Absolutely the Best Chocolate Cake Ever

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Basically after everything I bake, I say to myself, okay, no more baking, Sam, because really, it’s just not doing anyone any favors. So many (not everyone [hey if you live close to me please come by and get a piece of cake if you so desire], but lots) of my favorite people kind of live far away, and if I’m not baking cookies, well, it’s hard to mail anything else. Which means that I’m basically eating what I make. And my family, who are happy to eat it, but I know it’s not really *healthy* to be constantly making desserts to eat. Subsequently, I force myself to look only at the cooking/savory sections of cookbooks and not think about potential concoctions of flour, cocoa, sugar, and fat du jour.

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Hah. So I think all these things. And then I find myself feeling a little cabin-fevery, freezing, bored, unfocused.

Then, what happens?!?!!? I’m preheating an oven to 350˚F and greasing some pans and mixing wet separately from the dry and mashing avocado…

Wait. What?

Oh yeah. And I turned it into *THE BEST FREAKING CHOCOLATE CAKE + FROSTING EVER.* Also, it’s whole wheat and vegan, but… you SERIOUSLY would N.E.V.E.R. KNOW!      It’s just …

Absolutely the Best Chocolate Cake Ever

Adapted from Avocado Central

Cake:

6 oz high quality dark chocolate (i used a mixture of Baker’s bittersweet chocolate bars, and leftover dark chocolate bars. I’m a dark chocolate fiend. There’s plennnty of sugar to round it all out, don’t worry).

1/4 cup cocoa powder

3 tablespoons water

1 large Hass avocado

2 cups water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons almond extract

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 cup granulated sugar-in-the-raw (or whateva sugar)

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 1/2 cups (or 300 g) whole wheat pastry flour (or all purpose)

1/2 cup ground flax seed (original calls for almond meal, but I was too lazy to make some)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

Frosting:

Here’s what *I* did, based on what I had on hand. Refer to original recipe for…well, the original recipe.

1.5 Hass avocados

2/3 cup powdered sugar

4 Medjool dates

1 banana

2 small packets of honey (either ‘borrowed’ from Panera, or 2 teaspoons form the jar you bought in honesty)

Several grinds of sea salt or a pinch or two of salt

Lots of cocoa (1/4-1/2 cup, or until it’s chocolatey enough. Original recipe does *not* add enough, for sure.)

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder

Strawberries and whipped cream for serving

Directions for cake:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease two 9 inch cakepans and dust with cocoa. Seriously. This will give it an amazing crunchy ‘crust’ (wrong word for cake but that’s what it is).

In a glass bowl, combine the chocolate, 4 tbs cocoa powder, and 3 tbs water and set over a pan of simmering water to melt. Stir and melt chocolate until combined and melted.

In a large, high-lidded bowl, add the avocado, 2 cups water, oil, 1 teaspoon espresso powder, the melted chocolate, almond extract, white vinegar, and the sugars. Tip: use an immersion blender to blend it all up, or food processor, or a whisk + strong arm muscles. Get that alllll good and blended.

In a separate, large bowl, mix flour, flaxseed, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt.

Add wet to dry and mix until just combined; don’t overmix even if there end up being little blobs of unmixed flour here and there. It won’t affect the taste or anything.

Pour evenly into the cake pans (this is where having a kitchen scale reallllly comes in handy) and bake for 45 minutes.

When a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, take out and allow to cool. 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a cake stand + plate (one for each layer) and let cool as long as humanly possible. AKA, like, barely an hour, in my case. In the mean time, do those dishes and whip up some frosting:

Frosting: 

In a food processor, add avocado, dates, and banana and mix for a while until as broken down as possible. Then add the rest of the ingredients and adjust to taste.

Put half the frosting on the middle layer, then put the second cake layer on top and frost the top of this. You really don’t need to frost the entire cake; the cake is supremely moist and delicious and you really won’t miss anything. Plus it lets the “crust” stay nice and crispy and delicious.

Decorate with strawberries (I removed the stem, then I cut each in half lengthwise, then again, to make hearts!). Serve with some whipped cream if desired and more strawberries!!

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It was actually kind of funny, in a “what a funny coincidence” kind of way. Today, my parents took my brother back to school. I was working on some grad school stuff and then decided to take a study [baking] break as I am wont to do. I made the cake (with only a few minor mishaps, including a little bit of a sea salt explosion and quick thinking of what I could replace almond meal with). I was thinking, how nice would it be to have some strawberries alongside? (chocolate covered strawberries are probably tied for favorite dessert in the world, the other being chocolate lava cake, and the other being strawberry short cake, and other being mint chocolate chip ice cream…) I decided I’d forgo them since we didn’t have any. I had just finished frosting the cake when parents walked through the door, my mom holding a Costco-sized container of strawberries!

