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Vegan recipes: chocolate cake and spice cake

08 March 2019


I HAVE just discovered the American writer Nora Ephron, who died in 2012. Her recipes are generously scattered through her writing: one of them is for Vinaigrette. It’s rich, thick, and full of flavour for a green salad: 

2 tablespoons Grey Poupon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

The instructions are to mix the mustard and vinegar together and then to beat in the oil.

Another gift from across the Pond is an easily veganised Chocolate cake, simple to make and, surprisingly, adapted from my mother’s old copy of Fannie Farmer. I am startled to discover that the first edition was 1896, but the one I’ve inherited, complete with cocoa and coffee stains on the “Ollo’s Chocolate Cake” recipe page from my childhood, is the 1951 edition.

Her measurements are American cups; so these are my equivalents. She uses milk, of course, but, if you prefer a vegan cake, it is easy to substitute a vegan milk, and the cake does not contain eggs or butter. I use coconut sugar instead of cane sugar, and confess that I use an electric whisk to whip them up all in one rather than add the ingredients in the stages that she gives.

215g (7½ oz) plain flour
200g (7 oz) coconut sugar
40g (1½ oz) raw cacao powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
230ml (8 fl. oz) milk or vegan milk substitute
115ml (4 fl. oz) vegetable oil
1½ teaspoons vanilla essence


Heat the oven to 375ºF/190ºC/Gas 5. Line a 20x30cm cake tin with baking parchment. With an electric beater, whisk all the ingredients together and spread evenly in the prepared cake tin. Bake the cake for about half an hour.

Another of Fannie Farmer’s cakes, Spice cake, is economical and easy, and versatile. You can serve it hot out of the oven with fruit and custard as a pudding, or cool it and sandwich it together with pear-and-apple spread or whipped cream. I also like to put a layer of sliced apples in the bottom of the cake tin for a quick pudding, but any fruit would work well. I don’t have sour milk in the fridge — at least not intentionally; so I add a squeeze of lemon juice to ordinary milk. I also like to vary the spices, but this is her variation:

280g (8 oz) plain flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
280g (8 oz) coconut sugar
230ml (8 fl. oz) sour milk
90ml (3 fl. oz) vegetable oil

Heat the oven to 375ºF/190ºC/Gas 5. Line two 20cm or 22cm round sandwich tins. Whisk all the ingredients together and pour the batter into the cake tins. Bake for about 25 minutes.

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