Monday, October 7, 2013


Best Blog Tips
Dessert-- Chinotto Cake!

UPDATE FOR CANADIANS 2021: Since Nestle took over San Pelligrino in North America some years ago, Chinotto is harder to find in Canada.  There are some other brands, however, such as Brio brand, from Ontario, which I understand is a little sweeter than San Pelligrino, and Walmart Canada carries it. carries Niasca Portofino Chinotto at a decent price, but I haven't tried it yet. 
The San Pelligrino version is still available in the US and Australia, as far as I can tell. carries it. also sells an organic brand: 
Galvanina Chinotto, Premium Organic Italian Sparkling Soda; 12 fl oz (12 bottles)

There seem to be many places that sell chinotto in Australia (though, not necessarily San Pelligrino). Just Google "
buy chinotto australia".

Last Saturday was our 22nd anniversary, so I made a lovely meal using, for the most part, recipes and inspiration from my friend and fellow Vegan Heritage Press author, Betsy DiJulio, author of the wonderful book, "The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes" and creator of exceptional recipes on her blog, The Blooming Platter. Betsy, who is an artist and art teacher, has such a way with color,texture and combinations of flavors-- she's an artist in the kitchen as well as at her easel or in the classroom.

I was not able to get off island for special ingredients, so I chose the recipes according to what I had in my pantry, garden, refrigerator and freezer.

For our starter, I made two spreads to serve on rye crisp crackers:
Orange-Scented Olive, Parsley & Sundried Tomato Tapenade (made with our homegrown Italian parsley) and White Bean "Cheese" (from The Blooming Platter Cookbook)
I had a feeling that the lusty flavors of the tapenade would contrast well with the smooth, mild "cheese", and I was right-- they were wonderful together!

For the Soup course I made the following with our homegrown squash:
Butternut Squash Bisque with Cranberry Gremolata (from The Blooming Platter Cookbook)

For our salad:
I just made a simple green salad with marinated artichokes, avocado slices and grape tomatoes, topped with Dreena Burton's Hummus Dressing, which is deliciously creamy and a favorite of ours.

The Main Event was:
Vegan White Bean and "Chicken" with Caramelized Onions, Golden Raisins and Toasted Pine Nut Ragout (I had to use slivered almonds, as I had no pine nuts, and I used Soy Curls for the "chicken"-- read about Soy Curls here), served with egg-free broad noodles tossed with some of my palm oil-free vegan Buttah. I had a hard time choosing one of Betsy's entree recipes for the main dish, but in the end I chose this easy dish, which is complex in flavor and texture (as are most of Betsy's creations). The caramelized onions and white wine nicely complement the golden raisins and maple syrup. I added some chopped cooked rapini to the noodles-- it added a bitter note to contrast with the slight sweetness of the ragout.

For the Dessert: 
Chinotto Cake with Fudgey Chinotto Frosting and Toasted Pecans ala Betsy (recipe below)
The idea for this cake has been percolating in my mind for quite some time now and it seemed like as good a time as any to try it out. I'll explain more about this below (and what the heck Chinotto IS!), but Betsy's Southern-style Vegan Coco-Cola Cake with Fudgy Frosting was the inspiration for this luscious cake.  I hope you'll try this recipe, and some of Betsy's delicious creations, very soon!
See Updates about where to buy Chinotto (or a similar drink) at the top of the page.
I liked Coca-Cola well enough as a teenager, but we never actually had it in our house when I was young. We would drink it at the soda shop in the corner drugstore just a couple of blocks from our apartment in San Francisco (yes, corny but true!), but I haven't had it for years.  When I discovered the Italian carbonated drink, Chinotto, a few years ago, I thought, "This is like a grown-up Coke!". It's sweet and it's fizzy and it's brown, but it has a refreshing bitter edge to it. Saveur magazine describes it as "an intriguingly bitter, cola-like Italian soda". The bitter edge comes from the bitter fruit that flavors it-- myrtle-leaved orange tree (Citrus myrtifolia).  

(An anecdote: One of the few places in Courtenay, BC, the town where we shop, where you used to be able to buy Chinotto, is a pizza place where we occasionally get a vegan pizza with a whole wheat crust if we're in a hurry.  Onc time I asked the teenage counter clerk for a Chinotto along with our order and he asked, with a bit of a grimace,"Are you sure you want that?")

Now, I'm not advocating drinking this as  a regular habit!  It's still a sweet carbonated drink (no artificial flavors, high-fructose corn syrup or phosphates in it, though-- at least in the San Pelligrino brand [see photo below])!  But I enjoy it once in a while as treat, and every time I have it I think, there has to be an interesting way to use it in a recipe.  There are Chinotto cocktails on the internet (like this one), but I'm not much of a drinker, so...

This is the brand I used when we were able to buy it here in Canada, but you can find others-- see the update at the top of this post.

