Yellow cake with creamy chocolate frosting | a birthday cake

Birthday cake

Two weekends ago we celebrated a birthday. My birthday. A quarter of a century birthday. There was an intimate dinner with my favorite man at my favorite restaurant, a party with all of my favorite people, and one of my favorite bands – Sigur Rós – in the flesh. It was a soul soothing three day stretch that I will carry deep in my heart for the next 12 months. And then I’m sure there will be another celebration of epic proportions because, as it turns out, my people know how to have a good time.

Despite the streak of awesomeness that accompanied my special day, it wouldn’t have been a birthday celebration without cake (or pie, if you’re Thom). So I’m here to share the recipe for the best (seriously) (no, really) vegan yellow cake with chocolate frosting – and if you’re skeptical, I’ve got about 20 people who can back me up on that claim. I’m also here to tell you about HOW AWESOME IT IS when you finally work up the courage to get all of your random groups of friends together in 400 square feet of living space; the entrepreneurs, the ones who just moved from Ohio, the feminists, the ones who don’t drink, the bacon eaters, the ones with big people jobs, the ones who don’t have jobs – you get the picture. For a long time I hesitated amalgamating all of these people because, well, it seemed like a recipe for disaster. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of disasters.

Icelandic sprinkles
Perfect round top
Frosting in the making
We be icin'
Birthday cake
Birthday cake
Birthday cake

Except on my birthday, apparently. Because when it came time to send the invites (and by invites I mean create an event on that one social networking site on which we all spend too much of our precious time) I said fuck it – it’s my party and although it’s likely the only thing a lot of them will have in common is the fact that they’re friends with me (I’m happy to report this was disproven the night of my party), I couldn’t imagine celebrating my birthday without the feminists and the bacon eaters and all of my other favorite people. So we crammed about 20 of them into our living room and devoured cake and ice cream, and drank too much whiskey – and some of them hung around until 3 in the morning before the birthday girl decided it was time for bed because OH MY GOD I HAVE TO WAKE UP IN THREE HOURS. And I did. Without a hangover, even.

I trucked through the final day of celebration just fine until about 8PM when we settled into our seats at the show. After 30 minutes of waiting patiently, Sigur Rós came on and the voice of one thousand angels sang me into a 15 minute slumber. Which leads me to believe that maybe the secret to getting tiny humans to sleep is to play them ambient post rock instead of lullabies. Because if that shit can knock out a grown woman – upright in an uncomfortable plastic chair, at a concert – I’m pretty sure it’ll soothe a milk drunk babe into evening hibernation.

Parents, play your little ones Sigur Rós at bedtime and let me know if my hypothesis is correct.

And since I have you here – with cake – I figured now is the appropriate time to do a little shameless self promotion because HAVE YOU SEEN THE NEW BADGE IN MY SIDEBAR? SAVEUR nominated this little site as one of the Best Special Diets Blogs of 2013, and if you have the time to register (it literally takes one minute) and vote before Friday 19 April, I’d kinda sorta love you. I’m up against some pretty big names so, even if Oh, Ladycakes doesn’t reign victorious, I’m just stoked to be nominated among some of my favorites. I mean, what a super awesome kickass honor.

Notes: Recipe can be double to make two 8-9″ cake layers. The recipe below makes one 8-9″ layer or two 6″ layers. If doubling the recipe to make 8-9″ layers, you’ll need to bake the cake for upwards of 30 minutes. Maybe a few minutes longer. If you don’t have cake flour, sift together 1 1/4 cups and 1 tablespoon unbleached flour + 3 tablespoons potato starch. You’ll need to sift the mixture several times before using it. If baking cupcakes, add 1/4 cup of batter to each liner and bake for 16-20 minutes. If you want a bit more rise out of your cupcakes, add an additional 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder (I stick on the lower end for cakes because I don’t like leveling). Using turmeric as coloring is kind of tricky – if your turmeric isn’t superfine, it’s not going to be a good route to take for food coloring, so just skip it. 

