Nigella’s Vegan Chocolate Cake

Nigella's Vegan Chocolate Cake

This Nigella Lawson recipe was recommended to me by a friend (thanks Angela) who is a vegetarian but not a vegan.  She says it is her favourite chocolate cake and she is not alone in that.

Nigella calls this her “Dark and Sumptuous” chocolate cake and describes it as her “go to” chocolate cake recipe for everyone.  She doesn’t even bother to tell them that it is vegan unless they need it to be.  Anyone who knows Nigella’s cooking knows that she loves uncompromisingly decadent food and this cake makes no compromises whatsoever.

I have already posted a vegan chocolate cake recipe but I thought this one was worth a try too and I am so glad I gave it a go.  It is deeply chocolatey, incredibly rich and torte-like and, well, just plain delicious really.  It also keeps exceptionally well, I made this one 4 days ago and it is still every bit as moist now as it was on day one.

The recipe uses coconut butter.  Please note that this is not the same as coconut oil.  I found it in a good health food shop but, if you can’t get it you can either use any vegan margarine or you can make your own coconut butter by blitzing dried (not desiccated or sweetened) coconut flakes in a food processor.

If you are making this for a vegan please make sure that the cocoa powder and chocolate that you use contain no dairy whatsoever.

I have reproduced Nigella’s recipe faithfully here but, as my kitchen is quite cold, I found that the icing had set too hard by time the cake was baked and cooled.  However, I managed to re-warm it a little (over some hot water) whilst beating it with a wooden spoon; it was soon restored to a spreading consistency and it was still glossy so no need to panic if this happens to you.

You can top it with anything you like (or indeed with nothing at all) but I liked the look of the pistachios and rose petals that Nigella used and, as I had both in the cupboard, I went with them.  I used salted pistachios because I like to offset the slight saltiness against the rich sweetness of chocolate.  I suspect it would be wonderful topped with raspberries too – either fresh or freeze dried so, next time I make it…

 

Nigella's Vegan Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

225g / 8 oz Plain Flour

1½ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

½ tsp Sea Salt

1½ tsp Instant Espresso Powder

75 g / 3 oz Cocoa

300 g / 11 oz Soft Dark Brown Sugar

375 ml / ½ Pint Hot Water from a recently boiled kettle

75 g / 3 oz Coconut Oil (90ml)

1½ tsp Cider Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar

1 tbsp Edible Rose Petals

1 tbsp Chopped Pistachios

For the Icing

60 ml / 2 fl oz Cold Water

75 g / 3 oz Coconut Butter (this is not the same as oil)

50 g / 2 oz soft dark sugar

1½ tsp Instant Espresso Powder

1½ tbsp Cocoa

150 g / 5 oz Dark Chocolate (min. 70% cocoa solids), chopped

You will need a 20cm/8in round springform cake tin.

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and pop in a baking sheet at the same time.

Start with the icing.  Put all of the icing ingredients except the chopped chocolate into a heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil, making sure everything’s dissolved.  Then turn off the heat – but leave the pan on the hob – and quickly add the finely chopped chocolate and swirl the pan so that it is all underwater, so to speak. Leave for a scant minute, then whisk until you have a darkly glossy icing, and leave to cool.  Give the icing a stir with a spatula every now and again.

Line the bottom of your springform cake tin (you will need a good, leak-proof one as this is a very wet batter) with baking parchment.

Put the flour, bicarb, salt and instant espresso and cocoa in a bowl and fork to mix.

Mix together the sugar, hot water, coconut oil and vinegar until the coconut oil has melted, and stir into the dry ingredients.  Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35 minutes. Though do check at the 30-minute mark to see if it is already done.

When it’s ready, the cake will be coming away from the edges of the tin and a cake tester will come out clean, apart from a few crumbs. This is a fudgy cake and you don’t want to overdo it.

Once the cake is cooked, transfer the tin to a wire rack and let the cake cool in its tin.

Turn to your icing, and give it a good stir with a spatula to check it is at the right consistency. It needs to be runny enough to cover the cake, but thick enough to stay (mostly) on the top. So pour over the unmoulded cake, and use a spatula to ease the icing to the edges, if needed.

If you wish to decorate, now is the time to do it. In which case, sprinkle joyously with rose petals and chopped pistachios or anything else that your heart desires; otherwise, leave it gleaming darkly and, indeed, sumptuous. Leave to stand for 30 minutes for the icing to set before slicing into the cake.

 

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Cornish Fairings

Cornish Fairing

Just having a cup of tea and a biscuit.  Do you want one?  These only take 5 minutes to prep and 10 minutes to bake so you could be eating one in half an hour.

I made these to celebrate St. Piran’s Day but, as it falls during Lent, I have also “veganised” them in keeping with my Lenten promise to give up animal products.  They haven’t “crinkled” on the top quite as much as they do when made with butter but they still taste scrumptious; gingery, spicy and crispy – delicious.

