Supremely Delicious Vegan Lasagna W/ “Ground Beef” & “Ricotta”

I won’t lie, last week I ate meat so this marks the end of my vegan-cooking/eating stint. Since then, I have been making much “meatier” dishes to quench my desires of flesh, but this is a “meaty” dish even vegans can enjoy. This vegan lasagna with “beef” and “ricotta” was richly satisfying. I was sure it was going to be “good” but not “fantastic” which is how it turned out. The recipe itself is pretty simple if you have a deep baking dish, blender and lots of tofu and veggies in your fridge.

HOW TO LASAGNA YOUR NIGHT UP:
1 pack firm tofu
1/2 – whole pack of silken tofu
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 pack lasagna noodles (it’s 3 noodles per layer, I did 3 layers so = 9)
1/2 onion
5 cloves garlic
1 jar marinara sauce
1 can diced tomatoes (Italian style is what I used because they have oregano/sweet basil)
1 pack Yves Meatless Ground (this stuff is so amazing, and vegan! I also used one veggie burger I had left in the freezer. Waste not want not!)
2 cups sliced vegetables (I used grated carrot for a bit of crunch, zucchini & mushrooms. I almost used eggplant and celery too but they had expired. Spinach is a great option too.)
1/2 cup olive oil (this is used to saute veggies, grease the pan, add to boiling noodles so they don’t stick, and for the ricotta mix)
salt, oregano, sweet basil, herbs de provence & pepper to taste
2 tbs Earth balance

First thing you want to do preheat your oven to 350 and boil your noodles. I like mine cooked pretty well so the lasagna is easy to cut through when it’s done. Boil them for about 10 minutes in a big boiling pot so they are completely immersed.

Next, saute your veggies in one pan and your Yves Veggie Ground with onion in another pan. I like to saute my veggie ground with about a half an onion and maybe a clove of garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil just until it starts to brown and smells reeaaal nice. The veggies I just sauteed lightly in olive oil with some herbs de provence and salt. Put these in their respective bowls to cool while you prepare your ricotta mix.

Mix your marinara and can of diced tomatoes into a small saucepan and let that mix/heat a bit while making the ricotta.

This ricotta mix can be a bit tricky because it doesn’t have enough liquid in it to blend very well in the blender. I ended up blending mine half way and then just taking it out to finish mixing in a regular bowl. Throw in your 1/4 cup olive oil, 4 sliced garlic cloves and 1/2-1 block of silken tofu. I used 1/2 a block but if you don’t have another use for the other half I say throw it all in there (you’ll just have to add a little more salt.) Blend these up first until they’re decently mixed, then crumble big chunks of the firm tofu into the mix and pulse lightly, adding pinches of salt and nutritional as you go. You want to retain small crumbles of tofu so don’t overblend. If the blender is getting stuck while adding dry ingredients, scoop everything out with a spatula and squish & mix it all up in a bowl. Add a bit of pepper and oregano to the mix, taste to make sure it’s salty enough. I thought mine was too salty but it turned out GREAT so you might over-salt a bit to add salt to the noodles, etc.

When your ricotta is ready, you can grease your pan with olive oil or Earth Balance, or both. You can begin to layer your sauce, noodles, ricotta, “ground beef” and veggies. I did a bit of sauce on the bottom so the noodles didn’t get all dry and crunchy down there. Here is the order I layered things, in caps to really drive the point home.
PAN
SMALL AMOUNT OF SAUCE
NOODLES
SAUCE
RICOTTA
VEGGIE “GROUND BEEF”
NOODLES
SAUCE
RICOTTA
VEGGIES
NOODLES
LOTS OF SAUCE
little clumps of Earth Balance on top to keep everything moist and the noodles from drying out

Bake this for at least 40 minutes covered in foil so it doesn’t dry out and recycles its heat. You’ll be able to tell it’s done when everything is bubbling, from the bottom to the top. Make sure you set it out to cool for a couple minutes before potentially burning the crap out of your mouth.

