Friday, January 25, 2013

Soybutter Layer Cake with Soybutter and Chocolate Frosting

I'm always happy when a well-loved recipe can be converted into a peanut-free version Danny can enjoy. I used a new brand of soybutter for this, and the results were fantastic. Unlike the sunflower butter I use the soybutter is emulsified, which makes using it as a peanut butter replacement in recipes much easier. This is an old recipe, from the days before "natural" style peanut butter crept out of the hippie health food stores, and into the supermarket. We had a great hippie health food store in Chicago, and while I remember really liking soy nuts as a kid, I don't remember seeing soybutter until recently.

I can't remember what I did this morning, but I remember the hippie health food store pretty clearly. After my mother started having heart attacks (yep, that's a plural) she thought natural food might enable her to continue smoking two packets of cigarettes a day, and remaining largely inactive. I mean, faced with the choice of quit smoking, or take exercise she must have felt doomed and figured, "Fuck it, I'm going to buy some soya based products."

The shop was kind of dark, but that didn't stop the women that ran it from cramming dozens of sun-catchers in the tiny storefront window. They had a coffee grinder...a manual coffee grinder that required cranking, and tins of goats milk, grains no one had ever heard of, and every imaginable form of soya bean products. That first jar of "toasted" soyanuts (I'm still not convinced they weren't fried) was the first food I can remember really enjoying (because all the food at Ye Olde House 'O Heart Attacks" was unsalted, overcooked, and "healthy" in the way people thought you ate healthy in the 60's). We couldn't have any sugar, but we could have all the honey we wanted. No candy, but carob covered raisins were OK because they came from the health food store. God, I loved that health food store-no one tried feeding me skinless chicken breasts stewed in V-8 juice. Anyway, none of us lost any weight eating the health food store goods, but damn, I sure did enjoy those soyanuts. Then, I forgot about them, for something like forty years, until I started using the chunky style soynut butter today, and was transported back to the little hippie health food store with the suncatchers and coffee grinder. If I owned any peasant skirts or tie dye, I'd run to put them on-really, I would. I don't think I even own a Grateful Dead record.

So now I'm supposed to have some sort of Proustian moment where I taste a piece of cake, and it reminds me of childhood, and I take to bed and write a seven hundred page memoir or something. Eh? Yeah, I'm not doing that...the memoir part anyway.

Please, try this cake. I know it works well with the soynut butter (and peanut butter if you're lucky enough to be allergy free) and I can't see why it wouldn't with any of the other nut-replacement butters on the market. It is dead easy to bake, the frosting is simple (no cooking involved-hooray!) and if you've just made a batch of fig jam (I did) and want to use it to fill the centre, well then you should just go right ahead and do it (I did). I also think you could do a cream cheese frosting to great effect here, skipping the chocolate completely.

I'm so excited to have a good chunky style nut-butter replacement that I just threatened Mr. ETB with that other wonderful 1960's memory-peanut butter garlic bread. Don't knock it 'till you've tried it.

Original recipe comes from the Women's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, 1966

You Will Need:

For the Cake:

1/3 cup soft, unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chunky soybutter (or peanut butter)
1 cup milk (yes, you can use skim, but your children will write stories about you on their blogs someday) divided
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9 inch baking pans. Set aside.

Cream the butter until light. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add this to the butter, along with the peanut butter and 2/3 cup of the milk. Beat 2 minutes on medium speed. The cookbook suggests this equals 300 vigourous strokes by hand. Fuck that. Use a hand mixer. Add the remaining milk, the eggs, and vanilla. Beat another two minutes. Pour into pans, bake 25-30 minutes, and cool in pans on rack for 5 minutes before unmoulding. Cool completely then frost with:

Chocolate Soybutter frosting:

1/2 cup soybutter
1/3 cup powdered cocoa
2 2/3 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup cream or undiluted evaporated milk (I used a combination of heavy cream and milk)

Cream together soybutter and cocoa. Add everything else except cream, which you add slowly until it is a spreading consistency. Frost that sucker, and if you're feeling fancy (and why wouldn't you feel fancy-you're baking a goddamned cake) scatter chocolate curls across the top.

And there you are-you just salvaged another favourite recipe from the "contains peanuts" file.

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