Monday, October 11, 2010

Vegan Monday: Chocolate Sourdough Cake

I think this is my favorite vegan cake to date. It's not so sweet, and has an elegant almost brownie-like denseness. So many times, I think I make the mistake of wanting vegan bakery to taste like their animalistic counterparts: too sweet and too decadent for daily consumption. But while this cake could be doctored into supreme richness, it's mild cocoa and whole grain appeal can easily become a daily cake indulgence that you don't have to feel too bad about.

The base recipe is called "Sourdough Chocolate Devestation Cake", and I found it here. I guess I was beguiled by the name, since I actually found the recipe a bit disorganized, and could find no true author. But, I was convinced that the bones of the recipe were sound, and I did want to continue using my sourdough starter (which does have that habit of growing quickly) in my daily kitchen life. I also decided that instead of making the recommended glaze, which was served on the side anyway, I would make a new batch of chocolate syrup to drizzle under, on and around it.

I used Omahene (natural process) cocoa and raw sugar in my chocolate syrup this time and was impressed with the flavor so much more than normal. Even without corn syrup, I was also impressed that I have no "syrup crystallization issues", and I wonder if it is because I used Dutched cocoa last time? The raw sugar may play a part, too - I have become so enamored of it, I can't see myself ever going back to white granulated.

The original recipe also was enough for 2 9-inch layers, so I based my version on a half recipe. I like to save layer cake for birthdays and company, not for eating daily, mostly on my own... But if one needed a vegan layer cake, this is the recipe, since it makes perfectly beautiful, flat layers and boasts a tight crumb making it easy to cut into perfect slices.

I thought about Alton Brown a lot when mixing up this recipe, since I broke two of his cardinal rules of baking: A) adding the dry ingredients to the wet and B) treating sugar as a dry ingredient instead of a wet ingredient. I was happy with my result, but feel free to mix up a cake whatever way you prefer! I also had originally used 1/2 cup of raw sugar only, but when I tasted the batter, it needed more sweetener. It is a cake, after all and not a plate sized muffin. If you wanted to up the ante even more, add some mini vegan chips to the batter.

Chocolate Sourdough Cake (adapted from Family Oven)
makes 1 9 inch cake layer, easily doubled

Wet Ingredients:
  • 1/2 c. sourdough starter
  • 1/2 c. plus 1/3 c. water
  • 1/2 c. coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 t. vanilla
  • 1 T. instant espresso powder
  • 1 T. cider vinegar
Dry Ingredients:
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 c. ap flour
  • 1/4 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. plus 3 T. cocoa
  • 1/2 t. soda
  • 1/2 c. raw sugar
  • 1/4 c. dark brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350.

Combine wet ingredients in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add the dry to the wet (the sourdough starter makes the wet ingredients kind of sticky), and mix until just combined, yet thoroughly mixed. (I recently got this whisk from King Arthur Flour, and I can't tell you how much I love it!!)

Pour batter into a 'prepared pan', one that is greased and floured or sprayed with a flour spray. Bake 20-28 minutes until tester comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

The cake could be considered a "little on the dry side", but I actually love it as is. Non-Photo-Op slices got a heavy dousing of chocolate syrup, and it sinks in nicely as you eat it, though it tends to slide off the surface and pool seductively around the base of the cake. Last night, I tried a piece first spread with peanut butter and then topped with chocolate syrup. I had to recreate it this morning in natural lighting:

I'll try not to eat it until after lunch. It is also day four of this cake, mind you. I think that sourdough is a great addition to baked goods, so far as my beginning experiments can attest. My new theory is that it acts as an innoculator, like whey, and not only adds that layer of tenderness but also of preservation. I just like the fact that it lives on my counter, and can find it's way into a lot of different things. A perfect friend for me as the colder months are coming up quickly, and I like the excuse to run the oven...


  1. You know, even after having my sourdough starter for over ten years, I don't think I ever tried a sweet application for it. Don't ask me why.

    Makes me miss the little bugger all the more, though... I didn't know what I was missing.

  2. That looks so good. I would have never thought to put sourdough starter in a cake, now I have even more reason to start my own!

  3. wow, I really like this idea for a delicious cake!

    have a nice time!

  4. Being a little on the dry side, could shredded zucchini be added without it becoming a travesty? I've been trying to come up with an Autumn dessert - a vegan one - chocolate, which also incorporates the zucchini I have on hand.

    By the way, I'm very fond of Vegan Mondays.

  5. Mary Catherine,
    I'd bet that zucchini would be great in this cake, and probably would make it more moist. If you try it, let me know how it works out!

    A favorite non-vegan chocolate zucchini cake of mine is here at Mostly Foodstuffs. It's very moist, and I bet you could veganize it using a bit of vinegar and flax eggs. It does make a "bundt" sized cake, but you could maybe use the zucchini amounts as an approximation...

  6. Oh, I miss that zucchini cake -- it's been too long. This recipe reminds me of a lot of those one-bowl, Depression-era egg-free cakes -- maybe it's the use of oil vs butter, and vinegar for leavening. I remember coming across a really nice example of the genre in Bakewise. Although your elegant plating definitely takes it up a few notches from Depression-era deprivation...

  7. Hi Rebecca, Thanks for stopping by my blog. This cake looks fantastic...and vegan! I almost can't believe it. That's funny that you think about AB while you're baking. I think about my fave chefs too - Ina Garten mostly, and mostly she's shaking her head at me because I'm surely doing something wrong. :) Btw...If I'm ever in MN I will definitely let you know. We're practically neighbors now!

  8. I've missed you Ms. Meanie, so glad you're back! You'll have to email me if you are ever close - what state are you in, now?


Communication is a good thing, most of the time...