This will be the most delicious thing you ever eat, so prepare yourself. It also keeps really well in the freezer. If you have a baking dish that comes with a plastic lid, that is perfect, cause you just pull it out, let it thaw a bit and then shove it in the oven to reheat. Spread this recipe around, it is amazing to share.

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Vegan Red Curry “Egg” Noodles W/ Eggplant, Tofu & Pineapple

I was so stoked to find shrimp-paste-free curry paste at the local Asian market because I have been craving curry on this vegan-kick. I found vegan red & green curry pastes and a premade curry gravy in these really convenient mini-cans, great for smaller batches. I decided on the red for tonight because I wanted pineapple in it and the two go great together. I also happened upon a pack of “imitation egg noodles” which they had in chow mein style and wide egg noodle style. I picked the chow mein just to try them out and see how I liked them. They are so good! I can’t even tell the difference. So, if you have vegetables, a can of coconut milk, some curry paste and a hunger for spice, this is an easy dish to satisfy you.

You will need:
can of coconut milk
diced mixed vegetables (eggplant is highly recommended, I also used green beans, spinach, zucchini and cherry tomatoes)
can of diced pineapple
red curry paste
1/4-1/2 block of diced tofu
“egg” noodles
salt
sugar

First, cut up your vegetables and put them in a steamer. I put my eggplant in first for a few minutes because it takes the longest to cook. Then the rest of the veggies until they are still crisp but almost cooked.

Drop your noodles into boiling water and then turn the burner off. Let them soften a minute or two and make sure to poke them with a wooden spoon to break the bunches up into loose noodles. Try a noodle after 5-10 minutes to see if it is cooked. If it is, strain the noodles and douse them in cold water so they don’t overcook.

Pour your can of coconut milk into a large pan and turn heat on med/low. Stir in about 2-3 tablespoons of curry paste, or to the spiciness you are comfortable with. Once you have a thick bubbly gravy, mix in your diced tofu, pineapple and vegetables and mix everything around. The noodles should go in last as they tend to soften, but once you mix those in, taste everything and just add salt and sugar to taste.

I served my noodles over chopped spinach because I live in San Francisco and have to do hippie shit like that to fit in. The warmth of the food and the curry gravy will cook the spinach a bit, but there will still be a nice crunch. The spinach and the pineapple also provide a mild escape from some of the spice, if you made it spicy like I did. This is a good move to balance everything out. ENJOY!

Vegan Vegetable Stock, Polenta, Spicy Cherry Tomato Sauce & Lentil Burgers

By making your own vegetable stock, you are opening the door to a million other dishes you could use it to make. The fate of my vegetable stock was uncertain until I was done making it and conferred with my stomach about its demands. Originally I had planned to use the stock to cook our black lentils into some sort of lentil soup. After the stock was done, I had already eaten a few hearty cups of it in the “sampling” process, so I wasn’t in the mood for a soup any more. I already had the lentils soaking though, so I thought, “hey, I’ve always wanted to make lentil burgers, now I have everything I need!”

And thusly history was made and people without dinner plans for the evening suddenly had dinner plans for the evening.

Let’s begin the dinner-assembly-dance, shall we? (All well-made meals start with a proper soundtrack. For my hearty cooking I like a hearty tune, so I listened to Elvis Costello, Nikka Costa and The Rolling Stones. You can listen to whatever garbage you like, but just know, your guests will taste your poor taste in the meal.)

Pre-prepare your Amazing Vegan Vegetable Stock
Anybody with vegetables, a soup pot and a working faucet can make a delicious vegetable stock. All you need is:
Mixed diced vegetables (onion, carrot and celery traditionally make the best base, but I used kale & yam & mushrooms too. You can seriously use whatever flavor you want the broth to reflect.)
olive oil
spices (I used a couple bay leaves, thyme, oregano & dill seed)
salt & pepper
water
a big fuckin’ pot

Saute the onion, celery and carrot in the olive oil until they are tender. Then just add a shit ton of water, let it boil for a few minutes. Turn it to medium or med/low and let it simmer for a half hour to an hour, which you can do while you take photos of all your ingredients and slam dance.

Vegan Polenta
The polenta should probably be the first dish you make since it takes a half hour to bake in the oven.

