Of all the challenges that baking presents, making cakes for vegans must rank as the hardest. When you can’t use eggs to give it a lift you have to go down the road of using raising agents, with the attendant risk of a soapy undertaste; when you can’t use the velvet luxury of butter you have to use oils, so you have to ensure you inject decadence in other ways.
Then there’s the texture: there are no eggs to hold air in and give the crumb its structure; there is no butter to give it strength. The most likely result is a dense, stodgy, unappetising cake that appeals to no-one. For that reason, when you find a great vegan cake recipe you should treasure it. When you find a great vegan cake recipe that carnivores also love… well, it’s treasure indeed. This one is clever, using baking powder and vinegar to give a good rise and open texture. Don’t worry, the vinegar is undetectable in this delicious cake.
This recipe comes from a book entitled ‘Peace & Parsnips’ by Lee Watson. Buy it. It is full of excellent recipes and ideas that prove that vegan cooking can result in delicious food that will hold its own against any cuisine.
For the cake:
150g unrefined brown sugar
220g plain flour
50g cacao powder
80g very dark vegan chocolate, chopped into very small pieces
1 heaped tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
75 ml vegetable oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
250 ml water
For the almond cream:
80g raw almonds, soaked overnight, brown skins peeled off
75 ml unsweetened almond or soya milk
100 ml vegetable oil
2 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp maple syrup
For the topping:
2 tbsp crushed pistachio nuts
Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4.
Oil and line the base and sides of a 24cm loose-bottomed springform cake tin.
Place the sugar, flour, cacao powder, chocolate, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir it all together. Add the oil, vinegar and water – gradually – and whisk slowly until it forms an even batter. Take care not to overwork it.
Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 25-30 minutes. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should pull out with a very small amount of sticky cake clinging to it.
Leave to cool on a wire rack, in the tin, for 30 minutes or so. Remove from the tin when it is nearly cool.
Meanwhile, make the almond cream. Put the almonds into a food processor and process, scraping down the sides regularly, until it is smooth, then drizzle in the milk and process until it forms a smooth cream. Now drizzle in the oil, which will make it thicken up. Finally, add the almond extract and the syrup, process briefly until thick and smooth, it should be the consistency of whipped double cream.
When the cake is almost cooled, spread a thick layer of the almond cream on top. Arrange the raspberries decoratively on top, any way you like, and finally sprinkle with the crushed pistachios.
This cake not only tastes incredible, it also looks amazing – definitely one to show off with.