Corona Cooking: Vegan Chocolate Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake

“It is all too much…”

For three months, the world has been in various stages of shutdown due to the pandemic. Bubbling tensions of hundreds of years of injustice is rising to the surface again. People we have known and loved have died, and the only comfort we can give to the families is through virtual funerals. Our family life has been upturned by an ongoing health issue. My brother and many people we know are worried that they will lose their businesses. Relatives and friends have lost their jobs altogether. People we care about have been exposed to and/or contracted the virus. We have not seen family and friends in person for months due to travel bans. For the first time in 25 years, I am back in that stage of applying and interviewing for jobs – just as jobs have become scarcer.

The other day, one of my children made the comment that “It is all too much.” I understood what she meant. At times, life can feel overwhelming. These are situations which we have little control over so they cause much stress, worry, and anxiety. We like to be in control. We want to be able to “do” something, to fix the problems. When we can do nothing, it leaves us floundering.

So, I find myself doing all the routine things. Making my bed in the morning. Mowing the grass when it is high. Gardening. Cleaning. Cooking.

As I continue with my routines, I pray.  I pray for all that I mentioned above. I pray for the people I know. I pray for the people I do not know. I pray for our state, our country, our world. I pray and ask, “Is there anything I can do at all?”

And I realize I can continue to love my children. I can lend support to my friends and strangers as I am able. I can attend social justice gatherings in my town. I can remember that every time one person takes a stand for good, others will join, and amazing things can happen.

And I can share with you my thoughts and my recipes: For those days when maybe you need a little lift, try this vegan, gluten free chocolate-chocolate chip-zucchini cake the children and I made the other day. Comfort food which you can feel good about eating.

Vegan, Gluten Free Chocolate Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake 

Ingredients:

2 tbsp ground flax seed

6 tbsp hot water

2 1/2 cup gluten free flour blend

1 cup coconut sugar (if allergic, use golden monk fruit sweetener or truvia-sugar blend)

1/4 cup Hershey Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

3/4 cup plant-based oil (extra light olive oil, safflower oil, avocado oil, melted coconut oil, etc…)

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup dairy free milk (oat, soy, flax, etc…)

2 1/2 cups grated zucchini

Baking instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 11 x 15 pan with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the ground flax seed with the hot water and set aside to gel, stirring every once in a while.
  3. Mix together the flour with the coconut sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside.
  4. Mix the flax seed gel with the oil, vanilla, and milk. Add the grated zucchini.
  5. Stir in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and blend until well-mixed. Batter will be thick.
  6. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, turning halfway through. The cake will be done when it is puffed, pulling away from the sides and firm to the touch.
  7. Put the pan on a wire cooling rack to cool. It is delicious warm and gooey from the oven, and just as good when it is cooled.

The Scoop: Zucchini Bundt Cake

“Please let me do that….”

I am envied by many of my female friends because my husband is a godsend. He washes dishes even if I don’t ask. If clean laundry is sitting on the bed, he will fold and put his away instead of moving it to ironing board so he can get into bed. Because of his job, he’s home during the witching hour and will help set the table or drive the children to baseball, dance or guitar lessons. On Saturday mornings when we clean the house as a family, he vacuums and dust mops.

I thank God every single day for him because I know that I’m blessed to have such a husband. There are two things, however, which I rarely ask my husband to help with – cooking and making the bed – for the same reason. Both require an attention to details which my more conceptually-minded husband often forgets.

With the beds: Growing up as a military brat, I believe beds are to be made with tight corners and nary a wrinkle in the sheets. My husband thinks that if the sheet is mostly covering the bed, he’s done well.

With the cooking: The idea that you have to actually pay attention to what you are cooking is foreign to my husband. We have been together 23 years, and he still burns his grilled cheese sandwiches because when an academic thought pierces his brain, he forgets that he’s grilling a sandwich and walks away to his computer, only remembering the sandwich when either the smell of burnt bread reaches the office or I discover the sandwich on the stove with no husband in sight.

Paying attention to details is important… especially when it comes to baking. I was reminded of this when I received an email about a disaster a friend had trying to make a Bundt cake. Bundt is a trademark name for a pan with fluted ridges and a tube in the center of the pan. Nowadays you can find a myriad of differently shaped Bundt pans on the market. Bundt pans are designed to distribute heat more quickly and more evenly to the cake batter, and the tube in the center allows denser batter to cling and rise more effectively.

