Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake

I made this cake for my grandmother’s 86th birthday.  She has a severe allergy to whey, which you find in most milk products, so this dense little chocolate cake has no milk, no butter, and does not even contain an egg.  It’s also super-quick and very easy to prepare.  I got the recipe from The Joy of Cooking (2006 edition, page 723), but I left out the salt, as always.

Preheat your oven to 375°F.  Grease and flour an 8-inch cake pan, or line the bottom with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used cake and pastry flour because I have tons lying around), 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon baking soda.

Add to this 1 cup cold water, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar, and 2 teaspoons vanilla.

Whisk until the batter is glossy and smooth.

Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly.

Bake about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for ten minutes, before sliding a knife around the edges and turning the cake out onto the rack itself. 

Let it cool completely before removing to a plate and icing. Frost with your favourite icing, or simply sprinkle confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar) over top using a sieve.  I used a lemon slice squeezer (one of the many weird and wonderful gadgets in my parents’ kitchen) to create a fish shape on top of the cake.

Dust the icing sugar over the area you wish to cover.

Carefully remove the shape.

Aaaand you’re done.  Fancy.

Gooey Bars

This recipe comes from my favourite book, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking.  In this particular book, the authors call their bar the Baked Bar, after their establishment in New York, but my cousin’s wife told me that her grandmother used to make her what she called Hello Dolly Bars.  I call them Gooey Bars, because that’s what they truly are.  Many of the wedding guests described them as “life-altering experiences”, but I’ll leave you to determine that for yourself.

The ingredients are simple, but the crust is a little fussy, so the recipe from start to finish takes quite a while.

Preheat your oven to 300°F.

Line a 9 x 13″ pan with aluminum foil and butter it.  The foil makes it much easier to remove everything from the pan after you’ve baked it.

Put a piece of parchment on a baking sheet and spread 2 cups shredded coconut across it.  Bake for 5 or so minutes until the coconut begins to turn golden brown.  Toss the coconut and bake for another 3 minutes or so.

Toss the coconut in a bowl with 2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs.

Melt 1 cup butter and pour it in.

Mix it all up with your hands or a fork, and then use your hands to press the crust mixture into the pan.  Smooth the surface and level it.

Refrigerate the crust for 15 minutes, then bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let the crust cool completely.

Now for the rest.

Raise the oven temperature to 325°F.

Spread 1 1/3 cups pecans over a sheet pan and toast them for a little while until brown.

Spread those over the bottom of the cooled crust and add 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips as well.

Coarsely chop up about 9 oz white baking chocolate (that’s 9 squares).

Spread those on top, as well as 3/4 cup butterscotch chips.

The fun part here is when you pour two cans of sweetened condensed milk over top the whole thing.  Just drizzle that on there.

Shake the pan gently to evenly distribute the milk.  Of course, if you have really thick milk you might want to use a spatula to spread it out.

Bake the whole thing for 30-40 minutes, making sure to rotate the pan every ten minutes.  When it’s all brown and bubbly it’s all done.  Transfer it to a wire rack and let it cool completely before cutting into squares and serving.

Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and keep them in the fridge for up to four days.

Ash’s Mother’s Peanut Butter “Fudge”

I remember making this after a sleepover at Ash’s house, standing with Ash and her mother in their kitchen in the middle of a forest on Vancouver Island.  I haven’t seen Ash in person in about 16 years, but I still have this recipe at the beginning of my magic cookbook, and I think of the cedars outside the kitchen window every time I make it.  The Pie, who doesn’t have this memory, nonetheless loves the peanut butter aspect of this easy peasy sweet treat.

It was kind of like this. (Credit: Marine Eco Tours.com)

This isn’t real fudge, so don’t be deluded here.  It doesn’t require cooking over a hot stove with a candy thermometer at the ready, for one thing.  And it’s like instant pudding in that it’s ready to eat almost as soon as you’ve finished making it.

Which makes it all the more awesome.  I do apologize in advance, however, for the photos.  There’s no way you can make chocolate fudge look like anything other than, well, poo.

