This is my mom’s recipe for chocolate cake…actually my mom said she got it from her mom who got it from her mom (I think every family has their own variation of this cake). It’s called “crazy chocolate cake” and for me and my siblings growing up, this was the cake at every birthday party, graduation, and other occasion that required the presence of a cake. This cake was vegan back in the day before veganism was common (or at least before it was as common as it is today). The original frosting wasn’t completely vegan since it had regular milk, but soy/rice/almond milk is an easy remedy!
Vegan or not, this is the BEST cake (chocolate or otherwise) that I have ever had the pleasure of eating. It’s incredibly moist, flavorful, and rich without being too heavy. To me, this cake doesn’t even need frosting (it’s that good!), but in true birthday cake style, I made the frosting for it…and let’s face it you can’t have a HoHo without a scandalously creamy filling.
So, why the HoHo?, you ask. My dad has a real sweet tooth. And it’s his birthday. The other night at dinner we were discussing plans for a birthday picnic (‘tis the season!) and my mom said to me, why don’t you make that giant log cake that you make around the holidays that everyone loves? A Bûche de Noël?, I asked, surprised. My mom assured me, that’s the one!, and my dad enthusiastically nodded in agreement. This birthday cake is part Bûche de Noël, part jelly-roll, part HoHo, all vegan, and incredibly delicious.
Vegan Chocolate Cake with Vegan Buttercream Frosting (A.k.a. The Giant Birthday HoHo)
(Yield: ~15 servings)
2 2/3 c flour
2 c sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2/3 c cocoa
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp distilled white vinegar
2/3 c canola oil
2 c cold water
4 TB (½ stick) vegetable margarine
½ c no-trans fat vegetable shortening
16 oz (1 lb) powdered sugar
~ ¼ c plain soy milk (you can substitute rice or almond milk)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp almond extract (you can omit this or add more to taste)
¼ c unsweetened cocoa powder
Preheat the oven to 350F. To make the cake, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa and make three wells in the mixture. To each well add the vanilla, vinegar, and oil. Use a handheld mixer to combine and add the water. The batter will be thinner than most cake batters. Bake in a greased, floured pan for 25-35 minutes.
For the frosting, use handheld beaters to cream the margarine and shortening together; add the vanilla and almond extracts; alternate adding milk and powdered sugar (you’ll probably end up using all the powdered sugar and ~¼ c milk to get the right consistency). Remove 1/3 of the frosting to keep it vanilla; to make the chocolate frosting, beat the cocoa powder into the remaining frosting.
To Make the HoHo: To make the giant HoHo, the batter must be baked jelly-roll style. Bake the cake on a 15X10” baking sheet with 1-2” sides. Grease and flour the pan, line it with parchment paper, and lightly spray the paper with cooking spray. You will have leftover batter to make into cupcakes, or whatever you want. The cake will cook much faster on a baking sheet like this, and should only take 14-18 minutes (it’s done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean). Lay a clean kitchen towel down and the counter and lightly dust it with powdered sugar. When the cake is finished cooking, gently turn it out onto the towel (make sure you turn out the cake while it’s still hot). Slowly roll the towel and cake together, then cool for an hour (seam-side down) on a baking rack. Unroll the cake, evenly spread the filling (the vanilla frosting), then roll back up (don’t worry if the cake cracks – it probably will – but you can frost over it). Transfer the cake to a serving tray and frost the outside with the chocolate frosting.
Note on the Frosting: If you’re making a sheet cake (and probably even if you’re making a layer cake) you can cut the frosting recipe in half.
Note on the Cake: I used my mom’s go-to chocolate cake recipe because this is really a moist, delicious cake. However, if you’re concerned about the cake cracking you can use a more spongy cake recipe.