Who knew?

March 21, 2009 · 1 comment

I believe I’ve mentioned before how much I love a certain chocolate cake from a certain eatery (the name starts with “Gr” and ends with “it” — although I’ve not eaten there a single time since the Unfortunate Portion Incident). The most unbelievable characteristic of this most wonderful cake is the fact that it contains no dairy and no eggs. It is full-blown vegan. I don’t remember the first time I ate a piece, but I must have run my mouth about its charms; my friend Kathryn surprised me with an entire cake, all to myself, when I had to go dairy-free for a few months before weaning my little allergy-prone baby (now an adorable 3-year old, pictured above).

While I have nothing against folks who decide to avoid all animal products, I often feel sorry for them. I’ve read enough vegan food blogs to know that these conscientious folks feel like they’re not missing much — and I’m so glad they are thrilled with their fully-plant-produced fare. I also believe that they probably eat better-tasting food than most Americans, simply by the thought, planning, and requisite lack of processing that informs their diets. But… half-n-half. And… shortbread. Not to mention ice cream, good cheese, smoked meats, and fish. I just couldn’t do it. I know my limits.

Most times, eating a vegan dish, I can appreciate its charms, but am aware of what it’s missing. With the exception of the Chocolate Vegan Death layer cake from The Grit. It is one of my all-time-favorite chocolate cake recipes. I like it so much, I make it even when dairy-and-egg-free is not required. It’s icing on the cake (can you forgive me for that one?) that I can make it for my son’s birthday, to be enjoyed by all, including him. It stays moist for days after it’s made, and boasts a deep chocolate flavor that is boosted by the strong coffee used as most of the batter’s liquid. The icing (secret ingredient revealed later, to prevent your premature scoffing) has a wonderful texture and flavor not unlike a ganache, my favorite cake icing. It also freezes well (un-iced), making it ideal for a make-ahead birthday layer cake, or for thawing one cupcake at a time for a little late-night grownup treat (my personal favorite over the past week or so).

I’m giving you the cupcake recipe today; it is adapted from a layer cake recipe in The Grit cookbook. Don’t knock it ’till you try it, my butter-loving friends.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes (makes about 18 cupcakes)

CAKES:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups strong coffee, at room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

ICING:

  • 6 oz (1/2 package) firm silken tofu
  • 1 1/2 cups vegan chocolate chips (check the label for dairy, or just use your favorite brand if the vegan part isn’t important; I used Ghirardelli semisweet chips)

Preheat the oven to 350º. Line 18 muffin cups with cupcake liners.

For the cupcakes:
Sift together the dry ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer (or a large bowl if using a handheld mixer). Add the oil and vanilla extract, and blend on medium speed until well-mixed. With mixer still running, very slowly blend in the coffee (adding it too fast will cause a major mess). Once the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and mix on low speed just until combined.

Fill muffin cups about 5/6 full. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of several cupcakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool about 20 minutes on a wire rack, then remove the cupcakes from the tins and cool completely.

For the icing:
Drain any excess fluid from the tofu, and scoop into a medium saucepan. Mash the tofu with a fork or spoon, and add the chocolate chips. Stir over medium heat until the chocolate is melted. Transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth. Let cool until it thickens up a bit, and spread on the cupcakes in generous portions. (The icing can be made ahead and refrigerated; let it warm to room temperature before spreading.)

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