Tag Archives: American Cake Off

If you read my earlier post, you know I am baking my way through the American Cake cookbook. If I can make a good vegan version, I’ll post it on the blog. If I fail, well, I will still talk about the history and how badly I failed. XD But I have good news- this cake was successful!

First lets talk about the history of this cake. Before getting the American Cake book I never knew how American molasses is. Sure it is used in European recipes, but it is used more often in the American colonies since it was so cheap. White sugar was reserved for the upper classes and special occasions. So most Americans bought molasses to sweeten their baked goods.

But there is another aspect of Americaness to molasses. Many Quaker residences boycotted sugar. The sugar industry relied on slave labor, and conditions were considerably worse than slaves in the thirteen colonies. Most slaves were literally worked to death (while in the United States we cruelly let our slaves live long enough to have children and enslave them.) This sugar boycott makes me think about how vegans boycott animal products, and sometimes products that have unethical standards, like chocolate and palm oil. I love learning about historical activism!

In that spirit I TRIED to make the cake palm oil free, but the a lot of the flavor depended on butter. So if you want to be like the colonial quakers, you can try out some palm oil free margarine (which in the states mean Miyoko’s Cultured Butter.) If anyone tries using their own homemade vegan butter, please tell me how the recipe turned out!

Now as usually I can never just make a recipe. No, I had to make this recipes “healthier.” How? Simply using blackstrap molasses instead of regular molasses. You may have heard that blackstrap molasses is much more pungent and it has more vitamins in it. In fact, there is a good amount of calcium in blackstrap. How does this happen? Pretty much molasses is the by product of refined sugar after being boiled a second time. Blackstrap molasses is the result from the third boiling. That means less sugar, and more nutritional goodies.

Although I wouldn’t say this is the most healthy snack, it definitely is helping you out nutritionally. One slice (an eighth of a cake) has almost half of calcium in your daily requirements and almost all of the copper you need! If you want to make it even MORE healthful you could use part whole wheat flour or sub with whole wheat pastry flour or spelt flour. I used all purpose unbleached flour.

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I love cake! It was always my favorite dessert as a kid- next to ice cream (for obvious reasons?). I never quite could relate to friends who thought cake was lame. I always had homemade cakes for my birthday. My favorite part was the actual cake part, not the frosting. Having a good frosting is especially important, and something I always remember is my friends having really gross cakes and frosting (probably because they would get cheap sheet cakes with Crisco frosting. Yuck.). 

I also remember admiring The Cake Bible. Baking seemed fun and exciting. But as I got older, it seemed that the American baked goods scene was boring. It is dominated with desserts that are made to taste like other things (like french toast covered in crushed sugary cereals, PB&J flavored everything, birthday cake flavored cookies, etc) or cakes that look like other objects. Nothing compared to the creativity with edible ingredients found in The Cake Bible (hello meringue swans on a blueberry jam pond)

Then Jon and I started to watch The Great British Bake Off. I fell back in love. I loved learning about all the different cakes, pastries, and desserts. Even the savory dishes were fun, mostly when they didn’t involve meat. It got me wondering, what about America? Do we have distinctive desserts?

I heard about American Cake from the podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class. I knew I needed that book. It combined so many things I loved, history and cakes. I also knew these cakes wouldn’t be vegan, so I would have to alter the recipes.

I originally was going to make this into a project for Vegan MOFO, but decided to post as I go along in the book. I won’t be making every single cake in the book. Some I am honestly not sure how to make vegan, or rather not sure how similar it would end up being to the original. For example there is an early colonial cheesecake that uses ricotta cheese. Do I bother trying to recreate that? Also there are three or four different pound cakes. Should I even bother? And don’t even get me started with angel food cake.

So follow me in my journey. I will either post about my adventures trying to make the cakes, and if possible, I will share my recipe. I naturally started with the first cake recipe, and one of my favorite types of cake- Gingerbread Cake. Hopefully, I will post it soon.