Two vegan birthday cake recipes- both equally delicious

Lashings of gooey buttercream, to-die-for moist sponge, rich chocolatey flavours… though I’d made the two cakes I was presenting to my lactose and egg intolerant flatmate myself, even I couldn’t believe that these  birthday treats were safe for her to eat. The temptation was to launch myself between her and the forkful of birthday cake she was raising to her mouth (selflessly devouring the offending morsel myself to really guard against potential dairy poisoning). ‘I must have had a funny turn and thrown in a couple of eggs in a baking-induced panic,’ I thought anxiously as she tucked into the vanilla sponge with soya buttercream and I waited for the projectile vomiting to start.

But, my incredulous bakers, these cakes were vegan through and through. Despite being delicious and certainly looking the part, they were made by  ingeniously replacing egg with either soya custard or vegetable oil, ensuring the cakes didn’t lack binding agents and were still nice and rich. I can’t take full credit for their success- a quick ‘vegan birthday cake’ Google revealed both recipes on The Vegan Society website. I only altered the recipes by using normal caster sugar for the chocolate cake recipe instead of ‘Barbados sugar’, not including soya milk in the plain sponge, and adding vanilla and chocolate ‘soyacream’ as toppings.

I did follow the suggestion of using wholemeal flour even though I suspect normal flour would have worked just as well- I was afraid to experiment when already in such unfamiliar baking territory. As it happened, the wholemeal added a really nice density and chewiness to the sponge and made the whole thing seem misleadingly healthy. Or it would have done had I not smothered the sponge in super sugary buttercream.

I wasn’t able to sample the chocolate sponge as this was saved for my flatmate to take into work the next day (apparently dairy allergies can complicate office politics no end and I wasn’t about to see my friend shunned for bringing in tofu-based yoghurt as a birthday treat…) The cake apparently received rave-reviews… she’s expecting a  promotion any day now.

Here’s how I customised the  Vegan Society recipes:

Vegan Vanilla Sponge

1. Over a low heat I dissolved 125g soya margarine and 100g caster sugar. I preheated my oven to  180C (350F or gas mark4).

2. I sieved 250g self-raising wholemeal flour, 3 tsp of baking powder and a pinch of salt together into a separate bowl.  I added the cooled margarine mixture to these dry ingredients and mixed together, adding 1/4 tsp vanilla essence.

3. The texture at this point was quite floury and lumpy- this is where the vegan custard comes in. I used half a carton of Alpro Soya dairy-free custard but you can judge how much is needed depending on when the mixture reaches soft dropping consistency. Just keep adding custard until it does. The custard was what really made the cake so tasty I think as it gave it a really nice vanilla flavour.

4. Grease one or two round baking tins with soya marg and cover with baking parchment. Or I always find aluminium foil serves just as well for when you’ve run out of greaseproof paper. Just mould the foil into your tray and grease this so that you have something to lift the cake out of the tray with once it’s cooked. Two cake tins are ideal for a sponge but you can just do what I did and apply the butter cream and jam to the top as decoration if you’ve only one tin.

5. Bake in the oven for 25-35 mins or until cooked.

6. Remove the cake from the tins and cool completely on a wire tray. While they’re cooling prepare your ‘soyacream’ by mixing a good dollop of the stuff with enough icing sugar to make it stiff yet stiff malleable.

7. Sandwich with jam and ‘butter’cream or, as I did, decorate with the buttercream and use a knife to carefully apply a strawberry jam decorative swirl to the top of the cake.

Vegan Chocolate Sponge

1. Preheat the oven to  180C, 350F or gas mark4.

2. The original recipe I used said to use a food processor to blend the ingredients but I don’t have one, or rather I have one so small I’d have been there all day. Mixing the ingredients the old-school way seemed to work just fine. I sieved 200g  self-raising wholemeal flour, 25g cocoa powder and 2 tsp baking powder into a bowl and stirred in 75g caster sugar. I did like the idea of compensating for the absence of a summer holiday this year by using the exotic sounding ‘Barbados’ sugar, as suggested by the recipe. Then I discovered this is just another term for muscavado sugar, which I’m guessing would have given my cake a slightly darker, more syrupy flavour.

3. I added 100ml vegetable oil VERY gradually, stirring as I went. Then I added a little cold water even more gradually until the mixture was at soft dropping consistency. My mixture needed very little water, so I’m not quite sure why the Vegan Society recipe recommended 550-750ml. This would have made things very sloppy indeed.

4. I greased my tin as above and put in the oven for 30 mins.

5. I removed the cake from the oven and allowed to cool a little before removing from the tin. Then I removed it from the tin to cool completely on a wire rack.

6. While they were cooling I melted one bar of vegan chocolate in a glass bowl over boiling water. Allow this to cool while you whip up some ‘butter’cream as above. Carefully fold the melted chocolate into the soya buttercream and spread generously on top of the cooled sponge.

7. Gently coax your vegan friend into eating something which looks far too delectable not to contain an ounce of butter, cream or egg.

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