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!