Vegan Chocolate Cake

  • Time: 2 hours
  • Serves: 10
  • Level: easy

This vegan chocolate cake would be great for a family birthday gathering.

As good a vegan cake as they come..

What you need

For the chocolate cake 140g plain flour 50g ‘natural cocoa’ powder* (see note below). 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda/baking soda ½ tsp baking powder Pinch of salt 225ml unsweetened soya milk 1 tsp good red wine vinegar 160g golden caster sugar 150 ml sunflower oil 1 tbs vanilla extract For the ganache frosting 175g 70% dark chocolate 125ml Oatley Creamly Oat cream – or similar 2 tbs golden syrup ½ tsp vanilla extract 2 tbs Flora or similar non-dairy margarine/spread cold from fridge For the chocolate buttercream filling 100g Flora or similar non-dairy margarine/spread cold from fridge 225g icing sugar 1-3 tbs Oatley Creamly Oat cream – or similar 1 tsp vanilla extract 1-2 tbs cocoa powder



Dad's Recipe Tales

Bea’s of Bloombsbury: I am familiar with Bea’s of Bloomsbury as I wrote about it for Time Out. It’s a fantastic tea shop and the cakes are exquisite. Therefore, I make no bones about offering this recipe, which is based on recipes from Bea Vo’s book, Tea with Bea. Normally, I like to develop my own recipes – but as I have not made a vegan cake before I thought I should follow the proportions and ingredients accurately before I start experimenting. This one will be difficult to beat. Vegan substitutes Vegan cakes are made without dairy or animal produce. That means, no butter, milk or eggs. Butter, a key ingredient in most non-vegan cakes can be substituted with either oil or non-dairy margarine/spread; milk is easily substituted by any of the various milk alternatives. Eggs are a little more problematic as they provide critical functions such as binding, substance, moisture and leavening. However, it turns out there are many substitutes for eggs, including ground flax seed, chia seeds, and various mashed fruits, vegs and pulses (including the water from a tin of pulses). In this recipe, the egg element is found among the milk, natural cocoa and bicarbonate of soda and baking powder with the addition of vinegar. The milk provides moisture, cocoa substance and binding, and parts of the raising agents together with vinegar reacting with acidic natural cocoa* the leavening. Notes on this cake This cake is easy to make. For vegans it is helpful that oil-based cakes are also a standard baking method for non-vegan cakes. As such, there is no beating or whipping of sugar and fat (or eggs) to create air in the ingredients. The recipe further follows standard baker’s ‘melting technique’, using cocoa instead of melted chocolate and oil instead of melted butter. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, and that is it. The cake is rather like a Devil’s Food cake, very rich, dark and moist with a high acidity to help accent the chocolate flavour. I therefore recommend making it with both the ganache frosting and buttercream to provide extra sweetness and to mellow the intense chocolate flavour from the cocoa. Soya milk and vinegar have distinctive and strong flavours, so it is interesting that there are no strange tastes or after tastes to the cake. This will be a consequence of chemical reactions during baking – but it might also be due to the large amount of vanilla used. The oil content seems high. I cut back the oil a little and rested my sliced cake on kitchen towels to absorb any extra oil. Otherwise – and honestly – this is a fine chocolate cake and should not be judged on whether or not it is vegan – if you don’t tell anybody it’s vegan they won’t know.

How Dad Cooked It

For the cake *It is important to use non-alkalised or ‘natural cocoa’ as the acid pH of the cocoa reacts with the baking powder and baking soda. Alkalised cocoa is sometimes referred to as ‘Dutched’. The only way to make sure is to check your cocoa is 100% cocoa and does not contain an alkali regulator such as sodium or potassium carbonate. The Food Thoughts brand make ‘natural cocoa’

  1. Preheat oven to 160C, Gas 4
  2. Grease a 20cm / 8in round baking tin and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  3. Put the cocoa, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl and mix – then sieve twice – or more – to ensure an even distribution.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the milk, vinegar, sugar and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture and stir with a whisk or spoon until well blended.
  5. Pour mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes. Check the cake with a wooden skewer – it should come out clean. Bake for a further 5-10 minutes if necessary.
  6. Take the tin from the oven when ready and cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the tin and place on a wire rack. Peel off the parchment paper and cool for 15minutes.
  7. Place a piece of parchment paper on a chopping board and then place the cake bottom-down on the paper. Cut the cake horizontally in thirds using a long bread or carving knife. Turn the cake with the paper to help cut a clean and parallel horizontal slice. Put the bottom slice on a sheet of kitchen towel and leave for further 15 minutes. Repeat with the other two slices.

For the chocolate butter cream

  1. Using an electric mixer beat the margarine/spread and sugar until very light and fluffy.
  2. Add the cream and vanilla and beat again, then add one tablespoon of cocoa and test that the mixture is a good chocolatey colour. Add more cocoa to ensure there is a chocolate taste.
  3. Finally, adjust to get the overall taste and texture correct. Add more cream if the mixture is too stiff, if it is stiff but still too sweet add more cream, add more sugar if not sweet enough or if too sweet and runny more margarine/spread. NB: I found that the mixture can take quite a bit of cream, without becoming running – the cream seems to improve the taste and texture.

For the ganache frosting Bea calls this frosting a fudge icing, though a ganache is what it really is. A ganache is chocolate emulsified with a liquid, usually cream – but also alcohol or even water. Ganache recipes also vary widely in their additional use of butter, sugar or sugar syrups, such as golden syrup or cane syrup – or even eggs. Many do not use these extra ingredients at all – notably when making chocolates. In this recipe the addition of syrup and butter makes the frosting more elastic – i.e. easier to spread and more pliable on cooling (non-dairy margarine/spread is a fine substitute for butter – and the vegan creams are a good substitute for dairy cream). I often find that chocolatiers are rather vague in the way they describe making a ganache. For the part-timer, this is not helpful as the ganache is highly sensitive to discrepancies in temperature and mixing and can easily split. However, Bea uses a fastidious method, which might just be fool proof…

  1. Make sure the chocolate is in in small pieces. Chop if necessary. Add the chocolate to a heatproof plastic bowl.
  2. Bring the cream and syrup to a boil in a saucepan and pour over the chocolate. Leave for 1 minute. Using a small whisk slowly stir the chocolate from the centre to gradually incorporate the cream. As the chocolate and cream in the centre emulsify continue to work outwards slowly incorporating all the cream and chocolate into a shiny emulsion.
  3. Add the vanilla and butter, mix and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Constructing the cake

  1. Put the bottom layer on a wire rack or plate. Spread the buttercream evenly, then add the middle layer and spread another layer of buttercream, then add the top layer of cake. Ensure the buttercream is contained neatly in the layers to the very edge of the cake.
  2. Pour the frosting over the cake and create an even coating on the top and sides using with a long spatula. Transfer to a clean plate using spatulas.
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