Many years ago, I needed to make a sheet cake for Donna Billick (a ceramicist I knew who wanted to trade art for baked goods). Another friend, Shaunie Briggs (who is also a prominent California sculptor in her own right), advised me not to try to do it from scratch, but to rather take several boxes of Duncan Hines mix and rev ’em up by adding a good dose of cocoa powder and substituting buttermilk for the water. This proved to make an incredibly moist and terrific cake; while I rarely use a mix, when I do, I always make those improvements.
This weekend, I wanted to try one of the King Arthur gluten-free cake mixes. As I’m trying to dial down the dairy as well as the gluten, I wondered whether I could substitute something for recommended fat and water additions. So I turned to that staple of vegan desserts, coconut. I swapped 1/2 cup of coconut oil for the 2/3 cup vegetable oil called for on the box; and instead of water, I used one can of Thai Kitchen coconut milk (which had a goodly amount of coconut cream floating on top, which was mostly fat… that’s why I cut down the oil).
The swaps turned out to be just the ticket for a velvety rich and delicious cake, with a moist tender crumb that was not dense or heavy at all. It’s hard to believe there is no milk or butter in it… it’s that good.