It’s been a very busy week in our household. Our builder is back from his holidays and is now chomping at the bit to dig up our hallway. For some inexplicable reason the floor in our long hall dips slightly as it meets the living room and this drives my husband mental. It’s not a drastic drop, a couple of centimetres at the most, but nevertheless it’s annoying. The most likely explanation is that the original builders put the doorway in first, then realised that the floor was too high and would not leave enough headroom, so they dropped the floor slightly, rather than raise the door frame. I should explain that we bought our house five years ago and since then the full horror of what is wrong with it has been slowly revealed every time we try to do any improvements. The day we moved in we realised we had no hot water, I mean literally none would come out of the taps or the shower! Two plumbers and several thousands of pounds later, the water tank was replaced, having been found to be two-thirds full of limescale, along with most of the pipework upstairs. This meant that the brand new carpet, which had been laid before we moved in had to be ripped up and the floorboards removed to get at everything. We also discovered that not one of the twelve doors throughout the house shut properly! As first time buyers we were very green when viewing properties. We didn’t know that we had to try the taps or test the doors, goodness knows how the previous owners of our house were washing! So, next week, we will finally discover what is lurking under the tiles in the hall and I for one am apprehensive. To top it all off, our new orangery has suddenly sprung a leak. In the midst of all this chaos I have had to bake.
Week 7 – The Bake Off contestants were thrown a real curve-ball. Vegan Week!! I watched with some trepidation. How were they going to cope with this challenge? As someone used to using vast quantities of eggs, milk and butter in my baking, I was doubtful that they could produce good results. I have been asked before if I could make gluten-free cakes and, although the taste and texture is slightly different, they have turned out okay but I just couldn’t imagine trying to produce a light, fluffy sponge without using eggs. Well, the bakers really struggled didn’t they? The word “claggy” was thrown around quite a lot. Manon’s showstopper, although beautifully decorated, proved to be virtually inedible, and then there was poor Ruby. It was heartbreaking to watch her two tiered cake slowly collapse, but what was she thinking? She was trying to stack two cakes of the same size on top of each other which was never going to work. This didn’t bode well for my attempts at vegan baking. I read so many recipes for vegan cakes, many of which had comments from people saying how terribly they had turned out. Now I was nervous, but determined to give it a go. Eventually I found a recipe for chocolate cake which didn’t require lots of weird and wonderful ingredients. It simply called for dairy free milk and margarine, the rest of the ingredients were reassuringly familiar. Once I got to the supermarket I realised that there are lots of vegan products readily available if you look. They are slightly more expensive than their regular versions, as you might expect.
The recipe I used is an American one, converted from cups into UK measurements and is by Kate@Veggie Desserts. Firstly, preheat your oven to 180 degrees, 160 for fan ovens and using some of the dairy free margarine (I used Live Free), grease two 8 inch round tins. Stir 1tbsp of lemon juice into 300ml of dairy free milk, I used almond milk, and set aside. This, I’m guessing, acts like buttermilk in a red velvet cake to make the sponge fluffy. Next melt together in a pan 150g of dairy free margarine, 3 tbsp of golden syrup and 1tsp of instant coffee granules, then set aside to cool slightly. Sieve 275g of plain flour, 175g of caster sugar, 4 tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder, 3tsp of baking powder and 1tsp of bicarbonate of soda into a bowl and mix together. Pour the melted margarine mixture and the milk into the bowl and stir well until it becomes a smooth batter. This is where the magic happens. The sour milk will react with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda to create bubbles which will help the cake to rise. Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake for 30 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. The batter is quite runny and I was concerned that it would leak out of the bottom of the tins in the oven but it didn’t so I think the rise started happening very quickly. They came out of the oven looking great, they were well risen and felt springy to the touch. Once they were cool I turned them out and made a frosting with the dairy free margarine, cocoa powder and icing sugar. This had a slightly “moussey” texture and was not as dense as a normal butter cream, but it tasted good and spread well on the cake.
As you can see from the picture, it was light and moist, very similar in texture to a chocolate oil cake I make. I didn’t make a multi-layered showstopper as my family have begged me to stop feeding them cake, their waistlines, due to being my tasters, have expanded over the summer, however, I gave a slice to my husband and my son, without telling them it was vegan and they declared it absolutely delicious. When I revealed that it was made without eggs or butter they were amazed and frankly, so was I. My husband then said that it was “just like a normal cake” which is the best endorsement I could have hoped for! The C word was not used, or needed, which just goes to show, it is possible to make a vegan cake which is not claggy, or rubbery but is fluffy, flavoursome and fantastic. It’s been such a positive experience that I am seriously tempted to try a vegan approach to my diet in the future! More vegan baking coming soon.
Thanks for reading. xx