For the polenta you will barely need anything:
your amazing vegetable stock
coarse corn meal
onion
garlic chopped into large chunks
salt
a baking dish
Earth Balance to grease the baking dish (thanks guys!)

Preheat the oven to 350 and invite all your friends over for dinner, they should be over by the time this is done. All you have to do is saute the onion on med/low until it sweats, then add the garlic last so it doesn’t cook much. Add 2 or 3 cups of your vegetable stock to the mix, and when it begins to boil, stir in the corn meal while stirring until it’s all in there but don’t stop stirring. Once the cornmeal is bubbly and starting to thicken, pour it into the greased baking pan and smooth it out evenly. Pop it in the oven for about a half hour covered with tin foil.

Vegan Spicy Cherry Tomato Sauce
For the tomato sauce you can start with whatever tomato base you want, marinara, a can of stewed tomatoes, or you can copy what I did. Since I make so much god damn fucking salsa all the time, I decided this would be a good way to use it while adding some spice to the dish. This sauce is really just to make sure the polenta and lentil burgers aren’t dry and uninteresting. This sauce goes over everything and keeps it warm, moist and flavorful.

I used about 2 cups of roasted tomato salsa and heated it in a small sauce pan on med/low. I chopped up a cup of cherry tomatoes and added them in to simmer. I also added some extra sugar, salt and just a touch of cinnamon to taste and simmered everything until the cherry tomatoes were tender. This sauce should be kept on low until everything is ready to be served, then you just slop it all over everything!

Vegan Lentil Burgers
These should be made at the same time as the tomato sauce, or afterwards. Lentil burgers can be pretty flavorless if you just depend on the lentils themselves. There need to be other elements to add some complexity and different flavors. For my version I used some of the vegetables from my stock to add color, texture and richly spiced flavor. Fresh herbs are also a great way to lend flavor, mashed potato can also be used, as well as other soaked grains or beans.

For the lentil burgers you will need:
lentils (brown/red/black soaked overnight or even cooked to adequately soften them)
bread crumbs (fresh ones are the best, just crumble up old bread or stuff it in a food processor)
olive oil
herbs & spices (whatever you like, I used curry powder & salt but you could use parsley, thyme, etc.)
oatmeal
cooked brown rice
chopped cooked vegetables (I used cauliflower, celery, carrot, yam & a bit of kale)

The oatmeal and brown rice help to bind the patties together, since these are vegan and don’t have egg. You don’t HAVE to put them in there but they do help. For me, the olive oil helped the most, to add a stickiness and make them stay in patty form. Brown lentils tend to soften up the most and add to a doughy texture so I like using them, but the black lentils add a firmer texture and I like the variety. I chop the cooked brown rice, oatmeal and vegetables up kinda fine so big chunks don’t break the patties apart.

Then you just mix everything up together in a bowl with the olive oil and spices, form into thin patties and fry them in olive oil until they are brown on both sides. Couldn’t be easier!

When your polenta is crispy on the bottom, pull it out, cut out a section and put it on a plate with your lentil burger. Chop up some spinach if you want a bit of crunch, to put on top of the polenta. Slather that in your spicy tomato sauce and it will blanch the spinach nicely. Really, just spoon the tomato sauce on everything, that’s what I did and let me tell you, it was a good decision.

I also oven-roasted a bit of cauliflower w/ olive oil, salt & pepper. This sounds like it’s no big deal but it is totally a big deal because it is totally delicious. Serve with whatever you like to whomever you like, but just let them know, they are very lucky.

Bahn Mi Vietnamese Sandwiches – Spicy, Light, Cheap & Easy To Make

There is no sandwich I enjoy eating more on a sunny day than a crispy, spicy Bahn Mi with gobs of sweet hoison sauce. These sandwiches can often be found in the Asian districts of you city or in Oriental groceries. They are often ridiculously cheap and ridiculously delicious. In this recipe I’ll be making the vegetarian version, but you can also use sliced pork, bbq chicken or bbq beef for the protein. (I haven’t tried it with fish but I imagine it’d be great with a tempura battered white fish filet.) They each lend their own character to the final harmony of flavors.

