A Vegan Birthday: Chocolate + Vanilla Birthday Cake, Coconut Frosting, and Banana Pancakes

 As of August 22, Luis is 20! It's hard to believe that this is the 3rd birthday that I have celebrated with him and you know what that means..this is the 3rd birthday cake I have made him. In terms of richness and unhealthy buttery/sugary happiness, this year's cake is a rarity. 

The first birthday cake I made him in 2011 was a s'mores cake with a layer of gram cracker cake, chocolate cake, vanilla cake, marshmallow cream, ganache, and mini hershey bars (that was a mouthful, literally).
Now lets flashback to 2012's cake which was a white cake filled with cookie dough, covered in brown sugar buttercream, and lined with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (stop it, you're drooling). Here's a picture to make you drool even more:

So this year, Luis is Vegan, which put a halt to the high sugar and dairy diet he used to live by. So you'd think I'd be completely lost and confused on what to make this year right? 
Wrong.
A chocolate cake sandwiched with a layer of vanilla cake, filled with strawberry preserves and iced with chocolate coconut frosting.
Grade: A+, Rolling Stone raves!


 Vegan Vanilla Cake
Yield: 1- 8" or 9" round cake

Ingredients:
-1-1/2 cups all purpose flour 
-1 cup sugar 
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup oil (personally, I don't like "oil" cakes or the flavor they produce, so try using fat replacers such as applesauce for half or all of the fat. *mashed banana may be substituted as well, but there would be a change in the desired vanilla flavor profile. 
-1 cup non-dairy milk (Though I didn't experiment, water in place of the milk would probably make for a lighter cake.)
-1 tablespoon vanilla
-2 tsp. white distilled vinegar

Method:
Lightly grease an 8" or 9" cake pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, sift together the flour, sugar baking soda, and salt, stir to combine and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil/applesauce, milk, and vanilla. Add the liquid mixture to the sifted ingredients and mix on medium speed until the batter is smooth. 

Add the vinegar and stir only until fully combined in the batter. Immediately pour into the cake pan and bake for approx. 30 minutes, or until a wooden skewer in the center of the cake comes out clean. 

Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. 

Vegan Chocolate Cake
Yield: 1- 8 or 9" round cake

Ingredients:
1-1/2 cup flour (I used 3/4 cup all purpose + 3/4 cup whole wheat)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup applesauce 
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup water
1 tsp. white distilled vinegar 
Method:
Lightly grease an 8" or 9" cake pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together applesauce, vanilla, and water. Add the liquid mixture to the sifted ingredients and mix on medium speed until the batter is smooth.

Add the vinegar and stir only until fully combined in the batter. Immediately pour into the cake pan and bake for approx. 30 minutes, or until a wooden skewer in the center of the cake comes out clean. 
Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. 


 Coconut Milk Frosting
The coconut milk "whipped cream" that I attempted sadly, did not reach my expectations. Though, on a positive note, it did hold up enough to stay on the cake, the frosting did not "whip." During my research prior to making the frosting, I had read to purchase a full fat, unsweetened coconut milk, preferably the Thai brands because they are naturally pressed without preservatives to prevent the cream from whipping. So at my grocery store, the closest I found to the multiple recommendations of Thai Kitchen and Native Forest was the brand: A taste of Thai. 

I bought 2 cans, because too much is better than not enough, and (sorta?) followed the directions on lunchboxbunch.com  to
-refrigerate the can for 24 hours
-open it without turning it upside down or shaking it
-spooning out the thick coconut cream that separated to the top and separate the liquid (don't throw it out though, the leftover water is delicious in smoothies.)
-add a few tablespoons of powdered sugar, to taste + 1 tsp vanilla (for chocolate: + 3 tbsp. cocoa powder)
-beat with a hand beater to incorporate air into the cream

So, this blog is suppose to showcase my trials and errors right? I must admit, I have a few theories as to why my coconut cream did not whip correctly
Theory 1: I used my stand mixer with a whip, not a hand beater.
Theory 2: I added a couple tablespoons of agave instead of powdered sugar, then added a significant amount of powdered sugar in my desperate plea to save the frosting.
Theory 3: It was so hot in my house! With the deadly temperature of 102 outside, my thermostat cried 85 degrees at me and even when set to 80 to force my air conditioner, the hot air wouldn't budge and I, myself, was melting. Poor coconut milk was confused with hot air, a beating, and a trip to the fridge/freezer (and repeatedly).

So I will leave my perspective on coconut whipped cream at this: 
Don't be discouraged! Plenty of bloggers/people have succeeded in making coconut whipped cream. This was just one of boo boos (learning experiences) and I will have to try it again the right way. But regardless, this post is about a cake covered in frosting right? It may not have had a whipped texture, but without admitting my fault to anyone, I was still told that the frosting was amazing and if I must say so myself, it still tasted good and ended up stiffening up a bit more in the fridge prior to serving. 

All in all, I encourage you to give coconut whipped cream a try. I could only imagine how yummy it would be had the cream whipped up. And who says you have to be vegan to enjoy it? ...Exactly. No excuses now, it's time to trade in your heavy cream. 






I'd like to backtrack a tad to the morning of Luis' big day when I made him his favorite, vegan banana pancakes, which I have yet to blog about, so I guess while I'm at it, I can give away this recipe too. 
Vegan Banana Pancakes for 2
Adapted from: chocolatecoveredkatie
yield: about 10 pancakes

Ingredients:
2/3 cup flour (I like to use half whole wheat flour + half brown rice flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 large mashed banana
1/4 - 1/2 cup non-dairy milk 
2 teaspoons vanilla
optional for a sweet tooth: 1-2 tbsp. agave nectar (or sweetener or your choice) 

Method:
Prepare your griddle and get excited.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl, set aside. Stir together mashed banana, milk, vanilla, and agave. Combine the wet and dry mixtures, adding more milk to thin out the consistency if needed. 

Pour batter, wait impatiently for them to cook, flip, wait a little longer until your patience almost runs out...stack on a plate, smother with whatever you fancy and climb to vegan banana pancake heaven. 

Finally, every good day, every delightful dessert, and every fun-filled blog post must come to an end, but only to make way for more excitement to come.


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Maira Gall