Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"War Cake" and Chinese Seitan with Walnuts

Lucky you (or maybe not) ...two (totally unrelated) recipes today.

These are stand-bys that I've had in my repertoire for years. I know there's at least a million versions of them all over Recipe-land, but for your viewing pleasure, here are the magic combinations I've always used.
Evidently I hadn't made either in a while, but I got inspired for whatever reason and whipped them up for supper last night. They were gobbled in minutes by hungry munchkins.

(As you can see, the cake got "sampled" before I could even get a decent picture - so it looks like a mess, not the pretty cake that it started out to be!!)

So, dessert first: "War Cake" was actually developed during WWII when sugar, butter and eggs were rationed. It uses no butter or eggs . Thus it's also vegan.
Now, you tell some unsuspecting (and un-vegan-educated) omni that you have a vegan cake and they just may turn up their nose. Their loss.
But you give them this interesting little tidbit of history - call it a 'War Cake' (or 'Depression Cake' or one of it's many other names) and they'll be fascinated, trust me. It's super simple too, (no eggs to crack even) probably one of the first recipes my kids learned to make.

War Cake with Praline topping

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoon vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cup cold water
Now the easy part:
Mix the dry ingredients.
Make a hole in the middle of the dry ingredients.
Mix wet ingredients together and pour into dry.
Stir until smooth.
Pour into greased pan.
Bake in 9 X 12 or two round pans at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
When cool, frost it as desired.

We've always used a "German Chocolate Cake" nuts-and-coconut-type topping... I used to sneak into the pantry and pick off the nuts when I was little, they were sooooo yummy!
  • 1/2 cup soymilk
  • 1/2 cup sugar or rice syrup
  • 1 Tb. egg replacer powder (mixed with soymilk)
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts
In a medium saucepan, whisk the egg replacer powder and soymilk together.
Stir in sweetener and vanilla, and add the Earth Balance.
Cook over medium heat until the butter melts and the mixture thickens, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, about 8-12 minutes.
Remove from heat, add coconut and nuts, and beat with the wooden spoon until frosting is of spreading consistency.
Do not taste until it has cooled a bit, as it gets VERY hot.
Spread on the top of the chocolate cake. It'll be runny and soak in a bit but this keeps the cake moist too.
Serve warm or cool.
Chinese Walnut Seitan

  • 1 cup coarsely broken walnuts* (I use halves, it's prettier)
  • 1 Tbsp. peanut oil
  • 2 cups bite-size seitan chunks , your favorite recipe or store-bought
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup onion slices
  • 1 1/2 cups bias-cut celery slices
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetarian chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. cooking sherry/red wine or apple juice
  • 1 (2/3 cup) bamboo shoots, drained
  • 1 can water chestnuts, drained and sliced
In skillet, toast walnuts in hot oil, stirring constantly.
Remove nuts to paper towels.
Put Seitan, onion, celery, and 1/2 cup of the chicken broth in skillet.
Add salt only if you think it needs it.
Cook uncovered 5 minutes or till slightly tender.
Combine sugar, cornstarch, soy sauce, and cooking sherry; add remaining broth.
Pour over vegetables in skillet.
Cook till sauce thickens.
Add bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and walnuts.
Heat through. Serve over your favorite veggies and rice.

In the picture, I layered rice, then just a generic package of frozen, cooked vegetables, then the Walnut Seitan on top (mainly 'cause I didn't want to use a bunch of serving dishes - I'm lazy, I admit it).
*You can use cashews or pecans if your family isn't a fan of walnuts. Mine actually prefer cashews but I happened to have walnuts tonight.


bazu said...

I love the idea of war cake- we make a basic chocolate "wacky" cake all the time whose origins are probably very similar. But your topping makes it a whole new monster. Love it.