All you need to make 2 of them them are:

2 mini baguettes (fresh little french rolls, not the ones that come w/preservatives in plastic bags plz)
1/4 a block of tofu
cilantro
carrot
cucumber
jalapeno
onion
hoison sauce
mayonaise (or veganaise for us anti-dairy snobs)
rice wine vinegar
a little sugar
water

The first thing you want to prepare is the “pickled” vegetable relish. This is my own version because I couldn’t find the pickled mix in the grocery. All I do is grate carrot and cucumber on the largest size and pour a bit of rice vinegar over the mix. Add a bit of sugar and double the liquid with water. Stir and set aside while you’re preparing the rest of the sandwich.

Fry up the tofu in 1/4″ think strips, easy to lay lengthwise in the bun. While you’re frying your tofu, pop your french roll into the oven at 300 degrees to toast it up! I use olive oil to fry almost everything, but you can use whatever oil you want. Just let it crisp up until it’s a nice golden brown on each side, with a sprinkle of salt before and after the flip. When it has browned, set it on a paper towel to absorb excess grease. Wave to it and assure it that you will see it soon.

Cut the ends off the cilantro but don’t chop it up. Leave the stems on because they add a lot to the crunch and flavor. Make the stems into about 2-3″ pieces each. Slice about 1/8 of the onion very thinly and set aside. Grate a small carrot on the largest size, set aside. Cut 1/4-1/2 the cucumber into very thin strips, set aside. Slice the jalapeno according to how spicy you like your sandwich. I like it spicy so I make the slices a bit fatter than if you wanted a milder kick. Set aside. Prepare your mouth for deliciousness.

Drain the liquid from your marinating slaw and mix it with a fork. Grab your bun out of the oven and slice it with a serrated knife on one side. Pull it open just enough to make a mouth-like pocket. The layering of ingredients is really up to you. I don’t like my bread to get too soggy so I tend to place the dry ingredients first and my sauces in the middle of them so it doesn’t make much contact with the bread. If you don’t mind moist bread you can slather it with mayo, layer the tofu, hoison sauce, slaw, veggies, jalapeno and then pack as much cilantro on top as you possibly can (if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you should already know how I feel about cilantro. Answer: passionate & greedy.)

IF YOU HAVE FOLLOWED INSTRUCTIONS CORRECTLY YOUR MASTER BAHN MI CREATION SHOULD LOOK SOMETHING LIKE THIS AND TASTE LIKE A SAVORY SWEET & SPICY MIRACLE IN YOUR MOUTH!

More Salsa, More Spice, More Recipes!

OK so I kind of have a salsa problem. I have been making different salsas for the past 3 days and I think everyone in my house is thoroughly done eating salsa for awhile. I just wanted to play around with making a Tomatillo Salsa, a roasted & spiced salsa and a light guacamole salsa. They all have a lot of the same ingredients but taste really different. I like to have an array of salsas because I like mixing and matching. I’m a double and often triple dipper.

The tomatillo salsa I made probably turned out the best and it was pretty simple. This is the youtube video I modeled my recipe after: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B87lroqZseQ

I used about 75% tomatillos and then roasted some romas on a cast iron skillet to add as well. It turned out SO GOOD, and you can control the spice with how many chilis de arbol you toast and add. When I blended everything up (because I don’t own a molcajete) I added some brown sugar and vinegar to the mix. Barely any, but it really makes a difference in taste. Delicious!

The next day I did the same recipe but a larger batch and using all the romas I had (because they were on their last leg.) So it went from a tomatillo salsa to a smokey chili de arbol roasted tomato salsa. This one turned out pretty good, with the added sugar and vinegar as well, but tasted a lot more like a super spicy enchilada sauce than a salsa. I used it to marinate tofu and made some super delicious tofu / fried plantain / black bean burritos with sliced red pepper, celery and carrot. SO GOOD. I ate these for two days.