YELLOW BIRTHDAY CAKE WITH CREAMY CHOCOLATE FROSTING

Cake
1 cup minus 1 tbsp non-GMO soy milk
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups unbleached cake flour
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Small pinch ground turmeric, for color
3/4 cup cane sugar
6 tbsp non-GMO canola oil
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp pure almond extract

Frosting
1 cup vegan butter
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
1/4 cup non-dairy milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered cane sugar
3/4 cup cacao powder

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line two 6″ spring form pans with parchment paper; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the milk and vinegar; set aside for 10 minutes. In another small mixing bowl, sift together the flour, starch, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and turmeric; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil, sugar, and extracts. When the buttermilk has formed, alternate between mixing the flour and buttermilk into the sugar mixture in halves. Add the flour first, then the buttermilk. Once all of the flour has been added (but you’re still left with 1/2 of the buttermilk) whisk the crap out of the mixture until most of the clumps have disappeared. (Don’t whisk too much or else you’ll overwork the gluten.) Whisk in the remaining buttermilk.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake at 350˚F for 24-26 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for about 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Once the layers have cooled, cover with plastic and refrigerate until you’re ready to frost (cold cakes are easier to frost).
While the cakes are cooling, prepare the frosting by creaming the butter, shortening, milk, and vanilla extract on high speed until fluffy. Sift in the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix until fluffy. If you’re going to pipe the frosting on the cake, you’re going to want something a bit thicker. If you’re just going to spread it on, add a tablespoon or two of non-dairy milk and beat until fluffy. Cover the frosting until ready to use.
To ice the cake, line a cake stand (or plate) with four pieces of parchment paper that overlap at the ends; set aside. Remove the cake layers from the freezer (level if needed) and place one of the layers in the middle of the prepared cake stand. Spread 1/2 cup of frosting onto the top of the cake, then sandwich with the second layer. Spread about 3/4 cup of frosting on the top of the cake and smooth it out to cover the cake with a light crumb coat. Refrigerate the cake for 45 minutes, until the frosting is solid. Once solid, spread the remaining frosting onto the cake. I like to do a second coat, covering the cake completely, then I refrigerate it for 30 minutes. Once the icing is hard, I use the remaining frosting to cover the cake and use the back of a spoon to create the appearance of a messy cake. Cover cake with plastic until ready to consume. Cake will keep for 3-4 days.

Yield: 6-8 slices

Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting

Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting

We laid on the couch, bodies intertwined and covered with a heavy knit blanket that was a foot too short for our long bodies. The house was dark, but dimly lit from the glowing city just outside our window. A city that was alive and bustling with noisy people amidst the rain; they were honking their horns at bus drivers and shouting at the valet from the entrance of Kimbal Musk’s fancy eatery. It’s called The Kitchen and, although I dig their philosophy, I don’t subscribe to their version of fine dining because I don’t think a small bowl of bland ass quinoa served with a few roasted vegetables should cost $18. Let alone be considered a meal. But that’s not the point, the point is that there were noisy people outside my house and all I wanted to do was open the window and tell them to quiet down because I can count on three fingers the number of times I’ve been home to witness the sound of hundreds of millions of water molecules hitting the roof over my head. And you know what? I think that’s kind of unfortunate.

So the rain. It lightly spattered the tin roof and we listened intently, trying hard to block out the chatter from the masses of noisy people below. At one point, an obnoxious group of what was probably a bachelorette party spent five minutes too long standing at the intersection of 16th and Wazee. It wouldn’t have been an issue except one of the attendees had one of the loudest, most unpleasant laughs I’ve heard in the entirety of my life. I leapt from the couch with every intention of heckling her (it’s actually one of my favorite things to do, heckle people from our fourth story loft) (sometimes I’m an ass), but just as the window cracked open I caught the faintest scent of petrichor as it drifted through the humid night air. And then I forgot about the lady with the obnoxious laugh because I love that smell, but not as much as I love laying on his chest and listening to his heart as it pounds beneath his ribcage. Have you ever done that? Laid on your lover’s chest and just listened to the sound of the one thing that’s keeping their blood flowing and organs working and, essentially, making their entire world go ’round? So I went back over to the couch and placed my head over his perfectly rhythmic chest instrument. And I listened.

Buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum

Cake liners
Brownie cake batter
Chocolate coconut frosting

Tell me a story, I said.
No, you tell me a story, he replied. I always tell you stories.
Tell me about Europe, I begged.

And so, without a moment of hesitation, he started rambling on about Europe. About climbing to the top of Ben Nevis, riding bikes around Amsterdam, and visiting all of our favorite places in Paris. Taking the lovers walk on the Italian Riviera and drinking hefeweizen from enormous steins at Oktoberfest in Munich. Hiking through the Šumava and spending long afternoons on the sandy beaches of Croatia, where Roman emperors used to retire. He went on and on, telling me about the history of each of the countries we’re visiting this summer. 19 of them total. Nineteen different countries and cultures and a dozen different languages over the course of four months, from July to November.

His infinite wisdom eventually put me to sleep. Not because I was disinterested, but because it’s so soothing to listen to someone pour the intellectual contents of their brain onto you. Like the rain on the tin roof, only better. Better than the petrichor or Matt Berninger’s voice or finding my favorite chocolate in the pocket of my jeans. Ok, maybe not better than finding chocolates hidden in my clothes, but you get the point. Right? So this summer, we’re heading to Europe for the adventure of a lifetime, and if you live there or have plans on being there, too, we’d love to get together. Seriously, let’s get together.

Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting
Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting

Also, I’ve got a little bonus for you before we get to the recipe. Our sweet new friend, Kathryn, came to photograph our place last weekend and the final shots are now up on her site. Please no remarks about my stringy hair, mom jeans, or the fact I spelled je t’aime all sorts of wrong. In my defense, I was in a hurry to write something on the jar before Kathryn snapped a photo. And. Well. French is not my first language. In hindsight, I should have just drawn a big heart. Or maybe boobs because that would be funny.

Notes: These cakes are dense – they’re literally a cross between a brownie and a cupcake; not as dense as a brownie, not as light as a cupcake. If you don’t have cacao powder, natural cocoa powder will work. They’re essentially the same thing as far as baking is concerned. Same goes for the spelt flour; unbleached flour or a gluten free flour blend substitute well. I do not recommend making a substitute for the coconut oil, as it gives the cakes a mild coconut flavor and pairs well with the frosting. Speaking of frosting, you can use any liquid sweetener you want – maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, etc. I’ve been finishing off a bottle of coconut nectar, or else I’d have probably used brown rice syrup. You’ll have to adjust the amount depending on how sweet your like your frosting.

Update: I recommend using a bar that’s at least 70% cacao. I’ve used bars from Lake Champlain, Chocolove, and Ikea. Although I’m not sure Ikea is considered good quality, it produced a damn good brownie cake.

BROWNIE CAKES WITH CHOCOLATE COCONUT FROSTING

Brownie cakes
1 1/4 cups whole spelt flour
1/2 cup cacao powder
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
6 tbsp unrefined coconut oil
3 oz good quality dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup cane sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 flax eggs
1 1/4 cups boiling water

Chocolate coconut frosting
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
4-6 tbsp coconut nectar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tbsp cacao powder
Pinch of fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cacao powder, sea salt, and baking powder; set aside. In a double boiler over medium heat, melt the coconut oil and chocolate, then stir in the sugar and vanilla extract. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the chocolate mixture, flax eggs, and boiling water; whisk vigorously to combine. Add a heaping 1/4 cup of batter to each muffin liner, then bake at 350˚F for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow cakes to rest in pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cakes will keep in an air tight container for up to three days.
While the cakes are cooling, prepare the frosting by adding the shredded coconut and coconut milk to a food processor fitted with the S blade. Blend until mostly smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Once smooth, add 4 tablespoons of the coconut nectar and vanilla extract; pulse to combine. Sift in the cacao powder and sea salt then pulse until incorporated. Taste the frosting; if it needs to be a bit sweeter, add more nectar. If you want it to be thinner, add a bit more coconut milk (1-2 tablespoons). Once the cakes have cooled, generously frost them and serve immideately.

Yield: 1 dozen cakes