January is my birthday month, so I got the cuckoo notion that I should attempt the creation of a vanilla layer cake that is both vegan and grain-free.
It only took
a few 50 or so test batches to get it right (I’m still finding random batter splotches throughout the kitchen). Do I know how to have some birthday fun, or what?
But it was worth it.
If layer cakes are not your thing, you can also make 2 dozen perfect cupcakes with the same batter:
Before proceeding with the how-to, I have a few details:
(1) My goal was to create a rich and decadent golden/vanilla/yellow layer cake that is both grain-free and vegan. You can find recipes for gluten-free and vegan vanilla layer cakes, but as far as I know, this may be the first grain-free & vegan vanilla layer cake.
(2) This is not a health food cake. It is a celebration cake. It is rich and sweet. It is meant to rival a traditional butter, all-purpose flour layer cake (or cupcakes). Think birthday cake. Graduation cake. Wedding cake!
(3) As I mentioned in the opening, it took many dozens of experiments to get this right. Success depends on the exact ingredients and proportions. Changing the ingredients and/or altering the proportions will very likely result in a small or large disaster.
Yikes, that last sentence sounds ominous! This is meant to be a joyful post :). So let’s get on with the happiness of this cake. Whoo-hoo!
So, after what felt more like a million permutations, the combination of flours and starches that worked for this cake is chickpea flour + almond flour + potato starch. For those of you who do not like chickpea flour, I can assure you, this does not taste like chickpea flour, at all! (My picky 12-year-old can testify.)
Most of the remaining ingredients are familiar: granulated sugar (I used an unbleached natural cane sugar, but use any fine cane sugar), baking powder, salt, nondairy milk + vinegar (to make a nondairy “buttermilk”), vegetable oil, and vanilla. Whisk the dry ingredients, add the wet, and then add the one unusual ingredient:
If you have not heard of aquafaba, fear not: it is nothing more than the liquid from an ordinary can of chickpeas. But get this: it can be used as a substitute for egg whites! Together with baking powder, it is exactly what this cake needs to rise to celebration cake heights! In the absence of grains, gluten and eggs, it is a minor miracle.
You will need 2/3 cup of aquafaba (I get about 3/4 cup from a single 15-ounce can).
With an electric mixer, beat the aquafaba for 4 to 6 minutes (on high speed) until very light and fluffy (very light peaks will begin to form when the beaters are lifted from the bowl). If you are new to aquafaba, this will likely blow your mind–it looks just like beaten egg whites.
Gently mix in half of the whipped aquafaba to the combined batter. This will lighten the batter. Now fold in the remaining aquafaba (you are trying to keep the air in the aquafaba).
Divide the batter equally between two 8-inch round baking pans (line the bottoms with parchment paper and grease/spray the sides). Now bake in a preheated 350F oven for 42 to 47 minutes until deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Place the pans on a cooling rack and cool completely (do not remove from pans before completely cool). Run a butter knife around the edges of the pan, turn out the cakes, and peel off the parchment paper.
Check out these beautiful layers!
You can ice, frost or glaze these layers any which way you like, but for this traditional (not traditional!) vanilla cake, consider using my simple Vanilla Buttercream (it is also vegan and grain-free; I have tips and a recipe for cornstarch-free powdered sugar).Print
A first! Rich, decadent, & delicious vanilla layer cake that is 100% grain-free and vegan! Let them eat cake!
- 2/3 cup plain nondairy milk
- 2 teaspoons vinegar (white or cider vinegar)
- 2 and 1/3 cups chickpea flour, sifted
- 3/4 cup blanched almond flour (not almond meal)
- 1/4 cup potato starch
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1–1/2 cups ganulated cane sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used safflower oil)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (see notes)
- 2/3 cup aquafaba (liquid from canned chickpeas)
- 1 recipe Vanilla Buttercream (Vegan + Grain-Free)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or spray two 8-inch round baking pans and line the bottom of each with a round of parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, combine the milk and vinegar. Set aside for several minutes to curdle.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the chickpea flour, almond flour, potato starch, baking powder, salt and sugar. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, beat the aquafaba with an electric mixer on high speed for 4 to 6 minutes until very foamy; soft, light peaks should form when the beaters are lifted from the bowl.
- Add the milk mixture and oil to the flour mixture, whisking until completely blended. Gently stir in HALF of the aquafaba, then fold/lightly stir in the remaining aquafaba.
- Divide the batter equally between the two prepared pans.
- Bake in the middle of the preheated oven for 42 to 47 minutes until deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
- Transfer to a cooling rack and cool cakes completely in pans. Run a butter knife around edges of the pans and remove the cakes. Peel off the parchment paper.
- Fill and frost with Vanilla Buttercream, or the frosting of your choice!
Aquafaba Tip: I find that most 15-ounce cans of chickpeas have about 3/4 cup liquid (aquafaba). Go ahead and buy two cans, just in case one can does not have enough (you do not want to have to run to the store midway through prepping the batter!). Save the chickpeas for hummus or the recipe of your liking :).
One possible substitution: I have not tested it, but tapioca starch and arrowroot work very similarly to potato starch. But to be sure, stick with potato starch.
Vanilla: Technically, vanilla extract is not grain-free because it is made with alcohol, which is made from grain. Vanilla paste is made without alcohol. If you are fine using vanilla extract, use an equal amount (1 tablespoon).
Cupcakes: To make cupcakes, divide the batter between 24 standard size muffin cups lined with paper or foil liners. Do not overfill the cups! The batter will come up less than halfway in each cup. Bake for 22 to 26 minutes until deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Storage: Store the frosted cake at (cool) room temperature for up to 1 day or the refrigerator for up to 1 week. The cooled, unfrosted cakes can be frozen (tightly wrapped) for up to 6 months.