I DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Vanilla based cake that’s moist, yet still crumbles √
Fruit in the cake that isn’t runny and doesn’t make the rest of the cake soggy √
Velvety smooth frosting with lots of flavor that holds its shape when piped √
Completely NON-DAIRY!!!!! √√√!!!!!
What I’m learning from the experience of trying to find the perfect recipe to bake for my wedding cake is that WOW I have so much respect for all the baking bloggers that I’ve followed for ages. They always say that baking is a science, and, boy, am I learning that for myself right now. In order to test anything out, evaluate any type of ingredient swap, you have to bake something so many times. Your kitchen needs to be prepared to spend it’s days covered in cocoa powder even after you’ve scrubbed it down 40 times, your pantry needs to be able to read your mind and stock itself before you even know what you want to bake, and your friends and family need to make peace with the fact that they are now your guinea pigs.
After exploring several different tastes, textures and types of cakes in their original form, I began to realize that I was not going to be able to pull of this non-dairy cake without getting into the recipe adaptation – and maybe even recipe creation – game. Because my non-dairy requirement is religious, a lot of the recipes I found took non-dairy to mean vegan or paleo. But working within my constraints, it literally meant: no dairy. Eggs? Perfect! Flour? Great! After searching in vain for many months, it became all too clear: if I wanted to do this well, I was going to have to (try to) do it myself.
Having tried a lot of cake recipes, I came to discover that the dairy ingredient that would be most difficult to substitute – but completely necessary – would be buttermilk. It comes up in a lot of the best cake recipes I’ve tried. So today I spent some time … drinking … buttermilk. I wouldn’t recommend it. From there, I taste tested and texture tested buttermilk and did some reading on buttermilk substitutes. All the buttermilk substitutes I found involved dairy. So I did some tweaking to those. In the end, I came up with a mixture of Coffee Rich non-dairy coffee creamer, Tofutti non-dairy sour cream and white distilled vinegar.
With the buttermilk situation solved, the next big hurdle would be the frosting. Last time I tried to make non-dairy frosting, I used margarine and it felt waxy and flavorless. This time, I used butter flavored Crisco and non-dairy creamer to thin it out and opted for a chocolate frosting, which I thought might mask the flavorless-ness issue I encountered previously. In the end, the secret ingredient ended up being adding a mixture of cocoa powder and melted chocolate to the frosting, which added a creaminess that was lacking in the Crisco and non-dairy creamer.
I adapted this from Sally’s Baking Addiction’s recipe for Raspberry Chocolate Chip Layer Cake with chocolate frosting! For the cake recipe, I kept everything the same, except that I swapped out butter for butter flavored Crisco and substituted the buttermilk for the same amount of my non-dairy buttermilk concoction. For the frosting, I deviated a bit more. I added about 1/3 c of melted non-dairy semisweet chocolate chips, and about 1/4 c of non-dairy Coffee Rich coffee creamer. It required more liquid because the melted chocolate made the frosting much more thick.
Overall Pros & Cons:
Pros: Having made both the original recipe and the non-dairy adaptation side-by-side to compare, they both tasted remarkably similar! No “this is great for non-dairy cake” qualifiers necessary!
Cons: The non-dairy cake was slightly more dense, though honestly, it may have been a baking inconsistency rather than a recipe inconsistency. I’ve got some ideas for lightening things up a bit that I may try next time.
Taste Test: A
The cake is a basic vanilla cake that is crumbly, yet moist. The fruit and chocolate add a nice tart yet sweet bite to it. And the frosting when made with semisweet chocolate rounds out the cake nicely and prevents it from becoming all too sweet.
This frosting is so malleable and smooth, while not being heavy or cumbersome. The taste is real. It doesn’t taste fake, waxy and the texture is thick and substantial. And the best part? It is unbelievably pipe-able! I wonder if it’s possible to do a non-dairy vanilla frosting that retains its flavor, since the chocolate does a lot to bring depth to the frosting’s flavor. It seems I have some more testing to do…
Batch Test: A
This recipe doesn’t require a stand mixer or any electric mixer! It’s still two bowls, but all you need is a whisk. It also uses melted butter (instead of softened butter) which makes everything faster and easier to recreate and scale up.