Easy Vegan Chocolate Cake & a Surpise Party

Vegan Chocolate Cake. It comes together easily and is perfect for tea time.Listen up, everybody! The rumors are true. I’m throwing a surprise party and everyone’s invited. For whom, you ask? This grande soiree is for Margaret Fox.

I mean…I don’t know her personally, but what the hell? If she’s responsible for one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made, then she deserves a vat of bourbon and a chocolate cake. One that she doesn’t have to bake herself, of course.

I spotted the recipe for Margaret Fox’s Easy Vegan Chocolate Cake on Food52. Immediately, I knew that it was something I had to make and probably very soon. One of the great things about this recipe is its simplicity. If you’re a baker, you probably have everything you need on hand. There will be no trips to the market because your boyfriend finished the eggs this morn. And don’t worry if your milk has gone south; you won’t need it, this go ’round. You’re good. Sit back and relax. You’ve got this.

Vegan Chocolate Cake. It comes together easily and is perfect for tea time.

You can file this recipe under quick. Well, not as quick as Usain Bolt, but quick nonetheless. Quick as in: your batter has come together, you’ve placed it in the pan and it’s all set to go, but your oven hasn’t preheated yet. What? Yeah, this recipe is no joke. Just think of all the things you can do with that extra time. You could wash all the dirty dishes before you even open your oven door. Now, I’m not telling you to do that, I’m just saying it’s a possibility.

Vegan Chocolate Cake. It comes together easily and is perfect for tea time.

Full disclosure: if you’re looking for a super-chocolatey cake, I’d give this one a pass. However, it’s super moist, pairs well with a straightforward icing and will be ready in 45 minutes-start to finish. I went with a light sprinkling of powdered sugar which made the preparation even quicker. As a result, I had just enough time to wrap Margaret Fox’s gift. I hope she likes Chia Pets.


Easy Vegan Chocolate Cake Recipe

Recipe Slightly adapted from Food52

Easy Vegan Chocolate Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6-8
  • 1½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons neutral oil (like corn, canola, or vegetable)
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon cider or white vinegar
  • Confectioners' sugar (optional, for dusting)
  1. Heat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Sift. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, oil, vanilla, and vinegar.
  3. Whisk together the wet and dry mixtures. If lumpy, whisk until smooth.
  4. Pour into a greased and floured 9-inch round cake pan. (I used an 8-inch which I lined with a greased aluminum foil round)
  5. Tap the edge of the pan against the edge of the counter, or drop from 6 inches to the counter several times to pop air bubbles.
  6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top springs back when pressed gently. (My 8-inch cake needed the full 30 minutes)
  7. Cool before removing from the pan and dusting with confectioners' sugar, or frosting if desired.


Easy Vegan Chocolate Cake Photo Notes

After being away from the studio for a few weeks due to illness, it was good to be back in the saddle.  Unfortunately, I share a studio with a couple of fashion photographers and I’m the Felix Unger of our crew.  Needless to say, the studio was in rough shape.  Models are some of the messiest people on earth, so this ended up being more of a studio decontamination than photo shoot.


This was going to be pretty simple.  I wanted to replicate window light with a bit of on-axis fill.  The large simulated window would hopefully reduce the specularity created by the shiny surface of the easy vegan chocolate cake.


I setup a light panel made up of 400 leelux as my main light 45 degrees behind the cake and used a silver umbrella for on-axis fill.  I also added a white bounce card opposite the main light.  I dialed in the exposure with my trusty Sekonic L-758dr and everything went according to plan.


The real challenge wasn’t the lighting but the styling.  A round dark cake without frosting isn’t the most photogenic object, so I decided to do something graphic and focus on the shape from above.  To finish off the shoot, Mondo cut the cake and we did the traditional commercial shot with a slice on a plate.  Overall, it was a pretty easy shoot with a clean studio as the payoff.

Set Shot

Vegan Cake photo Setup


Tech Notes

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Tamron 17-50mm 2.8
Strobes: White Lightning x1600
Tripod: Manfrotto
ISO: 200
Focal Length: 48mm
Shutter: 125
Aperture: f/11

All Things Thursday: Golden Poop Edition

orange scarves-website

Guten Tag, my friends!

Welcome to All Things Thursday! I hope your week is treating you well. Mine could be better as the dman is suffering from some kinda ‘terminator’ virus-that just won’t quit. Most of my time is spent trying to stay hydrated and deflecting his germs.