Since I wasn’t as happy with the roasted tomato version of this salsa, I decided to tweak some of the batch. I put a couple cups of the salsa in a pan on the stove and cooked it up with cilantro, diced onion, tomato, brown sugar and cinnamon. It came out with a much sweeter, more complex and mole-like flavor. When I served all my salsas side by side at the end of the day, this is the one people had the most to say about. It definitely came into its own, flavor-wise, after it cooled off and sat for a few minutes. Really fucking delicious.

The last salsa I made was a guacamole with a severely skewed avocado to other ingredient ratio. I just wanted a light creamy coating of avocado on a fresh chunky salsa. So I mashed one avocado, diced up tomato, onion, cilantro and jalapeno, added a dash of salt and brown sugar, salt and pepper and squirted lime over everything. It was really creamy, light and refreshing. Went well to balance the flavors of the other salsas.

So, as you can see, I tried to offer a variety of flavors to my salsa sampler. Something really fresh and creamy: the guacamole. Something sweet and smokey: the roasted tomato salsa, and something traditional and tangy: the tomatillo chili de arbol salsa. People were double dipping their chips so I knew it was a success. These can also make great marinades and bases for sauces. Miyuki suggested the super spicy roasted tomato salsa be used as a base for a Puttanesca sauce which I thought was genius. But obviously you can cook all sorts of veggies, meats and proteins in these to add a spicy kick to their flavor. SO GOOD.

Guitar-Shaped Cake Pan + Pineapple = Delicious Fun

I decided to make my rocker friend Shanine a guitar-shaped vegan pineapple upside down cake to welcome her back to San Fran. I wasn’t too impressed with the cake itself, I found a random recipe on the internet that didn’t come out with a great consistency. However, the cake looks great. So I thought I’d post some photos any way.

Guitar shaped cake = great opportunity for your mouth to rock out.

Fresh Tomato Red Pepper Gazpacho w/Home-Baked Herb Croutons

You have old bread? Bake some croutons.
You have tomatoes? Blend up some gazpacho.
It’s beautiful outside.

2 Vegan Salsas – Basic Spicy Tomato & Chunky Pineapple Bell Pepper

I hate eating the same thing twice, so, if I have to consume leftovers I must morph them into something more interesting. For the leftover pupusas and black beans, I made two types of salsas to enable their day-after makeover.

All you need is:
5 or 6 tomatoes (big romas or regular-sized vine-ripened)
bunch of cilantro (you remember what I said about cilantro, don’t you?)
1/4 pineapple
1/4 white or red onion
1 1/2 jalapenos
1/4 red bell pepper
2 1/2 limes
salt
1 tbs brown sugar
honey (this is debatably non-vegan, so if you’re bee-sensitive, just leave this out)
a blender
a knife and some black gloves

Cut the stemmy navel out of all your tomatoes, then slice them into a few big chunks and chuck them into the blender. Throw the onion, a jalapeno and half the bunch of cilantro in there too (you can use less cilantro if you’re a PUSSY.) Squeeze two of your limes in there and sprinkle 4 pinches of salt and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar in there. Blend until smooth, put in a bowl with some…. CILANTRO on top. And there you have it. Easy and so good you could drink it.

For the pineapple salsa you’ll first want to slice the skin from the edges of the pineapple until there are no spikey cevases left and it’s mostly yellow fruit. Dice the pineapple, red pepper and jalapeno into miniature-sugar-cube sized chunks, only chop the jalapeno a little finer. Chop up the rest of the cilantro and throw this all into a good sized bowl. Sprinkle on 1 or 2 pinches of salt, the rest of your lime juice and a drizzle of honey. (You can also add some sliced/diced avocado if you want a creamier mix.) Mix it up with a spoon and it is ready to eat with tortilla chips or on a reheated vegan pupusa. SHAZAM.

This stuff looks great in jars and can go on everything. The tomato salsa is a borderline gazpacho if you like your gazpacho really spicy, salty and a bit sweet. Try these on tacos or a quesadilla, mind = blown.

