Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chocolate Cake!

And now for something completely different.

I made two little chocolate cakes the other night. They're vegan (but not for any moralistic/ethical reasons, more because eggs are kinda expensive if you want the happy chicken kind, and kinda gross, so I don't use them all too often. Plus, sometimes they make me ill.). Anyway, what interests me about these vegan cakes is that they use vinegar (white or apple cider, doesn't matter taste wise). They came about around the time of the Great Depression and World War II, times when eggs and all that were expensive or rationed (also from this time is the mayo cake, but I just can't . . .I can't get into that. . .ugh. It probably tastes fine because mayo is just eggs and oil but just. . ick). They are called "Depression Cake" or "Wacky Cakes," the latter I guess because it is kinda weird. I haven't been able to find out who first thought to rely on the trusty old vinegar baking soda explosion thing as a leavener. What also interests me about these cakes is that they were "vegan" before there was really a vegan movement. Which is interesting, because this means that, most likely, your grandmother was eating vegan cake and there wasn't the "oh, ew" that you get now when you make something and tell people it's vegan (that said, sometimes vegan baked goods ARE really, really disgusting. You can't just leave the offending ingredients out and expect the same results, folks.)

In the spirit of the depression (or Great Recession, whatever) and being cheap and out of soy milk at my house, I used water as the primary liquid in the cake. The first recipe I ever came across for this type of cake, in some PETA or Farm Sanctuary Go Veg! type pamphlet specifically stated that you needed to add the vinegar at the last minute. And so for years, I did that, excited by the swirling cake batter not-quite volcano effect. Then I got Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and those two ladies tell you to mix the vinegar (and they specify that you should use ac vinegar) into the soy milk, to create a buttermilk-ish effect. So, no waiting until the very end. I did it that way for a while but now I'm back to vinegar at the end and also, back to water. It's cheaper and let's face it, cheap dessert that tastes good and isn't full of crap is pretty awesome.

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