I recently discovered Julia Turshen’s new cookbook, Small Victories, which has been my go-to lately for quick and satisfying weeknight meals. I’ve tried a number of her recipes, all which have proven to be extremely flavorful, straightforward and repeat-worthy, including the following: Bread, Sausage & Apple Hash, Everything Biscuits, Julia’s Caesar, Bibb Lettuce with Garlic Dressing, Grace’s Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Radishes with Kalamata Dressing, one of her Fried-Rice variations (bacon and parsnips) and the main feature of this post, her Happy Wife, Happy Life Chocolate Cake. Clearly there is a lot to love about this cookbook.
I think the chocolate cake, in particular, is one of my favorites for a number of reasons. I wrote a previous post outlining the very reasons why I hate traditional cakes. They are often boring, lack bold flavors and are seldom moist. Additionally, they either look too plain without decorations or I completely butcher the frosting making it appear as if a four year old must have actually decorated the cake. However, I am going to eat my words because this cake is good, probably the best I’ve had. I might even go as far as to say that I would have eaten this cake for our wedding because it was better than any wedding cake I’ve tasted. Once you make it, you’ll realize this is the only chocolate layer cake recipe you’ll ever need. And better yet, it is simple to throw together and tastes better the next day if wrapped and refrigerated.
What’s more, this cake can easily be modified to be gluten- and dairy-free. And I guarantee you, no one would be the wiser. While I wish I could take credit for this recipe, I really can’t. I’ve just taken a great recipe from Turshen’s brillant cookbook and modified it to meet my dietary restrictions. However, I think next time I’ll make some additional changes. I can’t stop thinking about all of the possible options for filling between the two layers: dark chocolate hazelnut butter, extra chocolate frosting, whipped peanut butter cream, rhubarb jam, the list goes on. I would also think a hint of heat in the chocolate frosting might be nice to create a Mexican chocolate frosting of sorts or flaky sea salt on top, because salt just makes everything taste better. In Julia’s book, she also gives directions for making a white cake by leaving out the cocoa powder. A hint of almond, lemon filling, strawberry, or coconut cream may also be nice. I can’t wait to experiment further with this one.
Find any reason to make this cake soon. After a few days, if you just can’t finish it, wrap it up, put it in a sealed container and store it in the freezer until you have one of those days where only chocolate cake will do. Trust me, you won’t regret it. I know I won’t since I have half a cake stored in my freezer and I certainly haven’t forgotten about it.
Happy Wife, Happy Life Chocolate Cake
Modified from Julia Turshen’s, Small Victories
Makes one two-layer cake
1 1/4 scant cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (i.e. Namaste)
1 cup organic cane sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance), melted and cooled
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup black coffee, at room temperature
1 cup plain or vanilla coconut yogurt (I used a mix of both)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup vegan sour cream, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 cup jam of choice (or use chocolate frosting in between layers)
Berries, chocolate curls or sprinkles to top (optional)
For the cake: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter the bottom and sides of two 8-inch cake pans, and line each with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper as well and set pans aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Then, add the melted butter, eggs, coffee, yogurt, and vanilla into the dry ingredients and whisk until batter is smooth. Divide batter evenly into the two cake pans and bake for approximately 30-40 minutes. (Gluten-free cakes can sometimes take a little longer to cook so keep checking on them until the cakes are firm to touch and a toothpick in the center comes out clean). Leave the cakes in their pans and let cool on a wire rack. Once cool, invert onto tray, using a knife to loosen the edges if necessary. Discard parchment paper.
For the frosting: While the cakes are cooling, melt chocolate chips in a microwave. Heat in 30-second intervals, stirring between until the chocolate is melted. Whisk in sour cream and maple syrup until the mixture is smooth and silky. Refrigerate the frosting until the cakes have cooled, which allows the frosting to thicken, making it easier to frost.
Assembling the cake: Remove frosting from fridge. Set one of the inverted cakes in the center of your tray or work space, flat-side facing up. Spread the jam or frosting (if desired), over the top, leaving a little room around the edges so the filling doesn’t squish out when the next layer goes on. Place the second cake on top of jam (or frosting), flat-side up as well. Put a large scoop of frosting on top of the cake. Using a frosting spatula, spread the frosting over the top and down the sides. Once the frosting is covering most of the cake, spread to smooth.
Once the cake is frosted to your liking, let it sit for about an hour before serving for the flavors to mingle, or put in the fridge and serve the next day as we did. I would say that the cake was more moist and flavorful after refrigerating overnight, but if you can’t wait until then, serve yourself a small slice to satisfy your desire and then put the rest in the fridge overnight. When refrigerating, let the cake sit uncovered for 15 minutes and then cover with plastic wrap, making sure to cover the cut edges tightly to protect the cake from drying out.