In July, I stumbled upon a post about Sweet Times in the Rockies: a cake competition/show. For not very much money at all--around $20--I could enter a cake competition.
There were different levels and categories. For decorating, could enter the Celebration, Novelty, Tiered, or Extravagant Cake categories. The final category was tasting. Cakes would be judged on taste, using flavorers provided by Savory Spice shop. This year's required ingredients were black onyx cocoa and Georgia peach spice.
Although you could enter as many categories as you wanted, I opted to only enter the tasting category. I picked up my free ingredients from the spice shop and started brainstorming. Chocolate cake. Chocolate frosting. Spice cake. The options were endless. After much deliberation and idea bouncing with Sam, I decided on a chocolate pumpkin cake with spiced cream cheese frosting and chocolate ganache. All gluten-free and vegan of course.
The cake came out okay, but it was too chocolately. The decisions to nix the ganache and decrease the amount of cocoa powder were made. I couldn't post any recipe notes or photos before the competition--everything needed to be anonymous--but I can post it all now!
Gluten-Free, Vegan Chocolate Pumpkin Cake with Spiced Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting
2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Flour Blend
1 cup sugar
¼ cup + 2 Tbsp Dutch cocoa powder
2 Tbsp black onyx cocoa
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
½ tsp salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
½ cup canola oil
½ cup non-dairy buttermilk (almond milk + apple cider vinegar)
½ cup hot water
8-oz Tofutti cream cheese (room temp.)
½ cup Earth Balance butter (room temp.)
½ tsp vanilla
1 Tblsp + 1 tsp Georgia peach spice
5 cups powdered sugar
Grease two 8-inch cake pans and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Make the non-dairy buttermilk. Measure ½ cup almond milk. Remove ½ Tbsp. Add ½ Tbsp apple cider vinegar. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
In a medium bowl, combine pumpkin, oil, and non-dairy buttermilk.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Stir to combine.
Add hot water, whisking until the batter is completely combined.
The mixture will be on the thick side.
Divide cake batter between pans.
Bake for 25–30 min.
Allow to cool in pans for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Before trimming or cutting the cakes, chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
While cakes are chilling, whip up the frosting. Cream together cream cheese and butter. Add vanilla and Georgia peach spice. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time. For a runnier frosting, use less powdered sugar.
I was pleased with the way my cake came out. I munched on the cake scraps left from leveling the cake.
On Saturday morning, I took my cake to the Convention Center. I wouldn't know the results of the tasting until the awards show on Sunday night. After receiving the judging sheets, I was both pleased and disappointed.
The handwritten notes said, "Props for entering a gluten-free/vegan cake. Was the moistest cake by far. The cream cheese icing was very sweet; almost too overpowering"; "Thank you for entering a GF/vegan cake--definitely my first. Moist and tasted good--but perhaps too much sugar in frosting. A little bit sweet for me. Black onyx chocolate added great color; I enjoyed seeing the GA peach spice in the icing"; "Must give you props for attempting a gluten-free and vegan cake. I think you are headed in the right direction with all of the components. A couple of things that were off putting: cake was a little gummy in the middle and icing was very very sweet."
Overall, the feedback was good. I did, however, score lower than I thought I would. A 29, 27, and 25 out of a total possible 60 points. This was definitely not where I thought my cake score would be.
What I took away from this: my frosting was way too sweet. This is something that I'll definitely be adjusting in the future. Even though I have a ginormous sweet tooth, not everybody likes their frosting to be as sweet as I do. This was the first time I ever tried to make my own recipe. I think it went pretty well.
The one thing that bothered me about the feedback was the praise I received for "attempting" to make a gluten-free, vegan cake. I wasn't looking for praise; I was looking to show people that something that's gluten-free doesn't need to taste like dirt. I'm not sure if this mission was accomplished, but I do know that I'm going to keep trying.