Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Chocolate Eggnog Cake

I've never been an eggnog guy. The name alone is enough to gross me out. Maybe it's all the "g" sounds. What is nog, exactly? Aren't you just drinking french toast batter? How is that okay?

Doug is a big eggnog fan and was initially bummed about having to give it up when we went vegan. It turns out that there are some pretty good vegan eggnogs out there. There are also some strange ones that taste nothing like eggnog. I used a rice milk variety for this cake and it turned out fine. For drinking, it's a different story. He loves the coconut milk eggnnog, which isn't always easy to find. He's been drinking a soy variety that's just so-so. He took a swig of the kind I used in this cake and said it tasted nothing like eggnog at all. I think you'll be fine no matter what kind you use, honestly. There's so much going on in this cake that the type of "nog" won't be noticeable.

This is a big cake, as you can tell from the frosting ingredients. I originally made a single cake (basically half of each recipe), which just didn't seem right. It's a holiday-themed cake and should really look special, right? I say this in the notes below, but want to reinforce it here: don't skimp on the frosting. This makes much more than you'd think, so really pile it on to that first layer. If you worry about running out and skimp on it, you won't be able to go back later and put the excess in the middle. Throw caution to the wind and really frost that first layer!

For the cake:
2 cups vegan eggnog
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp rum extract
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg

For the frosting:
2/3 cup Earth Balance buttery stick (11 tablespoons), softened
2/3 cup vegetable shortening (I used Earth Balance for this as well)(11 tablespoons), softened
4-4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
6 tbsp vegan eggnog
1/2 tsp rum extract
3/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two round cake pans by lining the bottoms with cut-out circles of parchment paper and spraying the bottom and sides of the pans.

Make the cake: Combine the eggnog and vanilla and set aside for a couple of minutes. Combine the eggnog mixture, sugar, oil and extracts in the bowl of a mixer. In a separate bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.

With the mixer running, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, a bit at a time to give them time to incorporate. Divide the batter evenly in the cake pans and put them in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Set the finished cakes on a wire rack to cool. Try not to accidentally dent the top of the cake like I did.

Make the frosting: Using a mixer, cream the butter and shortening together until they're smooth and well incorporated. Add the powdered sugar a bit at a time (I do a 1/2 cup), allowing time for the mixer to incorporate it. It won't really look like much while you're doing this, but don't panic. Add the eggnog, rum extract and nutmeg and then let the mixer do its thing for 4-5 minutes. It'll start out looking kind of limp and dull, but once it's done, it'll be fluffy and white. Take a taste and see if it needs more nutmeg.

Assemble the cake: Once the cakes are fully cooled, run a butter knife around the edges of the pan and invert it onto a plate. It should come right out, but if it doesn't a gentle, but firm, shake should do the trick. Turn it right side up and frost the first layer.

Be generous with the top of that first layer! I was afraid of running out of frosting and skimped a bit. I ended up having a ton of leftover frosting and middle layer in the cake that was a bit wimpy. Add the top layer and frost it, making sure to fill in gap between the two layers with frosting.

If you're feeling extra fancy, you can slice the rounded top off the bottom layer so the alignment is more professional-looking. I'm not a professional, so I wasn't worried about that. You could also pipe the frosting on and do some cool things with it, or lightly dust the top with nutmeg or colored sugar. The sky's the limit, really.

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