BY MARSALIE MACKENZIE
Since starting my new job downtown, I’ve been guilty of going out to eat a lot more than I should. In my defense though, it’s really freakin’ hard to say no to cappuccinos and Double Chocolate Cake at Rare Sweets Bakeshop – especially, when your co-workers are always game for a mid-day coffee break.
However, I’m fully aware that my current eating habits are taking a serious toll on both my wallet and my waistline – so I’ve started to consider new ways to get excited about food prep. On a recommendation from my food-loving Aussie friend, Susan, I’ve recently started following a handful of food bloggers who make eating healthy on a budget look easy and delicious.
In an effort to be more conscious about what I consume, I decided to try my hand at recreating a *relatively* simple recipe from my favorite blog, Not Quite Nigella (a reference to famed TV chef, Nigella Lawson). I picked the wholesome vegan chocolate cake with sweet potato frosting because it’s similar to my beloved Double Chocolate Cake, making it easier to compare how many dollars and calories I save by making it myself.
The Shopping Trip:
I had a few of the ingredients at home (salt, bicarb and safflower oil) but had to buy the rest. This particular basket of goodies cost me $17.22 at Harris Teeter, plus an additional $7.99 for raw cacao powder (which is harder to find than you might think).
At a total of $25.21, this isn’t an insignificant investment, but when you consider that the recipe serves 15, it ended up being $1.70 a slice – $3.30 cheaper than the Bakeshop.
I’ve never been a great cook, and, until recently, I lived by myself with no one around to judge me for my lack of domesticity. Luckily, Susan was a great sport and agreed to provide some adult supervision as I made my first foray into vegan baking.
With her help over the course of 2 hours, we baked a delicious cake made entirely of natural ingredients. It wasn’t the most difficult thing I’ve ever made, but I certainly learned a few things in the process that I think would be useful for anyone looking to try this at home.
1. 2 cups of steamed or roasted sweet potato is 2 large sweet potatoes (or 275g). For best results, wrap in tinfoil and bake for 50 minutes, cut open and scoop out the insides.
2. You need a food processor. Even with a high quality food processor, I still had small lumps of sweet potato in the icing.
3. Maple syrup is a powerful sweetner. Use liberally until you’ve reach the desired frosting sweetness. That said, taste as you go to avoid adding too much; you can always add more, but you can’t take it away.
4. Don’t be fussed about the decoration, unless of course you’re baking this for a party. Below is a picture of Lorraine’s cake, which is beautiful; however, bagged cacao nibs work perfectly fine as sprinkles and take absolutely zero effort.
Picture by Lorraine Elliott
The cake had a brownie like consistency that was moist and decadent. The sweet potato frosting was also delicious, and allowed us to avoid the 6 cups of sugar typically added to commercial butter cream frostings.
How did it compare to the Double Chocolate Cake? Let’s be honest, no amount of cocoa and maple syrup tastes as satisfying as real sugar, but it was pretty darn good, and more importantly – good for us. At $25.21 for 15 servings, you get 3 times more bang for your buck, without worrying about your sugar intake. I’ll definitely be making this again, but next time I’ll make sure to share!