Vegan Chocolate Cake with Cashew ‘Cream Cheese’ Icing
No gluten, dairy, egg or cane sugar
You can dispense with any recitation of this cake’s nutritional virtues and confidently serve it on the basis of great taste alone. Moist, dark with layers of flavours and it improves with age. It is topped with a cream cheese-like icing made from cashews instead of dairy. A similar Vegan Chocolate Cake recipe on my site has a chunkier texture and a baked on topping.
Even old world traditional Good Housekeeping magazine has put out a vegan cookbook. Nothing could more denote mainstream acceptance. ‘Vegan’ means that no animal products are used such as eggs or dairy. Even honey is avoided, though far more of my patients are best served by avoiding cane Sugar (see website TIPS page). This can be implicated with gut problems; fungal overgrowth; blood sugar ups and downs; food cravings; fatigue; lowered immunity, and Weight issues. To make it truly vegan an option to using honey is coconut nectar or agave syrup*, though these are more expensive.
The original gluten-free recipe was in a weekend newspaper but was low fibre, low protein and used 1½ cups of sugar! Most people just don’t ‘get’ special diets. They might remove a real or perceived isolated offender such as wheat or butter (TIPS: Gluten; Modern Milk), but have limited comprehension of health’s larger context. If someone is sensitive to one food they are prone to developing additional sensitivities, especially to substances widely used in the food supply – such as nutrient-stripped, acidic, inflammatory, immune-compromising refined sugar. To compensate I replaced the water in the original recipe with a dark, naturally sweet juice; increased the vanilla; used less flour and added virtually-hidden walnuts and prunes for protein, minerals, fibre, and subtle layers of texture, flavour and moistness. These also helped with binding as gluten-free baking can be crumbly without eggs. Keeping such efforts from being heavy and dry can also be challenging. Here a little vinegar interacts with the baking soda to create bubbles as a leavener. Cinnamon, cloves and salt amplify cocoa’s intensity while lessening its bitterness.
Cashew ‘Cream Cheese’ Icing makes 1½ cups
¾ cup whole raw cashews
¼ cup Milk Option*
4 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp coconut nectar or agave syrup*
1 tsp vanilla extract*
¼ tsp sea salt
¾ cup melted organic coconut oil
Place the cashew in a jar. Cover with water. Soak to soften at least 4 hours. Or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Drain and rinse cashews and place in high powered blender or food processor with juice, syrup, vanilla and salt. Process until smooth. Gradually pour in melted oil until completely smooth. Refrigerate icing for 2 hours or more to firm. If it firms too much, bring to room temperature to soften.
Vegan Chocolate Cake
1½ cups rice flour*
½ cup walnut pieces
½ cup packed prunes
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground cloves
315 ml (1¼ cups) blackcurrant or boysenberry juice (such as Coral Tree Organic NZ Apple &
Blackcurrant juice which has no added sugar; from health stores)
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar (or other vinegar, but a dark type adds to flavour and colour depth)
250 ml (1 cup) mild cold pressed oil*
125 ml (½ cup) honey (not vegan), coconut nectar or agave syrup*
2 tsp natural vanilla extract*
In a food processor place the flour, walnuts, prunes, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and cloves. Process. Add the juice and vinegar next (this will create bubbles and leavening action as it combines with the baking soda), then the oil, honey or option, and vanilla. Process until smooth.
Pour into an oiled, deep-sided 23 cm cake pan*. Bake at 180°C (350°F) for 45-55 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out barely dry (cake will set more upon resting); do not allow crust to blacken. Place on a wire rack. Cool completely (this doesn’t suit being eaten hot as the baking soda can still have an after taste). Cover thickly with Cashew ‘Cream Cheese’ Icing. Tastes even better the next day and keeps well. In hot weather the icing can separate a little. The cake is so moist it can all be covered and refrigerated if necessary.
Shopping and Preparation Tips*
• Agave nectar: is also called agave syrup. It is obtained from a type of succulent and member of the yucca family. Juice is extracted from the core. The same plant when fermented produces tequila. Agave nectar is caramel in colour, taste and viscosity; available from health stores but fairly expensive. Look for organic agave that has been treated at low temperatures, otherwise it can be as processed and high in fructose as corn syrup. Agave is sweeter than sugar and low GI. But a diet high in fructose is associated with poor liver function, abdominal weight gain, high blood fats and uric acid. Coconut nectar – also a caramel syrup from supermarkets – is an option.
• Cake pan: for all cakes use a white, ceramic round dish (inexpensive and available from Farmers and cookware shops). Its thick sides help prevent over-browning, and drying during storage. No need to turn the cake out. Allow to cool in the dish on a rack. Then store and serve from the attractive container. Helps avoid baking in metal (especially aluminium) – or worse – plastic. For this recipe I use a dish with a 20 cm base, deep sloping sides and 24 cm at the top which is equivalent to a 23 cm pan.
• Oil: use mild, cold pressed oil suitable for baking and cooking such as Ceres brand Organic Roasting and Frying Oil (from health stores; or use almond oil, or high-oleic sunflower oil). It is also second to extra virgin olive oil for affordability. For information on which fats to choose for which purpose and why, see my article on the TIPS page: The Fats of Life.
• Milk Options: organic cow, goat, soy, oat, almond or hazelnut milk is available in supermarkets. Or use rice milk – to each cup add 1 Tbsp coconut cream or mild cold-pressed oil for more body. Use options in same quantity as regular milk called for. Check packets for added sugar; ensure soy milk is made from the whole bean (less processed). Pure Harvest is a good organic brand.
• Rice flour: best for baking is from very finely ground (can be called ‘zentrofan’) whole rice. Results will not be the same with Asian rice flour: made from starch only and looks sticky like cornflour. Use brown rice flour (finely milled with no grittiness). Or mix ½ brown rice flour (for increased nutrients) and ½ white rice flour (for increased lightness) as preferred.
• Vanilla: use real vanilla, often termed extract (as opposed to faux essence, often labelled ‘vanillin’) and one without artificial additives. Good brands available locally and overseas are: www.heilalavanilla.co.nz and www.equagold.co.nz These are in most supermarkets and health stores.