Robin Mather special for the Arizona Daily Star
Sometimes you just need something quick, simple, and sweet.
This Mexican-style chocolate cake ticks the boxes. And, if that’s important to you, it’s a vegan cake with a vegan frosting option.
Two of my favorite neighbors did me a kindness the other day, and I wanted to do a little something to thank them. She’s vegan, he’s not, and neither am I. But I definitely wanted to give them something they could both enjoy.
Chances are you have everything you need for the cake in your pantry. Most of us keep flour, sugar, a few basic spices, and vegetable oil on hand, after all.
The cake relies on the simple chemical reaction of baking soda and vinegar for its leavening. You won’t taste the vinegar, I promise. When it comes to yeasts, however, this one isn’t the most stable, so it’s important to quickly put the dough into the prepared pan and into the oven. It’s also important to let the cake cool completely before playing with it – the crumb is surprisingly delicate, especially when it’s still warm.
People also read…
Bake it in a traditional square or round pan, and it looks just like a regular cake. I often bake mine in a loaf pan, so it’s more like a tea loaf – not too big, with nice rectangular slices.
Although I don’t usually keep margarine at home—I prefer grass-fed butter in my kitchen—I was happy to pick some up for the frosting on this cake. Knowing that I’m likely to cook for those neighbors again, the rest of the package went into the freezer for another day.
I love this cake with chili powder and shameless cinnamon because I think it’s like chocolate gingerbread that way. If you prefer a more subtle flavor, skip the chili powder.
By the way, in the name of clarity, you’ll want to use chili powder — simply ground chiles — not chili powder, which contains cumin, oregano, and several other ingredients. If you don’t have chili powder, substitute cayenne pepper.
If keeping the cake vegan isn’t important to you, use butter in the frosting. I usually do. Sometimes I use molasses or sorghum syrup instead of agave syrup or maple syrup, just to vary the flavor a bit.
But as often as not, if I’m baking for myself, I skip the frosting altogether and dust the cooled cake with icing sugar drifts. The cake alone is sweet enough that it doesn’t require a lot of extra sugar.
If you want to bake this cake to have on hand in the future, it freezes well once cooled. Wrap it tightly in waxed paper, then place it in a large zip-top bag or overwrap it with freezer paper. Save the finishing touches until you thaw it – it will take about 24 hours in the fridge to thaw completely. But because it’s so quick and easy to cook, I usually don’t mess with freezing it.
Overall, this is a flexible and easy to bake cake for a quick treat. Whether it’s for you or for a gift, it’s up to you.
Mexican Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting
This cake is vegan if you use margarine in the frosting. If this does not apply to you, use the recommended butter. Or, if you’re lazy, like I sometimes am, just dust the finished cake with icing sugar when it’s completely cooled.
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground chilli
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cider or white vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup softened butter (vegan option: stick margarine)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup agave or maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9 inch square or round cake pan or a 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon and chili powder and stir. Add cold water, vegetable oil, white vinegar and vanilla and stir until just combined.
Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. A loaf pan can take a little longer, up to 45 minutes.
While the cake is baking, combine all the frosting ingredients in a food processor or blender and whisk until well blended. Pour the frosting into a bowl and refrigerate for later use.
When the test cake is finished, remove it from the oven and let it cool completely on a wire rack. Frost with frosting or skip frosting and dust with icing sugar.