a family chocolate cake recipe, remade into a gluten-free + vegan chocolate cake.
I’m a little scared as I go to write this post. How do I honor the 10th birthday of such a beloved album? I can’t really. Nothing I can ever do will match the pure perfection of The Avett Brothers‘ Emotionalism. But since I show love with food, this cake is the closest I can come.
The cake itself was kind of scary too. It’s a family recipe that I’ve eaten dozens of times, but never attempted myself before. The recipe came from my nana’s St. Claire’s auxiliary cook book, and my mom made it for every single birthday I had growing up. And here I was, veganizing the recipe, making it gluten free….would it taste the same?
It is only now, when I attempt the recipe for the first time, that I stop to think of the role this cake has played in my life. After my dad died, my mom used to make ends meet by commissioning this cake to anybody who needed one. By the time I was in elementary school, it was a regular thing for her to make the cake for anybody who wanted to say thank you, happy birthday, i love you. Even after she got a real job, it was still something she was known for.
Upon this reflection, I realize that the cake pairs readily with the album, both have changed my life in ways I can’t truly put to words.
I was surprised and pleased at how the cake came out, the veganizing changes I had made were indiscernible, it tasted exactly like my mama’s cake. Exactly. The gluten free changes I’d made were slightly more noticeable, as they affected the texture somewhat. The cake was just a tad more dense than hers was, but not by much. Both cakes were deliciously m-word. That word doesn’t bother me, but it bothers a lot of people. It’s a shame because it really is a good way to describe cake.
As you may have noticed, I baked the top album cover part separately from the rest of the cake. I did attempt to make them together originally (piping the pattern directly onto the top layer of cake), but did not like the results .T he weight and wetness of the cake batter on the design warped it too much. This didn’t happen with the Four Thieves cake I made back in December because that was a jelly roll cake, so the batter was spread out over a larger surface. Also, the time required to fully cook the cake distorted and greyed the natural food colorings I’d used.
Baking the design separately also allowed me to sneak in another layer of frosting. Sort of like…i dunno…a bonus track maybe?
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for the cake:
- 2 cups of cup-to-cup gluten free flour, like Bob’s
- 2 cups of sugar
- 1 cup cocoa
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup coconut oil (solid form)
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1/2 cup aquafaba (liquid drained from a can of chickpeas or white beans)
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 tsp baking soda
- Sift together the flour, the sugar, the cocoa, the baking powder, and the salt.
- Make a hole in the middle of the dry mix and plop in the coconut oil
- Pour the boiling water over the whole thing and stir until the coconut oil is fully melted
- Stir in the vanilla, aquafaba, and baking soda.
- Divide the batter between two 9 inch round (parchment lined) springform pans
- Heat oven to 350, bake for 22-28 min, until tester inserted comes out clean
for the album cover design
this is a supplemental guide for creating a design specifically with colors on a 9 inch round pan. full details on how to prep your work station, how to make your template, how to work with the batter, et al, can be found here: four thieves gone cake
Before you start, trace the bottom of your 9 inch pan onto parchment paper. You will be working within this circle. Don’t cut out the circle yet, because it will roll up and be hard to work with. Affix the parchment paper to a sturdy surface piece of cardboard and slide the template in between the parchment and the cardboard.
- 1/3 cup aquafaba
- 1/3 cup melted earth balance or other butter sub
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 6-7 tbsp flour
- 6-7 tbsp cocoa powder
- natural food coloring powders
- Whisk together the aquafaba, earth balance, and powdered sugar. Divide this mix into two equal parts.
- Stir the flour into one of the parts and the cocoa powder into the other.
- Put a some of the flour mix into a zip-seal and cut an infinitesimal bit of the corner off the bag. It’s essential that your cut is super tiny so that you can get as much detail out of the pattern as possible. Make a few practice doodles to get comfortable with piping.
- Trace out the white parts of the album cover. Make the white lines slightly thicker than they are on the album cover.
- Place in the freezer until the batter is solid. This shouldn’t take very long — less than 8-10 min.
- While that’s freezing, take the remaining white batter and divide it up roughly into 3 parts.
- Thin out one of the parts just a tad with some almond milk — two or three drops at a time.Mix the blue powdered food coloring into this part. You want it to be thin so that it almost floods when you pipe it.
- Scoop the colored batter into a a zip-seal bag. Fill in the blue parts of the pattern and return to the freezer.
- Repeat steps 7-8 with the red parts of the pattern
- Add a little bit of leftover red batter and a little bit of leftover blue batter to the remaining white batter. Sprinkle in a little bit of cocoa powder and a little bit of almond milk, until you get a grey batter.
- Repeat steps 7-8 with the grey parts of the pattern.
- Repeat step 3 with the cocoa batter you prepared earlier
- Carefully trace in all remaining parts of the album cover, and trace in the remaining part of the circle.
- Freeze. You’ll end up with a flat disk of frozen batter.
- Heat the oven to 350. Carefully cut out the circle from the rest of the parchment and place it on a baking sheet
- Bake for 8-10 min.
- When it’s done, flip it over onto a plate right away.
- Carefully but quickly peel away the parchment. Allow to cool.
for the frosting
- 2 cups of coconut milkfat (from 2 cans of coconut milk, save the coconut water for some other purpose)
- 1/2 cup frozen cherries
- 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
- 4-6 tbsp powdered sugar
- Defrost the blueberries
- Press the blueberries through a sieve to get about 1/4 cup of purple juice
- Combine the blueberry juice, 1 cup of the coconut milkfat, and 2-3 tbsp powdered sugar. Beat to combine, but make sure you don’t beat to hard or else the milkfat will break down. Set aside.
- Repeat steps 1-3 with the cherries. Set aside
You’ll need just a little melted vegetable shortening
- Brush both sides of each cooled cake round with the melted vegetable shortening. Brush the bottom of the album-cover disk as well. The frosting that you’re using sometimes causes sogginess, and the vegetable shortening will provide a light seal to prevent this from happening.
- Gently place one of the cooled 9-inch cake rounds on your serving platter.
- Plop half of the blueberry frosting and half of the cherry frosting over it, swirl it up and spread to cover.
- Place the second cooled cake round over top and repeat with the remaining frosting
- Place the album cover disc over top of this
- Garnish with wildflowers or anything, serve with love.