Vegan chocolate birthday cake

Baking a cake hasn't given me this many smiles in a long, long time. I usually find the whole process pretty traumatic and steer well clear of things you can't properly taste as you make, adjust the seasoning for or make it up as you go along. But this cake was FUN.

From making a gazillion batches of this vegan brownie recipe for my boyfriend and my birthday earlier in the year, I figured the texture would work quite well in a cake: it's spongey and gets stickier and richer the longer you keep it. So I doubled the recipe I'd been using for brownies and the result was this supersize cake that I then had to recruit best friends and neighbours (also bezzie ms!) to help me eat. We only managed half before I had to stick it in the freezer, this cake really is GINORMOUS. Perfect for a birthday or summer party, not so much a solo mission.

Serves 10
3 cups of plain flour
1 cup cocoa
3 cups organic brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup fresh brewed coffee
1 1/2 cup soy milk
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup plain dark chocolate chips (about two small packets' worth)/ broken chunks of plain dark chocolate

For the icing and fruit topping

1 tbsp cocoa powder
Around 200g icing sugar
Around 3 tbsp vegan margarine such as Vitalite
200g strawberries
100g raspberries
1/2 peach or nectarine

Grease and line your baking tins. I used one large springform baking tin, and two smaller tins to go on top. You could make this cake with four layers, there's enough mixture- but I fancied making it look a little OTT with one bigger layer at the bottom.

Preheat oven to 160 °C.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Then in a separate bowl, pour and mix in the coffee, soy milk and oil. Add the liquid to the dry mix, stirring in the chocolate drops. 

Pour the cake mix into the tins. It will be quite runny at this point, but they do stodge up.

Leave in the oven for at least 25 minutes, checking back after that point to see if a tooth pick will come clean when inserted in the middle of the cake. 

Once the mixture springs back from light pressure when you touch it gently, it's ready. Take out and leave, in the tins, to cool for about five minutes initially. Then tip over and gently remove the baking paper, before leaving on cooling racks to cool down completely.

When the cakes have just about cooled, begin making the icing so they will be totally cool by the time it's all ready to assemble. I've kept the measurements between icing sugar and margarine vague as it often changes for me depending on heat or how stiff the icing goes, but I would stick to the rule that the less margarine you use the better, so the icing remains stiff and not too gloopy. Sift in the icing sugar to get rid of any lumps, and then use a fork to mix it into the sugar, using bit by bit, adding the cocoa as you go too.

Once you're happy with the consistency, begin assembling your cake. I chose to do one thin layer of chocolate icing with slices of strawberries for the base layer, then a layer of icing between bases 2 and 3, before topping off with a thicker layer for the top and chopped fruits. 

Remember once you've added the chopped fruit, it won't handle the heat very well, so clear some room in the fridge for this! I found myself laughing away once it was all ready, I couldn't quite believe what I'd managed to make with vegan ingredients. That's some magic right there!

Vegan Oreo chocolate cupcakes

Without fully realising my luck, I managed to procure upwards of sixty Oreos last month. Now while European-manufactured Oreos have milk in them, those made in the US don't, rendering them vegan. 24 of them mysteriously never made it into the baking process, but a fair few did. I've adapted this recipe to make it a little more simple from one over at the PETA website.

Something I've noticed from baking with cake wrappers is because of the lack of butter, the cupcake often sticks to the wrapper after baking, so it doesn't come apart as a whole. To stop this from happening so much, only take the wrapper off when the cake is totally cool. I've also read that you could do away with using them altogether and just grease a muffin tin on its own, but I haven't experimented with that yet!

Milk and I have something in common...

Makes around 36 cupcakes


For the cupcakes

4 1/2 cups plain flour
3 cups caster sugar
1 cup cocoa
1/2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp bicarbonate soda
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1/8 cup vanilla extract
3 cups fresh brewed coffee
1/4 cup and 2tbsp vinegar

For the faux-butter icing (the measurements really depend on how much icing you want- I often start with a small amount mixed to the right consistency and carry on adding until there is enough)
Icing sugar
Pure soy margarine
1 tsp cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to around 150 degress celsius and fill the cupcake tins with wrappers.

