John and I always plan our vacations around food. We (along with my sister) spend a good chunk of our beach vacation finding the best seafood, the best ice cream, the best restaurant, etc; we spent our honeymoon eating our way through Thailand; we added Spain and Morocco to John’s conference in Vienna for the food. For some reason though, even though I have a huge sweet tooth, it never occurred to me to travel for dessert.
What a mistake.
A Passionfruit Yogurt Cake I had in the shadow of the Stephansdom.
The sausage in Vienna was wonderful, as was the tafelspitz, a pleasant surprise of tender beef served with horseradish and applesauce, but oh my lord the cakes. Words cannot express… chocolate cakes, European “layered” cakes (such as opera cake), mousse cakes, yogurt cakes!, cakes layered with fruit, cakes glazed with fruit (Mozart cake), cakes made with crushed nuts… Never have I felt so happily, comfortably ensconced with a book, eating a deliciously silky yogurt cake, just hanging out on my own while John was at his conference–and ask anyone, I am not a hang out alone in a cafe sort of person. With a medieval cathedral looming in the background no less.
A perfect example of what I loved about Vienna: I loved this building but I have absolutely no idea what it is–buildings like this abounded on every corner and street.
I loved Vienna.
Don’t get me wrong I loved the other places we visited too. But contrary to expectations, Vienna was where I felt most at home, most stimulated by the local history, architecture, most entranced by the food. By then I was missing Alex and Sammy ferociously, so it was good to come home, but I could have stayed longer were it not for that, easily. Oh wait, except for the fact that we would have been broke soon also.
The Stephansdom, which was partially under construction while we were there, but we were still able to go in and up to the top.
After returning home, we headed to the Outer Banks for 2 weeks (sorry for being so incommunicado!) and then to my in laws for a little under a week. Let me tell you, there is nothing like having been gone for 6 weeks to make a person wander around in a daze! A few pieces of luggage have not been emptied yet, there is a Moroccan rug lying on my dining room table, and I have yet to cook a real meal. However, while I was out of town I picked up Joanne Chang’s Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe at a Border’s that was going out of business (ok I might’ve bought more than just it), and was immediately hooked by it. Contrary to the cakes whose praises I was just singing, it focuses on decidedly American, homey desserts (scones, muffins, American style cakes, cookies). I bookmarked quite a few recipes, and decided to start, in the spirit of less-indulgent-home-from-vacation eating, with the Vegan Low Fat Chocolate Cake.
A Chocolate Mousse Cake I had at Kurkonditorei Oberlaa, in the Naschmarkt, Vienna’s fabulous open air food market.
The name of this cake gave me fits–and I bet it did Joanne Chang also. After all, if you are vegan, dairy-free, on a low-fat diet, or just on a diet, period, it certainly gets to the point and lets you know you have found the cake you are looking for. But on the other hand, it is about as appealing as dust and in no way sums up the tender deliciousness of this cake. The way I saw it was this: Joanne Chang’s book is full of fattening, dairy-laden goodness, so if she thought this cake was awesome without the dairy and fat (and eggs!), then I was all for trying it. You should be too.
A note about the size: Chang’s recipe calls for a 6 inch pan, which I did not have. So after much hemming and hawing, I settled on doubling the recipe in a 9 inch round pan and reducing the heat. The cake did rise a lot in the center, but it was still delicious so I decided I did not care. Presumably to avoid this be sure to use a 6 inch round cake pan–or maybe the cake is just meant to be more rustic looking.
- 1½ cups (210 g) AP flour
- ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup (40 g) Dutch processed cocoa powder--I used Valrhona
- 2 t instant espresso
- 1 t baking soda
- ¼ t salt-she calls for Kosher but I used fine grained sea salt
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup neutral flavored oil (I used olive, she calls for canola)
- 1 t vanilla
- 2 T unsulfured light or dark molasses (I ran out and topped off with agave syrup)
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 6 inch round cake pan. Set aside.
- Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, espresso, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Whisk together the water, oil, vanilla and molasses and then add to the dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon or a spatula, stir the batter just until smooth. Pour into the prepared cake pan.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out mostly clean and the sides of the cake are pulling away from the edges of the pan. Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 1 hour and then invert the cake onto a plate and then flip it back right-side-up onto the cooling rack. let cool completely and dust with confectioner's sigar before serving. Serve with or without whipped cream--both are delicious.
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