The Best Vegan Flourless Chocolate Cake with Revolutionary Vegan Whipped Cream–my first recipe published on VegNews!

Okay, I didn’t call my Flourless Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream the best.  Someone else did…

The Praise

When my new long-distance friend and fellow (amazing) Vegan Heritage Press cookbook author, Bryanna Clark Grogan (World Vegan Feast and others), was helping me test the recipes for this dessert, she served it to friends, one of whom said, “This is the best ——- cake I’ve ever eaten!”  That’s good enough for me!  And I trust it will be for you too.

The Back Story

Back in my pre-vegan years in Nashville, I did some moonlighting as a catering assistant for my dear friend Monica Holmes at her award winning Clean Plate Club.  She made what can only be described as a transcendent Flourless Chocolate Cake.  Since this type of cake contains no flour, the batter relies on eggs for structure and lift.

I knew there had to be a way to veganize it, but the recipes I’d researched, including from people I respect in the field, looked and sounded like vegan chocolate cheesecakes made with tofu or they contained beans and appeared a bit dry with a crackly top, or they actually included some flour.  I’m sure all are delicious, but they aren’t what I wanted.

The Cake

I wanted something as dense, moist, silky and rich as the original.  And that’s what I got, but not until I had baked the cake about 5 times (and made the cream about 7)!  At least. The first try was an unmitigated disaster.  But it had potential, and that just spurred me on to redouble my efforts.  Meanwhile, the generous Bryanna, in British Columbia, was doing the same with the recipe revisions I’d send her, and we were comparing notes.  Bry, I love you for many reasons, including your help with this feat o’ chocolate and cream!

My version of the cake is, indeed, based on tofu, but it has some “secret” ingredients responsible for its fabulousness which you are sure not to confuse with cheesecake.  It’s its own brand of wonderful.

The Revolutionary Whipped Cream

And the cream, well, it is truly revolutionary.  At least, I could find no similar recipes online.  As you can see in the photo, it is a beautiful thing to behold. Plus, it is fat-free, cholesterol-free, soy-free, gluten-free (if your extracts are gluten-free), and low calorie!  Not only that, but it is delicious and a breeze to make.

For a very long time, I had been thinking that there had to be a way to make homemade vegan whipped cream from one of the vegan creamers.  I love both savory and sweet cashew cream, but it is a little heavy and thick, calorie laden, and distinctively flavored.  Ditto coconut cream aerated in one of those n2o cartridge-powered whippers. 

My cream is delicious with a creamy-fluffy, even billowy texture, and a more neutral flavor (but by neutral, I don’t mean bland!).  You will love it on all of your desserts that call for a whipped topping. The base is coconut milk creamer.  But can you guess the secret ingredient that makes the magic happen?  Funny story about the coconut milk creamer: I purchased it, disappointed that my grocery store was out of soymilk creamer.  But what a happy accident!  It turns out that the recipe ONLY works with the coconut milk creamer.  With soymilk creamer, you get something akin to pastry cream instead.

The Recipe and Thanks to VegNews

Many thanks to the brilliantly talented and generous food editors et al at VegNews for publishing these recipes in “What’s Cooking” online.  Please click right HERE to be taken directly to their site for both.  And while you’re there, if you haven’t already, enjoy all the good things VegNews offers its readers on a daily basis.

Happy Thanksgiving

I’m posting this recipe now just in case you, like me, are offering chocolate for the first time for Thanksgiving.  But, personally, I think the winter holidays are the dessert’s time to shine, dressed up with a little pomegranate seed bling, as in the photo, or a bit of crushed peppermint.  In the summer, it has to be raspberries.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

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Vegan Thai Pumpkin-Coconut Milk Flan–A Thanksgiving Favorite Thai Style

Yield: 8 servings

For this Thai-inspired version of my go-to Pumpkin Flan, I simply substituted coconut milk for the soy milk. We had our Thanksgiving meal as a late lunch sans dessert at around 2:30 p.m. and then went to a 5 p.m. screening of “A Christmas Carol.” When we got home to have dessert, we were starving and it was dark outside, so I didn’t get a photograph of it. Therefore, I’m re-posting the photographed version of it made with soy milk, as it looks virtually identical. However, for our Thai meal, I combined vegan sour cream with a little maple syrup and spooned that over each serving, garnishing the tops with walnut pieces and a sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice. I should have made two flans, as virtually everyone wanted seconds.

