Monday, July 14, 2014

Neapolitan celebration cakes part III - vanilla layer cake

vegan vanilla layer cake how to philosophize with cake

When you do a lot of baking, you pick up odd tidbits of information that are hard to explain to someone who isn’t as familiar with this form of culinary creation. You learn when you should substitute whole grain flours and when you shouldn’t; you know what ingredients to replace in a pinch; you know if it’s okay to skip a step, if it’s just an unnecessary complication. And most importantly, you learn how to spot a shitty recipe.

I’m still working on that last one.

In preparation for making this cake, I made two different recipes for vegan vanilla cake. Both used vegetable oil. Both tasted like ass.

jack sparrow johnny depp grossed out gif
MRW I tasted those nasty-ass cakes. source

Even worse, they smelled just as horrid. Meaning I had to hold my breath as I disposed of them and cleaned the dishes they had dirtied. To say the least, it was traumatizing.

grossed out girl smelly
MRW I cleaned those nasty-ass pans. source

And so I have learned my lesson: never ever ever make a plain vanilla cake with oil as the main source of fat. That cheap canola flavor will shine right through and stink up the whole thing. It may work with chocolate cakes (like the cake I used here) but not vanilla, which is of course a flavor in itself but not nearly strong enough to overpower the poor quality of the remaining ingredients. If I had used, say, olive oil, or maybe coconut oil, perhaps it would have been better.

But alas. Shitty cake was made, and shitty cake was had. Well, not had. It was thrown away.

So I moved on to making delicious creamed butter-style vanilla cake, using the manufactured wonder that is margarine and plenty of sugar.

That’s another thing I’ve learned throughout my vegan baking adventures: most of the time, creamed cakes are best. The vigorous beating of butter and sugar produces a fabulously tender and rich crumb and why am I trying to write all fancy-like? and while it is (probably) impossible to make those beautiful egg white cakes without animal products, that’s nothing that a bit o’Earth Balance can’t make up.

The result? This is, by far, the best cake of the three I have made. It rose (to the occasion) beautifully and has a golden-brown crust; you absolutely cannot taste the tofu, which is a plus; and the coconut oil even lends it a nice depth of flavor.

Or whatever. I’m no food journalist, so I’ll just give you the good old “IT WUZ DELISHUS”.

blue vanilla cake buttercream vegan how to philosophize with cake
Whatever you say, Baby June. But WHY IS THAT BLUE?!?

Vanilla cake

Adapted from Joy of Baking


345 grams • sifted all-purpose flour • 3 cups

14 grams • baking powder • 1 tablespoon

3 grams • salt • ½ teaspoon

113 grams • Earth Balance, softened • ½ cup

113 grams • coconut oil, softened • ½ cup

350 grams • granulated sugar • 1 ¾ cups

225 grams • silken tofu (or other sub for 4 eggs) • 1 cup

8 grams • vanilla extract • 2 teaspoons

244 grams • nondairy milk • 1 cup


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper—yes this is necessary.

In a medium bowl, sift or whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

Place softened Earth Balance and coconut oil in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Beat until soft and creamy. Gradually add sugar and cream until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add tofu (or egg sub) and beat well. Add in vanilla extract. With mixer on low speed, alternately add flour mixture in three additions and milk in two additions.

Divide the batter between two prepared pans. Bake for about 25 to 33 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan. Let cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla frosting

Adapted from The Kitchen Magpie


226 grams • vegan buttery spread, softened • 1 cup

12 grams • vanilla extract • 1 tablespoon

480 grams • powdered sugar • 4 cups

60 grams • coconut milk, full fat • ¼ cup


Place vegan buttery spread into the bowl of a stand mixer and whip until light and airy. Add vanilla extract and mix. On low speed, gradually add powdered sugar until combined. Pour in coconut milk and whip until fluffy and spread-able.

vegan vanilla layer cake
Please explain that hole in the frosting. In fact, EXPLAIN EVERYTHING.

As you can see, my photography for this particular cake is severely lacking. I blame it on the lack of light. And my lack of frosting skillz. But you have my word that this is one bomb-ass cake, no matter how ugly or strange-looking it is.

So that concludes our series on Neapolitan cakes. In case you missed it (I know I know) here are the other two cakes: 

fresh strawberry layer cake vegan

A fresh strawberry layer cake that is, if I might say so myself, quite sublime.

gluten free chocolate layer cake vegan

A gluten-free chocolate layer cake. Made with quinoa. Yup.


  1. This looks fantastic June! Sorry to hear the first two didn't turn out all that well, but you live and you learn, and take three sounds deeelishus as you put it yourself ;) The only cake I think I have used oil for before I think, was banana bread, and sunflower oil worked a treat :) But then again, it seems Earth Balance came to the recue, win! :D x

    1. Thanks! I think oil does work in some quick breads and such that have a stronger flavor, but vanilla Not really. But it all worked out in the end so it was okay. :)

  2. I've baked with olive oil before and want to do more experimenting, but I will definitely stir clear of mostly vegetable and canola oil! Glad the new vanilla cake turned out fabulous.

  3. Kitchen failures make the successes that much better...right!? I would have been right there with you creating again and again until perfection!! This looks great!

    1. I agree! Persistence definitely pays off. :)

  4. Hi June, love that you used tofu in your batter, very clever. Sorry your other cakes did not turn out, enjoy reading your posts.

    1. Yes tofu is amazing in cakes!! You can't taste it at all. In fact you can never really taste tofu no matter what you do with it. :P Glad you hear you like the posts!

  5. Gimme. Gimme ALL OF THOSE CAKES. I had a vegetable oil base cake once at a friends. She'd just become vegan and was trying to convince me that vegan cakes were awesome. Will have to direct her to this website because like you, I thought the veggie oil cake tasted like ass. Great cake.

    1. Haha thanks! Vegan cakes can be awesome, but it is important to chose a good recipe. :)

  6. I don't make many cakes - probably out of fear. Yours looks wonderful - I don't care what you say! Always looking for a good vanilla cake recipe. Have a wonderful day June!

  7. Hi!
    I'm new to the vegan baking game, but I've been baking since I was 8 years old. I'm never blown away with my vegan creations, the texture is usually a little off and everything turns out bland. I'll make sure to try this recipe I have a feeling you are the answer to my problems.

    1. I hope you do try it!! This cake is, like, objectively awesome. :)

  8. Every mishap is what will eventually make you more and more natural...mistakes are natural...mistakes are the route to naturalness and ease! Nobody is a born chef. We learn and take pride in our produce and progress! Looks fab :)

    1. I agree! There's a bright side to every failure. :)

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