Trying to think of the perfect Valentine’s Day present for your significant other, your friend or yourself? Sweets, especially chocolate, are usually a safe bet. If you want DIY inspiration, you can tune into a free live event with famous vegan pastry master Fran Costigan on Feb. 9.

Costigan, AKA the Queen of Vegan Desserts, trained at the New York Restaurant School and Natural Gourmet Institute. She’s worked as a chef in both vegan and non-vegan pastry kitchens, and has been teaching for more than 20 years. She’s the author of “Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy Free Desserts” and “More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts Naturally.”  

Related: DIY sweet treats for Valentine’s Day

Costigan is teaching her live Valentine event through the online Rouxbe Culinary School, where she regularly teaches a longer course on vegan desserts. Other Rouxbe classes of interest to vegans include an Introduction to Plant-Based Cooking, an intensive Plant-Based Pro Certification course and Forks Over Knives 90-Day Course.

If you’re signing up for her Valentine’s Day class on Feb. 9, you can submit your questions ahead of time and she’ll try to answer them during the event.

A heart-shaped vegan chocolate cake

Chocolate cake is a Valentine’s Day classic

Ninety-nine percent of normal people endorse chocolate cake as a suitable Valentine’s treat. So Costigan has graciously shared her chocolate cake recipe with Inhabitat readers. Even if you can’t attend her live event, you can still benefit from her vegan pastry expertise by making this at home.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind. This recipe makes a lovely layer cake — just double the recipe. Or, if you’re like some writers and can never get the layers out of the pans and on top of each other without breakage, you might want to stick to a single layer. You can use either an eight-inch or nine-inch pan. If your pan is eight inches, bake for six to eight minutes longer, as it will be slightly thicker. This batter does not lend itself to cupcakes.

According to Costigan, don’t worry if the chocolate cake gets cooling rack marks on it, as glazing or frosting will cover a marred surface.

Chef Fran’s favorite vegan chocolate cake recipe

Ingredients:

• 1/2 cup organic whole wheat pastry flour
• 1/2 cup organic all-purpose flour
• 1/3 cup Dutch cocoa powder
• 1/4 lightly ground organic sugar
• 1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
• 1/4 cup mild tasting extra-virgin olive oil or organic neutral vegetable oil
• 3/4 cup and 2 tablespoon any nondairy milk
• 1/2 cup pure maple syrup, Grade A dark or amber
• 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
• 1/2 teaspoon chocolate extract

Instructions

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Oil the sides and bottom of a nine-inch cake pan and line the bottom with a parchment circle or paper cut to fit. Do not oil the paper.

Whisk, measure and sift together the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium mixing bowl.

Place the oil in a medium mixing bowl. Add the non-dairy milk, maple syrup, vanilla, vinegar and chocolate extract (if using), whisking to blend completely. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the parchment lined pan. Rotate the pan to level the batter and tap it lightly on the counter to get rid of some of the air bubbles. The batter will be thin.

A heart-shaped vegan chocolate cake on a white plate

Baking and glazing the vegan cake

Transfer the cake to the center rack of the preheated oven and bake for 28 to 30 minutes, or until the top of the cake is set. The sides have started to pull away from the pan and a tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs attached.

Remove from the oven and set the pan on a wire cooling rack and cool for five minutes. Run a thin spatula around the sides of the cake to release the sides from the pan. Invert the layer onto the wire rack, remove the pan and carefully peel off the parchment paper. Invert again to place the cake, top up, on the wire rack and allow to cool completely.

When cool, slide a cardboard circle or a flat plate underneath. Cover the cake tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well-chilled before glazing.

Prepare the vegan bittersweet ganache glaze

To glaze the cake, place it on an icing rack set over a parchment-lined baking pan.

Pour slightly less than one cup of the ganache into a measuring cup with a spout. Center the cup over the cake and pour the glaze onto the center of the cake. Coax the glaze to the edges and down the sides by tilting the baking sheet or use an icing spatula. Then, use a spatula to spread the glaze onto the sides.

Allow the glaze to set undisturbed for 15 minutes. Then transfer to the refrigerator for 10 minutes to allow the glaze to set completely.

Remove the cake from the refrigerator. Refill the measuring cup with another scant cup of the glaze and add another coating of the glaze as directed above. This time, do not try to move the glaze around with the spatula after it has been applied. Doing so will mar the finish. Extra glaze can be drizzled freeform on the top of the cake to add interest or to hide any blemishes.

Transfer the cake to the refrigerator and allow the glaze to set for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Storing your vegan cake

Once you’ve baked, cooled and glazed your cake, it can be stored and refrigerated up to two days. You can either stick it in there unwrapped, or in a cake box — just make sure you store your cake away from strong odors. You can also freeze your cake for up to one month. You never know when you might need an emergency cake.

+ Fran Costigan

Images via Hannah Kaminsky and Pexels

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