As such, recipes designed specifically for Bundt pans tend to be moister, denser cake batters. They often include fillings like fruit or nuts and tend to require more eggs than regular cake batters. Because this is the case, if you try to bake a Bundt cake recipe in a regular flat cake pan, you’ll usually get a cake which hasn’t risen as well and which is usually more cooked at the edges than the center. If you decide you want to make a Bundt cake recipe in a regular cake pan, you’re better off dividing the batter between two smaller pans over trying to cook the Bundt cake recipe in regular 9 x 13 pan, even though the batter amount will fit such a pan.

The converse is not true, however. If you have a regular 9 x 13 cake recipe, you can substitute a Bundt pan without fear of a cake disaster. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when using a Bundt pan, though:

One, it’s very important to prepare Bundt pans well. The same ridges which make for a beautiful Bundt cake, also make for a disaster if the cake sticks to them and won’t come out of the pan. With most cakes, I don’t grease; I simply line the cake pans with parchment paper. With Bundt pans, however, I not only grease, I grease so that not a single crevice, line, spot on either the sides or the tube is missed. Then I carefully and evenly coat the grease with flour, cocoa powder or coconut sugar, depending on what type of Bundt cake I’m making.

The second important consideration is cooling the cake before removing it from the Bundt. If you try to remove a Bundt cake from the pan while it’s still warm, the cake is more likely to stick. If the pan is prepared well, however, and you wait until the cake is mostly cooled, the cake will release from the pan more cleanly. It also helps to run a butter knife around all the edges, including the center.

To help my friend with her Bundt cake disaster, I decided to create a recipe of my own using the original as a jumping off point. She had wanted to make her recipe gluten free but the brown rice flour blend she used wasn’t as structurally sound as one needs for a sturdier Bundt cake.  As such, I created my own flour blend which combined sorghum, fava bean, garbanzo bean, oat, sweet rice, and tapioca flours with just a little bit of xanthan gum. The heartier high fiber, high protein flours would lend depth to the cake.

Her recipe had came out a bit oily because the large amount of oil just soaked into the brown rice flour blend.  I opted to include ripe mashed bananas into the recipe and reduce the oil to 1/2 cup of safflower oil. I also replaced the sugar with Agave which allowed me to reduce the sweetener amount to only 1/2 cup. My friend’s cake was supposedly a Spice Bundt cake but it only called for cinnamon. I added cardamom and also decided to include shredded zucchini because veggies are a wonderful way to add moisture to a cake as well as natural vitamins. My last change was to swap out 1/2 cup of allergy friendly mini chocolate chips for the cup of chopped nuts, because unfortunately I have a tree nut allergy.

I didn’t change the eggs because we don’t have any allergies or health issues related to eggs but folks who do can always swap liquid egg whites for the whole eggs or ground flaxseed mixed with water.

The resulting cake, of which I made two, were met with appeals for the recipe when I served them at a workshop and at a bible study on the same day.

Zucchini Bundt Cake

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cup gluten free flour blend* (recipe below)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

1 cup mashed ripe bananas

1 cup shredded zucchini

1/2 cup safflower oil

1/2 cup Agave

3 whole eggs (or 3/4 cup liquid egg whites or 3 tbsp flaxseed mixed with 9 tbsp water)

1 tbsp vinegar (white or apple cider)

Baking Instructions:

 

  1. Thoroughly grease and then flour a normal 12 cup Bundt pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt. Add the mini chocolate chips. Set aside.
  3. Mix together the bananas, zucchini, agave, oil, and eggs.
  4. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet, adding the vinegar. Mix well, until everything is incorporated together.
  5. Pour the batter evenly into the Bundt pan and bake until the cake is golden, risen and a toothpick in the center comes out clean, usually about 30 to 35 minutes. (I usually check around 25 minutes and go from there.)

*Gluten Free Flour Blend:

1 cup tapioca flour, 1 cup sorghum flour, 1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour, 1/2 cup fava bean flour, 1 cup sweet rice flour, 1/2 cup gluten free oat flour, 2 tsp xanthan gum. Mix well. Make enough flour for two cakes.