Yes, it has toilet seats in the dining area. Yes, it serves Golden Poop. Yes, it’s bathroom-themed restaurant. How long before this place takes a dump? Sorry guys, I couldn’t help it. (Eater)

While bouncing around Stumbleupon this week I saw the most amazing dancer. I’m serious! When I watched it my jaw dropped…for realsies. Please take a look at this video and see if you feel the same. (Stumbleupon)

So many pumpkin recipes to choose from…where do I begin? In my humble opinion you can never go wrong with dip. Make it a spicy dip and that’s even better. But a spicy pumpkin dip? You’ve got me. Bonus, I have two pumpkin hummus options: Savory and Roasted Garlic and Rosemary. I just love October. (Spoon Fork Bacon and Pinch of Yum, respectively)

It’s so hard to pass up french fries; but what if there was  decent alternative? I’m not sure if there is but I’d like to give these Carrot Fries a try. If they’re crispy, they’ll be my new favorite thing. (JChong Studio)

Must get doughnut pan so I can bake these: Vegan Chocolate Pistachio Donuts. (The Sweet Life)

Check out this recipe for Sirarcha Sesame Ginger Popcorn. Spicy popcorn? Yes, please. I’m thinking about making a sweet version. (Bake Your Day)

Usually, I’m not a scone person but I’ll make an exception for these: Starbucks Clone Pumpkin Scones. (Iowa Girl Eats)

I’m pretty excited as my friend and I are going to see a stage production of Wait Until Dark at the Geffen Playhouse tonight. Tune in next week for my extremely unofficial review.

Until we meet again, my friends.

P.S. Can you tell I’m obsessed with Bella Looma Scarves? I’ve been yearning for some chilly weather. Don’t be elusive, Fall…sit down and stay a while.


Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg until it is broken.
M. F. K. Fisher

(photo credit: David Mayerhofer)

All Things Thursday: R. Kelly Edition

Griffith Park Stairs

Happy All Things Thursday, y’all!

I’m excited! Why? Well, it’s October…the weather finally cooled off enough so I can rock my Sons of Anarchy hoodie. My favorite weather? Any weather where I can don a sweatshirt…preferably one that promotes the likes of Jax Teller.

You’ll all be happy to know that R. Kelly has a new album coming out. This masterpiece is entitled “Black Panties”. I have three words for you Mr. Kelly…just stop it!

Beautiful pics of baked doughnuts have been floating around the internet for ages, but somehow I’ve been immune. As of yet, I don’t own a doughnut pan, but now I have to get one. Pumpkin + Maple + Cinnamon = get in my belly. (Top With Cinnamon)

Creamy Parmesan Polenta. I’ll write that again. Creamy Parmesan Polenta. C’mon!  Guess what I’ll be eating during my next free afternoon? (Daydream Kitchen)

I don’t cook shrimp enough(read: never). When I do get the urge, I’ll head straight for Almond Butter Soba Noodles with Garlic Shrimp. (Spoon Fork Bacon)

How much do I love peanut butter? Infinity? No, that won’t do. Infinity times infinity? Yeah, that sounds about right. So, I was excited to see this rating of Reese’s candies. I agree with their #1 choice, but in my book, Nutrageous will always rate higher than Reese’s Pieces. Sorry, E.T.. (Huffington Post)

Everyone should have a one-bowl recipe for chocolate cake. Minimal mess and mocha buttercream? Feels like this recipe was created especially for me. (Hummingbird High)

Right about now, it’s time for some hot and sour soup. The dman’s gotta cold and I’m not trying to get sick.


I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.
Michael J Fox


(photo credit: David Mayerhofer)


All Things Thursday: 3rd Edition


Good Evening!

It’s All Things Thursday…Thursday night, actually.

Yeah, I’m a little on the late-freight this week. It happens. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

So…recently, Sinead O’Connor wrote an open letter to Miley Cyrus where she admonished the young lady(?) about the dangers of making a name for herself through shock value. Really, Sinead? Aren’t you one who ripped up a picture of the pope on SNL? Because I’m pretty sure that was you.

Apparently, there’s a new baking tool out there called the Nibble Pan. It has a tiny side cup that cooks a sample of your cake. It would seem that the tiny part would cook faster, but I could be wrong. Kinda waiting for the first review from Amazon to see what the people think.

