I was searching and searching, pondering and pondering on what to make. I need to go all out as I normally do and would not have it any other way. I could make cupcakes filled with a creamy goodness with rich frosting, loaded cookies with nuts, chocolate chips, and raisins, or brownies, some sort of giant sheet cake with maybe a candy something on top, or a rich succulent cheese cake with fruits on top. No, as much as these sounded delicious, they were just on the ordinary yummy part of the scale. No, this had be on the, jaw dropping holy chocolate cake batman, how am I going to eat that, part of the scale! So, I continued to search the internet for different ideas. I had a vision, a master piece a work of art. I sat in traffic thinking, ran on my treadmill thinking, and walked the dogs thinking. After all this thinking, I finally decided what would be perfect and this is what I came up with.
I wanted to bake a vegan cake for my son in laws birthday party. It had to be fun, crazy big and of course chocolate! What I came up with will was a tower of chocolate deliciousness and judging by the looks on everyone’s faces when I brought it out as mouths dropped and eyes bulged, I had succeeded in my goal. I created a 3 layer (was going to be 4 but I made the extra layer for my son), chocolate s’mores cake with peanut butter frosting and gram crackers in the middle layers and chocolate frosting on the top with a s’mores bark on top.
This cake was fun and messy to make, I think there was more chocolate frosting and batter on me, the counters and in places that simply made me scratch my head and ask really? Whenever I make a cake, one of the biggest questions is, how did you make that without butter, eggs or milk? “How do you get it to come out so moist?” For the milk, simply substitute almond, coconut, soy or rice milk depending on the flavor you want. I used almond milk, it’s a bit sweeter. Butter can be replaced with Earth Balance, a non GMO canola oil or coconut oil. There are quite a few alternatives for eggs and each one gives a different flavor and texture depending on what you are looking for. Here are a few examples of egg replacements:
Ener-G egg replacer – sold in powder form in a box, simply add water
Ground flax seeds or chia seeds – they gel when water is added creating an earthier nutty flavor
Silken Tofu – gives it a more creamy texture, tofu is bland by itself so it will not alter flavors
Avocado – creamy thick texture to puddings, cupcakes or frostings
Black beans / white beans – gives a cake a real dense rich texture, great in brownies
Banana / apple sauce – moist sweet texture (I used applesauce for this cake), also good in breads
Soy yogurts – moist creamy texture
Now, while the cakes were in the oven cooking, I made the peanut butter and chocolate frostings and set them aside. These were simple and only took minutes to make. For this cake I went all out and used organic sugar, after all it is a birthday cake and is allowed once a year. However, if you want a healthier alternative other sweeteners can be used. Some examples include dates, applesauce, banana, agave, honey (non vegan), coconut milk or stevia. The peanut butter frosting was practically difficult for me to make, it required two spoons for mixing. One spoon was to scoop out peanut butter for the frosting and one to scoop was for me. It is simply impossible for me not to indulge in the greatest food on earth, an obsession that I really need help with.
Then, once the cakes were done cooking they went right in the freezer. It is a trick I learned that keeps the cake moist. While they were cooling it in the freezer and the frostings was done and set aside, I made the best part (well next to the peanut butter), the s’mores bark.
For the bark I wanted to make it fun so I added a trail nut mix I found at Trader Joes just to add more character and more calories. Also, marshmallows are typically made with gelatin not vegan friendly. However, there is a vegan version but they can be expensive and hard to find having only found them at Whole foods. They are fairly simple to make from scratch but, I took the easier route and bought them. For the chocolate bark all the ingredients went in a big bowl, the gram crackers broken up, whole chocolate chips, marshmallows, and trail nuts. Then, add melted chocolate and mix well, spread on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer to harden for about half hour.
During this half hour it would be a good time to clean up all the chocolate, flour, dirty bowls, pans and utensils just so there is more room to make a new mess while I put the cake together. The final step….assembly! The peanut butter frosting and gram crackers crumbled will go on top of the first layer. Then, on top of that another layer of cake, PB frosting and crackers and another layer of cake. Finally, this is where I made another mess…. the chocolate frosting. Then, I broke apart the s’mores bark and layered the top with it. I had extra crackers so I crumbled some up and stuck them on the sides for added eye appeal. I had extra s’mores bark so it went to my son in laws along with the cake for an extra snack. Not like they needed anymore extra snacks after this cake.
