I’m not generally a fan of chocolate cake, unless it is 1) flourless, or 2) molten. In fact, I even prefer my brownies on the less-floury side.
That being said, I’m oddly addicted to this vegan chocolate cake. For a while, I’ve been wanting to experiment with using vegan ingredients as features instead of just background ingredients. I’m in the process of working up another vegan muffin for the autumn that uses whole ingredients both for flavor and for function.
I’m also shamelessly obsessed with combining dark chocolate and fruit, namely raspberry.
There’s a dairy farm nearby that has a creamery and ice cream shop on the premises. In high school, when I was learning to drive, I would drive out to the farm for practice, and my dad and I would get milkshakes for dessert. Because of complicated, lactose-related reasons, I don’t get those milkshakes very often anymore, but they were a fond memory back then. My favorites were all the chocolate combinations: chocolate-strawberry, chocolate-orange, even the chocolate-lavender was weirdly enjoyable. It seemed like every time we went to the farm, they had tried out a new chocolate flavor combination, and I loved all of them.
I think it goes without saying that chocolate and raspberry is a classic combination…but I’ll say it anyway: chocolate and raspberry is fan-f**king-tastically classic combination.
With this inspiration, I took a vegan chocolate layer cake recipe, turned it into a single layer cake, added red wine vinegar, non-dairy dark chocolate ganache, and a raspberry-sherry compote*. Every single bit of the recipe works together in luscious harmony: the cake is light, but also dark, and slightly tangy from the vinegar, wet enough to be enjoyable, but fluffy enough that it’s not heavy; the ganache is dark and smooth, no matter what type of milk you use, and has just enough sweetness to be pleasant without detracting from the darkness; the compote is sweet and fruity, not overly acidic, and it has the mmmmmmmm of an after-dinner sherry. If all of that seems like too much mouth commitment, top the cake with some fresh raspberries for a refreshing balance to the chocolate and booze.
*You can swap out the sherry for really any kind of liquor or liqueur, or red wine. I just found that the sherry was my favorite booze to use in the compôte. Substitute your favorite Cabernet or Pinot Noir in a 1:1 ratio, for example.
decadent vegan chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and raspberry-sherry compôte
makes one 9″ (or two 6″~6.5″) cake
adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking
Do ahead: To save some time, you can make the compôte in advance and keep refrigerated in a sealed container. Because it’s a sauce (it’s basically undercooked jam), it’ll keep for a while. Additionally, you can make the cake a day in advance, let it cool, wrap it in plastic, and store it in the refrigerator overnight. And the make things even easier: the cake can also be made in advance. You can make the cake a day or two ahead of time and keep it in the fridge wrapped in plastic, or you can make it farther in advance, wrap it, and freeze it.
Ganache note: Ganache is just a combination of solid chocolate and cream (or any type of milk, dairy or non-dairy); you can have a really thick, solid ganache by using more chocolate than cream, or a thin, syrup-y mixture by using more cream than chocolate. It’s a really simple recipe (2 ingredients), and you can fine-tune the ratio depending on what consistency you want. A 1:1 ratio, though, will be more frosting-like or thinner than what I used for the cake. For toppings on pies and cakes, I’d recommend using less cream/milk than chocolate.
1.5 c (6.4 oz) raspberries, fresh or frozen*
1/4 c (1.75 oz) granulated sugar
1 fl. oz. (1 oz) sherry
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
*Fruit note: when you freeze fruit and then cook/bake with it, or when you buy frozen fruit and then cook/bake with it, be aware that the fruit will produce more liquid/water than when you use the fruit fresh. Also, the frozen fruit will break down more when it starts to cook. For sauces and jams, this means 1) you’ll need to cook just a bit longer to evaporate the excess liquid, and 2) you’ll have fewer large chunks of the fruit due to the fruit breaking down more.
1.5 c (6.4 oz) all-purpose flour
3/4 c (5.3 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 c (1 oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/2 c (3 oz) vegetable/canola oil
4 tsp (0.7 oz) red wine vinegar
1 c (8 oz) non-dairy milk
Optional: 1/2 c vegan chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate chunks, 1/2 c (~2 oz) fresh raspberries
2/3 c (4 oz) bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped coarsely
3/8 c (3 oz) non-dairy milk or unflavored, non-dairy cream
Make the compôte
Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat.
Bring to a rolling boil and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. If the sauce boils up too high or starts sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning, reduce the heat and simmer instead.
Let the sauce thicken and reduce, remove from heat, and let cool for a few minutes. Transfer the sauce to a container with a lid and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Make the cake
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C. Grease cake pan(s) and line with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder.
In a large bowl, whisk together vanilla, oil, vinegar, and non-dairy milk until fully combined.
Add dry mixture to the wet mixture and combine. If using, fold in the chocolate chips/chunks and fresh raspberries.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan(s) and spread out evenly.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until the top is not shiny any longer and the cake feels springy and foamy to the touch. The cake is also done when it starts pulling away from the edges of the pan or when a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
Let the cake cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then remove from the pan and let finish cooling on a wire rack. When the cake has totally cooled down, start making the ganache.
Make the ganache and assemble the cake
Using a double boiler or a heat-safe bowl and small saucepan*, melt the chocolate and non-dairy milk together.
*There are many different methods of heating and combining the ingredients. You can microwave them together in a microwave-safe bowl, then whisk. You can boil/simmer the cream and pour it over the chocolate, then whisk. You can even microwave the cream and pour it over the chocolate. I usually make a double boiler out of a saucepan and metal or glass bowl, because I can make sure I’ll get enough heat in the ingredients for the chocolate to fully melt.
Combine the solid chocolate and non-dairy milk in the heat-safe bowl or the upper part of the double boiler, and fill the saucepan or lower part of the double boiler with about an inch or a centimeter of water. Bring the water to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Place the bowl or double boiler on top so the steam heat melts the chocolate. Whisk the mixture occasionally.
When the chocolate is almost entirely melted into the milk, remove the double boiler from the heat, and whisk vigorously until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth.
Pour the ganache over the cooled cake and spread out evenly so it covers the top and drips down the sides. Let the ganache cool and solidify, either on the counter or in the refrigerator (it doesn’t need to be wrapped or covered), before serving.
Serve the cake with the raspberry sauce and some more fresh berries.
The cake lasts for a few days covered in plastic and stored in the refrigerator.