Just Chocolate Cake? No Such Thing

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Last week, when I was supposed to clean my apartment, do my laundry and be a productive adult human being, I took a look around and realized it was the perfect moment to bake a chocolate cake.

First of all: chocolate.

Second of all: cake.

Third of all: I realized I had all of the ingredients to make Isa Chandra’s recipe, Just Chocolate Cake, thanks to the banana bread I’d made the week before. Well, I had almost all of the ingredients….

I didn’t have apple cider vinegar. Or baking powder. Or almond extract. But I was not to be deterred.

So let us commence our lesson in How to Survive When Chocolate Cake is Required But the Cupboards Aren’t 100% Cooperative.

First, I googled a substitute for baking powder. I knew that baking powder could be substituted in a recipe, but not baking soda, so I was hopeful. I found a substitution that called for slightly more baking soda plus 3/4 cup molasses. That sounded about perfect, molasses in a chocolate cake. Even more miraculous: I had molasses!

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So that was the first victory. Then came the issue of the apple cider vinegar. The recipe calls for a teaspoon, which is used to curdle the milk (I used almond). A teaspoon, huh? Well, that couldn’t really be about flavor, I figured. Hello, white balsamic vinegar!

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The almond extract…. Well we’d all just survive without it. I expected the molasses to be a prominent enough flavor that I wouldn’t miss the almond extract. Plus I used almond milk…. that counted for something? I’d paid moderate respect to the almond?

Because the molasses added both liquid and sugar to the recipe, I cut the canola oil and granulated sugar (I may have mentioned in a previous post that I almost always cut the sugar in a baking recipe and I almost never miss it). I also added more cocoa powder to balance out the strong presence of the molasses.

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I made a deal with myself about this cake. I told myself that I’d done my best, I’d improvised and I’d taken a chance and whatever may come was the result of a noble experiment in creating some version of chocolate cake in an apartment where there had been no chocolate cake before.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am here today to tell you: That risk paid off.

The first flush across the tongue was chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, followed by a second, subtle wave of rich molasses. The flavors overlapped and ultimately merged in a divine decadence I kept tasting… and tasting… and tasting. Hey, I had to be sure I wasn’t fooling myself and that this improvised vegan chocolate molasses cake was, indeed, as delicious as it clearly, absolutely, blissfully was (to throw a few adverbs your way).

Of course, every cake needs an audience. I gave Carolyn half the cake wrapped in foil the next day. Sitting in the manager’s office at BookPeople, she pulled back the foil and took a few bites.

Carolyn’s reaction: I decided after breaking the ice with that cake this way that I’d continue to eat it like a sandwich until it was gone. It reminded me of being a kid and drinking wine from the bottle at parties.”

The take away: when you want it bad enough, chocolate cake is possible.

The baking soundtrack: Beck’s Morning Phase.


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