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Such perfect timing.

Since I’ll be in India for my birthday this year, my mom had been secretly planning to give me some early birthday presents tonight. I had no idea but decided to bake a cake anyway… funny how things work out!

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Anyway.

This cake was like, I can’t even describe it, the freaking BOMB. Moist. Delectable. Crunchy, crispy edges, super moist. The frosting was the perfect consistency, and you can’t really taste the espresso but I think it definitely brought out the cocoa-y ness of the chocolate like it is supposed to do. Definitely recommend the strawberries as an accompaniment. You canNOT taste the avocado at all! It’s so, so, so, so, so, so good. I literally outdid myself. I really can’t believe how delicious it came out. Seriously, you’ll never need another cake recipe again. Drooling. Dying. Loving this.

Now I’m watching “Failure to Launch” for like the 27th time (it never gets old for me, one of those movies) and mellowing out the sugar/chocolate rush. Hey, I ran and walked in this bitter icy cold this morning. Chocolate cake is totally my dinner. I’ll go back to writing my lit review tomorrow. 🙂

Other chocolate cake recipes:
Beet Chocolate Cake (with peanut butter saucy frosting)

German Chocolate Cake (Vegan)

Chocolate Pudding Cake

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Soft Pretzels

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I made pretzels!

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I have seen homemade pretzel recipes online, I came across this one that was just too easy not to try.

Soft Pretzels

Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

1 and 1/2 cups warm water
1 packet (2 and 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
4 – 4.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour (for less guilt) or use all purpose flour (for softer pretzels)
1 large egg
course sea salt for sprinkling
cinnamon + raw sugar (mix together about a teaspoon of cinnamon with 1/4 cup sugar)

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Dissolve yeast in the 1 1/2 cups warm water; stir to mix for about a minute. Add the salt and sugar and mix in. Add flour 1 cup at a time, stirring in between; it will get challenging to stir. Add enough flour until dough is no longer sticky; once it fairly elastic and bounces back when poked, it’s ready for kneading.

Whisk the egg a little bit in a shallow pan; set aside.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface; knead for 5 minutes and shape into a ball. Divide this ball into 8 pieces (first in half, then those pieces in half, then again) to get about 1/3 cups’ worth of dough.

Make ropes about 20 inches long from each dough section. First make a circle with the rope, then twist towards you and press into a pretzel shape. Once you make all your pretzels, dip each into the egg, and then transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt or cinnamon sugar mixture.

Bake 5 minutes, then broil 5 minutes to brown the tops; watch carefully for burning.

Let cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

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Unfortunately, I forgot to broil the pretzels and instead baked them for 10 minutes. So they weren’t very brown on top.

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But they did get a lovely golden brown underneath!

And the texture, delicious.

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Both the salted and the cinnamon sugar were sooo good, especially warm. Using raw sugar for the cinnamon versions was perfect for a satisfying crunch among the bites of soft dough.

I really wish I had broiled them! They are so… unbrowned. Next time. They’re too easy and good not to try again!

Best “Healthy” Cookies

ANOTHER cookie recipe?! Um yes, when the Huey Kitchen Contents include:

A jar of almond butter needing to be used.

Three huge, overripe bananas.

1/2 a bag of chocolate chips.

Dried cherries.

Maple syrup.

Cinnamon.

Oats.

And the other little things. Baking powder, salt, flour, vanilla. The items that go without saying.

…Combined into the best tasting “healthy” cookies I’ve ever tried! They are vegan, whole grain, low sugar, delectable, and hard to mess up.

Best “Healthy” Cookies

Adapted from this recipe… makes 2-3 dozen depending on size

3 large overripe bananas, mashed

1 cup almond butter

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons maple syrup

2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon-1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup-2/3 cup dark chocolate chips

1/2 cup dried cherries

Optional: shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350°

Combine mashed bananas, almond butter, vanilla, and maple syrup in one bowl.

Combine oats, flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in another bowl.

Add 2nd bowl to 1st bowl. Stir to combine throughly. Dough will be sticky and wet.

Fold in chocolate chips and cherries.

Drop by tablespoons onto parchment-papered cookie sheet.

Bake 15-17 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom.

Devour most delicious cookies ever.