Vegan Corn Pupusas W/Roasted Sweet Potato, Sauteed Mushrooms & Chipotle Mole Sauce

I never knew how easy pupusas were to make until I spotted a bag of “corn masa” mix at the Mexican market. I was like, “hey we could make vegan tamales, or PUPUSAS!” and we got all excited and subsequently I bought way too much food, as is my way. I also happened to have a jar of mole sauce in my cupboard so I decided to do sort of a pupusa/enchilada hybrid which turned out SO GOOD. These are super easy to make and you can top them with whatever veggies you want and smother everything in mole. Here’s what you’ll need:

For the pupusas:
2 cups corn masa (you should be able to find this at any Latin grocery)
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 tsp salt

Just mix all three together and knead until everything is soaked in. Let sit for at least 5 minutes before squashing them into pupusa-submission.

For the filling:
ANYTHING YOU WANT
You can use vegan cheese, spinach, broccoli, tomato, shredded carrot/zuchini, potato, vegan “meat,” tofu, pumpkin, even fruit like apple or banana/plaintain is great for a sweeter filling. I used sweet potato which I roasted with onion until it was soft and lightly browned. Should be lightly seasoned with salt, I also added paprika and cayenne pepper.

For the sauce:
Dona Maria Mole sauce (comes concentrated in a glass jar, totally cheap, so fucking amazing)
can of diced tomato (I used Muir Glen Organic tomatoes w/chipotle peppers)
3 cups water
salt to taste

You’ll have to dig out the mole paste and simmer it with the water for at least like 10 minutes, stirring until it has completely dissolved. Then you can add the tomato and however much salt you like. I also like to add some ketchup and tobasco because I’m a shameless gringa.

For the topping:
Cilantro (Put cilantro on EVERYTHING, and I’m not just talking today or this dish, I mean everyday on everything)
Saute whatever vegetables you fancy; we did a mushroom mix with onion.
You don’t really need to season these at all since it will be drenched in very flavorful sauce. You could seriously put anything on top of your pupusas: corn, zucchini, tomato, Libertarians, whatever tastes good to you. Traditionally pupusas are served with a light cabbage/pico-de-gallo-esque slaw, but since this was an enchilada hybrid, I left that part out. Feel free to slaw it up.

PUPUSA PROCEDURE:
When you’ve customized whatever filling you want for your pupusas, make sure it is precooked, as these will be fried relatively quickly and are better with a softer middle. Make sure your filling is cool too, so you don’t burn the shit out of yourself trying to pupusify it.

Heat some vegetable oil on medium in a nonstick pan. Put some of the dry masa mix down on a cutting board before rolling the dough. You want some dough about the size of a ping pong to smash down and roll out into a circle. I just used my hands because I’m ghetto-artisan like that, but you can use a rolling pin cause you’re so domestic-chic. Plop your filling in the middle of the flat circle of dough and squash another ping pong ball of dough down onto it. Then you just need to clean up the sides with your hands to make sure the filling is fully covered and the sides aren’t split. The dough is crumbly, so you really have to use your hands to make it your bitch and then a spatula to get it off the cutting board and into the hot oil. Be careful putting it in there cause it causes quite a wave. Let it cook on each side about 2-4 minutes each or until the sides start getting brown. When it’s done, scoop it out onto a paper towel and lightly press on it to remove excess oil. The mole sauce should already be fatty enough, fatty.

These are now crispy, warm and ready to eat topped with your sauteed veggies, a ladle full of your chipotle mole and a shopping cart’s worth of cilantro. SO GOOD YOU GUISE. Making these for guests makes you seem much more cultured, less racist and you can also say it’s “fusion” cooking or some bullshit. Make something up, their mouths will be full so they won’t talk back.

For side dishes we made lightly sauteed chard topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and warm smashed black beans. They go really well with everything and add more fiber to your already colon-motivating pupusas. But make it your own, so that if it sucks, you can’t blame me. Mine was fucking delicious.

2 Variations on Vegan Chocolate Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache

Who doesn’t love chocolate cake? If you know someone, please reach out to them and force-feed them this recipe until they admit they love it. This recipe has a 86% success rate in converting non-believers. Vegans are often cheated of the fluffy, eggy texture of many baked goods, but this chocolate cake recipe is moist, fluffy, richly chocolatey and delicious. It is another recipe I have adapted from my Vegan friend Miyuki, but these are two versions with my own nerdy foodie twist on them. I made a blackberry chocolate cake and a salted caramel chocolate cake. I’ll include the recipes for the blackberry and caramel sauces for those interested.