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl with the sugar, cocoa, bicarb and salt. Then add the vegetable oil and vanilla extract until just combined.

Slowly pour in the coffee, mixing for a few minutes until well combined. Finally, add the vinegar and stir for one last minute.

Pour the mixture into the baking cases to just below the edge of the wrappers and bake for around 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle of a cupcake.

Allow to cool completely.

To make the icing, sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a large bowl, and add small chunks of the soy margarine. Mix in with a fork to separate the margarine until it blends in with the sugar. Add more and more icing sugar until it is as firm as you'd like it to be- the icing will get softer once it's been mixed for a while, but will harden in the fridge. Decorate with a whole or half piece of Oreo- the biscuit will soften next to the icing so it's best to save this final touch to the very last minute.

Dreams can come true: the vegan pain au chocolat

Word on the proverbial vegan streets had been going around for some time that Jus-Roll also do croissant and pain au chocolat pastry that is vegan. My friend Richard managed to track some down way before I did and I saw how his eyes glazed over when I asked him what he did for breakfast one Saturday. I didn't believe him at first, there was just no way. It had to be some kind of vegan urban myth, like edible vegan macaroni cheese. Sure, it sounds like it's possible but then reality kicks in and you're stuck with a load of sunflower seeds soaking on your desk at work that will never make anything resembling a roux sauce.

So I hadn't eaten anything resembling a croissant for over a year when I finally managed to make a batch last weekend. The thing is, there's just no way of making this not sound cheesy: they taste like heaven. £2 a-pop-heaven.

The instructions are pretty easy to follow on the box, I just added a glaze of soy milk on top of the dough to make them a little crispier on the outside. I had to check back to the box and then Jus Roll's website in disbelief just to double check they really were vegan. Then I ate four, and went off to buy more. Saturday well spent I say.

Vegan Tiffin

Ali is my favourite London neighbour of all time. We met when the roof between our flats caved in, and have lived on the top floor of our dilapidated building ever since. I made up a tray of tiffin for Ali to say thank you for looking after my rabbit while I was away- and in the process also managed to work out a vegan recipe for it so I could save a bit back in the mixing bowl!

Tiffin, or fridge cake, is just about the easiest thing to make- it's not even baking as it never touches the oven. The name comes from British India, as another word for a snack or small meal. As it's still December I think it would be perfectly acceptable to eat this for breakfast.

You could add sour cherries, cocoa powder or even macadamia nuts to this recipe, but I prefer to keep to the recipe my Mum has used for as long as I can remember. I replaced the milk chocolate with dark, which as well as being vegan gave it an even richer, intense flavour that's perfect cut in to tiny chunks with a coffee.

Two packs of digestive or rich tea biscuits- Sainsbury's have quite a few options- you can click here to read their full list of vegan-suitable products. I used their freefrom Rich Tea biscuits for this recipe.
160g vegan magarine
2 handfuls of raisins or sultanas
2 tablespoons of golden syrup
300g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces

Grab a carrier bag and place all the biscuits inside, tie a knot and bash with a rolling pin until the biscuits are roughly broken up, but not too fine, as it's nice to have some crunch in the texture of the tiffin. Pour into a large mixing bowl.

In a pan, melt down the margarine and then stir into the biscuits. Then add in the raisins and golden syrup. On a very gentle heat, slowly melt the chocolate pieces making sure to take off the heat the second it has turned to liquid and velvety in appearance. Add to the mixture and stir well.

Now pour into an oven tray, spreading so the tiffin mixture is around 2-3cm thick. Cool in the fridge overnight or for about five hours, then get the kettle on and your neighbours round for a slice!