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Mandy's Vegan Chocolate Cake

This vegan recipe for chocolate-mocha cake is more than animal-friendly; it's gourmet-friendly, too.

When people think of cooking vegan recipes, they assume a few things: It's going to be difficult buying substitutes for animal products, it's going to be time-consuming to prepare, and it won't be very satisfying to eat. For most of us at body + soul that has not been the case, thanks to our production manager, Mandy Stone, who cooks the best vegan food using no animal products whatsoever, not even milk, eggs, or butter we've ever tasted. Every so often she surprises us with one of her original desserts, be it cheesecake, shortbread, nut tart, or cookies.

Then there's Mandy's double-layer chocolate-mocha cake, which has become a classic around our office. The bottom layer is covered with a mocha frosting, while the top layer is blanketed with a ganache, a rich chocolate icing. Mandy often makes this cake (or variations on it) for office birthdays and other celebrations.

"I love the challenge of adapting recipes for people's favorite foods," says Mandy, who prides herself on using only natural and organic ingredients. Mandy, who brings her rescued greyhounds, Bella and Winnie, to the office every day, has been a vegetarian since high school and a vegan for five years. Her husband, Garo, is vegan, too. "It wasn't hard to take that extra step from vegetarian to vegan," says Mandy. "I don't feel I'm missing anything. I've gained a lot from discovering ingredients that I normally wouldn't have been aware of."

Late one afternoon Mandy served her chocolate-mocha cake to the staff to celebrate the end of a production cycle. The magazine had just gone to the printer, and we could all give a deep sigh. "This is the perfect ending," said Art Director Carolynn DeCillo as she took a bite, and thus the cake's name was born.

Nobody said a vegan recipe couldn't be decadent, or that we couldn't share Mandy's ingenious cooking secrets. In fact, we plan to present more of her recipes in future issues.

Perfect-Ending Mocha Cake How-To

Serves 10-12

3 cups organic unbleached white flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups natural cane sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 2 cups water
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup vegan margarine
3 cups organic powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons soy cream (soy milk can be substituted)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon golden syrup or brown-rice syrup
1/3 cup soy cream

Preheat oven to 375°. Have two 8- or 9-inch nonstick round cake pans ready.

To Make the Cake
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and sugar. In a small bowl, mix together the oil, espresso, and vanilla extract. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a wire whisk until well incorporated. Add the vinegar and stir quickly. There will be pale swirls in the batter as the baking soda and vinegar react. Pour equal amounts of batter into the two cake pans and bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes. Flip cakes onto wire racks and cool completely.

To Make the Icing
Melt the chocolate and cool to room temperature. Beat the margarine until fluffy. Add sugar, espresso powder, soy cream, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Then beat in the cooled chocolate.

To Make the Ganache
Process the chocolate in a food processor until finely chopped.

In a saucepan, stir the syrup and cream together and bring to a boil. With the processor running, slowly drizzle the hot cream mixture over the chocolate and process until smooth. Allow to cool to room temperature.

To Assemble
Place one layer of cake on cake plate. Spread mocha icing on top. Place second cake layer on top of icing. Pour and spread chocolate ganache over the top and sides of both layers.

Add decorations as desired. There will be excess mocha icing that can be reserved for another use.

Per serving: 843 calories; 7 g protein; 41 g fat; 118 g carb.

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