This isn’t turning into a food blog, I swear. Food just happens to be one of the few constants in my life right now, since I find myself back in the kitchen, fielding requests for it, preparing it and cleaning up after it three times a day. And because I’m there so often, the likelihood of my stumbling across something worth sharing is pretty high.
Take this cake, for example. I have baked variations on this cake several times over the course of the last few years, and what I present to you now is the base from which my variations spring. This is the go-to birthday cake around here. It’s my potluck-in-a-pinch dessert. This cake lends itself to piped vanilla frosting, sifted powder sugar, melted (and cooled) dark chocolate, and I’ve spiked it with everything from black pepper to molasses, just to see what would happen. It’s embarrassingly easy, alarmingly delicious and (surprisingly) dairy free.
You won’t believe me once you try a piece, but it’s true: this cake isn’t “good (for being dairy free)” but just plain good. I don’t know what happens when all of those odd ingredients interact, but the end result is fabulous – something I can attest to, because I have a double-layer, vanilla-frosted specimen on my kitchen counter right now.
Bittersweet Chocolate (Dairy Free) Cake
3 c. flour (I tend to favor white whole wheat)
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
10 Tbl. oil
2 Tbl. white vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. cold water
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate*, finely chopped (I used Ghirardhelli’s)
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2″ pieces (optional)
*Instead of the unsweetened chocolate, you might try any of the following options (all of which have been tested and approved by my certified quality control staff): 1 tsp. instant espresso powder, 1 tsp. molasses, or a hefty dose of freshly ground black pepper. I warn you, though: do not try them all at once. That would taste terrible.
Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Coat two 8″ cake pans with butter and line with parchment paper, trimmed to fit the bottom of the pans.
In large bowl, whisk dry ingredients together.
Combine oil, vinegar and vanilla in a liquid measuring cup and whisk to combine. Add to dry ingredients and whisk thoroughly, until mixture resembles a coarse, slightly lumpy, meal.
Using same liquid measuring cup, add cold water and whisk until the lumps break down. Stir in chopped chocolate, if using. The batter will be a bit runny and taste funky if you try it at this point, but nevermind that. The oven will make it all better.
Pour into prepared pans and bake 30-35 minutes, or until the cake bounces back nicely when pressed with a fingertip.
Yield: 2 8″ cakes, or approx. 24 cupcakes
And now, for the variations:
Casual: bake in a 9×13″ pan and top with sifted powdered sugar
Semi-Formal: layer and frost with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting, or Vanilla Buttercream Frosting. Or bake mini cupcakes, and top them with melted white chocolate and colorful sprinkles (we love sprinkles here, we really do).
Formal: bake in snazzy cupcake papers and top with melted bittersweet chocolate (and sprinkles).