I guess the word “vegan” attached to something as decadent as chocolate cake can seem like an oxymoron and even be downright off-putting to some but that’s not the case here at all so stay don’t leave meeeee.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, Nigella Lawson was in town a little over a week ago. I must have done something right in a past life because I was asked to take on the task of hosting her events. To prepare for them and celebrate her, I’ve been trying a few of her recipes at home and this one is my favorite so far.
A little bit about the events – there were three small shows throughout one day. It’s all a Nigella fangirl-ing blur to me now but I do remember how absolutely beautiful she was. She is straight up ethereal in the flesh. She does that thing she does with words and she’s hilarious! GIVE THE REST OF US A CHANCE, WOMAN.
Now about that cake. This is a recipe off her book Simply Nigella. She calls it dark and sumptuous chocolate cake and writes that it “confounds” and “delights” her. Can confirm.
To make Nigella’s vegan chocolate cake, you’ll need:
For the frosting:
1/4 cup cold water
5 tablespoons coconut butter (more on this in a bit)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar (I used muscovado just because it’s what I had)
1 1/2 t espresso powder (I used 2 t strong instant coffee)
1 1/2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate (preferably minimum 70% cacao), finely chopped
For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t fine sea salt
1 1/2 t espresso powder (Again, I subbed with 2 t strong instant coffee. Where does one find espresso powder?)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups hot water
6 T coconut oil
1 1/2 t apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
1. Preheat the oven to 175 C/350 F. We’re starting with frosting so add all the frosting ingredients except the bittersweet chocolate into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate. Leave it to melt for a minute then whisk until you have a dark and glossy frosting.
I should tell you about coconut butter here which doesn’t seem to be the most accessible thing. I lucked out because there happened to be a coconut convention near me at the time I wanted to bake this.
I don’t know where this is readily available so I’m gonna direct you to Coco Wonder’s website.
I get the impression that not all coconut butters are created equal. I suspect that the one Nigella uses is a lot creamier than this one (which was quite hard actually) because when my mixture came to a boil and I was ready to tip in the chocolate, it resembled the absolutely horrifying sight of seizing chocolate.
If you’re also dealt this misfortune, keep calm and loosen by whisking in hot water bit by bit. That’s how I achieved the smooth and glossy frosting pictured above. Now set aside and stir once in a while between mixing and baking the cake.
2. Line the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan (I used a 9-inch one) with parchment paper. This will prevent the cake from sticking to the bottom of your pan and help in lifting it out later. I also wrapped the outside of my pan with aluminum foil to leak-proof it since this is a pretty wet batter.
Put the flour, baking soda, salt, instant coffee, and cocoa powder in a bowl and fork to mix.
3. Mix sugar, hot water, coconut oil, and vinegar in a small bowl.
4. Pour the wet mixture into the bowl with dry ingredients and stir to mix. Transfer to the prepared pan and pop in the oven to bake for 35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean with a few crumbs – the mark of a fudgy cake. Nigella recommends you check at the 30-minute mark to make sure you don’t overbake. Because I used a slightly wider pan, mine was done in about 25 minutes. Set aside and cool in the pan.
5. When the cake comes to room temperature, it’s frosting time! I transferred my cake onto a cake board because I’m just the kind of person who has some in the kitchen. The frosting should be loose enough to spread but thick enough to stay mostly on top. Feel free to reward yourself at this point by bringing a few dollops of chocolate frosting to your mouth.
6. Nigella decorates this cake with a confetti of chopped edible rose petals and pistachios. Of course she does. The pink and green on a canvas of glossy dark chocolate is gorgeous. You can leave the cake plain and it will still be plenty seductive but after much thought, I decided to decorate with a confetti of toasted almond slivers and desiccated unsweetened coconut.
I’m feeling myself so hard right now.
You can leave the frosting to clumsily overflow here and there, a look that I find quite appealing, but I wanted to fancify a little bit. An easy way to do that is to use a regular cutlery knife, taking it to the frosting vertically with gentle upward strokes the whole way round.
There was so much happy happy joy joy cutting into this cake.
Look how moist and fudgy! It’s also intensely chocolate-y.
If you’re decorating this cake, I recommend you use something that can add a bit of crunch for a nice textural contrast. I also liked the desiccated coconut not only for its aesthetic value but also for offering a little hint of what was to assault my tastebuds.
This is easy, simple, and nothing short of glorious which is Nigella’s cooking philosophy in a nutshell. Oh Nigella, I really do love you!
Fun Food Fact: Pure coconut oil is 50% lauric acid which lends it anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. The only other natural substance that contains such a high amount of lauric acid is human breast milk. MY BEWBS ARE AWESOME.