1-12 ounce block of firm Silken Tofu (drained)
3/4-1 cup pureed pumpkin
1 cup coconut milk
2 ½ tablespoons cornstarch (you may alternatively use 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, but the result may be slightly more cakey than custardy)
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup brown sugar (this is not a really sweet custard, so add another ¼ cup brown sugar if you prefer)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Custard: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil an 8-9 inch round glass or ceramic pie dish. Place all filling ingredients in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until smooth and completely combined. Scrape into the pie dish, gently smooth top, and bake 45 minutes (but check every 5 minutes beginning at 30. When you touch the top, it should not leave a mark and, when jiggled, it should move slightly, but appear mostly set.) Let cool to room temperature on a wire rack and, if not serving right away, chill, covered. Serve chilled or at room temperature with topping and garnish.

Topping:
about 1/2 cup vegan sour cream
3-4 tablespoons maple syrup

Whisk together until well combined. Chill if not using immediately.

Garnish: a sprinkling of walnut pieces and pumpkin pie spice

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Vegan Thanksgiving Menu 2009

You won’t miss the turkey—nor the butter, milk, eggs, or marshmallows—in this Thanksgiving meal.

For my November vegan cooking colum, “The Veggie Table,” published in today’s edition of the Virginian-Pilot, I created an entire vegan feast—including a main dish with plenty of protein—that could, quite possibly, satiate even the non-vegans at your table.

The pretty and tasty star of this meal is a creamy puree of baked sweet potatoes and cannellini beans encased inside flakey and buttery Phyllo dough. On the side is my from-scratch version of that old family favorite: green bean casserole with crispy onion topping along with pureed parsnips like you’ve never tried. Simmering them in soy milk for extra creaminess is only one of my secrets. Dessert is a silky pumpkin flan with a salted pecan and faux-caramelized sugar topping. Deceptively decadent, it is even packed with protein and vitamins.

Celebratory and extra-special—yet simple to boot—this menu won’t leave anyone feeling excluded, except maybe the turkey, and he’ll thank you for it.

Note: Each of these recipes is also posted separately with individual photos. For another vegan vegetable side dish to accompany this meal, try my Vegan Maple Mustard Roasted Brussels Sprouts on this site.

Vegan Sweet Potatoes and Cannelini Beans in Phyllo Dough
Yield: 4 servings (easily doubles)

Filling:
3 medium sweet potatoes, baked or microwaved until tender
I-14 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons orange or apricot marmalade
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (available at health food stores and some grocery stores near the flour)
1 tablespoon dry or 3 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
Garlic salt or powder to taste
Onion powder to taste
Coarse sea or kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Crust:
8 sheets Phyllo Dough, thawed and covered with a towel
Generous ¼ cup vegan butter, melted
2 tablespoons dried rubbed sage

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Scoop flesh from sweet potatoes into a medium sized bowl and mash well. Stir in beans and mash just to gently break them up. Stir in remaining filling ingredients until well combined. Stir together butter and sage and, with a pastry brush, oil bottom and sides of an 8-inch square metal baking pan. Working with one sheet of Phyllo at a time, fold one side down to make about a 9-inch square. Fit into bottom of pan and tuck edges in so that dough fits flat, brushing with sage butter as you go. Repeat 3 more times. Spoon filling onto bottom crust and smooth top. Repeat crust procedure with remaining four sheets, this time laying them on top of the filling to make a top crust. Place pan in center of oven and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool approximately 10 minutes, and cut into four squares. Serve warm.

Vegan Green Bean Casserole
Yield: 6 servings

9 ounces frozen green beans, thawed in colander, drained and patted dry
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 green onions, thinly sliced
3-4 stalks celery, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
2-3 medium-large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 ounces sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoon nutritional yeast (available at health food stores and some grocery stores near the flour)
4 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 ½ cups unsweetened soy milk
Coarse sea or kosher salt to taste
White pepper to taste
Optional garlic salt or powder to taste
Optional onion powder to taste
1 2/3 cups French’s Fried Onion Rings in a can, divided into 2/3 cup and 1 cup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 1 ½ quart casserole dish. In a large cast iron skillet or heavy saucepan over medium-high, heat olive oil to shimmering. Add onion, celery, garlic and a pinch of salt, and sauté, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften. Add mushrooms and sauté, stirring frequently, until softened. Meanwhile dissolve flour in a few tablespoons of the milk. When vegetables are soft, sprinkle with nutritional yeast and stir well to coat. Add flour and milk mixture plus remaining milk, stir well, and cook for about 3 minutes or until mixture thickens and flour loses its raw taste. Season to taste with next four ingredients. Remove from heat and stir in green beans and 2/3 cup onion rings. Spoon into oiled baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, gently stir, sprinkle top with remaining onion rings and return to oven for 5 minutes. Serve immediately, if possible, so that onion rings are crispy. To do ahead: bake casserole for first 30 minutes, cool to room temperature, and store, covered with foil, in the refrigerator. Reheat in a 350 degree oven, covered, and, when hot, uncover, top with onion rings and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Vegan Lemony Parsnip Puree
Yield: 4 servings (easily doubles)

