Last December, I made my first ever vegan chocolate cake for a couples’ baby shower. Our friends Sarah and Cody were welcoming a daughter in the spring and I volunteered to make a series of small cakes for our plant-based pals. An adventurous baker I am not, but I do have a gift for making things look pretty, and I decided that my little cakes would live up to the elegant shower we were throwing for our friends.
I followed this recipe to a tee—subbing in applesauce, almond milk and vegan butter for their animal-based alternatives—and baked my cakes in pans of different shapes and sizes. My vegan friends tell me that the taste of a plant-based chocolate cake is hard to mess up (vanilla is a bit trickier evidently).
And the cakes did turn out beautifully. Inspired by a local farmers market vendor who uses edible flowers in her baking, I purchased these culinary-grade petals for the top. I even clipped rosemary from my garden and made sugared cranberries (easiest-ever recipe below).
There are times when small labors of love go unseen and there are times when they become the table centerpiece. The oatmeal you stir for hungry mouths on a frozen ground morning doesn’t garner the same accolades as the fancy party you throw for your babe’s first year. The bike wheel fixed, hands covered in grease, isn’t met with equal appreciation as the shiny new scooter.
Most of our lives aren’t table centerpiece moments. They are plastic cup moments and spilled milk moments and the brownie mix is good enough moments.
Can I live with that? Can you?
If we can, we’ll find a love story woven into our everyday hours and our chocolate-cake-for-the-fancy-baby-shower spotlights. If we can’t, we’ll be stuck trying to create table centerpieces when the world is asking for cheap take out.
The vegan chocolate cake is, still to this day, one of the greater successes of my baking life. But the cut-out sugar cookies my kids decorated yesterday—with frosting dripping off and tablespoons of sprinkles fallen on the floor—bring as much satisfaction.
Both serve as a love story written about people whom I adore. Each is necessary for making a life.
- Wash cranberries and sort out any that look bruised. Make a simple syrup with equal parts sugar and water on the stove until the sugar is dissolved.
- Coat cranberries in the simple syrup and spread onto a baking rack to dry for an hour.
- Roll in more sugar and voila! Enjoy a festive topper to cakes and pies or a lovely addition to cheese or charcuterie boards.