Ultimate Vegan Chantilly Cake

Before I moved to Nashville, I’d never had a Chantilly cake.

For those who wouldn’t know, Chantilly cake is not a Nashville thing – it was just all a coincidence that my introduction was here. I remember sometime back in the late 2010s a friend of mine mentioning to me that was what he had for his birthday, and was aghast when he heard I’d never had one. Trusting him to be an individual with good taste, I sought out a Chantilly cake of my own to test this claim.

Not one to get into long chronologies of my history with food, I’ll keep it at that.

What I tried was mind-blowingly delicious, and I don’t even care that my text editor is underlining that term to tell me it’s not a real word. They’ve been so good, in fact, that until just a few months ago, I continued to sneak the occasional dairy and egg-laden slice into my cart at Whole Foods.

What makes the Chantilly cake so amazing is the novel combination of a number of different textures, but especially different flavors. Cakes so often are limited in their use of flavor. You have white cakes, chocolate cakes, flavored cakes. They will typically have a frosting on them. They will occasionally have fruit.

While chantilly cake recipes vary considerably, the recipe I’ve developed is, to me, the “cocktail of cakes,” a simple yet immeasurably nuanced array of flavors: the white cake base provides a strong foundation, with a subtle infusion of almond and orange flavors, which is accented with a slightly sweet, creamy, slightly tart plant-based cream cheese, vanilla-flavored frosting, all giving way to the star of the cake, fresh blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries.

Origin of Créme Chantilly

The Chantilly cake I’m sharing here today with berries is certainly in the United States the most popular version of it, but the only real requirement of a Chantilly cake is the type of icing used for it. Of purportedly French origin, a Chantilly cake is a frosted sponge cake layered with Créme Chantilly, a type of whipped cream. According to Wikipedia, the details of what Créme Chantilly actually is are a subject of debate among culinary authorities:

Crème Chantilly is another name for whipped cream. The difference between “whipped cream” and crème Chantilly is not systematic. Some authors distinguish between the two, with crème Chantilly being sweetened, and whipped cream not.[35] However, most authors treat the two as synonyms,[36] with both being sweetened,[37][38] neither being sweetened,[5][39] or treating sweetening as optional.[40][41] Many authors use only one of the two names (for the sweetened or unsweetened version), so it is not clear whether they distinguish the two.[42]

The invention of crème Chantilly is often credited incorrectly, and without evidence, to François Vatelmaître d’hôtel at the Château de Chantilly in the mid-17th century.[43][44] The name Chantilly, though, is first connected with whipped cream in the mid-18th century,[45] around the time that the Baronne d’Oberkirch praised the “cream” served at a lunch at the Hameau de Chantilly—but did not say what exactly it was, or call it Chantilly cream.[46][47]

The names crème Chantilly, crème de Chantilly, crème à la Chantilly, or crème fouettée à la Chantilly only become common in the 19th century. In 1806, the first edition of Viard’s Cuisinier Impérial mentions neither “whipped” nor “Chantilly” cream,[48] but the 1820 edition mentions both.[49]

The name Chantilly was probably used because the château had become a symbol of refined food;[50] the word Chantilly by itself has since become a culinary shorthand for whipped cream.[51][52]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whipped_cream#Crème_Chantilly

Here in America in more modern times, the berry chantilly cake we all know and love appears to have been a cake that was popularized and made famous by baker Chaya Conrad while working a Whole Foods in New Orleans, according to this article from Taste of Home magazine.

Making Chantilly Vegan

The problem presented by a Chantilly cake is the presence of dairy. There’s also typically eggs involved, too. We’ll tackle those separately.

Dairy-Free Frosting

Most chantilly cake recipes use a mix of mascarpone cheese and cream cheese for the frosting, along with the usual sugar and vanilla.

Dairy cream cheese is, more or less, all made the same. Plant-based cream cheese however comes in a variety of different formulations. Understandably, it’s a new thing, so people are still experimenting with different formulations. Some versions I’ve seen use _____, others use _____, along with a variety of different ingredients to create the proper tang and texture.

Depending on what you have access to, some experimentation may be required.

When I have made it, I’ve found Kite Hill brand to work quite admirably. If you taste it on its own, it has a very faint graininess to it, but after processing it into frosting much of that is subdued, and when it’s on the cake along with all the other textures, it’s imperceptible.

Egg-Free Cake Batter

In vegan cooking there are a number of effective egg substitutes.

The actual function of eggs in a cake is to provide ______ and ______. It’s far more a structural thing than it is a flavor or fine texture concern, like the dairy substitutions, so it’s definitely important, but not something where the wrong solution is going to ruin the flavor of things. You may just have a slightly denser-than-expected cake, which isn’t ideal, but not the worst thing in the world.

Flavorings

I’m of the belief that the excellence of a Chantilly cake is in the variety of different textures and flavors going on. There’s creamy from the frosting, spongy yet crumbly from the cake, and crispness from the fruit. In the flavor department, there’s a lot of potential there, too.

Though many recipes leave it out, I find a judicious amount of almond flavoring to be an essential addition to the cake batter – so I include it. It makes the cake so much less run of the mill and so much more elegant, in a really understated way. In fact, even adding a little bit of citrus flavoring (orange preferably), or even better, some orange zest, takes it to a whole additional level of sophistication. The orange streaks it leaves in the batter look festive alongside the berries and the white frosting.

The great thing is, when you’re cooking without eggs, you could theoretically taste the batter ahead of time to ensure the right balance of flavors. Though many boxes and packaging say “do not eat uncooked / raw”, I would imagine that has more to do with the assumption you’re using eggs than it does the safety of the non-perishable / shelf-stable constituents. At any rate, that’s a decision of your own to make.

Though I haven’t tried it, one could probably even experiment with rose or lavender as well.

Chantilly Cake

Is there really a more intricate yet delightful flavor profile than that of a Chantilly cake?

Ingredients
  

Cake

  • 3 boxes white cake mix

Frosting

  • 4 8 oz containers vegan cream cheese

Instructions
 

Cake

  • One instruction.
  • Two instructions.

Frosting

  • Mix it up.

Assembly

  • Put it together.
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