I cannot get over the texture of these cookies! They aren’t rubbery or chewy–probably because of all that delicious almond butter instead of trying to bake fat-free–and they are definitely satiating (especially when you eat like 7 or 8 in a sitting, like me… oops). They taste more like… an actual cookie. Cherries and almonds go hand in hand, as do oats and cinnamon; chocolate and little chunks of banana bring it all together. Mmmmm.

Graham Crackers… and the Subsequent Indoor S’more

Yes. Easy peasy, homemade vegan graham crackers.

And ∞ times better than those store-bought.

Perhaps less shelf-stable, but really… I’ll take that over additives and preservatives any day!

Graham Crackers (vegan)

Adapted from Post Punk Vegan Kitchen

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup oil
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened soy milk

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a light colored baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Make a well and add the oil, molasses, and vanilla, whisk a little, and then mix well into the flour mixture until combined and crumbly. Drizzle in the milk and stir to combine. My dough was pretty wet, but it worked well.

Place the dough onto a piece of parchment paper on a flat surface and mold into a rectangle. Cover the dough with saran wrap, and then roll out to 1/8″ thick with a rolling pin. The saran wrap keeps the dough where it belongs and not stuck to the rolling pin.

Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into squares/rectangles whatever size you would like your graham crackers to be. I am the queen of non-uniform cutting, and I think I ended up with 16 or so total crackers of varying dimensions.

Re-flatten the extra edge pieces and cut out more squares. When there’s too little dough to make a proper graham cracker, eat it (yum) or bake a taste-testing piece.

Spray a thin spatula with PAM to transfer the cut outs to the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Prick each cookie with a fork, 2 columns of 4 pricks or whatever looks good.

I don’t think I rolled mine thin enough because 14 minutes was still kind of soft, but with crispy edges. I would say 12-16 minutes depending on thickness and how crunchy you want them!

Let cool completely on the baking sheet.

These were delicious, yada yada yada, crunchy and graham-y, okay let’s get onto the GOOD STUFF…

Like s’mores, indoors! Yippee!

Well, I suppose I should try to not be hypocritical about the fact that I just touted my lovely graham crackers for not having icky ingredients, when I go ahead and use store-bought marshmallows that have who-knows-what (actually, blue 1, artificial flavor, and tetrasodium pyrophosphate, among other ingredients). But homemade marshmallows are an adventure for another day.

Anyway.

To “roast” the marshmallows indoors, this is what I did:

1. Place 1 graham cracker on baking tray.

2. Place desired amount of chocolate (about 3 squares) on top.

3. Place 1 large marshmallow on top of that.

4. Broil, close to the heat source, for 3 minutes or until it starts to smoke a little. Watch it!

5. Top with another graham cracker.

The melty chocolate did my garnishing work for me!

These graham crackers were perfect because they were just a bit softer than regular crackers–so they were much easier to bite into and much better for squooshing the marshmallow down, instead of cracking and breaking into pieces–not very attractive.

Note: serving size in photo is smaller than reality. (I ended up assembling–and eating–two. Good thing I like to run!)

Perfect when nary a campfire can be found.

Raspberry Oatmeal Bars

… um… not much of a little story around these. Basically I had a small flat of raspberries from Costco that needed to be eaten, and a craving for a healthier, heartier baked-good that was still sweet and satisfying (man, I went to town on alliteration there).

These hit the spot.

Raspberry Oat Bars 

Adapted from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen

2 cups fresh raspberries

1/4 cup agave nectar

1/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons cornstarch + enough water to form a smooth paste (I did not have luck with this. Instead, I would add chia seeds because they can gelatinize and thicken the raspberry “jelly.”)

3 cups oatmeal (2.5 cups ground into flour via food processor, 1/2 cup whole rolled oats)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (very necessary! yum!)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 oz apple sauce

6 oz agave nectar

6 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 375°F and grease an 8×8 baking dish.

For the berries, combine the raspberries, agave nectar, and water in a small saucepan over medium high heat; bring to a boil. Stir in vanilla and cornstarch mix or chia seeds (when I added the cornstarch, it clumped up and I got to pick out clumps of cornstarch with a tiny spoon–please don’t repeat that… chia seeds will do the trick and will just taste like raspberry seeds!). Boil for about 10 minutes as it thickens and stir it occasionally; let cool at least 10 minutes.

Combine ground oats, non-ground oats, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt and mix well. Break out your new digital food scale and add the apple sauce, agave nectar, water, and vanilla and mix well.

Spread half the oatmeal batter into the 8×8 pan and smoosh to cover the bottom of the pan evenly. Spoon the raspberry filling on top. Sprinkle the rest of the batter in small pieces to cover the top (it will be impossible to literally spread the remaining oatmeal mixture on top of the raspberries).

