Two prophetic sayings kept running through my mind today as I drove this cake to church.

#1: The first half of the trip: “The difference between an amateur cake decorator and a professional cake decorator is that the professional one knows how to cover up their mistakes.”

#2: The second half of the trip from my husband: “The closest we ever come to divorce is when there is one of your cakes in the car.” Truer words have never been spoken.  So, sit back and enjoy this story.

Once upon a time there was a beleaguered stay-at-home Dad whose only respite at the end of a long day with the kids was a trip to the grocery store.  Now, you might think that this is not much of a respite but this Dad actually enjoyed any and all kinds of shopping so as soon as the Mom was able to put 1-2/3 kids to bed he would go to the “flee market.”  He would have his list on a shared app that the Mom would often update at the last minute thereby adding to his neurotic state.  But he was quite content to do the grocery shopping whereas the Mom hated it.  However, since the Mom is the baker and frequently had some odd items on the list this led to many terse texts back and forth while Dad was at the store.  Once the Mom would get 3/3 kids to bed she liked to relax and not respond to the banal text messages such as those asking which kind of salt she needed.

One day in particular she had asked for coconut milk to make vegan ganache.  Dad, of course, texted multiple pictures of coconut milk which she mostly ignored but in deference to him quickly sent a formatted “sure” response from her Apple watch.

Unfortunately, Dad brought  home coconut milk beverage instead of canned coconut milk (pay attention, this is lesson #1 in what not to do when using coconut milk in baking).  Since Mom usually does the baking when the house is quiet late at night she found herself with no other options but coconut milk beverage with which to make her vegan ganache.  The Mom also prefers to do her baking at night to avoid the possibility of Dad circling her repeatedly and asking inane questions such as “where is the salt that I just bought?”

The reason coconut beverage does not work is because it does not have the same fat content of full-fat canned coconut milk and it is watered down.  You need the fat content to create a proper emulsion with the chocolate.  But the Mom plugged away.  Every time she would heat up the ganache it would harden again in under a minute making frosting her vegan cake a hair-pulling experience.  Now, at the end she was thoroughly unsatisfied with the appearance of the cake.  With a little vegan caramel and raspberries she was able to make the top look good but the sides were an embarrassment.  Now she remembered a prophetic saying (see #1 above) and desperately tried to come up with a decoration for the sides.  Piroulines would have been perfect had they been vegan. She went to bed thinking she would have to live with the mortification of presenting a less than presentable cake.  But this Mom has serious obsessive-compulsive traits.  She shot up at 6:45 AM on a Saturday (even though she could have slept in) and raced to the kitchen to make her first-ever cake collar to cover the sides.  IT WAS MAGNIFICENT! It made her feel like she could do anything!  No one would have to see the lumpy ganache or the gloppy caramel (again, made with the wrong coconut milk)!  Hooray!  Hooray!

They take two cars to church that day because the Mom has to go to work afterward.  She doesn’t even care she has to work on the weekend because her cake is  a success.  She is humming along with her son in the back to their favorite song.  They stop at a light.  Dad is right behind.  She is checking her makeup and then…it all comes crashing down, literally.  The Dad decides to honk at her because the light turns green and with a start she revs the gas pedal, the car jerks forward and her beautiful cake collar crashes down on one side.  Now, go back and read prophetic saying #2 above because the things running through my head for the rest of the trip cannot be repeated here.

Because they were going to church and because the cake was not horrible when they got there the Mom decided to forgive the Dad (but only after they were half-way through the Liturgy) and I am certain that they will live happily ever after. THE END

I did promise myself that I would post the good, the bad, and the ugly so here it is.  The good news is that it was delicious and one friend said that it looked like abstract art!

Vegan Chocolate Cake with Caramel Drip


    Vegan chocolate cake (adapted from Joshua John Russell's):
  • 792 granulated sugar
  • 600 g AP flour
  • 113 g unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch)
  • 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 2 Tbsps instant espresso powder
  • 2 Tbsps white vinegar
  • 2 cups (480 ml)coconut milk (soy or almond milk may also be used)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups (320 ml) vegetable oil
  • Ganache:
  • 1 Kg dark chocolate, chopped
  • 500 ml full-fat canned coconut milk
  • note: you can use half this amount if making a naked cake
  • Coconut caramel (adapted from
  • 13.5 oz coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp margarine or coconut oil
  • 1/3 c honey
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
    For the cake:
  1. Equipment: Three 8"x2" cake pans
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F. Use pan spray to coat the pans then line the bottoms and sides with parchment paper and spray again. Lining the sides with parchment is important because this is a very moist and delicate cake.
  3. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt on low speed to sift.
  4. Add the espresso powder to 2 cups (480 ml) room temp water and set aside. Add the vinegar to the coconut milk and set aside. Add the vanilla to the oil and set aside.
  5. With the mixer running on low add the oil mixture, the milk mixture and half the espresso. Mix for 3 minutes until smooth. Add the rest of the espresso and blend until smooth again. Make sure to scrape the bowl.
  6. Fill pans (approx 300 g of batter each) and bake for 45 -50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Leave the cakes to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes then invert onto a parchment-lined cooling rack. Cool completely then I would advise wrapping in saran wrap and freezing overnight before assembling. It is much easier to handle these cakes when cold. Thaw for about one hour before assembling.
  8. For ganache (make several hours ahead to give time to set):
  9. Place chopped chocolate in a glass or plastic bowl. Heat coconut milk in a small saucepan to just boiling then pour over chocolate. Let sit for a minute then slowly stir with a spatula until the ganache is smooth and homogenous. Let sit for several hours uncovered until consistency of peanut butter is reached.
  10. Assemble the cake:
  11. Stack the cakes without torting with about 1/2" ganache between layers. Press down gently. If serving right away leave the cake naked. If serving the next day, let cakes come to room temp then apply a thin crumb coat to keep cake from drying out. The cake can be left out at room temp overnight at this point.
  12. Make the caramel drip:
  13. Combine all ingredients except the vanilla in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir for a few minutes. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about an hour or until thickened. Take off the heat and stir in the vanilla. Let sit until it reaches 90F. Pour into a piping bag and snip off the end. Start dripping over the cake starting from the edges and working your way to the center of the cake. Let sit at room temp until the caramel is set. Decorate cake as desired.

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