I don’t have much more to say on the subject except that my tea is going cold so I might make a fresh one – and have a second biscuit…

Ingredients

100g (4oz) Non-Dairy Spread

100g (4oz) Un-Refined Caster Sugar

2 tbsp Golden Syrup

175g (6oz) Self Raising Flour

2 tsp Ground Ginger

1/2 tsp Ground Mixed Spice

1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / Gas Mark 4

Heat the spread, sugar and golden syrup in a pan over a low heat until the butter has melted, but do not boil.

Sift the flour, ginger, mixed spice, cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda together into a bowl, then tip into the melted butter mixture and mix with a wooden spoon to form a smooth dough.

Place heaped teaspoons full of the mixture on to baking sheets, about an inch apart to allow room for them to spread.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool and harden on the baking tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

 

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Bavarian Slice

bavarian slice

Why am I making cake in January?  Because it’s my birthday!  Well, not mine exactly, but the bun scuffle blog is 5 years old today!  Soon I’ll have to start doing proper joined up writing and everything.

January birthdays are great, just as I finally rid the house of Christmas excess I have an excuse to make more cake.  In this case the Bavarian slice.  Not your typical birthday cake I concede but I have been thinking about doing this blog for a little while now because I love a Bavarian slice.

This was my cake of choice as a teenager.  I grew up in Northwich; a market town in the North West of England.  A local bakery had two shops in Northwich and a café (where I had my first Saturday job) and they sold wonderful cakes – including these beauties.  Every Saturday I would hope that there would be one left at the end of the day, in which case I might be allowed to eat it!  I was occasionally tempted to hide one but was always just a little too scared of my boss to do so. It never occurred to me that they might not be available everywhere but I moved to Cornwall seventeen years ago and I haven’t seen one since.

They are not quite a custard slice and not quite a cream slice but somehow are a delicious combination of the two.  A rich crème pâtissière is mixed with whipped cream (which I believe makes it a crème légère) and sandwiched between two crisp layers of puff pastry.  The bottom layer of pastry is topped with jam and the top layer is coated with a simple glacé icing.

I am not quite sure why they are called Bavarian slices but I suspect that the name is based on a Bavarian cream (crème Bavarois) which is a creamy custard set with gelatin and formed in a mould.  In fact I suspect that the pastries I enjoyed in my teens were also firmed up with the addition of some gelatin as the creamy centre in these is definitely softer than I remember.  But I couldn’t find a proper recipe for a Bavarian slice – I don’t even know if they are really “a thing” but I have made these from a flavour memory and they are delicious and that is all I have to say on the subject!

Happy birthday bun scuffle me!

bavarian slice

Makes 4 Bavarian Slices

The Pastry

Ingredients

1 pack of pre-rolled, ready made Puff Pastry (you can of course make your own if you wish).

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 200C / 400F / Gas mark 6.

Unroll the pastry and lay it on a sheet of baking parchment (the one it comes with is fine) on a baking tray. Top the pastry with another layer of parchment and place a second, heavy baking tray on top: This will help to keep the pastry flat as it bakes.  If you are making your own pastry (or using a bought block) roll it out into a rectangle approximately 3mm thick and a fraction smaller than your baking tray.

Place the pastry on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for around 20 – 25 minutes until golden and crispy.

Remove the pastry from the oven and transfer carefully to a rack to cool. Once cold, use a sharp knife and a ruler to cut it into 8 equal sized squares; mine were approximately 8cm x 8cm which I think is big enough but the final size is entirely up to you. Set aside until needed.

The Custard (Crème Patissière)

Ingredients

80g Caster Sugar

4 Egg Yolks

25g Corn Flour

1 Vanilla Pod

350 ml of Whole Milk

Method

Put the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk until thick and creamy then whisk in the corn flour.

Slice down the side of the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds with the back of a knife.  Put the pod and the seeds into a saucepan with the milk and bring it slowly just up to the boil.

Remove the pan from the heat and fish out the vanilla pod then leave the milk to rest for 30 seconds or so, to ensure that it is no longer boiling.  Pour the milk onto the egg mixture, whisking all the time.

Return the mixture to the pan over a low-medium heat and stir continuously until it comes up to a gentle boil.   It has to boil to thicken but if it boils too vigorously you will get bits of scrambled egg in your custard.  Simmer, stirring all the time, for 2 minutes or so until it has thickened.

Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl, cover the surface with cling film (or sprinkle with icing sugar) and leave to cool.   This will stop a skin from forming.

If it looks a little lumpy whisk it well as it cools, if this doesn’t resolve the problem you can push it through a sieve to remove any stubborn lumps.

