Now, you know I didn’t leave them just with a pumpkin panzanella and send them off into the night without their sweet tooth abated.  I knew my vegan guest had trouble at dinner parties, and as a general rule just stayed away from dessert.  I had vowed to give vegan baking a shot so that she could enjoy her first bit of ethical cake since she hit Shanghai.

But vegan baking looked bland and full of oils. It looked uninspired and full of weird substitutes which I’d rather just skip over in favor of something I can pronounce. I didn’t want to go out and buy a whole quart of soy milk that I would never use again, and butter fan that I am, I certainly didn’t want that giant 3-pack of vegetable Crisco sitting in my fridge.

So what’s a girl to do? She Googles, that’s what. And she finds a recipe featured on Joy the Baker which might just work, and, all while referring to herself in the third person, she decides against telling her guests what the mystery ingredient is until after they’ve tasted and loved it.

Now, an element of frustration in this whole thing is that I have one lonely cake pan. It’s about 9 inches and it is spring-form, but it is from IKEA and there is only one of them in my cabinet. I’m not really sure what in the world I was thinking buying only one at the time, for after all, it is IKEA and therefore cheap. My only excuse is that things like this are often my IKEA impulse buys, driven by too much time spent with a veritable throng of all-day-sofa-loungers and mid-aisle-wanderers, and it is possible (read: plausible) that in the IKEA madness I was not thinking about the moment I would want to bake a layer cake when I bought this spring-form pan. My lapse in judgment meant that this cake took forever to put together, because I would not be sacrificing my layers.  It took a lot of separate washings and then regreasing and reflouring the pan, but I finally got two cake layers I was proud of.

Chocolate Avocado Cake
Adapted from Joy the Baker

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour
8 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil)
1/2 cup soft avocado, well mashed, about 1 medium avocado
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour your choice of cake pans.  Remember not to grease with butter if you’re planning on serving to vegans! I used a little extra oil dabbed on a piece of kitchen towel which I rubbed around the crevices of the pan. Set aside.

2. Sift together all of the dry ingredients except the sugar.  Set that aside too.

3. Mix all the wet ingredients together in a bowl, including the mashed avocado. When the avocado is fully incorporated, add sugar into the wet mix and stir while sugar dissolves.

5. Mix the wet with the dry all at once, and beat with a whisk (by hand) until smooth.

6. Pour batter into  greased cake tin(s). Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Mine had set up in the middle after about 30 minutes no problem, but was very moist on top.  Don’t let that top fool you – do your toothpick test.

7. Let cakes cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely before frosting with avocado buttercream.

Avocado Buttercream
From Alton Brown

Ingredients

8 ounces avocado meat, approximately 2 small to medium avocados
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 pound powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon raspberry extract (Alton only uses a lemon extract. With the chocolate cake though I went with a vanilla and raspberry flavor. It’s your call.)

Preparation

1. Peel and pit the avocado. My avocados were not ripe enough so I hand mashed them as much as I could first, and then I continued to work with it by hand instead of with a mixer so I had more control over the avocado. If your avocado is very ripe, you can just place the avocado into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment along with the lemon juice and beat until lightened in color, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Add powdered sugar a little at a time and beat until smooth. Don’t be afraid of the color. As you continue to add the sugar, it will lighten considerably.

3. Add your chosen extracts and mix to combine. If not using the icing right away, store in the refrigerator. It won’t turn brown because of the lemon you’ve added, so that color will last for days after icing your cake.

Icing the cake

I am not very good icing things, myself, but I just glopped a little less than half of the icing in the middle of the bottom layer, and spread it out with a knife until it reached the edges. I sprinkled it with a handful of chopped almonds, and then lowered the second layer into place. Rinse and repeat.  Sprinkle the top layer with almonds and try to avoid sneaking bites until after your guests arrive!

Critic’s Comments, Guest Edition

“The cake was moist and fudgy, but not overpowering, and the icing like melted through parts of it to make some moister than others, which was so great. And I loved all the parts, the more hard outside, the central icing with almonds, the top icing, the cake….it was like a perfect marriage.”

The texture of the cake was great – more like a banana or zucchini bread. The avocado itself was undetectable, which in a pairing like this would need to be to make any real sense. The icing was very light, but not runny lik e commenters on Alton Brown’s website had complained about. I actually found that once I had iced the cake, the icing set up really well. I actually had to pull the icing down to simulate dripping.

In the end, it was very yummy, but I’m afraid that if I keep all of these sweets in my house, I’ll end up a 200 pound woman, unable to walk up the three flights of stairs to our house, so I sent my guests home with huge chunks of cake and left a small piece for Walker to finish up later.

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