I was supposed to meet Jen the other day to work on a dessert for afternoon tea (she works here and does them a few days a week), but since she wasn’t feeling well I ended up making the dessert entirely on my own! It was my first time doing something from start to finish totally by myself (but I did call out to Chef Sadhana whenever I had a question). Though I cook and bake at home all the time, this was for an actual restaurant, which totally upped the stakes. But I was pumped to have the opportunity, and decided to go with a German Chocolate Layer Cake with Pecan Coconut Frosting, completely vegan of course. Layer cake is something I would never make at home, mostly because I don’t have the crowd to eat it! I was so excited to try it out at the inn.
The making of the batter was pretty standard–get together the wet, get together the dry, mix, and bake! However, I hadn’t done much vegan baking before my time at the inn, so some of the ingredients were new to me.
For example, I had to throw some egg replacer and water together in a Vitamix and blend until frothy–definitely not something I’d done before! We also used Earth Balance spread, which is essentially a blend of oils with the consistency of butter. Otherwise, the ingredients were pretty standard–vanilla extract, baking soda, flour, cane sugar, sunflower oil, and cacao powder.
The cakes smelled so good out of the oven. They rose beautifully, but you could tell they were nice and dense, too.
While they cooled, I got started on the frosting. Toasted pecans and coconut were the stars there. Mmmmmmm.
The frosting started out with powdered sugar and melted Earth Balance in the food processor. Once that was mixed, I added in a TON of toasted pecans and coconut. At first there actually wasn’t nearly enough of the butter mixture to accommodate the add-ins, so with Sadhana’s guidance I ended up adding much more.
It turned out so well. Seriously. I could throw the frosting in a bowl and call it the tea time dessert, and I think with the right presentation it could probably fly. The coconut added a unique chewiness and great flavor, and the toasted pecans added crunch and tempered the sweetness from the powdered sugar.
I also got to learn how to tort a cake! I felt super legit, because it’s definitely something I’ve seen on the Food Network about a million times but have never actually done. Even casually saying “I torted a cake” makes me feel like a pro. Basically, you take a long, serrated knife, place your palm (carefully!) on top of the cake, and rotate the cake while you gently level it. It’s necessary to tort for the bottom layers of a cake like the one I was making.
Next up came frosting and assembling! Pretty self explanatory but very fun.
I threw the cakes in the fridge overnight, and just before tea time the following day I got together a chocolate drizzle and vanilla sauce for the cake. Go big or go home, right?
The chocolate sauce was really simple to make, we just set up a double boiler on the stove and melted a ton of chocolate chips with a few spoonfuls of coconut oil.
To make the vanilla sauce, we threw a couple of cans of coconut milk on the stove, added agave nectar and vanilla bean, and let it reduce. It seems like coconut in all forms (shredded, oil, spread, milk) plays a big role in vegan cooking and baking. I have no complaints there! After the sauce cooled I sifted in some cornstarch a little at a time until it was thick enough to my liking.
Something I love about working the kitchen here, and I’m sure most professional kitchens, is the taste-as-you-go approach. Add a reasonable amount of a seasoning, sweetener, etc., taste a little, and add more if needed. It was the same with the cornstarch: add a little, see how it looks, add a little more. It feels so much more creative than simply following a recipe to a T. It also makes time fly by, because you’re always modifying what you’re doing based on how your creation is shaping up in that moment.
Finally it was time to plate a slice so the tea time staff would know how to serve it! I think it came out pretty awesome. The dense cake provided an intense chocolatey richness, while the chewy frosting was bright, sweet, and chock full of coconut and pecans for some crunch. Delish!
This article was written by monica