So I’m not vegan.  Veganism in many forms annoys me.  I rant often and at length against vegans, because so many of them have a love for soy cheese that baffles me and anyone who loves feta.  I love yogurt, I love honey, and although I have a weird relationship with eggs (more on this another time), I praise the blond haired blue eyed baby jesus that all of these things are readily available to me.  As someone who supports local foods, though, I of course encourage myself and others to buy all of these things as close to home as possible.  They’re better for us, better for the animals, better for the planet. 

Look, if you want to throw together a chick’n sandwich for a last-minute lunch, fine, but I am a firm believer that change in diet really means… change in diet.  Shift, don’t substitute.  And take it as an opportunity to learn new ways of cooking.  Find your favorite way to barbecue tempeh.  And don’t just blindly put tofu in place of ricotta.  Understand the way things ought to taste; don’t fight their flavors.  And don’t forget to eat a well-rounded diet.  No one likes a cranky vegan.

Moving on from self-righteous (yet valuable!) diatribes, I will say that I think vegan baked goods are great when they’re done right.  As the vegan movement gains momentum, the old Depression-era trick of combining baking soda and vinegar in cakes to create the leavening otherwise assisted by eggs is becoming popular again.  Butter is replaced with oil, milk with soymilk or water.  And, if the proportions are right, it’s not one of those stupefying combinations of rubber + rock that so often accompanies the mental image of vegan baking – in fact, it’s so dern tasty you’ll fool all your friends into thinking that they’re sinking their pearly whites into a chocolate cake straight from dairy heaven.  I say wait until they’re halfway finished, then let the cat out of the bag.  They’ll eat the rest and then maybe go home and jump on the vegan baking bandwagon.  (Or shall we say, vegan baking revolution?  OK, maybe we won’t.)

This recipe is adapted from one that I found on allrecipes.com. Of the things I’ve changed, the one worth noting is the red wine vinegar – the original called for distilled white vinegar, which I’ve never found here. I think it makes a difference in flavor if you eat the cake right out of the oven (mea culpa!), but by the time it cools, you can’t tell it’s there. The cinnamon is optional but highly recommended – the small amount by no means overpowers, but it’s enough to make people say, “Now what exactly is that lovely flavor?”

Vegan Chocolate Cake

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat or all purpose flour
1 cup sugar (I’ve used 3/4 cup and been fine)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 cup water

Preheat to 350F. Grease a medium loaf pan. (Mine is 7 1/2″ by 3 1/2″, but I live in the strange land of metrics. Use whatever you have and don’t sweat it.) It doesn’t hurt, with most vegan baked goods, to line the pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl sift together flour(s), sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl combine oil, vanilla, vinegar, and water. Pour wet into dry and mix until combined. Pour into prepared baking pan and bake 45 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. (But don’t overbake!) Let cool in pan 5 minutes then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling.

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