The basic chocolate cake recipe is as follows:

3 cups white flour
2 cups sugar (I used half white sugar half raw brown sugar)
6 tbs cocoa (Hershey’s is fine)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups water
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tbs vinegar
2 tsp vanilla
(What I added was)
1 tsp cayenne pepper (for a subtle kick, most people won’t even notice)
1/2 tsp cinnamon

For the vegan chocolate ganache:
1/3 cup “milk” of your choice (I used vanilla almond milk and it was a taste success!)
2 tbs Earth Balance
1 cup vegan chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees FARENHEIT cause this is an AMERICAN cake

First off, mix your dry ingredients together and make sure your baking soda doesn’t clump. Make a crevas in the middle and slowly mix in the wet ingredients. Make sure you mix this thoroughly, there should be no clumps! Pour the mix into two well-greased circular cake pans and bake for about 40 minutes.

While this is baking you can make the ganache (icing) which is totally my favorite part. You can get creative with this stuff, if I was making it for myself I would have added more cayenne and cinnamon so the outside packed a bit more heat than the sweeter cake inside. Or I might have added Frangelico or Grand Marnier for a boozier sauce, but since I was making this for a birthday, I kept it classic. Use a “double boiler” method to melt the Earth Balance and mix with the almond milk and chocolate chips. For those of you unfamiliar with double boiling this is where you heat water in a bigger sauce pan and put your ingredients into a smaller saucepan immersed in the hot water. This keeps your ingredients from burning and just melts them nicely together. Mix these up until they are smooth and let the ganache cool a bit before icing the cakes (they will have to cool as well.) Make sure it stays smooth by stirring it if it begins to solidify.

The caramel sauce I made was done with a double boiling method as well. That combined 1 cup brown sugar, 2 tbs Earth Balance, a tsp of salt, 3 tbs flour and 2 tbs almond milk. Mix the flour, salt and sugar together first so they don’t clump in the liquid. Then add the milk and Earth Balance and melt everything together. It should be smooth and taste almost butterscotchy. You can totally add whisky or Frangelico if you’re feeling saucy, it’s up to you. Caramel sauce should be monitored just like the chocolate sauce, let cool, mix if it gets stagnant.

The blackberry sauce is just regular blackberry preserves, heated until they turn into a thinner syrup and poured warm onto the cake once it has cooled. This sauce should be poured right after heating as it coagulates pretty easily.

After you pull the cakes out, let them cool somewhere other than the hot stove top. Once they are relatively room-temperature-ish, you can slice the tops off so they’re both flat. Put a plate over top of each one to flip them over. Give it a couple of good taps and slowly lift the cake tin off. If you greased them with furious abandon, as directed, they should slide out no problem and have a super elegant shape to them. Let each cake cool for about another minute before icing.

If you’re just making the basic vegan chocolate cake, you’re going to use the chocolate ganache on top of one of the cakes and then put the other cake on top and coat both of them. Or you can always just make two and pour ganache on each separately. Your ganache is your business, that’s what I always say.

If you’re choosing to make a cake with the caramel or blackberry sauce, pour that sauce onto the cake and spread evenly before you put on the chocolate ganache. The ganache covers everything with a super smooth finish, so it goes on last. For the caramel sauce, you’ll have a lot of it, so save about half to drizzle over the slices themselves later. After saucing your cake up, you can pour the chocolate ganache over, as evenly as possible. It should spread over smoothly and drip down the sides, so you shouldn’t have to spread it much (you should avoid spreading it as it could disturb the cake underneath.) It will look amazing, shiny, velvety and enticing; but it will taste even better. For the caramel cake, feel free to drizzle a bit on top for looks, and then coat the whole top with semi-fine rock salt. This concludes the most delicious vegan chocolate cake recipe you will ever experience. You’re welcome.