Vegan Monday: Strawberry Rhubarb Cake

I kind of think every once in a while there is a recipe so well constructed that you can do virtually anything to it and it still turns out wonderful. That is the case of Maya*Made's Grandmother's One Bowl Apple Cake. Ever since I first saw the recipe, I have made it every which way, this way being my favorite, and used pretty much every type of fruit I've had on hand. I think old-fashioned recipes such as this one really are gems, and deserve the highest place in the home kitchen. Without ingenious and industrious forebears, we likely wouldn't have pantry staple cakes such as this one, and it is something I am supremely grateful for.

When I unloaded the car yesterday afternoon after being self-bombarded with strawberries and a nice big bag of fresh rhubarb from my Parents' garden, I didn't really figure that I'd be making a vegan cake for myself in the midst of many other projects that brought me deep into the night before calling it a day.

But this cake is so gloriously simple, that you can in fact do it when you have 15 other things going on, and it will turn out. It is moist, reasonably healthy, and studded with fruit that bakes into even sweeter goodness. Since I added nutmeg, I could have sworn that there was pumpkin in the batter - a trick that could flummox even the most experienced foodie palate.

Vegan Strawberry Rhubarb Cake (adapted from Maya*Made's Grandmother's recipe)
  • 1 c. diced rhubarb
  • 1 c. chopped strawberries
  • 1/4 c. agave syrup, light or dark
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 flax egg (1 T. flax meal mixed with 3 T. water)
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
  • pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350. Coat an 8 inch baking tin with cooking spray, or coat lightly with oil.

Stir dry ingredients together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, stir strawberries, rhubarb, vanilla, flax egg, oil and agave syrup together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix to combine. It is a thick batter, so try to be gentle and not over mix.

Press into the cake tin. You may wish to wet your hands lightly with water and press it in gently this way. Bake for about 30 minutes, until cake tester comes out clean.

Let rest in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack and cooling completely.

Since it is a very moist cake, I would suggest storing any leftovers in the refrigerator - even though I am inherently against cake refrigeration...

A bite of cake doesn't seem like a world changing thing, but I love to imagine Maya*Made's Grandmother and how she happened upon this recipe. Each time I make it, I feel some strange connection to another family's traditions, even if I am tweaking it each and every time I make it. It will always be Maya*Made's Grandmother's Cake, and I will always be thankful for it.

Maya*Made, Remade: My search has ended for a healthy cake.

Last fall, Maya*Made posted a recipe for her Grandmother's One Bowl Apple Cake. It is a supremely easy and delicious cake, not to mention lightening fast to prepare. Dorie Greenspan said of her Swedish Visiting Cake, a cake of similar ease in her Baking Book that "Her (Ingela Helgesson) mother used to claim that you could start making it when you saw guests coming up the road and have it ready by the time they were settling down for coffee." Peeling the apples is even optional. I made it immediately after reading about it using the bounty of fall apples. In fact, I made it many more times into late fall, each time lowering the 1 cup of sugar to to see how much I could lose without noticing.

Since it's pear season, I've been stocking up on them each time I go to the co-op. They take a few days to ripen, so every trip seems to replenish the ones that finally ripen to eat. For some reason, I remembered the Apple Cake, and figured to make a pear cake last week. I swapped out the white flour for whole wheat, and used a scant 1/2 c. of sugar, and used one Bosc and one Anjou pear. Delicious, yes, but in my quest to eliminate refined sugar completely, I had to make it again this morning using light agave syrup.

Last week's cake, under snowy powdered sugar dust...

One thing that endears this cake to me, besides being from a Grandmother, is that it is baked in an 8 inch cake tin. Something about an 8 inch tin reminds me of the 1950's that I didn't experience firsthand. Portion sizes were in check, martinis were an acceptable 3 fluid oz., and desserts were pleasantly simple and not the size of a basketball. This cake remains moist and keeps well, though not for a whole week, since it was gone in 5 days.

This morning, I was cakeless and Boy-O slept in, so my feet hit the floor and I rushed off to preheat the oven. By the time the preheat is over, you can be ready to pop this cake in the oven.

One Bowl Pear Cake (adapted from Maya*Made's Grandmother)
  • 2 c. diced pears (I don't measure, the amount is very forgiving. I don't peel either!)
  • 1/4 c. agave syrup, light or dark
  • 1/4 vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. Kosher salt
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour, or use baking spray, to coat an 8 inch cake tin.

Place diced pears and agave syrup in a large bowl, and stir to combine.

(Now, you can do this in one bowl, but I do it this way:) Measure oil in a one cup measure and crack the egg over it. Beat it lightly, then add to the pears and stir.

Add dry ingredients and stir to combine (again, I do sift them into another bowl, and then add). Mix until just combined, and stir in walnuts. Try not to over mix. The batter is very thick.

Empty the batter into a 8 inch cake tin, and spread with a spatula to even out. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean. (Mine took only 30 minutes to bake.) Let it cool in the tin on a rack for 10 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.

So there you have it! A cake that tastes as good as it is for you. After it cools, you can sprinkle confectioner's sugar over the top, but if you let it sit, it will disappear in the moistness. I didn't even feel bad trying a piece mid-morning with my coffee. You can imagine my excitement as I will try to incorporate other ingredients into this basic method... the near future will have a date and coconut trial reminiscent of those delicious Date Biscuits from innBrooklyn.

Maya*Made is famous for her remade creations, proudly reusing common household finds to brighten the lives of her readers and everyone who knows her. I'm sure she would be proud that she inspired me to remake her Grandmother's recipe, and I'm thankful she posted the inspiration! You can find more inspiration from Maya*Made on her blog, or purchase a piece of her usable art in her Etsy shop. One of my favorite things about blogging is finding family recipes from other families. It gives an immediate glimpse into a day in the life of someone else, and somehow makes a little connection to a complete stranger. I know this recipe is going to stick around in my family for a very long time.