Bake 30 minutes or until top is golden brown. Cool and then cut into bars.

If you’re looking for a dessert-dessert, well, these aren’t really that. If you are not used to the taste and texture of fat-free baking, you might find these off-putting (somewhat gummy in the oat part) but I liked them. Raspberries are my faveee and these make a good hearty breakfast-bar or afternoon snack. Full of fiber, antioxidants, protein from the oats… and if you used chia, omega 3s!

Crumb Cake (vegan)

Sam: “Mom, what’s your favorite desserty-type thing?”

Mom: “Well, I do like crumb cake.”

BAM.

And a vegan crumb cake at that! Delicious moist cake paired with crunchy crumbs–which are, in fact, the best part.

Crumb Cake

Adapted from VeganYumYum

Crumbs
1/2 cup Earth Balance, melted
2/3 cup raw sugar
1 tsp molasses
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch salt
1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

Cake
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup safflower oil
1/3 cup unsweetened soymilk + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
1 tablespoon corn starch + 1/4 cup water, mixed
1-2 tsp vanilla extract
Powdered Sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350º F.

Whisk warm, melted Earth Balance with sugar, molasses, cinnamon, and salt; add the 1 3/4 cup flour and mix until a thick dough forms. Let it cool for 10 minutes while you put together the cake.

Line an 8×8 pan with aluminum foil and spray with PAM. Combine 1 1/4 cup flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add oil, soymilk mixture, cornstarch mixture and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth (do not overmix).

Add the batter to the lined pan. It’ll be thick, spread it out with a spoon or your fingers.

For the crumbs, break apart any larger pieces (although in my opinion bigger the crumb the better) and squeeze together tiny crumb particles in your hand to form bigger masses to break apart. (See the original recipe for good step-by-step instructions!) Evenly cover the cake with crumbs–use all of them even if it seems like too many (there’s never too many crumbs on a crumb cake.)!

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the crumbs are slightly browned and a toothpick in the center of the cake comes out clean. Use the toothpick to push over a crumb or two in the middle an make sure the top doesn’t look gooey. Grab the aluminum foil and gently lift the cake out to cool for 20-30 minutes on a cooling rack. Give it a nice dusting of powdered sugar, slice and serve. (I forgot to powder-sugar it–but it was super delicious and the step wasn’t necessary, here, at least!)

This cake was so good! Unlike store-bought cakes, the actual cake part remained quite tender and moist, the crumbs were nice and crunchy on the outside. I wish the crumbs and the cake had more of a contrasting color difference but in the name of health I used whole wheat pastry flour for both, and it was totally delicious, especially with some coffee. I always wondered how the crumbs for crumb cake were made; wonder not I anymore.

Ginger Molasses Granola Bars

Or maybe they should be named ginger-molasses-sunflower seed-pecan-craisin-dried-cherry-maple-date-chia-cinnamon-nutmeg-oat granola bars.

Dense. Chewy. Spicy and sweet.

And chock full of good-for-you goodies. These are definitely energy bars and will get you through your day.

Ginger Molasses Granola Bars

Adapted from this recipe, which also has directions on tried-and-true oat/nut/binder/sweetener proportions to make any kind of granola bar you wish!

1/3 cup molasses

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 cup Medjool dates, pitted

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1-2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

2/3 cup chopped pecans

1/3 cup unsalted sunflower seeds

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup dried cranberries

In a large food processor, pulse three times the molasses, maple syrup, vanilla, and dates.

Add the spices (incl. the salt) and puree until basically smooth. Add the oats and pulse a few times until they are coarsely chopped and incorporated. Remove from food processor and transfer to a bowl, and stir in the dried fruit, pecans, and sunflower seeds.

In an 8×8 pan lined with parchment paper, firmly press in the granola mixture until tightly packed and even.

Bake at 325°F for 25 minutes, remove, let cool on the stovetop, and then transfer entire pan to the freezer until the bars firm up (could take a long time, like an hour ish?)

Lift out the parchment paper and cut into 8-12 bars (12 is probably better).

I wrapped each individually in plastic wrap and they are now in the freezer, where they will last for a month and be delicious thawed out whenever I know I won’t have time for lunch… or dinner.

These were sooo yummy. If you’re not fan of ginger, don’t make these. But if you are… you’ll love them.

Slowly trying to phase out processed foods (e.g. Kashi granola bars) from my diet. These bars make it easy to do so… as long as you’re on spring break and have motivation.