Dark Chocolate Birthday Cake with Salted Maple Caramel Sauce
 
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A dark chocolate cake with a salted maple caramel sauce to make anyone's heart swoon. Free from dairy, egg, peanuts, tree nuts (omit or sub pecans if allergic), soy, and animal products. Be sure if you're using whipped cream as filling, to serve the cake immediately or refrigerate - to avoid melting and a big, albeit delicious, mess. Otherwise, use your favorite vanilla icing recipe of your choice.
Author:
Recipe type: dessert
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
To make one pan Dark Chocolate Cake
  • 1½ C all purpose flour
  • ⅓ C cocoa powder
  • ¾ C sugar
  • ¾ Tsp baking soda
  • ½ Tsp sea salt
  • ½ C seed or light veggie oil
  • 1 C cooled Tim's Dark Roast coffee, or dark roast coffee of choice
  • 2 Tsp apple cider vinegar, or vinegar
  • 1 Tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ C pecans, chopped - omit or sub if allergic
To make 2 pans Dark Chocolate Cake (pictured)
  • 2¼ C AP flour
  • ⅓ C + 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1½ C sugar
  • 1¼ Tsp baking soda
  • ¾ Tsp sea salt
  • ¾ C seed or light veggie oil
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, or vinegar
  • 1½ C cooled Tim's Dark Roast coffee, or dark coffee of choice
  • ¾ C pecans, chopped - omit or sub if allergic
Salted Maple Caramel Sauce
  • 1 C sugar
  • ½ C maple syrup
  • ¾ C dairy free creamer (such as Silk/So Delicious brands) OR full fat milk, such as coconut
  • ½ Tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp vegan butter, OR refined coconut oil
  • ¼ Tsp lemon juice
Dairy free whipped topping OR homemade icing of choice
  • I used 1 tub So Delicious brand for this cake or
  • You'll need about 1½ to 2 cups total of icing
Method
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Have an 7"/8" pan(s) greased and coated with cocoa powder. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add sugar and whisk to combine the dry ingredients well.
  3. Add oil, vinegar, and coffee, to the dry ingredients and whisk well until fully incorporated.
  4. Divide batter amongst prepared pans (if desired) and bake in the preheated oven for approximately 25 minutes*, or until toothpick or knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  5. Remove from oven and allow cake(s) to cool slightly (at least 5-10 minutes) in the pan(s) before removing and placing onto a rack to cool completely.
To assemble one pan cake:
  1. Place cake on serving plate, drizzle salted maple caramel sauce all over top of the cake, and add pecans on top, if desired. Serve immediately.
To assemble layered cake:
  1. Even out chocolate cake layers if necessary.
  2. Place first layer on a serving plate/pedestal, pour some maple caramel sauce in the centre and spread using an offset spatula or back of a spoon, top with some of the chopped pecans.
  3. Add either whipped topping or icing.
  4. Repeat above steps.
  5. For the top layer, you can dust with some icing sugar, or adorn cake with freshly cut strawberries or raspberries. Otherwise use any fresh fruits of your choosing.
Salted maple caramel sauce:
  1. In a medium to large heavy saucepan (3 or 4 litres/quarts), add creamer/milk, sugar, maple syrup, and sea salt, and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring gently (and only if necessary), just until sugar is moistened/covered in liquid.
  2. Add lemon juice. No stirring!
  3. Allow mixture to come to a boil. Once it starts boiling, reduce heat back to medium low, and allow sugar mix to cook for 15 minutes. No stirring!**
  4. Remove pan from heat and add vegan butter/coconut oil, stirring until it's well combined with the sauce.
  5. Pour caramel into a glass jar (like a mason jar - something tempered), without scraping the bottom of the pan. Doing so could promote crystallization. Caramel sauce will be runny but will thicken as it cools.
Notes
* The cooking time is based on cake batter evenly divided into 3 pans to create the layers. If you choose to make either the one-pan cake or two-pan cake, you'll need to double the baking times so that enough time is given to allow cake batter to cook through properly. So check cakes at 35-45 minutes - using a toothpick or a sharp knife inserted in the centre of the cake to see if it comes out clean.

** Stirring the caramel once mixture has started boiling could very well cause crystallization to happen as the caramel starts to cool down. If you see some spots aren't mixed in, you can gently tilt your saucepan to allow sugar to mix with the rest of the liquids.

. You can prepare this Salted Maple Caramel Sauce ahead of time and keep it on hand for whenever it's desired. Like everyday :D

. I've been storing my sauce in a lidded mason jar at room temp, but I'm not sure if refrigerating will preserve it longer or if it will cause it to crystallize. And I don't want to take the chance and try either! It's too good to waste :) I read that freezing caramel sauces won't cause crystallization but unsure about the fridge situation. So if anyone has personal experience with keeping caramel sauces fresh then I'd love to know!

. If maple caramel sauce is too thick to pour or use, place it in a warm bath water to help soften it and make it a bit more liquid-y. But you shouldn't have any trouble with this recipe if you follow the instructions as described.

. *UPDATE* I made this cake a third time but brewed my own Arabic/Turkish coffee this time around. Talk about intense (in a good way)! So, if you're craving even more depth in flavor with a delightful coffee aroma, then substitute for the same amount as the drip coffee (like Tim Horton's or the like) in this already amazing recipe, and you'll be blown away. Promise.
Recipe by No Dairy No Cry at http://nodairynocry.com/dark-chocolate-birthday-cake-with-salted-maple-caramel-sauce-and-crunchy-pecans/