( I want to thank all who participated in last week's giveaway! I had so much fun reading all of the thoughtful, funny, and interesting comments on how you feel about grains … the ones you already love, and the ones you want to love. The comments were so wonderful, I wish I could give everyone a book! I did pick three winners - at random - and they have been notified. Congrats to those who won, and thank you so much for your enthusiastic participation.)
For a very long time, I've been searching for the perfect cake recipe that I could whip up for birthdays or special occasions for my family and friends. Since March and April are two very big birthday months in our family, I figured this was the year and month I was going to find and master my go-to cake recipe. Because everyone needs a go-to cake recipe in their back pocket, and I've been long overdue for mine.
As you may have guessed, my perfect cake recipe would have a few requirements (restrictions or guides, depending on how you look at it). My perfect cake would have no dairy (milk, or butter) , no refined sugar, and would either be glulten-free or use a better digested flour than an all-purpose white. My perfect cake would not use processed ingredients like vegan butter or tofu to achieve a non-runny frosting. My perfect cake would be so delicious you would have no idea that it had these kind of restrictions attached so that anyone and everyone can enjoy it and lick the frosting and every last crumb off their plate.
In searching for my perfect cake, I didn't have to look too far ever since Amy Chaplin's book: At Home in the Whole Foods Kitchen, made it's way into my home. It has quickly become my favorite cookbook for it's approach to whole foods cooking, expansive knowledge, and recipes that are just perfect in every single way. Not surprisingly, Amy has created the perfect cake recipe. The first ever cake where I read the recipe once over and said … WOW…… this is it. This is the ONE. This cake is MY perfect cake.
Since discovering this recipe, I have made the cake three times, and tested it as a cupcake twice. The two layer vegan cake it out of this world … but the cupcakes, which are made with the exact same proportions, were more suitable for baking with my niece, and for bringing to share with my mom's nurses for her birthday a couple of weeks ago. If I've learned anything from this past year, it's that every single birthday and achievement needs to be celebrated, and we now have our perfect cake (or cupcakes) that we can do it with.
chocolate cupcakes + spiced cherry filling + chocolate ganache | vegan
This recipe is ever so slightly adapted from Amy Chaplin's chocolate cake with chocolate ganache recipe in her book: At Home in the Whole Foods Kitchen. In her book, Amy shares this recipe as a two-layer cake, using two 8" round cake pans that are greased and lined with parchment. The cherry filling recipe is doubled, and the cake is stacked with a layer of frosting and the cherry filling in the middle, and then covered entirely in the delicious chocolate ganache. This cupcake recipe below uses the exact amount of batter that she uses for the cake and ganache, and results in about 24 cupcakes. Feel feel to make this recipe into a cake if you choose, by dividing the batter equally amongst the 2 cake pans. One last note is that it is best to make the frosting a day in advance, or at least several hours, to give it plenty of time to set and firm.
about 24 cupcakes
for the chocolate ganache:
2 - 13.5oz cans of full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup of maple syrup
5 tablespoons of agar flakes
pinch of sea salt
3.5 oz of dark chocolate (70% cacao), broken into pieces
1/2 cup of fresh orange juice
4 teaspoons of vanilla extract
for the cake:
2 cups of toasted hazelnuts (skins removed), roughly chopped, divided
2 cups of spelt flour, divided
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 cup of cocoa powder
1 cup of boiling water
1/4 cup of ground flax seeds
1/2 cup of extra virgin coconut oil, melted (plus more for greasing)
1 1/2 cups of maple syrup
1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of salt
for the spiced cherry filling:
1 cup of dried cherries
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
a pinch of cinnamon
a pinch of sea salt
2 teaspoons of water
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 cup of unsweetened black cherry jam
Make the ganache:
- In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, add the coconut milk, maple syrup, agar flakes, salt and stir. Bring to a boil over high-heat, while whisking frequently. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes (while stirring every once in a while). You're done when the agar has dissolved. Make sure there are no agar flakes visible (be sure to look closely at the mixture to tell).
- Remove from the heat, and add in the chocolate pieces. Stir, and cover for two minutes. Then whisk again to make sure the chocolate is fully dissolved.
- Pour the mixture into a shallow bowl, and set aside to cool. When the mixture has cooled and stopped steaming, place it in the fridge to set for about 1.5-2 hours.
- Once the mixture has completely set, cut it into cubs and place it into a food processor with the orange juice and vanilla. Blend until completely smooth. Scrap down side and check for unblended lumps. If the mixture is separating, keep blending until it becomes homogenous. This can take up to 5 minutes. Transfer to a container and keep it in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour, or unit you're ready to frost the cupcake.
Make the spiced cherry filling:
- In a small pan over medium-low heat, add the cherries, maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, water, and vanilla. Cook, while stirring, for about 3-5 minutes, until the cherries are soft. Remove from the heat and fold in the black cherry jam.
Make the cupcakes:
- Pre-heat the oven to 350º and line a 12 cup muffin / cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
- Place 2/3 cup of the toasted hazelnuts into a food processor and pulse a few times. Then add in 1/4 cup of the spelt flour, and blend until finely ground. Place it in a medium bowl. Sift in the remaining spelt flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
- In a large bowl, whisk the cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth. Add the ground flax, coconut oil, maple syrup, vinegar, vanilla, and salt and whisk to emulsify. Add in the flour mixture to this wet mixture, and whisk until everything is combined.
- Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling halfway, then adding a small spoonful (about 1 teaspoon) of the cherry mixture. Then add another spoonful of the batter on top, until it is just almost reaching the top. Do this until all of the cupcake liners are full. If you do not have two cupcake pans, then you will have to bake these and repeat with the second set.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a tookpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly, then remove the cupcakes from the pan and set aside to cool almost completely before frosting. Repeat this process, if need be, until the batter is done.
Once the cupcakes are cooled, frost the cupcakes:
- Place the frosting into a pastry bag, or a plastic bag with a hold cut into a corner. Frost the cupcakes making a circular motion from the center, out. Top with some of the chopped toasted hazelnuts, and spoonful of the spiced cherries (you should have a little leftover).
- If yo do not plan to enjoy immediately, you may want to wait to frost the cupcakes until right before you are ready to serve so that the frosting does not get runny, or so that you do not have to refrigerate the cupcakes with the frosting. To store any extra cupcakes that are frosted, keep them in an air-tight container in the fridge.