My love of peanut butter knows no bounds. Best believe I need the Peanut Butter Comfort cookbook. It contains virtually ever kind of peanut butter recipe out there! Hint: my birthday is in August.

October is here…which means Fall…which means bring on the pumpkin. Could someone make Joy the Baker’s Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts for me? Extra maple glaze, please! I would be ever so grateful.

That’s all for tonight, friends. Parks and Recreation is calling my name.


A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.
Barbara Johnson

(photo credit: David Mayerhofer)

Sugar Cookies

Sprinkles for Sugar Cookies

Sprinkles are adorable.

I’m not gonna lie. They’re cute as hell, but they’re totally not my thing.

You see, I’m a drop cookie fan. They’re easy, unfussy and if we’re talking about baking, those are two words I can get behind. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t like to decorate. I try and keep it simple, but I thought maybe, just maybe…I’d get a bit crazy with this one. And when I write ‘crazy’ I mean sprinkles galore! My goal was to make sugar cookies: simple, sweet and delectable. I kicked it up a bit with the sprinkles. As you can see from the first pic those things got away from me.

Sugar Cookies. This cookie has the perfect texture and isn't too sweet.

I read somewhere that bakers use honey or corn syrup to get the sprinkles to adhere to the cookie. I chose honey. That’s where it all went wrong. Honey is fantastic in my tea but most certainly not for decorating purposes. It was a nightmare. One I would never subject myself to again. In the future, I will use a simple icing made of powdered sugar and water. I’ve worked with that before and it’s a bit more manageable.

The upside of my minor dilemma is this is the best sugar cookie I’ve ever tasted. It comes together easily and keeps its shape, if rolled and chilled. It has the perfect amount of sweetness and is lovely with a cup of tea. Honestly, I prefer them unadorned…naked, if you will. It’s fun to dress things up but sometimes plain is just as adorable.

Sugar Cookies Photo Notes

by David

I now have a lot more respect for Jackson Pollock.  This was supposed to be a quick shoot, but minutes turned into hours when we introduced chaos into the mix.


Mondo and I had high hopes for this shoot. With the bright colors and cool design, we thought these sugar cookies would look amazing on a pink or yellow surface.


Unfortunately, these looked awful on pink and yellow.  In fact, the variety of colors clashed with everything.  With my technicolor dreams quickly fading, I decided to move on to a neutral white acrylic.

Everything went well with the first setup, but the second shot with the sprinkles was a mess.  As Mondo was setting up, I told her to leave the half empty cup on the table and took a quick test shot.  The shot looked great, but I wanted a better composition and asked her to rearrange the sprinkles.  This is when things took a turn for the worse.

No matter what Mondo did, the rearrangement never looked as good as the test shot.  This normally wouldn’t be a problem, but trying to get a bunch of chaotic sprinkles into an organized design is friendship ending nightmare.  After an hour or so of Mondo giving me the stinkeye, we finally got the shot with our friendship intact.


This one was pretty simple.  For the main light, I used a large light panel placed 45 degrees behind the sugar cookies to create texture and shape.  The shadows were filled in with a white bounce card.  To create a bit more specularity, I also added light from a silver umbrella for on-axis fill.  Here is a lighting diagram with all the details:

Sugar Cookies Lighting Diagram


Tech Notes

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Tamron 17-50mm 2.8
Strobes: White Lightning x1600
Tripod: Manfrotto
ISO: 200
Focal Length: 48mm
Shutter: 125
Aperture: f/13


Sugar Cookies Recipe

Recipe slightly adapted from CakeWalk

Sugar Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Makes about 70, 1½ in cookies
Serves: 10-12
  • ½ c + 6 T unsalted butter, room temperature, 200g
  • 3 c + 3 T all purpose flour, 400g
  • 1 c superfine sugar, 200g (place regular sugar in food processor for about 1 min)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 t vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean
  1. Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavorings you’re using. Beat until creamy. Don’t over mix.
  2. Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. Add flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
  4. Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.
  5. Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of ⅓ inch. (I used seran wrap)
  6. Refrigerate dough for 1 hr or place in the freezer for about 30 minutes.
  7. Once chilled, peel off parchment and cut out shapes with preferred cookie cutters.
  8. Preheat oven to 350°F
  9. Arrange cookies on parchment lined baking sheets and freeze for 5 minutes. (It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.)
  10. Re-roll scraps and repeat process.
  11. Bake until golden around the edges. Rotate sheets halfway through for even baking.
  12. Cool completely before decorating.