Happy Valentine’s Day!
I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day. Sure, it’s a little cheesy and totally commercialized, but allow yourself to look past all of that, and it’s just an excuse to celebrate, over-eat, surround yourself with heart-shaped everything, and to let friends and family know how much you care.
Single, in a relationship, it’s complicated… It doesn’t matter what your social media relationship status says, there is always fun to be had in honor of V-Day. For me, Valentine’s Day does not mean expensive gifts, fancy-schmancy dinners and rose petals making a direct path to the bedroom. Rather, Valentine’s Day is a time to love yourself and “do you”. If it makes you happy, spend Valentine’s Day doing something new and fun with a special someone (or multiple someones), like a scenic hike or a cooking class. Or, if you so choose, treat yourself to some indulgent alone time, like a spa treatment, rom-com Netflix marathon and a take out, or doing a fun craft project. Like come on! Valentine’s Day is a blast! Just be sure to fit flowers and dessert somewhere in there (with absolutely no shame if you’re buying them for yourself).
Being the casual, low key people that we are, Matt and I decided to stay in on Valentine’s Day this year and make eggplant parmesan calzones and my mom’s amazing Italian Chopped Salad with flavorful marinated vegetables and salty Parmesan cheese. Matt is in charge of the appetizers and pizza (and the homemade bagels for breakfast), and I’m handling the salad and dessert; the dessert being the focus of this post.
The Dessert. Oh my gosh. My reasoning for concocting a vegan cake inspired by one of my favorite childhood candy bars is three-fold. Firstly, because I love the challenge of making anything and everything vegan. Secondly, because “Mounds Cake” is a family favorite from PJ’s Sea Grille, a delicious restaurant in the quaint town of Boca Grande, Florida. And thirdly, because I am always trying to find the best version of classic recipes that I can then use as my go-to recipe.
My first step in making my dream a reality was to check out Ina Garten’s recipe for chocolate cake (get it here), because her recipes are always guaranteed to be amazing. From there, I substituted coconut milk for the dairy milk and a simple mix of vinegar, water and baking powder to replace the eggs. The vinegar substitute is something I’ve never tried before but saw on an extensive list of dairy substitutes (see the list here). Finally, I ever so slightly adjusted a couple ingredient quantities to better suit my tastes. It worked PERFECTLY. Thanks again, Ina! Her trick of using a cup of hot coffee made for the absolute richest flavor and the cake came right out of the pan, super moist and fluffy.
Now to the coconut part of the Mounds Cake. This frosting is a simple mixture of creamed coconut, coconut milk, water, and powdered sugar. Just whip it all together with a hand mixer or stand mixer. The brand that I got from Whole Foods worked well. Although it had separated in the package and half of it was hard as a rock. No matter, I used a pastry cutter to break it up (a fork would work too). After that, it creamed very nicely and made the yummiest coconut frosting for the chocolate cake. Final step was a simple garnish of strawberries to add some festive, all-natural red color. No need to use the artificial stuff (gross); when in need of some color, always turn to nature. Anyway, this cake is amazing and such a great way to dessert-it-up this Valentine’s Day. Bonus! …I definitely consider this the perfect chocolate cake recipe I was hoping for. I love Valentine’s Day.
Vegan Chocolate-Coconut Layer Cake
Serves: 8 Start to Finish: 1.5 hrs (incl. cooling/frosting time)
1 3/4 cup All Purpose Flour (I like King Arthur)
1 1/2 cups White Sugar (I like Sugar in the Raw)
3/4 cup 100% Cocoa Powder (fair-trade, organic)
2 teaspoons Baking Soda, divided
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1 cup full-fat unsweetened Coconut Milk (or other dairy-free milk)
1/2 cup Canola Oil
1 tablespoon Vinegar
1 teaspoon all-natural Vanilla
1 cup freshly brewed, hot Coffee (fair-trade, organic)
14 ounces Creamed Coconut (like Let’s Do…Organic creamed coconut)
1/4 to 1/2 cup full-fat, unsweetened Coconut Milk
3 tablespoons Water
1/3 to 2/3 cup Powdered Sugar (I used 1/2 cup)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 8-inch round pans with non-aerosol, all-natural oil spray. Dust pans generously with flour. Set aside.
Sift flour, sugar, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and 1 teaspoon baking soda into a large bowl. Set aside.
Mix together 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 tablespoon of water. Add remaining teaspoon baking soda and mix well. Combine the vinegar with the coconut milk, oil, and vanilla, mix. Using a hand mixer or standing mixer, add the wet ingredients slowly into the dry ingredients (low speed). Once well combined, add the coffee and mix well. Poor mixture evenly into two reserved baking pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool completely before removing from pans.
Meanwhile, make the frosting. Using a hand mixer or a standing mixer, whip the creamed coconut milk with the water.* Add 1/3 cup powdered sugar. Mix. Add coconut milk a couple tablespoons at a time, mixing, and adding more as needed. Same with sugar. I used about 5 tablespoons of coconut milk and an additional 2 tablespoons sugar. When desired texture and sweetness is reached, layer frosting with two cakes, splitting the frosting evening between the middle and the top. Serve immediately or refrigerate for 10 minutes first.
*The brand that I got from Whole Foods worked well. Although it was very separated in the package, making half of it hard as a rock and the other half super oily. No matter, I used a pastry cutter to break it up (a fork would work too). After that, it creamed very nicely and made the yummiest coconut frosting.