Lofty, very dark, with a delicate moist crumb- the cake, which is eggless and non-dairy, is lenten in no other way. Apart from the obvious gluttony, the popular vices sloth and pride are also rewarded in this frankly very lazy and yet impressive recipe.
When I think of Cake with a capital C, it’s always at least two layers and filled and iced, (the exception- pineapple upside-down cake made with copious amounts of rum and with fresh pineapple, maraschino cherries and walnut halves wedged generously everywhere). Our lenten cake is not that cake- it could be, by preparing two pans with oil and flour and baking paper, and by making a filling of say, cream of coconut and dark dairy-free chocolate. But it is not. This is a sheet cake- the only one that I make because I think that sheet cakes are actually layer cakes that have been held back by our own laziness from realizing their true destiny. This cake though is so spontaneous, so low maintenance, that its destiny is truly just this- a cake mixed directly in a naked pan and placed in the oven. There’s no tiresome oiling and flouring and lining of pans, no beaters to clean, no bowls to scrape- just that mere dinner fork to lick clean when you’re done. As to pride, yours will be well served. The cake delights everyone who eats it. When they find it is lenten (so also vegan), they’re even more impressed. When they find you mixed it in the same pan from which you are now cleanly lifting out perfect moist and fluffy squares, they think you are a domestic magician.
Enough with vice though – this cake is rich with virtues. It’s made with modest ingredients very likely already in your pantry (and none of them expensive), and you can have it on the table quickly. Moreover, so plain and unpretentious, this lovely cake is modesty itself. And it’s just the thing for a random Wednesday lunch on a blustery day. After all, when cake is least expected is probably when it is needed most of all.
What we’ll need for our chocolate cake
- A large pan- 9″x 13″, or 25 x 28 cm
- 2 1/2 C/ 425 g flour
- 1 C / 90 g unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 3/4 C/ 350 g sugar
- 2 tsp/ 10 ml baking soda
- 1 tsp/ 5 ml salt
- 1 7/8 C / 450 ml water
- 3/4 C / 180 ml vegetable oil
- 2 T/ 20 ml vinegar (truly – a full 2 tablespoons. The vinegar is essential for reacting with the baking soda and creating maximum lift. It won’t affect the flavor)
- 1 tsp/ 5 ml vanilla
Preheat your oven to 350 F/170 C. Put all of the dry ingredients into your pan.
Mix them with a fork:
Add the oil, water, vinegar, and vanilla.
Stir with the fork in swirling motions, working your way around the pan, until it is well enough mixed:
Bake the chocolate cake at 350 F/ 170 C for about 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean (moist perhaps, but clean).
As soon as it cools a bit, you can serve it forth straight from the pan. The bottom is moist – the squares come away easily with a flat spatula:
And are in fact so moist they are lovely as is, maybe with just a dusting of sugar so it at least looks like you went to a little trouble (which we know you did not).