4 parsnips, peeled, ends trimmed, and cut into ½” thick slices
Unsweetened soy milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, peeled, and diced
2 medium-large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon vegan butter
1 tablespoon vegan sour cream
Zest of one lemon
Coarse sea or kosher salt to taste
White pepper to taste
Optional garlic salt or powder to taste
Optional onion powder to taste
Optional Garnish: parsley and additional lemon zest

Lay parsnip slices into large cast iron skillet and pour in enough soy milk to just barely cover the slices. Heat over medium-high to simmering and continue simmering until parsnips are tender and milk has cooked down and thickly coated the parsnips; this may take about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, in a medium cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat olive oil to shimmering. Add onion, garlic and a pinch of salt, and sauté until vegetables are softened and golden. Place parsnips, any remaining milk, onion and garlic into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add remaining three ingredients and process until smooth, scraping down bowl with a spatula as necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and optional garlic salt and onion powder. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with parsley sprigs and additional lemon zest. If you are not serving the dish immediately, cool puree to room temperature, cover and chill without garnishes. When ready to serve, reheat in microwave, garnish and serve.

Vegan Pumpkin Flan
Yield: 8 Servings

1-12 ounce block of firm Silken Tofu (drained)
½ of a 13 ounce can pureed pumpkin or about ¾ cup
1 cup unsweetened, plain, vanilla or lite vanilla soy milk
2 ½ tablespoons cornstarch (you may alternatively use 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, but the result may be slightly more cakey than custardy)
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup brown sugar (this is not a really sweet custard, so add another ¼ cup brown sugar if you prefer)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping:

1 teaspoon vegan butter
½ cup pecan pieces
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons water
½ cup brown sugar

Optional Garnish: 1 box Soy Whip

Custard: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil an 8-9 inch round glass or ceramic pie dish. Place all filling ingredients in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until smooth and completely combined. Scrape into the pie dish, gently smooth top, and bake 45 minutes (but check every 5 minutes beginning at 30.) Let cool to room temperature and, if not serving right away, chill, covered. Serve chilled or at room temperature with warm topping.

Topping: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter, add pecans and salt, and toast, stirring frequently, until light golden brown which should take a very few minutes. Remove from heat and scatter nuts over the top of custard. In a small microwave-safe cup or bowl, mix together water and brown sugar. Heat in microwave for 30 seconds, stir, and pour evenly over the top of custard. Serve immediately with or without dollops of Soy Whip.

Optional Garnish: Pour Soy Whip into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat until soft peaks form.

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Vegan Pumpkin Flan

Yield: 8 Servings

Enjoy this luscious-but-reasonably-lite vegan fall flan any time, but especially for the holidays. It couldn’t be easier or tastier, and it won’t weigh you down though it will up your protein. Plus it’s so pretty in that homespun casual elegance kind of way.

1-12 ounce block of firm Silken Tofu (drained)
½ of a 13 ounce can pureed pumpkin or about ¾ cup
1 cup unsweetened, plain, vanilla or lite vanilla soy milk
2 ½ tablespoons cornstarch (you may alternatively use 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, but the result may be slightly more cakey than custardy)
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup brown sugar (this is not a really sweet custard, so add another ¼ cup brown sugar if you prefer)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping:

1 teaspoon vegan butter
½ cup pecan pieces
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons water
½ cup brown sugar

Optional Garnish: 1 box Soy Whip

Custard: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil an 8-9 inch round glass or ceramic pie dish. Place all filling ingredients in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until smooth and completely combined. Scrape into the pie dish, gently smooth top, and bake 45 minutes (but check every 5 minutes beginning at 30.) Let cool to room temperature and, if not serving right away, chill, covered. Serve chilled or at room temperature with warm topping.

Topping: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter, add pecans and salt, and toast, stirring frequently, until light golden brown which should take a very few minutes. Remove from heat and scatter nuts over the top of custard. In a small microwave-safe cup or bowl, mix together water and brown sugar. Heat in microwave for 30 seconds, stir, and pour evenly over the top of custard. Serve immediately with or without dollops of Soy Whip.

Optional Garnish: Pour Soy Whip into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat until soft peaks form.

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