If you look to the sidebar of this here blog, you will notice a brand-spanking-new icon in the line of soshul meedya icons (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)—a mildly ominous, minimalistic eyeless grin.
And if you click on that icon, you will find that it leads to a brand-spanking-new soshul meedy site, minimalistic and “beautiful” (as its designers claim) and already teeming with hipsters, for better or worse, but one that is totally awesome for one reason, as you can see with this short passage from their WTF page:
Every post you share, every friend you make, and every link you follow is tracked, recorded, and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.
We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity, and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.
We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate — but a place to connect, create, and celebrate life.
You are not a product.”
|I...I believe. source|
That is Ello. The new kind of social media.
Of course, this all sounds too good to be true. Everyone wants to make money, even those strapping startups claiming to have the power to change the world. But apparently, Ello is actually a class of company which cannot put ads on its site or collect its users’ data for personal gain...or something. As claimed by this letter:
“There has been some speculation in the press since our launch that Ello will someday be forced to allow paid ads on our social network.
With virtually everybody else relying on ads to make money, some members of the tech elite are finding it hard to imagine there is a better way.
But 2014 is not 2004, and the world has changed.
To assure that Ello always remains ad-free, Ello converted to a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC). A Benefit Corporation is a new kind of for-profit company in the USA that exists to produce a benefit for society as a whole — not just to make money for its investors.
The Ello PBC charter states in the strongest legal terms possible that:
1) Ello shall never make money from selling ads;
2) Ello shall never make money from selling user data; and
3) In the event that Ello is ever sold, the new owners will have to comply by these terms.
In other words, Ello exists for your benefit, and will never show ads or sell user data.
Simple, beautiful, and ad-free.
There is a better way.
We, as founders and investors in Ello, vow to support Ello’s mission and to abide by the terms of the Ello Charter.”
Ello. Ello. Ello. Got the point?
It is too good to be true. I was skeptical, but I had to find out for myself.
I learned of this site a few months ago, after reading Chuck Wendig’s post on Terribleminds (a fabulous blog which you should totally read, if you’re into writing...and, um, shit). However, for the sake of Ello’s poor servers, I was forced to wait along with waves of other anxious hipsters to join him in this corner of the internet. The other day, I finally received my “invitation”, and I eagerly set up my account.
It’s kinda lonely over there.
After following a couple dozen “photographers” and “designers” and “artists”, I began to wonder if there were any, you know, people I actually knew on there. Food bloggers, IRL friends, whomever.
So sign up maybe?
|No reason to feel threatened. Just...do it. source|
Anyway. That’s enough of that. Let’s talk about cake now.
|I think...do I see chocolate in there?|
Don’t be shocked by the title—I didn’t make it up. Much like that “sex in a pan” I made a while back, this cake is another ‘Murican concoction inspired by the packaged goods so commonly found in old fashioned mommies’ pantries (I say “old-fashioned” since these days you’d be more likely to find coconut flour than Bisquick). It is basically a chocolate cake baked in a square pan in which you poke a bunch of holes (a trait it shares with the equally ‘Murican “poke cake”) and proceed to fill with sticky sweet stuffin’s and top with (obviously) your artificial whipped topping of choice. As the recipe from Brown Eyed Baker goes: devil’s food cake mix, sweetened condensed milk, jarred caramel topping, Cool Whip, and toffee bits. No, I’m not kidding. Go look for yourself if you must.
So obviously I had to attempt a homemade version.
As the cake base, I used my favorite vegan chocolate cake ever—the recipe from Chef Dennis that I used in my totally bomb-ass you should check it out right now chili chocolate cake. But because I am particularly fond of layer cakes, I opted to make it a majestic standalone cake as opposed to the plebeian squares you often see for better than sex cakes. For the filling, I soaked the cake with a basic vanilla pudding and caramel sauce. Deliciously fluffy whipped cream and candied pecans (instead of toffee bits, which would be far too involved to make from scratch than I was willing to attempt) went on top of the whole shebang.
How was it? Was it better than sex? I wouldn’t say so. I mean, it really depends on what kind of sex you like. We all have different tastes.
I mean. Um. You get the point.
Here’s the recipe.
Vegan “better than sex” cake (rich chocolate cake with vanilla pudding, caramel, and whipped cream)
Chocolate cake (adapted from this cake)
188 grams • all-purpose flour • 1 ½ cups
200 grams • granulated sugar • 1 cup
15 grams • Dutch-processed cocoa powder • 3 tablespoons
4 grams • baking soda • 1 teaspoon
2 grams • salt • ¼ teaspoon
85 grams • coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons
14 grams • apple cider vinegar • 1 tablespoon
6 grams • vanilla extract • 1 ½ teaspoons
244 grams • cold water • 1 cup
Vanilla pudding (adapted from Hell Yeah It’s Vegan)
7 grams • cornstarch • 1 tablespoon
210 grams • nondairy milk • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons
42 grams • granulated sugar • 3 ½ tablespoons
4 grams • vanilla extract • 1 teaspoon
14 grams • coconut oil • 1 tablespoon
Caramel sauce (bourbon optional)
1 can of full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
Powdered sugar, to taste
To make cake, start by preheating oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8-inch baking pans and line with parchment paper.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the middle and add coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, vanilla, and cold water. Beat on medium-low speed until smooth.
Divide batter evenly between baking pans and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 20 minutes before removing cakes from pans to cool completely.
To make vanilla pudding, start by whisking together cornstarch and 50 grams / ¼ cup milk in a small bowl. Set aside.
Combine remaining milk and sugar in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. When mixture begins to steam, add cornstarch-milk mixture. Stirring occasionally, cook until the mixture begins to thicken and just reaches a boil, about 5 minutes.
Now turn down heat to low and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla and coconut oil. Let cool to room temperature before using.
For topping, crack open that refrigerated can of coconut milk and scrape the thickened, fatty part at the top into an electric stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat until fluffy and medium peaks form. Add a couple spoonfuls of sugar and beat once more until combined. Set aside.
To assemble cake, start by placing one layer of the cake on a cutting board and poking fairly deep holes with a small knife or fork. Spread half of the pudding on top, making sure it soaks into the holes sufficiently. Drizzle (an appropriate amount of) caramel on top and sprinkle with some candied nuts. Top with other half of cake; cut holes and slather with remaining pudding and caramel. Top with whipped cream and more candied nuts. Slice and serve.
One note before we wrap it up: the recipe above uses my favorite traditional vegan chocolate cake, but you can easily make it gluten-free by substituting my favorite gluten-free chocolate cake, which has an equal stamp of approval from both myself and plenty of taste-testers. Make it totally grain-free (since the part of quinoa we eat is a seed, not a grain) by using arrowroot powder in the pudding instead of cornstarch. The more you know!
|It's a wee bit messy.|
Like far too many recipes on this site, this recipe looks kind of long and kind of complicated and probably more than a little intimidating. But it’s really not. You can assemble the caramel and pudding DAYS ahead of time, and the whipped cream need only be put together right before serving. Nothing to fear.
And if you’re ever tempted to make the boxed, store-bought kind, just remember: all of that homemade effort is worth it. Totally. One hundred and twenty-five percent. The rich, fudgy cake...the deep caramelized flavor of the homemade caramel...the crunchy candied nuts...all miles better than that ‘Murican shit.
Just trust me on that one.