Butter a baking dish generously and set it aside.  I have also tried lining a dish with plastic wrap, which works well too, if you’re okay with your fudge looking a little wrinkly.  Waxed paper probably works well too.  In fact, I’m going to try it with waxed paper.

In a bowl, mix together 3 3/4 cups icing sugar and 1/2 cup cocoa.

To this add 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter (I bought smooth by accident, alas) and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Melt 1 cup butter and stir that in as well.  Use your hands if you have to.  Make sure to get all the icing sugar at the bottom.

Press your fudge mixture into the pan and flatten it out.

I smacked mine around a little with a spoon.

And stuffed some into novelty ice cube trays.  Why not?  Obviously I need more ice cube trays, for variation.

Refrigerate until hardened, about half an hour, before slicing and eating it all.  I like to put mine in the freezer overnight for extra hardness.  If you don’t eat it all, then keep it in the fridge or it will melt.

Margarine Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn’t love cookies?  While I’m not the cookie monster that the Pie is, I sure enjoy making them.

This recipe comes from The Search for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie by Gwen Steege, and it’s pretty much the only recipe that the Pie and I use from this book.

It’s also the only reason we buy margarine, for that matter.  Well, that, and grilled cheese sandwiches.

This recipe is actually called “Chocolate Chip Cookies II”, which isn’t all that descriptive, so we call them margarine cookies, as that is the key ingredient.  The consistency of your margarine will determine the ultimate consistency of your cookies, so super-firm stuff will give you big puffy cookies, while the stuff that is more slippery will give you more flat cookies.

These cookies are also dependent on adequate beating with an electric mixer or stand mixer for their fluffy nature.

Keep in mind that cookie batter is pretty basic, and if you aren’t a fan of chocolate chips, you can stick in lots of other things.  When Kelly, Kª’s sister, was in town, I ran out of chocolate chips and so made a conglomeration of baker’s chocolate chunks, raisins, and nuts, and it was very popular.  While I called them ‘garbage cookies’ at the time, she has given them the more gentile name of ‘cupboard cookies.’  When I make these regularly I like to put in a combination of milk chocolate chips and semi-sweet chocolate chips for variety.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a bowl, sift together 3 cups flour with 1 teaspoon baking soda.  Set aside.

In another bowl, combine 1 cup margarine, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 firmly packed brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 teaspoon water.  Beat with an electric mixer for about two minutes until it is creamy.

And seriously you have to wait the full two minutes.  If your batter is dark, you haven’t mixed enough.

Add 2 eggs and beat until fluffy.  Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of your bowl.

Gradually add the sifted dry ingredients a bit at a time.  Once all the mixture is added, beat for another two minutes until smooth and well-blended.

Stir in 3 cups (18 oz) chocolate chips.  I recommend doing this part by hand.  My mixer makes horrid crunchy noises when I use it for this step.

You can keep your dough covered in the refrigerator overnight or you can bake them right away.  You do have the choice.

Drop the dough in heaping teaspoonfuls onto lightly greased baking sheets.  I like to use a small spring-loaded ice cream scoop for this job.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the middle of your oven, rotating the pan halfway through for even cooking.

Do not over-bake.  Remove the cookies from the oven when they are lightly brown and crisp on the bottom.  They may seem slightly undercooked, but it’s a lie. 

They will continue to cook as they cool on the baking sheet for another few minutes, and they’re supposed to be nice and chewy.  Then remove them to paper towels or a rack to cool completely.  Makes a couple dozen.

Alternately, plop your dough in cookie-sized balls on a baking sheet and pop it in the freezer.  Once the mounds are frozen you can seal them tightly in a plastic bag, with baking instructions written on it, and keep them that way for a couple of months.  Simply allow them to defrost completely before baking.

Devil (‘s Food Cake) Made Me Do It

I have designated certain days in my life as chocolate cake days.  You know, those days where things tend to go wrong, and you end up with FLOOR PIZZAThat kind of day.  Normally I turn to the convenient comfort of cake-in-a-box (similar to garlic-in-a-jar but probably not quite as good for you), but recently I’ve been more interested in the process of making one from scratch, and doing it was way easier than I expected.  You, my lovely readers, get the benefit of my experience here.

