Thursday, August 29, 2013

Carob Snack Cake

I love chocolate...the darker the better. Lucky for me, most of the people I bake for do too - meaning I get to use a lot of cocoa in the kitchen. I use cocoa more often than chocolate blocks when it comes to baking, preferring it's smoothness and almost tenderizing quality in batters, but when frosting, ganache or a candy coating is the order of the day, I am all about the good quality bittersweet (regardless of what the food bigwigs recommend... for our household it's 65% minimum). Chocolate chips, of course, find their own homes in cookies, brownies and pancakes, where they can hold their shape nicely. I actually hate working with melted chocolate as a rule (especially for coating candies... it's too messy!), but I can appreciate the richness and depth it adds to a brownie, cookie or cake.
Carob Beans
What would you do with whole carob beans?

But this post is not about chocolate. Rather, it's about the most natural "chocolate alternative" I know of - carob. As a "real chocolate" fiend, I rarely venture into the realm of anything "mockolate", and depending on who you talk to (and what you buy) carob can easily be seen as a cheap, poor-quality knockoff of the "real" thing. But carob is a whole other animal entirely - never attempting to be anything but itself in it's natural state - and it's likeness to cocoa in any respect is really nothing more than a passing fancy in my opinion.

I've written about this issue before, and I thought I had treated carob with due reverence then. But I had never used (or seen) the bean as the major ingredient in anything until reading The Vegan Baker by Dunja Gulin. The book had a photo of what I thought were rich, intensely dark chocolate brownies cloaked in a shiny glaze, but when I flipped to the recipe page I was shocked to see that the bars were actually caffeine free, vegan and whole grain - thanks to the heavy use of carob in chip and powder form. I was intrigued, mostly because these bars didn't appear to be masquerading as brownies or chocolate cake. No, they were all about the fruity, exotic aroma and flavour of this pea-like legume, and in the end the cake was more like a lightly spiced snack cake than a fudgy brownie.

And the frosting... oh, the frosting! Definitely my favourite part of the whole thing, the cooked, pour-on mixture was so decadent I would have just eaten it with a spoon, no base required! However, paired with the moist and fragrant cake, the combination simply sang and neither I nor anyone who tried a piece could believe the whole thing was vegan or whole grain. Being so rich tasting, a small piece more than slakes a sweets craving, but the fibre and protein help keep that blood sugar from spiking and crashing before you finish the last crumb!

Carob Slice

Carob Snack Cake
Adapted (and scaled down) from The Vegan Baker by Dunja Gulin
Serves 16
50g (a scant ⅓ cup) carob chips
1 ½ cups soy milk
1 tsp vinegar
⅓ cup amber agave nectar (or honey)
⅓ cup grapeseed or canola oil
½ tbsp ground flaxseed
½ tbsp vanilla
⅓ cup carob powder
120 g (a scant cup) oat flour
160 g (a scant 1 ½ cups) spelt flour
¾ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

Frosting:
1 ½ tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp cold water
1 cup soy milk
⅓ cup organic corn syrup
3 packets PureVia stevia (or your favourite stevia)
90g (13 tbsp) carob powder
½ tsp agar powder or pure gelatin
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line a 9” square pan.
  2. Melt the carob chips with ½ cup of the soy milk, then mix in the remaining soy milk with the vinegar.
  3. Stir in honey, oil and flaxseed until well combined. Add vanilla and mix in.
  4. Whisk in the carob powder, then the flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt just until smooth.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, until it tests done. Cool completely in the pan before glazing.
Frosting:
  1. Whisk together the cornstarch and cold water in a small dish, set aside.
  2. Bring the soy milk, corn syrup, stevia and carob to a simmer (with the agar powder if using) and add the cornstarch mixture.
  3. Cook 1 minute, until thickened, then remove from heat and (if using) whisk in the gelatin.
  4. Cool 1 minute, then pour over the cake in the pan and let cool completely.
  5. Store in the fridge.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 187.2
Total Fat: 6.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 24.0 mg
Total Carbs: 30.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.0 g
Protein: 4.5 g