This cake was a huge hit and everyone ate every crumb left on their plates. A little bit of guilty pleasure once a year never hurt anyone even if you do go to the gym the next day for a little added minutes of cardio, it was so worth it! So I know the anticipation is torture, so here is the recipe!
S'mores Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake
Note: Don’t be overwhelmed by all the ingredients and steps. It is much easier and quicker than you think. It took me about 2 hours to complete the whole thing from start to finish. Most people don’t have 2 hours to spare but, just think of the final creation when done. You could always get a helping hand to help and decrease the time.
For the cake:
These measurements made 2 8in cake layers and one batch of frosting. I made this batch twice to make 2 more and doubled the frosting. The 4th layer I made a single cake that ended up at my son’s house.
· 1 1/2 cups vanilla almond milk
· 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
· 1 1/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
· 1/2 cup brewed instant coffee
· 2/3 cup canola oil or coconut oil melted
· 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
· 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
· 1 1/3 cups good quality cane sugar (can use other sweetener to try and keep it healthier)
· 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
· 2 tsp baking soda
· 1 tsp baking powder
· 1/4 tsp salt
For the Frosting:
· 1 cup vegan butter, softened in microwave for 45 sec.
· 3 cups powdered sugar
· 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
· 1/4 cup dairy-free semisweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
· 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
· 1/4 cup vanilla almonds milk
· Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
· Use 2 8in round pans and spread some vegan butter on bottom of each pan or use a nonstick spray and dust it with some cocoa powder.
· Wisk together the almond milk and vinegar and set aside for a few minutes to activate.
· Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Mix well to make sure it is all sifted together nicely.
· Wisk all the wet ingredients together including the milk that was set aside.
· Using a hand mixer, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet while mixing a little at a time. Making sure it is well incorporated and there are no lumps. It should be nice and creamy!
· Divide the batter evenly in each pan.
· Bake for 25-30 min or until a toothpick comes out clean.
· Once done put cake still in pan in the freezer to cool down for about 20 min
· Add all ingredients together except the sugar.
· Using a hand blender, slowly pour in sugar mixing well until thick, chocolatey and creamy
Peanut butter frosting:
· 2/3 cup crunchy peanut butter (I used salted)
· 1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup almond milk
· 2 tsp pure vanilla
· Mix all ingredients together with hand mixer until creamy
For the S’more Bark:
Note: These measurements made a ton of bark more than enough for the cake, lots of extra to snack on, made a thick layer on whole baking sheet. If you don’t want this much cut ingredients in half.
· 2 bags vegan chocolate chunks (I used Good life)
· One package of gram crackers (or more)
· One package of vegan marshmallows (I could only find the big ones, so I cut them in half)
· One bag of vegan chocolate chips (trader joes are vegan)
· One bag of nut trail mix (trader joes has different varieties and this is optional but highly recommended)
· Break apart the gram crackers in a large bowl
· If large marshmallows then cut those in half and add to bowl
· Add chocolate chips and trail mix
· Slowly melt the chocolate chunks in a sauce pan on low heat, continually stir until melted
· Mix all ingredients together and layer out on a baking sheet
· Put baking sheet in freezer to harden
This is the fun part!
· Take one chocolate layer cake and put half the peanut butter frosting on top
· Crumble some gram crackers on top of that
· Put another layer of cake and set it on top of that and spread the second half of peanut butter frosting on top.
· Crumble some gram crackers on top of that
· Put another layer of cake on top of that
· Spread the chocolate frosting on top and sides of cake (you may have some frosting left that’s ok use it for the 4th layer of cake unless you want to add the 4th layer on top of the 3rd making it a huge tower cake)
· Then break apart the bark in big chunks and layer on top (you could put it on the sides if you like, I used more gram crackers for the sides)
· I put the whole cake back in the freezer until ready to eat. Kept it nice and moist and delicious cold!
Enjoy this work of art, this chocolate creations of goodness!