...enter Betsy DiJulio, my friend from afar and fellow vegan blogger/cookbook author.  She posted a recipe back in March for a Vegan Coca-Cola Cake with Fudgy Frosting .  She's a Southern gal, and it's a Southern cake that I had never tasted.  I read the recipe and her description and I thought Chinotto would maybe add an extra edge to this cake.

Betsy's cake is very rich, and I wanted to cut the fat back a bit, so the cake part of his recipe is actually a riff on my Mudpie Cake.  Mudpie cake is a deeply chocolate cake.  This cake does have cocoa powder in it, as does the frosting, but only a bit.  To me, it doesn't taste like chocolate.  The flavor is deep and mysterious-- hard to explain-- and we love it!  So, the cake recipe is essentially mine, with inspiration from Betsy, but the frosting is her recipe EXCEPT that I substituted Chinotto for the cola.

I hope that you can find some Chinotto, either online or in a deli or Italian grocery store.  If you do get your hands on some, I hope you will try this cake and let me know your verdict. 

Makes 12, 15 or 18 servings
Many thanks to my friend and fellow Vegan Heritage Press author, Betsy DiJulio, author of the wonderful book, "TheBlooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes" and creator of exceptional recipes on her blog, The Blooming Platter, for the inspiration for this cake and for the frosting recipe, which I made directly from her recipe, only changing the cola to Chinotto.

NOTE ON COCOA: Dutch-process cocoa powder is made from cocoa (cacao) beans that have been washed with a potassium solution, to neutralize their acidity. Natural cocoa powder is made from cocoa beans that are simply roasted, then pulverized into a fine powder.  Aside from neutralizing the acidity, Dutching cocoa powder makes it darker and can help mellow the flavor of the beans.

NOTE ON FLOUR: It is important to use cake or pastry to ensure a tender cake in this recipe.  If you have no pastry flour: for white, use 3 tablespoons cornstarch [can be organic] and add unbleached white flour to make 1 1/2 cups. For whole wheat, use 2 tablespoons cornstarch with finely-ground ordinary whole wheat flour to make 1 cup. Process your ordinary whole wheat flour in a DRY blender until very fine.)

1 1/2 cups white cake or pastry flour, sifted after measuring  
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour  
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup light organic unbleached granulated sugar
1/3 cup organic, fair trade unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Cocoa Camino brand, which is Dutch-processed—see note in recipe intro above)  
2 teaspoons baking soda  
1/2 teaspoon salt  
1 1/4 cups Chinotto (Italian carbonated drink (see text above)
I used to use San Pellegrino brand in cans, before they discontinued it in Canadam but there are other brands (see above)--
 pour with the cup angled so that no foam is created) 
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon plain soy, nut or hemp milk MIXED WITH 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 cup oil  
5 tablespoons smooth applesauce 
1 lb organic powdered sugar  
1/2 cup vegan butter (try my homemade palm oil-free vegan Buttah)
1/4 cup organic, fair trade unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Cocoa Camino brand, which is Dutch-processed—see note in recipe intro above)  
6 tablespoons Chinotto (Italian carbonated drink (see text above)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract  
1 cup chopped, toasted pecans  
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9 x 13" baking pan by greasing with Cake Release/Baker's grease (see my homemade palm oil-free vegan version), or grease the bottom and sides with coconut oil and dust with flour.

Whisk the dry ingredients together well in a medium bowl. Blend the liquid ingredients in a blender until smooth, then pour into the dry ingredients and mix BRIEFLY with a whisk (important) until smooth-- DO NOT beat the batter. The batter will be quite runny. Scrape the batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan on a cake rack while you prepare the Frosting.

With the cake just out of the oven, make the icing:
Place the powdered sugar in a medium bowl. In a 2-quart saucepan, combine the vegan butter, cocoa powder and Chinotto and bring just to a boil. (You can also do this in a 2-quart microwave-safe bowl or pitcher in a microwave oven at 100% power for about 1 minute, or until it just starts to bubble.)  Pour the hot liquid over the powdered sugar and whisk to combine until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and stir to distribute.

Immediately frost the still-warm cake and distribute the chopped toasted pecans evenly over the top of the cake. Cool thoroughly before serving. When cool, cut into 12, 15 or 18 squares and serve. Store leftovers, covered, in the refrigerator.



Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your anniversary Bryanna and here's to MANY more :). I love the look of your anniversary spread! Just don't tell Steve your husband was so spoiled...he got a couple of marinated chicken burgers with lots of salad and avocado and some homemade icecream and mousse. Your amazing spread makes ours look a bit lame ;). I don't believe it... we can get Chinotto here! It's officially ON for that gorgeous cake :). We have the same "On Island" problem that you do except it is probably more expensive for us to go "Off Island" than it is for you ;).

jacqui said...

Sounds like a lovely anniversary. Wishing you many more. The food looks mouthwatering!

Betsy DiJulio said...

I am beyond honored to have inspired your anniversary dinner, Bry! It gives me chills and leaves me speechless--which rarely happens!--to think I got to participate in your celebration, albeit in spirit and from very far away. Here's to 23 more, and continued inspiration and long-distance friendship in the meantime!