Pennsylvania Dutch Shoofly Cake
You may have heard of shoofly pie, the famous Pennsylvania Dutch molasses pie. But most people haven’t heard of shoofly cake, which is very similar to the pie except there’s more flour and you don’t have to bother with a pie crust. If you’d like a simpler introduction to Pennsylvania Dutch baking, this is a great place to start!
Like shoofly pie, shoofly cake can be made in wet bottom style. This means that there’s a delightful gooey layer of molten molasses at the bottom. It’s quite rare to find a wet bottom shoofly cake recipe, so I’m very excited to share my recipe for shoofly cake that’s not only vegan, but also has the decadent wet bottom!
This recipe makes good use of different types of molasses for different layers. In the wet bottom layer, “table molasses” is used. Table molasses is a sweeter type of molasses, and in the light a drop of it looks reddish-brown. Baking molasses, which is darker and less sweet, is used in the cake layer. Blackstrap molasses is not used here, but FYI it is the darkest and least sweet molasses.
Vegan Shoofly Cake
I started with a wet bottom shoofly cake recipe from cooks.com, which I veganized and changed to make the texture fluffier and get the cake and crumb topping closer to what you’d find in a traditional shoofly pie. There are lots of recipes for shoofly cake (most of which are very similar to one another), but the cooks.com recipe is the only wet bottom version I’ve seen!
How I Made It Vegan
This part was easy! Like many other shoofly cake recipes, this one was already mostly vegan. The recipe gave two options for the fat used in the cake–vegetable shortening or butter. I tried it with vegetable shortening, but the flavor was much better when I used vegan butter instead. Other than that, just make sure to use vegan brown sugar and you’ve got a vegan shoofly cake! The easiest way to find vegan brown sugar is just to buy organic brown sugar.
Other Changes I Made
First I halved the original recipe–partly because it was awkward to try to evenly blend the dry cake ingredients without having a very large mixing bowl, and partly because such a large cake was way too much for a small household.
The original recipe also called for part molasses and part King Syrup, a golden syrup made from corn syrup and other ingredients. My recipe uses only molasses. King Syrup was not created until 1901, and shoofly pies had been around for about 25 years before that. Call me a purist, but to my family it’s not shoofly anything unless molasses takes center stage!
The original recipe, like every other shoofly cake recipe I’ve seen, says to just use some of the blended dry cake ingredients as the crumb topping. Although this is quick and easy, I wasn’t happy with the taste of the crumbs because there was considerably more flour than brown sugar. It seemed bland. I also didn’t think there were enough crumbs. So I make the crumb topping separately, increasing the amount and using the same ratio of brown sugar, flour, and vegan butter that I use for the crumb topping in my shoofly pie recipe.
Since we are no longer using some of the cake layer as a topping, I also increased the water and pan size to compensate for the larger cake layer. I increased the baking soda by more than I needed to compensate, to get a fluffier cake texture. I’ve also clarified the instructions and changed the order of preparation so that you don’t have heated baking soda sitting around for too long before the cake goes into the oven.