices. However, I do not want to be a passive observer of poor eating habits who judges others' dietary disasters without offering advice and assistance if asked for it.

I do have a passion for fabulous food and the respectful treatment of our bodies. They are really the only avenue we have to live this life - so I suppose if you're actually interested in living it, you should take care of it. The way we choose our food and how we eat has everything to do with treating our bodies well and preventing damage. Why wouldn't you want to prevent and stave off cancer, digestive disease and heart malfunction? Those things are in my personal family history, and this vegan lifestyle is a tasty way to kick some dirty pathogen butt!

For me, the health advantages stemming from eating this way far exceed the effort it takes to follow the diet in my own opinion. More energy, a badass heartbeat, a solid immune system and normal blood pressure are just some of the things I get to enjoy by cooking real food at home without the use of animal products. I often hear people say they could never pay as much attention that vegan need in order to eat right. Hogwash. Most of the effort required of vegans should be included in anyone's diet, veggies and ommi's alike. For example...

1. Reading ingredient labels.

2. Avoiding saturated and trans fats.

3. Eating whole foods instead of processed foods.

4. Avoiding food additives, preservatives and flavorings (i.e. HFCS, MSG, etc...).

5. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables (preferable seasonally).

That doesn't sound too vegan, does it? Because it's not. Even meat eaters should limit their intake of anything with grody fat in it and avoid buying snack foods high in sodium and who knows what other substances go into making Cheetos that I'm pretty sure are the same as substance you need to make a homemade bomb. Once you take an interest in your health, which is easy to fake but hard to do, most of the precautions vegans take are the same you'd need to do just to be healthy in general.

So back to my goal(s): Well education I guess by way of winning over people's stomachs. For starters, I don't care how much I "preach," as long as people eat my food and like it. The only way to spark genuine interest in most people is through taste buds. So down the hatch and then I'll spread the facts....Once I have their tummies, they'll ask questions. They always do.

And questions lead to personal research and enrichment, as many people start thinking about things they may not have considered prior to devouring a piece of vegan chocoalte pie. If a friend remembers the words quinoa and/or amaranth, well that'd be great. That's not even a vegan thing! If I can instill surpise by letting on that there are 400 kinds of potatoes grown in Peru (there used to be 4,000) and then they actually try a PURPLE potato just because it's different, I'd be giddy. You don't have to be vegan, but if you start paying attention, rocks.