Other Ingredients

3-4 tbsp Raspberry Jam

150 ml Double Cream

100g Icing Sugar

To Assemble

Choose the four best looking squares of pastry – these will form the top of the slices.  Mix the icing sugar with a tablespoon of boiling water.  You want a mixture that is thick and smooth and spreadable.  If it is too thick add more water a drop at a time – honestly, this mixture can go from too stiff to stir to watery gloop in the blink of an eye.

Spread an even layer of icing over the top of each of the chosen pastry squares.  Put in a cool place to set (the fridge is fine).  If you prefer you can pipe a neat border around each square and then fill it in with the remaining icing.

Whip the double cream until it is thick but not too stiff.  Fold it into the cooled crème pâtissière.

Spread an even layer of jam on each of the four remaining pastry squares.  Top with a generous layer of the crème patissiere; you can spoon it on and spread it with a palette knife or, if you prefer, you can pipe it.

Top each slice with an iced square of pastry and there you have it – a beautiful Bavarian Slice.  Normally I would feel compelled to add some adornment – a raspberry or two or some feathering but, as this is a nostalgia bake, I left mine plain and simple as they were in my memory.  You, on the other hand, might want to indulge in a little prettification.

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Hevva Cake

 

Hevva Cake

The 5th March is St Piran’s Day and in Cornwall people tend to take their patron saint seriously.  The flags will be fluttering, people will be parading and, come lunch time, pasty sales will go through the roof.

This is a day to think of traditional recipes and this year my thoughts turned to hevva cake (also known as heavy cake).  I have never seen hevva cake outside of Cornwall and to be honest calling something “heavy cake” doesn’t exactly help its image.  I can just imagine the marketing meeting!  It’s something of a misnomer though; whilst hevva is heavy when compared to say a Victoria sponge it is the perfect density for what it is.

If pasties are to be forever associated with miners then hevva cake is the food of fishermen.  The story goes like this:

The pilchard fishermen would head out to sea in their small boats and luggers, hearts full of hope in search of the silver sardine.  One or two of the fishermen’s wives would volunteer as “huers” or lookouts and head up to the cliffs.  Once there they might even reach a better vantage point by climbing up a pilchard pole.  From their lofty heights the huers would gaze out to sea until they spotted a shoal, then they would shout “hevva, hevva” to the fishermen below, guiding them to the rich seam of fish.  The fishermen would shout “hevva” in return as they hauled in the nets.

Whilst the men brought in their catch the wives would all rush home to bake hevva cake.  Fish landed, the men would drink tea and eat the filling cake before mending their nets.  The women would set off to start the real work of their day; cleaning and preparing the fish for sale locally or salting it and packing it into casks for export.

So this cake is proper with a long history in Cornwall and I was determined to do it justice.  Just one problem with that – every family has an authentic recipe, handed down through the generations and every one of them is slightly different.

Hevva cake is essentially made with flour, fat, sugar, milk and dried fruit.  No eggs.  On that note everyone seems agreed.  But is that plain flour or self-raising?  Is it lard or butter?  Is it currants or raisins?  Should I add lemon or not?

Traditional recipes are always passed on by word of mouth and they all change slightly over time.  This is such a simple recipe that I suspect it changed a little depending on what was in the larder on any given day.  Self raising flour wasn’t patented until 1845 so it is likely that the original cake used plain flour – but that would still be very different to the flour we use today.  Sometimes authenticity is not the best thing to aim for.  I decided to experiment.

I made four different batches of cake trying out variations of fats and flour and, to be honest, found very little difference.  Lard made for a slightly more flaky finish but butter tasted better – I would probably recommend going half and half (talk about sitting on the fence).  Self raising flour made the cake rise very slightly but it wasn’t lighter (would you even want to make a lighter heavy cake?), in fact it was slightly more dense.  Plain flour gave a more even bake.  I would opt for plain flour in future but, if you only have self-raising flour don’t let that stop you.  I used currants in the first batch and raisins in the second but, by time I got to the batch in the photo I only had mixed fruit left – so I used that.  They were all good but I find that currants which end up on the surface tend to dry out like little bullets so I prefer something with more moisture.  The mixed fruit also has dried peel in it which settles the lemon question too!

The finished cake has a texture somewhere between cake, shortbread and pastry.  It is a kind of eggless, tray bake scone if you can imagine such a thing.  It is delicious though, especially with a cup of tea.

Out of interest I asked my husband which one he preferred.  He dutifully tried them all and finally declared that they were all really good but the best one was the one which he had topped with a generous spoonful of clotted cream.  I think we have been in Cornwall too long…

 

Hevva Cake

Ingredients

Makes around 8 slices

250g Plain Flour (or self raising if its all you have)

125g Fat (half butter / half lard)

180g Dried Fruit (currants / raisins or mixed fruit)

90g Caster Sugar

50 – 60 ml Milk

1 tbsp Granulated Sugar (to top)

Method

Pre-heat oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4

Grease a flat baking sheet.

