On July 4th, I took a few bites of a scrumptious cherry chocolate cake made by one of my favorite relatives. I asked for the recipe, and my heart sunk a little when I found out that her secret ingredients were a box of devil’s food cake mix and canned cherry pie filling.
A month and a half later, I bought a massive bag of dark red cherries, made a couple of amazing cherry arugula salads, and wanted to make a dessert with the rest. Memories of my cousin’s cherry chocolate cake came back to me and wondered if I could make a healthier version. I was sort of buttered out after eating this entire blackberry peach galette, so I searched around for a vegan chocolate cake recipe. The first page of google results contained several references to Moosewood Restaurant’s recipe, and lots of raving reviews. The recipe has a lot going for it: it’s vegan, easy to make, and doesn’t require any unusual ingredients. I was sold.
I swapped whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose flour, added a bit of almond extract in place of some of the vanilla extract and mixed in over a pound of cherries. Pouring in the apple cider vinegar felt like performing a chemistry experiment. The batter foams up! Once the cake cooled, I iced it with pure semi-sweet chocolate and sprinkled it with powdered sugar. I brought the cake to breakfast club and my friends loved it!
- 1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
- ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 scant cup raw (turbinado) sugar
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup coffee (I mixed one packet of Starbucks VIA instant coffee with cold filtered water, you could also just use 1 cup of cold water)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1¼ pound dark cherries (roughly enough cherries to cover the bottom of your cake pan)
- Preheat the oven to 375º.
- Pit the cherries. I invested in this cherry pitter and it makes pitting cherries about as easy as it can be.
- Line the bottom of your pan with parchment paper. I used a 9 inch non-stick springform pan, which made removing the cake a cinch.
- Whisk together the flour, cocoa, soda, salt, and sugar directly into the cake pan.
- In a measuring cup, measure and mix together the oil, cold coffee (or cold water and Starbucks VIA), almond extract and vanilla extract.
- Pour the liquid ingredients into the baking pan and mix the batter with a fork or a small whisk until it is smooth.
- Add the vinegar and stir quickly. You will see pale swirls in the batter as the vinegar reacts with the baking soda. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter.
- Mix in your cherries with minimal stirring. I poked the cherries down into the batter with my finger.
- Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool.
Chocolate Icing Ingredients:
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao dark chocolate chips but seek out dairy-free if you want the cake to be totally vegan)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons hot water
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Notes on the chocolate icing:
Moosewood’s glaze calls for 3/4 cup water, but I found that to be way too much. Instead of using a double broiler and diluting the chocolate with so much water, I microwaved the chocolate chips in twenty second intervals, stirring after each. I thinned the chocolate with just a little bit of very hot water, and mixed in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. It’s as easy as icing gets, and the dense chocolate flavor suits the cherry chocolate cake nicely. Top with a dusting of powdered sugar for a pretty effect.
WARNING: Don’t let your dog near this cake! I stepped outside for one hot minute and came back inside to find Cookie nose deep in chocolate cake. A very nice woman in poison control told me to feed Cookie a tablespoon and a half of hydrogen peroxide. Let’s just say that this cake didn’t look so appetizing the second time around. Fortunately, Cookie was just fine. Bad dog!