Vegan chocolate-cranberry cake

The smell of coffee still triggers memories of Sunday mornings at my grandparents' former Pennsylvania home. On snowy December mornings before church, the grown-ups would pour themselves cups of coffee from the drip machine, discussing Pittsburgh football and the developments of the extended family while my brother and I snacked on the glorious and artificially-flavored Butterscotch Krumpets. My Pop-Pop leafed through the newspaper, and I copied him with the Sunday comics. 

I got a whiff of those memories earlier this week while making a chocolate cake. (!!!!!) Here the short story: the cake recipe called for freshly-brewed coffee, and so I brewed said coffee, and then promptly proceeded to spill the stuff all over my right hand. As the bad words fell from my mouth, I thought of those Sunday mornings and thought "Awww, never mind, Coffee. It's okay that you burnt me." It's funny how good memories can affect temporary pain.

But enough about that! On to the cake! Chocolate-cranberry cake! That's accidentally vegan because I'm running out of groceries and had to make do with what was in the kitchen!! A lot of exciting dishes (and art projects) start that way. 

I made this cake for a Christmas Party I attended Thursday evening. One of my high school best friends, Corinne, and another amazing high school friend, Austin, were visiting California along with Corinne's parents, and Corinne's godfather invited all of us to his big holiday blowout. Whew! In addition to all these familial connections, Corinne and Austin got ENGAGED (!!!) about a week ago, and were celebrating it up fiancé-style.. They two hit it off during sophomore year, when Corinne took on the seemingly-innocent role of Austin's Spanish tutor. I don't know how well Austin currently speaks Spanish, but given the circumstances,  I think the lessons seem to have paid off. (wink wink nudge nudge.) 

So in the spirit of Christmas and celebration, I tore through the cabinets of my baked goods and threw everything into a bowl, sneaking licks along the way. Chocolate cake batter is a dessert of it's own caliber, and provides a warm darkness that wraps me in up in a sexy, silk blanket. Sugared cranberries spill on a white plate, and I play Michael Bublé's Christmas album while still in my bathrobe and glasses. 

Christmas takes place in the kitchen, in my car, and the living room with Wes and Dylan. As the oven warms the chilly air (yes, LA is chilllllly!!!) and sprinkles and cranberries line the counters, I clap my hands in joy and say "it really is beginning to look and feel a lot like Christmas." 

One week and I'm on a redeye back to Virginia. Until then, friends, enjoy some chocolate cake. Don't let the vegan-ness of this cake steer you away; it's moist and fantastic and perfect for holiday parties. It's my little gift to the cows this year. The can keep their eggs and milk for the season while I lick the batter from a spoon.

vegan chocolate cranberry cake 

1 1/2 cups flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup organic can sugar

1/2 cup safflower, vegetable, or canola oil

1 cup chilled brewed coffee

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1 cup cranberries tossed with 2 tablespoons sugar 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Using oil or spray, grease an 9-inch cake pan, then cut a circle of parchment and place it on the bottom, then oil. This makes such a wonderful difference!

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Whisk together to break up any cocoa clumps. In a second medium bowl, combine the oil, coffee, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir together until smooth. Stir in the cranberries.

Add the vinegar and stir. Some fizzing may occur as the vinegar interacts with the baking powder. Immediately, pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Take the cake out of the oven and cool completely on a rack. When cool, frost with the chocolate frosting and garnish with any remaining cranberries. 

Here is the chocolate frosting recipe I used. To keep it vegan, I substituted the butter with Earth Balance's buttery spread. 

This recipe was adapted from Big Girls Small Kitchen. Thanks, ladies!

- stay cozy