Let them eat (vegan) cake

For those tempted to abstain from animal produce for Lent, or those just looking to cut down on dairy products more generally, here is proof that you don’t need to give up cake!

A guest post from my running partner and cake baker lovely Louise Cooling.

For those tempted to abstain from animal produce for Lent, or those just looking to cut down on dairy products more generally, here is proof that you don’t need to give up cake!

One of the things I love most about baking – apart from the all the cake, is how happy it makes the people around me. As a passionate home baker, I regularly knock up an assortment of baked goods and I like nothing better than sharing the things I bake with my family, friends and colleagues. Unfortunately that can get a little tricky if someone in your circle has embraced a dairy-free lifestyle and nothing kills a baking-buzz like apologising to your new vegan friend for the none-vegan cookies you made – trust me, I’ve been there! So, despite being a life-long, milk guzzling carnivore, in the name of inclusivity I’ve decided to become a more equal opportunities baker. This means routinely using as many vegan-friendly alternatives to traditional baking ingredients as possible.

Since embarking on my quest to become a more enlightened baker, I’ve discovered that vegan-friendly baking requires imagination and creativity. Dairy, in the form of eggs and butter are at the corner stone of baking. Not to get too scientific, it’s the proteins and fats in dairy products that help baked goods to rise and define their texture. Whatever you’re none-dairy replacement, it has to react in a similar way to its diary counterpart if you’re to get a similar result. Luckily, there is a whole world of vegan-friendly substitutes out there that I hope with a little experimentation and practice will help me make sweet-treats that everyone can enjoy!

Below are just a few of my favourite vegan-friendly subs to date:

Vegan alternatives to eggs

  • Fruit or veggie purees (I love homemade applesauce or super ripe bananas as they allow you to cut back on sugar too)
  • Vinegar and Bicarbonate of Soda
  • Flaxseed meal and water

Vegan alternatives to butter

  • Coconut oil (the non-dairy fat du jour, as both a solid and a liquid its amazingly versatile, although the jury is still out on the supposed health benefits)
  • Cold-pressed Rapeseed oil
  • Applesauce

Dairy-free milks

  • Unsweetened soya or nut milks
  • Coconut milk
  • Rice milk
  • Oat milk

Alternatives to cream

  • Full-fat coconut milk
  • Homemade cashew nut puree (cashews are insanely versatile and delicious to boot)

Nothing says Happy Birthday like cake and in the spirit of experimentation I tried out the following recipe for Vegan Chocolate Cake with Ganache using some of the ingredients above for my chocaholic cousin’s birthday last month. The resulting cake was as decadent and delicious as a chocolate cake should be and a huge hit with my definitely none-vegan family!

Vegan Chocolate Cake with Ganache and Fresh Raspberries

410g Plain Flour

60g Cocoa Powder

2 tsp Baking Soda

½ tsp Salt

170g Soft light-brown sugar

160ml Rapeseed oil

420ml Unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used almond)

60ml Water

2 tbsp White wine or cider vinegar

For the ganache

250ml Full-fat coconut milk

250g Dark vegan-friendly chocolate

Preheat oven to 175 º C. Grease a 20cm (8 inch) round spring-form tin.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and sugar. In a separate jug or bowl combine oil, milk and water. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well until it’s thoroughly combined. Lastly add the vinegar and stir quickly.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool for 10 minutes in the tin before transferring to a wire rack. Allow to cool completely decorating.

To make the ganache, in a bowl, break up the chocolate into even size pieces. Bring the coconut milk to the boil and pour over chocolate. Allow to stand without stirring for five minutes. Stir to fully combine and allow to cool before sandwiching and icing the cake. Decorate with fresh fruit or toasted hazelnuts.

For a guide through the slightly weird but definitely wonderful world vegan and dairy-free baking subs check out the brilliant Fork and Beans blog at http://www.forkandbeans.com/

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