I won’t soon forget the first time I ever nailed my vegan olive oil cake recipe; it was one of the first things I baked after moving back to Colorado from San Francisco. It was rosemary-scented and chocolate-studded, and it popped out of the oven perky, confident, cakey and yet so sturdy that I didn’t think twice about stuffing it in my backpack for an upcoming trip to Montana. It’s been my go-to travel cake recipe since. So, when we first started talking about recipes that would be just as suitable for jersey pockets as for enjoying with a cup of something warm (or cold) after a long bike ride, it quickly went on the “must-have list.”
In the months since, versions of this cake have become the most cult-worthy of offerings in our pastry case. Not the coconut and chocolate bars, not the chocolate chip cookies: everyone, everyone loves vegan cake. Since that first high-altitude baking experience, I’ve changed the recipe around to accommodate the seasons, my tastes, and what’s on hand. The version we have on offer always at the clubhouse is one of my favorite cakes in the entire world, spiced with ginger and cinnamon, flecked with sweet, bright carrots, and crusted with earthy black sesame seeds. Not everyone loves a savory-ish carrot cake, but it seems that everyone DOES love this Apple + Walnut Spice version we started offering up early this fall. Always the cakes feature great olive oil, though, and always – it’s vegan.
This is the most surprising part about the cake, which makes me beam; hungry cyclists come in, order a slice, and pop a bite in their mouths (having already started eating the cake with their eyes.) THEN they ask “what is this! It’s so buttery!” To which the answer from the staff is “there is no butter! it’s VEGAN!” I beam from behind my computer, listening as the transaction unfolds, and as enthusiastic little yelps of joy swirl around the pastry case, mixing with the crumbs falling to the floor and the muffled-mouthful conversations about cake that ensue. We’re all pretty stoked about how delicious a cake made without butter or eggs can be, and how sturdy it is in our pockets when we stuff it in there for a bike ride. (Even if lots of us like butter and eggs.)
In this little vegan cake that everyone loves, shredded apples bake right into the tender cake and crunchy walnuts pock through the crumb. The spices hint at fall and winter warmth without being so thick you couldn’t enjoy this little cake as a slice of Indian Summer, and the sesame seeds that crust up the top are just earthy and exotic enough not to make this your gramma’s spice cake. We’ve since pulled this version of it from the menu to make room for more festive flavors (like gingerbread!) and there have been a lot of requests (from vegans and non-vegans alike) to bring it back already. I promise it will return next fall when incredible apples return to our markets, but in the meantime, I wanted to share the recipe.