Cut the fat into small cubes and place in a large bowl with the flour.  Rub the fat in with your fingertips until the mix resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Stir in the sugar and the dried fruit.  Add 50ml of the milk and combine until the mixture comes together into a soft dough – you may need a little more milk but you don’t want it to be too wet or sticky.  Bring the dough together into a ball.

Roll the dough out (or flatten with your hands) on a floured surface.  You are aiming for a rectangle which is about 1″ (2.5 cm) thick.  Transfer the dough to the baking sheet and score the surface with a criss-cross design to resemble a fishing net.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.  Sprinkle the top with the granulated sugar.  Cut into squares and eat.  It tastes good warm or cold and yes, it tastes really good with a little bit of clotted cream.

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Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

When I first ran the bun scuffle cafe, carrot cake was an absolute favourite on the counter and I must admit, a great favourite of mine.  However, I have a confession to make; it was the only cake on the counter that I didn’t make myself.  I used to ask my friend Lisa to make it for me.

I had made carrot cake on a number of occasions, from a number of different recipes, but it always turned out a little heavy.  Eventually, Lisa came to work with me at the cafe and so the carrot cake was made in house – but still not by me.

Then, the fateful day came when Lisa left for pastures new, taking her carrot cake recipe with her.  I was on my own and determined to get past my mental block about this cake.  I spent a happy Sunday, when the cafe was closed, experimenting with a variety of recipes until I hit upon this (which is actually a combination of 3 different recipes).

We were away, carrot cake no longer held any fears for me and it joined the serried ranks of home made regulars on the cafe counter.

This week I was making carrot cake at home for a friends birthday and I thought I would share a few tips with you.

Lots of recipes use the all-in-one method but I find you get a much lighter cake if you whisk the oil, eggs and sugar together first before adding the carrots and dry ingredients.  Keep whisking until the mixture thickens and the whisks leave a trail.

Some recipes suggest that you grate the carrots coarsley but I find that this can also lead to a dense cake so I prefer to grate them more finely.

It is essential that you use full fat cream cheese for the icing, low fat will go runny.  The butter adds a little stability to the icing but do make sure that it is well softened and the cream cheese is at room temperature, otherwise the butter will solidify giving you a lumpy icing.  You can sweeten the icing with icing sugar but I like to use maple syrup as it adds extra flavour as well as sweetness.  Experiment a little with the amount according to your taste.  I like the sharpness that the cream cheese adds; a nice contrast to the sweet cake, but you might have a sweeter tooth than me.

For an every day cake I make two 8″ round cakes and sandwich them together with the cream cheese icing.  In the cafe I made more icing than this and you can too if you want to be generous.

For this cake I made three 6″ cakes.  This gives a smaller but taller cake which I think is more elegant for a special occasion cake.  If you only have two 6″ cake tins you can divide the mixture into three and bake two cakes first.  Keep the remaining cake mix covered with cling film – it will be fine whilst the other cakes bake and cool enough to remove from the tins.

I also made three times the amount of icing for this cake so that I had enough to fill the cake and coat the outside.  I decorated it with caramelised hazelnuts, orange zest and pistachios.  You can be as creative as you like.

This cake is so simple and so tasty that I can’t believe I ever used to delegate it.  Please let me know what you think.

 

Carrot Cake

Ingredients

For the Cake

250ml (9fl oz) Sunflower Oil

4 Large Eggs

225g (8oz) Light Muscovado Sugar

200g (7oz) Carrots (peeled and finely grated)

300g (10oz) Self-Raising Flour

2 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp ground Mixed Spice

1 tsp ground Ginger

Grated zest of one Orange

75g (2½ oz) chopped Walnuts

To decorate – 8 Walnut Halves or Caramel Hazelnuts plus grated Orange Zest

For the Icing

50g (1¾ oz) Butter (softened)

25g (1oz) Icing Sugar or 1-2 tbsp Maple Syrup

280g (10oz) Full-Fat Cream Cheese (at room temperature)

A few drops of Vanilla Extract

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4).

Grease and line two deep 20cm (8in) round sandwich tins (or three 6” tins).

In a large bowl, combine the oil, sugar, orange zest and eggs and whisk until thick and creamy.

Stir in the carrots. Fold in the sifted flour, baking powder and spices. Once combined, stir in the walnuts.

Spoon the mixture evenly between the tins.

Put the cakes in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes (25-30 minutes for 6” cakes) or until golden brown, risen and shrinking away from the sides of the tins.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To make the icing

Measure the butter, icing sugar (or maple syrup), cream cheese and vanilla extract into a bowl and whisk until smooth and thoroughly blended. Taste and adjust the sweetness according to taste.

Spread half the icing on one cake, sit the other cake on top and spread the remaining icing on top to make a swirl pattern. Decorate the top of the cake with the halved walnuts and orange zest.

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