Tag Archives: American Cake Off

Rations, rations, rations. That is what motivates people to cut out eggs and dairy from their cakes. So I have yet another cake to share that was already vegan. Naturally I made some modifications, but let’s start with the history.

Many kids in America has played The Oregon Trail. I have not. But if you haven’t played it, the premise was pretty easy. It was a computer game where you traveled across the United States on the Oregon Trail to get to the west. On the REAL Oregon trail, you probably would of made this cake. Or if you were traveling anywhere really, whether you were a cowboy or relocating. Most everything in this recipe is shelf stable, making it great for most pioneers.

The recipe may look familiar with other cakes- boiled raisin cake, war cake, depression cake, or my favorite milkless eggless butterless cake (thanks wikipedia) What makes this version pretty awesome is that you don’t dirty up too many dishes. Unlike the Wacky Cake, which tries to only use one pan, this one really isn’t mess when mixing the batter. Sure you will have to dirty up another small pot, and something to drain the raisins, but overall it is a pretty easy clean up

Now I could of just made the recipe line by line, but I thought this could use some jazzing up. First I stuck with raisins, but you can easily swap out any other dried fruit. The recipe even suggests it. Just chop up any large fruit, and just follow the recipe. 

But I thought I would use a little booze in the recipe. I thought and thought about what kind- and finally settled on a gose beer (pronounced go-suh). A Gose is a sour beer originating in Germany. It is spiced with coriander, and is known to be salty. It gets it’s name since it originally was brewed in the town Goslar. The style almost disappeared in obscurity, but it has recently become really popular since the rise of sour beers.

Can’t find a gose beer? Any sour beer will work just fine. If you don’t know a lot about beer, just ask someone who is working at the liquor store or look for any bottle with sour, lambic, or wild ale. If you choose just a sour beer (or any type of sour juice) remember to add a pinch of salt, gose beers are naturally salty.

I used Sixpoint Jammer. It is a gose that is vegan and American, so I like that. I was lucky enough to buy the can individually from Total Wines and More, but you can also see if you can order it online. But remember, this isn’t the ONLY vegan gose out there. There are tons, and it might even be from the country you live in.

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“Why can’t you make normal cakes?” asks my husband. Duh- that would be boring. I am very much that type of person who hears about something weird and crazy and instead of thinking “that sounds gross, I should stay away” I think “my god, that sounds gross! there must be something to it!” I’ve ordered a mustard cocktail, miso ice cream, and spicy pepper ice cream. This is one of those instances- sauerkraut? In a cake?

Another appeal of this cake is that it has Pennsylvania Dutch roots. I probably should make a post of all the regional recipes featured on this blog. And this isn’t the only Pennsylvanian dutch recipe featured in the book. There the shoofly pie, which pushes the definition of a cake (and a pie) and the Moravian Sugar Cake, which sadly I know I will not have anytime to attempt (it uses yeast.)

Since it is National Chocolate Cupcake Day, here is a little fun chocolate cake history. It took quite sometime for bakers to add chocolate to their sweets. Originally chocolate was viewed as a medicine, and was more focused in Europe for melting in milk, or making milk chocolate bars. I think you can hear more about this evolution from Stuff You Missed in History Class But slowly it made it’s way in a cookbook in a very small amount in a spiced cake. Sarah Roerer takes the credit for pouring melted chocolate into a cake, to make a “healthy” cake. Do you think we will be laughing about how we make “superfood” desserts by adding spirulina and maca to our cakes in the future?

And there may be many of you wondering “what’s up with Devil’s Food Cake?” This is something I’ve been wondering for a LONG time as a child. According to Wikipedia and American Cakes– not much. Early recipes used a lot of different things in the batter- sour milk, heavy cream, sour cream, baking powder, baking soda, white sugar, brown sugar, melted chocolate, cocoa powder, spices, and even mashed potatoes. Confusing huh? Make things even more confusing not all Devil’s Food cakes has the same frosting. What can be agreed on that Devil’s Food Cake is a fun name next to the other American classic- Angel’s Food Cake. And in general, there’s more chocolate than normal so the cake is super rich and dark.

The recipe in American Cakes calls for chocolate sour cream frosting. The recipe reminded me of the simple chocolate mousse recipes I’ve seen using silken tofu. I would make my own sour cream from silken tofu anyways, so I just used the Chocolate Mousse from The Post Punk Kitchen (from the Cupcakes Take Over the World cookbook) Depending on how you like the frosting you can halve the recipe. I use maybe 60% of the recipe, but it is plausible to use the whole thing.

Just like the book, I used canned sauerkraut. It worked out fine, but I think you would probably get dreamier texture by using homemade or “fresher” sauerkraut. I normally buy jarred sauerkraut but I didn’t have two cups. If you don’t really like sauerkraut but want to give this recipe a go, I suggest sticking with canned. It will have exactly enough you need.

this is what happens when you try and take photos for the blog with a kid… they just want to see what is going on.

Like any cake recipe this really isn’t “healthy.” But it does have a fair amount of iron and vitamin c (from the sauerkraut and cocoa powder). So I guess if you are a menstruating pirate- this will help fight anemia and scurvy! If you are a fretful parent who is thinking about making a fruit cake for their baby’s first birthday, this one isn’t the worst. You can cut down on the salt and sugar. And the frosting is made with tofu so you get a little bonus protein!

