Saturday, June 4, 2011

How to Bake Cruelty-Free Chocolate Cream Cake

Cruelty-free chocolate? Yes. Chocolate has had a volatile history and just in case you hadn't noticed, supply has been steadily decreasing over the past six years. Why? There's no real incentive to grow it. The trees take three years to mature and the payout for farmers in West Africa is about $1 a day once they have sold their product to big corporations and the payout to workers is often nothing. In many cases, it's a slavery-based business. Over the next year, prices are expected to rise 20 percent. Now, the big companies are saying that if you want chocolate, they will need to tamper with the gene pool to produce it. I don't know about you, but if it isn't naturally occurring, I don't want it.
However, that isn't the most important reason we took a hard look at chocolate. We pay more for chocolate at our house already because we make a point of buying organic fair trade. Did you know that children are enslaved and beaten to provide chocolate for Nestlé and Mars bars? I didn't. I was horrified when I realized what my chocolate habit was doing to children halfway across the world! Now Nestlé has purchased Jenny Craig so there is little left to the imagination about their motivation. If a child has been shackled, beaten and forced, to work 80-100 hours a week to produce something, I want no part of it. 

Note about the term Cruelty-Free

When this was first published at Grandma's House, a disappointed reader left this comment:
This name is a little deceiving. Cruelty-free is the official term used for vegan recipes and products, not using animal products. Pretty disappointed to click on this.
Yes, many organizations adopt words, phrases and slogans in support of their cause. Unfortunately, they can't be reserved for one specific organization or meaning. In this case, cruelty to children was the reason for my referring to "cruelty-free chocolate cream cake" but I understand how frustrating it can be to click on something expecting it to be one thing and finding quite another. Can this cake be made vegan? Yes. I have now included substitute ingredients in the original recipe.

Original Chocolate Cream Cake Recipe

For the vanilla cake you will need:
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter or lard (vegans: use coconut oil)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, unbeaten (vegans: replace with flax or chia gel*)
  • 1 cup milk (vegans: use soy, rice or almond milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Chocolate Cream Filling:
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 squares chocolate
  • 2 cups milk, scalded (vegans use soy, rice or almond milk)
  • 2 egg yolks (vegans: see note below*)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
*Flax or chia gel can be made quickly for baking. Use 1 tablespoon ground flax and 3 tablespoons hot water for each egg. Let cool. Add to recipe. Chia gel can be made and stored up to 2 weeks in the fridge. Mix 1/3 cup in 2 cups water. Let sit 5 minutes and whisk. Let sit another 10 minutes and it's ready to use. Vegans can also use fruit purées like banana or apple but your cream filling will take on that flavour. High pectin fruits will work best.
In the '20s and '30s, Grandma occasionally used chocolate in baking. Before this, her frugal nature led her to reserve the delights of cocoa for drinking at Christmas. This recipe actually has a method written out so it's fairly easy to follow directly from the original notes. If you are unsure of how to bake a cake, please see how to mix cake batter. All cakes are made in pretty much the same way. The only thing that may differ from time to time is the addition of things like cocoa or chocolate so follow your individual recipe but adhere to the basic rules the same way.
This is a moist and tender vanilla cake with a rich, chocolate cream filling. Back in Grandma's youth, it was frosted with a fluffy icing that used a bit of cocoa, not the melted squares in today's decadent ganache.
About chocolate for baking:
When recipes call for chocolate squares, use semi-sweet chocolate unless otherwise specified. Note: Do not allow water anywhere near your melted chocolate or it will become a dry, lumpy mess!
Melt in a heavy saucepan over low heat or in a double boiler over boiling water for about 10 minutes. Some people like to use a microwave, in which case, melt in a glass or microwave safe dish for about 1 or 2 minutes for one square. Add an additional 10 to 15 seconds per additional square.

Grandma's Method

Sift flour once, measure, add baking powder, and sift together three times.
Cream butter, add sugar, and cream together thoroughly. Add egg and beat until light and fluffy.
Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with milk, a quarter at a time beginning and ending with flour. Beat after each addition until smooth. Add vanilla.
Bake in two greased 8-inch layer pans in a moderate oven (350˚F) for about 25 minutes.
Put layers together with chocolate cream filling (1/2 recipe). Cover with cocoa icing.
For the filling:
Combine flour, sugar, salt, and chocolate. Add milk gradually, stirring constantly. Return to double boiler and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Pour small amount of mixture over egg yolks, stirring vigorously. Return to double boiler and cook for 3 minutes longer. Add vanilla. Makes 2-1/2 cups of filling.

My Notes:

Remember to have all ingredients at room temperature. If you are using only two layers, half the recipe of cream filling will do nicely. If you are splitting each layer in two for a total of four layers, make the whole recipe. I like the cream to go into the cake so for four layers, you want holes. Don't bang the cake to get rid of bubbles before putting it in the oven.
My oven seems to be quite hot so I do cakes at 325˚F to avoid overdone edges. The best way to get good results is to check your oven temperature with a thermometer and adjust accordingly. The best cake pans to use are the shiny metal ones, not the dark ones.

For Ganache:

  • 8-9 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • flavouring (optional)
Chop chocolate and place in a heat proof bowl. Scald one cup heavy cream in a saucepan.
For a richer ganache, stir into the cream in the pot:
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
Vegans: Use 1 cup soy coffee creamer (Silk is nice) and 3-4 cups semisweet chocolate chips depending on how thick you want the ganache. To make it a little richer, add 1 tablespoon coconut oil and 1 tablespoon sugar. Follow directions as above.
Just as it begins to boil, pour over chopped chocolate. Let sit a few minutes to soften the chocolate and then whisk until smooth. If you wish, flavour with Cointreau, Grand Marnier or Kahlua or use orange zest if you prefer.
When lukewarm, pour over the cake beginning in the centre and spiralling outward. Use less if you want the sides just 'drip coated' or more for complete coverage. For a flat finish on a completely iced cake, smooth the top and then the sides (see video below).
Note: If you want a thicker, fluffier icing wait for the chocolate cream to cool completely and beat.
If you prefer using the microwave for this, the video explains just how easy this icing is to make. The recipe is even richer with added butter!

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