I’ve been playing with this recipe for a while. In fact, I think I made it at least 4 times in the past two weeks. I was forced to taste-test a LOT of chocolate cake before sharing with you. Yes, it’s a hard life I lead. Finally, I think I’ve got it right, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Because what’s Valentine’s Day without chocolate?
What I love about this particular cake is that it’s a healthier treat – no refined sugars, no refined flours. It’s not exactly a traditional cake – it’s fudgier and denser, but in my mind, that’s a good thing. But what I’m really proud of? It doesn’t contain eggs. Now, mind you, I have nothing against eggs personally (in fact, I love them a great deal – we eat LOTS of eggs in our household, and I love getting happy, delicious eggs from Jacob’s Reward Farm – a small farm just down the road from us.) But not everyone eats eggs, either for food intolerance/allergy reasons, because they are vegan, or perhaps they simply don’t like them. Also, if you rely on eggs sourced from local farms, you understand that egg supply waxes and wanes with the seasons. Sometimes, eggs aren’t easy to come by, and sometimes, you might just not have any in the house. However, baking without eggs can be tricky (especially with gluten-free baking). Eggs act as a binder and as a leavening agent. Egg replacers aren’t always as simple as they seem, and while they work for some situations, others are more difficult.
Since we don’t have egg issues in our house, I rarely concern myself with egg replacers. However, in this instance, I wanted to try to think “outside the shell.” I opted to use psyllium husks, which I’ve discovered work so well as a binder. I was first introduced to using them by making this vegan, xanthan gum-free bread from Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen, which I love. Psyllium husks make gluten-free doughs pliable, which, as anyone who has ever tried to roll out gluten-free dough knows, is quite a feat. What’s superb about psyllium husks, in my opinion, is that they don’t make things gummy. Xanthan and guar gum both seem to cause that “gummy” texture sometimes – something I feel is definitely less than desirable. You can find whole psyllium husks in just about any health/wellness store – in the fiber section. (I’ve heard of some gluten-free bakers using psyllium husk powder with great results as well; I haven’t had a chance to experiment, so I can’t speak to that, but if you try it out, let me know how it goes!) The psyllium husks helped to bind this cake, allowed it to hold moisture, and allowed it to rise. I didn’t add a lot of leavening, wishing for the cake to remain somewhat brownie-like, so it was perfect.
Anyway, back to the important stuff - the flavor. A long while ago, I came across a recipe for red wine chocolate cake. I was intrigued by the flavor composition. Also, this cake is a great way to use up leftover, too-old-to-drink wine. I am terrible at finishing a bottle of wine. Oh, yes, back in the day, I could have several glasses in an evening and truck right along the following day, but it seems that is no longer the case. Now, I find that I’ll have a glass one night, and will tell myself I’ll enjoy more the following night, and so on, until the bottle is gone. Only I no longer crave a glass the following night. Or the night after that. And so the rest of the wine sits in the bottle, forgotten. Now, if I have leftover wine, I have an excuse to make this cake!
So, you must be wondering, “She said there were two kinds of grapes in this cake. Wine is one type of grape; where is the other?” My friends, the second secret is in one of the sweeteners – raisins. I love to bake with medjool dates on occasion; they provide a lovely, natural sweetness and provide moisture and binding. On this particular day, however, I was out of dates. Raisins, however, were in my pantry. Why not use raisins instead? So I grabbed them and went for it. They turned out to work well!
Lastly, my most prized, favorite part of this cake is the black walnuts. Black walnuts, to me, are a rarity and a delicacy. They’re harder to find in stores than regular walnuts, but I found some Hammons black walnuts at my nearby Sprouts. Black walnuts are a good source of vitamins, healthy fats, and antioxidants, but to me, the flavor is the most important. Black walnuts have a strong, unique flavor – it’s rich and earthy. What’s even more lovely is that they seem to get richer and nuttier when they’re cooked. I first encountered black walnuts when I was a teen – I worked at Braum’s, a regional ice cream and dairy store. We sold black walnut ice cream. It was one of my favorites, even though it was nowhere near a best-seller. It was special to me, though, as I had never seen black walnut ice cream anywhere else. When I came across these walnuts at the grocery, I knew right away I need to make something special with them.
This cake fit the bill. It’s not overly rich, but the flavors are definitely grown-up and complex. It’s not overly fancy – there is no ganache, frosting, multiple layers, or intricate designs. But it’s delicious. The edges of the cake are slightly chewy (like the best part of a brownie) and the center tender. The black walnuts flavor the cake throughout. And no, the cake doesn’t taste like a mouthful of red wine, nor does it taste like raisins. These “two grapes” simply add complexity to the flavors. That being said, enjoying a glass of wine alongside a slice of this cake would be perfectly acceptable!
Chocolate Black Walnut Cake (With Two Kinds of Grapes) – Gluten-Free, Vegan
2 T whole psyllium husks
½ c raisins
1/3 c red wine
6 T coconut oil
1 T vanilla extract
¾ c coconut palm sugar
½ c brown rice flour (65 grams)
½ c teff flour (60 grams)
¼ c cocoa powder (26 grams)
½ t baking soda
½ t salt
½ c chopped black walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch pie or tart pan and set aside. In the bowl of a food processor or high-speed blender, add the psyllium husk, raisins, wine, coconut oil, and vanilla extract. Puree until no chunks of raisins remain. Add coconut palm sugar and puree again.
In a medium bowl, whisk together brown rice flour, teff flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Scrape the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until well-combined. (If using a food processor, you can alternatively put the dry ingredients right into the bowl of the food processor and process until combined.) You will end up with a thick, sticky batter. Stir in black walnuts by hand.
Turn dough out into the pie or tart pan and using greased fingers, press into pan in an even layer. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before slicing.
On a side note: I am co-hosting a Live Chat tomorrow, February 9, 2012, at 9PM EST over at the Udi’s Gluten-Free Living Community! We’ll be talking about supporting the gluten-free people in your life. Join us here tomorrow! It’s free, and I’d love to see you there.
This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free.