Cooking offers me life lessons on a weekly basis. This week, the lesson—administered by these cakey vegan pumpkin chocolate chip blondies—was to accept things as they are.
Acceptance—meeting life where it is, not constantly trying to fight against things, control them, or force them to be a certain way—is a theme I meditate on constantly, read about in books, learn again and again in yoga. Who knew that a “failed” baking venture would be such a good teacher?
This blondies were, as the title sort of suggests, intended to be cake. I was thinking about a light, fluffy, chocolate studded snacking cake. It’s just the kind of treat I love (cake is my all-time favorite dessert), and I love it even more at this time of year, when it’s getting cooler and my excitement to bake returns from its summer hiatus.
The thing is, in spite of using the same flour/wet ingredient proportions that have served me well with countless other cakes (this one included), I couldn’t get this one to have that light, fluffy crumb I’d been thinking about. The interior kept coming out of the oven super moist and dense. I changed things around four times (yes, this baking project has been unfolding for weeks): different wet/dry ingredient ratios, new liquids and fats, different flours.
Hilariously, some pretty substantive changes aside, it kept turning out the same way.
The thing is, each time I tasted the blondies, they were good. Really good—as in, difficult to stop eating, and certainly tasty enough that I had no problem polishing off samples of my “failed” baking batches.
On Saturday morning, when I made my fourth and final batch, I wrote it off as a cake-baking failure and then helped myself to a square with a cup of coffee and savored each bite. It occurred to me, finally, that there was something a little wrong with the fact that I kept dismissing these treats as failures, when in fact I liked them pretty well exactly the way they are. Why? Because they’re chocolatey, gooey, with a hint of spice. The texture is firm on the top, super moist inside. A little bit like blondies, but without the crispy top that blondies get sometimes. (They’re similar to this recipe, too.)
So, I decided to post them. I do this full well knowing that a lot of people will think they taste like cake that’s too gooey; blondie lovers will probably think they’re too cake-like. I can’t imagine any expert bakers or dessert purists liking them. But honestly? I like them. They’re gently spiced and full of chocolate. They’re rich, but they don’t feel greasy. They’re vegan. They’re easy.
This blog has always been a place where I share things I really enjoy. Sometimes that means sharing recipes that other folks won’t like, and while that makes me feel badly, I know it’s also part of writing about food.
With the spirit of honesty in mind, here are my pumpkin chocolate chip cakey blondies, or blondie-like pumpkin chocolate chip cake, or whatever you’d like to call it. Here’s hoping that someone out there will try it and agree that, no matter how hard to classify, it’s pretty fun to eat.
- 1 cup light spelt, regular spelt, or whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as safflower or grapeseed
- 1 cup pumpkin purée (use the rest of what’s in the can for oatmeal, a smoothie, soup, etc.)
- 3/4 cup maple syrup or agave syrup
- 2/3 cup cold water
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup vegan chocolate chips (3/4 cup for the blondies, 1/4 cup for decorating the top of the cake)
Preheat your oven to 350F and lightly oil a 9 x 9 square baking dish.
Mix together the flours, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a large mixing bowl. Mix together the oil, pumpkin, maple syrup, water, and vinegar in a separate bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until you have a mostly smooth batter. Fold in 3/4 cup chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the baking pan and top with the remaining chocolate chips.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is lightly golden. Allow the cakey blondies to cook for at least an hour. Cut and serve.
One of my more persistent tendencies is to refuse to see the good in things, because they don’t meet whatever preconceived notion I had in my mind of what they’d be like. No matter how rich, how interesting, how right they feel, I dwell on the disjunction between expectation and reality.
I’m trying—really and truly trying—to do that less. Allowing myself to enjoy a recipe that stubbornly refused to conform to my vision of it is a sweet place to start. (Literally and figuratively, in this case.)
Wishing you all a great week, and a fabulous Halloween!