Monday, March 5, 2012

Dad is great, he makes me (vegan) chocolate cake

“Dad is great! He gives me chocolate cake!”

For those of you who are only familiar with Bill Cosby from his Jell-O Pudding Pop advertisements, you must see this, one of Cosby’s classic routines from his life as a stand-up comedian.  The monologue details Cosby’s attempts to make a breakfast for his children.  When he asks what they want, after rejecting the standard ‘dad’ options of toast, cereal, and eggs, they say, “chocolate cake.” Cosby, rationalizing that chocolate cake contains eggs, wheat and milk, decides to cut everyone a slice.  All is well, and the children sing “Dad is great! He gives me chocolate cake!”   Until Mrs. Cosby comes down to breakfast and the children blame dad for giving them chocolate cake, when really they wanted bran cereal.

When making chocolate cake, it is essential to sing the Bill Cosby chocolate cake song.  

Of course, my own father never made me chocolate cake for breakfast. The only time I recall my father ever giving me something sweet was when I went grocery shopping with him a few times when my mother was very ill.  My mother would always let me select three cream candies from the bulk bins: maple, cherry, and vanilla or chocolate, depending on my mood, and my father relented to this tradition.

In general, my father's assumption is that food mysteriously comes from women.  When my stepmother goes to Greece every summer she cooks literally all of his meals, so he won't need to sully his hands with cooking.  Whenever he has to venture into the supermarket to buy milk and bananas, he always calls me to inform me of the indignity of having to actually touch food. "I have to go to Wegmans." When my stepmother left for her annual extended vacation in Greece that first year, he used to call up my mother to inform her that he had to wait to go to work to get his coffee.  Because making his own would require food preparation, you see.  Knowing my mother, I'm surprised she didn't offer to go over and make it for him, out of guilt.

My mother's breakfast-making abilities are best summed up in how she made pancakes--she used to prepare the Aunt Jemima mix, and pour the entire serving into a single pan, "to save time."  The result was an inch-thick, yellow and black speckled disk, which I'm ashamed to say I always ate, slathered with fake maple syrup and real butter. When I had thin pancakes at McDonald's and Perkins, it was like a revelation.  Like Dorothy stepping into technicolor Oz, only with pancakes. 

Flickr: Dvortygirl
However, other than pancakes, breakfast was one of my easier meals as a kid, in the sense that I would eat it without being bribed with dessert.  Sugary cereals with prizes, toasted waffles (I liked to save the buttery center for last), and cinnamon toast, sometimes on rye bread with butter, sometimes on cinnamon raisin bread.  Occasionally accompanied by bacon or Sizzle Lean. No complaints there, just as long as the French toast didn't taste too 'eggy.' (The one thing I wouldn't eat was eggs)

To this day, perhaps because I'm a morning person, I don't understand people who don't like breakfast.  This cake has all of the adult components of a healthy breakfast--coffee, sugar, and chocolate.  Just don't tell Mrs. Cosby.   It also happens to be vegan, and very simple, so simple almost anyone could prepare it, except for my father, who would wait to go to work to get his coffee, and my mother.  But that's okay. She made me frosted Pop Tarts and cocoa from a mix on snow days, so all is forgiven.

Oh, and your kids will totally eat this, no matter how picky they are, but again, it contains coffee, so don't blame me for the consequences.

Simple Vegan Chocolate Cake

-adapted from Joy the Baker-


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s dark), plus more for flouring the pan
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm coffee (I used rather weakly brewed coffee, so as to not overpower the chocolate taste
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the pan)
Powdered sugar for decorating


1.      Preheat oven to 350F.  Prepare 9-inch cake pan by greasing with butter and dust with cocoa rather than flour, to avoid any 'white marks' (a neat trick from Joy)
2.   Sift flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, making sure to break up any lumps.
3.   Mix the coffee and oil together, spoon in the dry, sifted mixture.  Combine and pour into pan. Batter will be thick and very 'wet' in appearance. (Remember to sing the song at some point).
4.   Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick can be extracted clean, cool and invert onto a plate.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar to serve.


  1. I have never made a vegan baked good but after seeing that cake that needs to change immediately!

  2. @The Blonde Duck--I know! Isn't Cosby awesome? He's such an institution, it's easy to forget how funny he can be!

    @Allison--I'm not a vegan, but this totally does not taste like stereotypical 'vegan' cake! It's also a great way to use up any leftover coffee!

  3. The Wegmans line made me laugh out loud. My dad would cook once every seven or eight years. He would make a whole production of it, be in the kitchen for hours, update you every ten minutes on the progress, and then at the end of the day, it would turn out that all he'd done was boil a pot of beans.

  4. @flurrious--it's nice to know that my father is not the only male with the 'food is a complex subject that requires large levels of estrogen hormones to understand' attitude! Chocolate cake aside, I was even slightly envious of kids who had dads who would fry pancakes after sleep-overs or even 'make' dinner by at least assembling various ingredients like fancy sandwiches. When my stepmother is home, I have never even seen him clean the table or turn on the dishwasher.

  5. Your story of your father reminds me a bit of my Grandfather, who I don't think has ever cooked for himself, not that he wouldn't, but I don't think my Grandmother has ever let him get near a pot of water, it's really funny. She allows him to help out maybe knead dough, or press gnocchi with a fork, but other than that he's really not allowed in the kitchen :).
    I used to love listening to records of Bill Cosby's comedy when I was a kid (buck buck anyone?) but don't remember that one specifically. Bill Cosby and advertising gives me nightmares of my uncle trying to get me to film a commercial when I was five. My line was "Hey Bill Cosby, I've got your job. Coke is it!" I think there are about fifty takes.
    And that cake looks so good! It's amazing how dark it gets with that cocoa. I'm drooling :).

  6. @Adam--I can't fathom regarding cooking like that--it feels weirdly disempowering, to regard making something like a sandwich as a mysterious process. I don't think everyone needs to know how to cook per se, but I do firmly believe that everyone should be able to 'feed themselves' past a certain age, if only to assemble a sandwich when the wife is away. Your commercial sounds hilarious, although you're probably glad that it took place before EVERY home film was posted on YouTube! I wish they made Hershey's Special Dark in Canada for you! It's cheap yet makes me look and taste like a much better baker than I actually am!

  7. Don't get me wrong my grandfather could definitely fend for himself, if he ever got the chance :), but my grandmother owns the kitchen. I've written about her a few times (check my Terminator post), she's a bit of a spitfire so you just don't get in her way :).
    There is a new line of private brand specialty products up here that has a fancy dark cocoa powder, the more I see recipes that use something similar the more I think I should bite the bullet and pay the money for it :).

  8. @Adam--I do remember your grandmother in your posts! I suppose that is where you get your tenacity in baking! It's very strange Hershey doesn't sell the Special Dark in Canada, since it's not a particularly esoteric product...product distribution rationales are often a mystery to me...