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.