That being said, I am all for just straight up enjoying your cake. I liked the taste, and I think I would just chop the sauerkraut more in the future. It is super moist and easy to make. Oh and a little extra fiber. What is there not to like?

he eventually got that cake

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Oh the vegan applesauce cake. You are such a staple to vegans everywhere. Just a quick search of the words vegan applesauce and cake comes up with so many pinterest pins. I’ve read about people in Europe complain about us damned American bakers who keep putting applesauce in our baked goods, and I remember reading in How It All Vegan that applesauce is a great way to replace eggs.

I was a little surprised to see how American this cake is. Applesauce has been put into cakes in the United States back in Colonial New England. But it wasn’t until the depression era that it became a popular ingredient. Now you may be thinking- “I know there are apples in cakes in Europe,” but they are often chopped apples, or layered in the cake. Folding in smashed up apples into a batter is pretty American. There is even a national applesauce cake day in the United States on June 6th. Side note today is national vodka and national taco day. That just seems like such a mistake waiting to happen.

So what about THIS recipe? Well, according to American Cakes, this cake was popular for many reasons. First there was World War I, then the depression, then World War II. Ouch. This particular recipe uses applesauce both as a fat replacement and an egg replacement. It felt like this cake could pop up on some super healthy “clean” food blog, but it is just really economical.

Oddly I have not used applesauce that often in baking. I guess mostly because I don’t really like eating applesauce. Sure I loved it as a kid, but not so much as an adult. Luckily I baked this cake twice so I used up most of the jar. The first time making it I thought it was too sweet. But after a day the sweetness mellows out. I baked it a second time with less sugar, and oil instead of margarine. I posted the recipe with the original amount of sugar but you can easily drop it to 3/4 cup of sugar if you like things not very sweet.

I took the second cake to my Grandmother’s who loved the cake. She also couldn’t get over the fact that you could bake without butter or eggs. I never fully understood why people say this, but I guess I always baked enough to know that not all recipes use butter or eggs. Then my Mother started to confuse my Grandma about how you can use shortening or lard in a recipe. Now she will make me a cake out of lard thinking it is vegan. But she asked for this recipe, and I will happily share. It right up her ally- insanely easy to make.

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Welcome to Vegan MOFO 2017! Yey! This year I’ve got this! lol nope, I don’t. I am crazy to think I can balance a baby and a blog post each day. But I love Vegan MOFO, so whatever. I’m going to try and make it work.

This year I decided to try and do a theme. Way back in March I wanted to try and bake cakes from my cookbook American Cakes. I thought I would do a cake a month or so… and I got only one done. In my defense I tried several different cakes, but haven’t found the perfect veganized version. Since it has taken me so long, I decided to make it be my theme for Vegan MOFO- Historical Vegnaized American Cakes! If you want to read more about my mission, check out the original post.

KIND-OF working with the weekly themes, this week is Changing Vegan Perceptions. So I thought I would pick recipes that are vegan to begin with or near vegan. Yes, vegan baking is historical. Who knew? There are actually quite a few recipes that needed little to no modifications in the book- enter the Wacky Cake.

There are lots of stories surrounding this cake. Some people say it came about from the depression since butter and eggs were so readily available. But it seems more likely it would of been made during World War II because of rations. But author Anne Byrn focuses on the popularity of this cake as an “emergency dessert.” 

This concept cracks me up, but is a very real social requirement of the 50s. You must be prepared to feed a guest at any moment! My boss talks about how guests would show up, and there was routine that the dinner portion would shave down just a little for everyone to make up for the extra table setting. Then his Mom would cook up some potatoes to make up for plate space. Since this recipe didn’t have any perishable items, it made it easy to whip up. Heck I made the whole cake and topping in one nap time (aka less than an hour)

The original recipe is suppose to be made in just the cake pan. You sift the flour, create little holes in the flour, and fill them with the liquids. Mix all together and bake. I found this to be a pain in the butt, and it didn’t mix all the way. So I just mixed it all together in my kitchen-aid mixer and got much better results.

At first I felt a little odd making this cake without making any modifications, but after a quick search- I found that this cake is ALL OVER THE PLACE. Heck, even when reading the recipe I thought “this looks like the recipe my Mother in Law made..” Yup- it was. She used the recipe from Mayim Bialik’s cookbook, she even makes it on Rachael Ray. So I felt a lot less weird about posting this recipe. I did try and keep the caramel topping in the book. I personally love it. I even tried to make it a little more “shelf stable” by using coconut oil instead of margarine. But you can use whatever frosting you want- or just some powder sugar.

And if you are wondering why it took me so long to post a recipe that I didn’t really alter? Well, it is because I kept not getting very good photos. First time making it, I didn’t bother with photos, for whatever the reason. Then the second time I made it for a party and someone cut tiny little squares and they just weren’t very photogenic. Then I made it again, which annoyed my husband (this isn’t his favorite cake) and I kind-of over cooked the caramel. *sigh* but I HAD to get the photos this time. So there you have it. Three cakes in total. Yikes.

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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.

Recipes:

Applesauce Cake
Blackstrap Spiced Cake
Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake
Cowboy Cake
The Wacky Cake