Seeing as I had recently made an angel’s food cake, it was only fitting that I make a devil’s food cake as well.  You may not know this but traditionally the angel’s food and devil’s food were made concurrently, as the angel’s food used all the whites of the eggs and the devil’s food used all of the yolks.  Modern devil’s food cakes are much lighter affairs these days and generally use whole eggs (and less of them), but I think they would be a nice accompaniment to each other even without the egg symbiosis.  I still have the yolks from the other cake, but I’m going to make them into a masterful pudding sometime soon.

I got this recipe from David Lebovitz, and this is his American-in-Paris masterpiece.  I picked it because of his pictures of the icing on the cake.  I’m such a sucker for chocolate frosting, especially a ganache.  I also thought this recipe had an interesting improvement of putting coffee into the mix.  Coffee and chocolate are always a good combination.  His recipe calls for unsalted butter and salt, but I just use salted butter and I rarely add salt to anything.

Okie dokey (never really sure how to spell that).

Put your oven rack in the centre of the oven and preheat it to 350°F.

Butter up two 9″ x 2″ cake pans and place pretty circles of parchment paper (not to be mistaken with waxed paper, that would be a bad idea) in the bottom of each.  I used a compass because I have a good attention to detail (the Pie called me a nerd for doing so but HE’s the one who wrote a remote sensing exam today).  Put those pans somewhere and work on the other stuff.

Sift together 9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 1/2 cups cake flour (I used all-purpose because that’s what I had), 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder in a bowl and set that sucker aside for a spell.

In yer mixer, beat together 1/2 cup butter (or a stick, or 4 ounces) and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar until creamy and fluffy and stuff.

Add 2 eggs, one at a time.  Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl on occasion.

Mix 1/2 cup strong coffee and 1/2 cup milk together in a measuring cup (or some other form of vessel).

Add half your dry mixture to the creamy butter goodness in the mixer and stir.  Don’t forget to keep scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Add in the milky coffee and stir that up.

Finally, add the second half of the dry mixture to your bowl and mix that up as well.

Divide your batter between the two buttered and papered pans, smooth it flat, and bake for 25 minutes.

You can tell it’s done when you stick a toothpick in the centre and it comes out clean.  I found that mine took an extra five minutes.  Make sure the cake is completely cool before you think about icing it.  When removing from the pan, run a spatula around the edge to loosen the sucker. Due to time constraints, I actually made up the cake part the day before, then wrapped it tightly in plastic over night, and made the frosting the next day.

While it’s cooling (or sitting politely in plastic wrap) you can make your lovely ganache frosting.

In a double boiler or a bowl set over (but not touching) a pot of barely simmering water, melt 10 oz good quality chocolate (your preference for the type) in 1/2 cup cream.  Just so you know, an ounce of chocolate is one of those squares in the boxes of baking chocolate.

Be very careful removing the top of your double boiler, as escaping steam can burn.

Remove from heat and cut in 3/4 cup butter.  Whisk until butter is thoroughly melted and mixed in and the mixture is smooth and velvety.  Let your ganache cool until it’s spreadable, which could take up to an hour (your cake will take probably this long to cool anyway).  Be sure to give the cooled ganache a good whisk to fluff it up a little.

Pop your cooled cakes out of the pans and remove the paper. 

Put one half of the cake on the plate of your choice.

I made another modification here.  I took the leftover frozen glaze from the previous angel’s food cake and decided to put it on this one as well.  It seemed fitting.  All I did was defrost the glaze and whisk it up a little.  It was slightly lumpy after its time in the freezer but it tasted the same.

Smooth a generous amount of your cooled ganache over the top of the first cake. 

Plop the second cake on top of that frosted layer and go nuts covering the whole thing with luscious ganache (or, in my case, glaze it first, then go nuts). 

The cake was very moist and I didn’t do a crumb coat, so you’ll notice a few crumbs here and there in the frosting. 

I also decided to jazz it up a little by drizzling melted 2 oz white chocolate over it.

As with most cakes, you should eat it the day it’s made but it’s pretty good the next day as well.  And the day after that, and the day after that.  Just keep it wrapped up.  Om nom indeed.