Last week was dedicated to wild experiments in vegan dessert making. This was in aid of producing one scrumptious cake for my vegan work colleague’s birthday. I stocked up on Nuttlex, silken tofu, dark milk-free chocolate and even a tub of soy cream cheese (Oh Lord, do not ever, ever go there!). Some things worked better than others, but overall I was pretty pleased with what can be achieve sans dairy and eggs.
Firstly, I made a tofu-based chocolate mousse which was quick and easy to prepare and not too bad at all to eat. I based it on a few recipes found on the web but essentially it’s just a package of silken tofu blended nice and smooth in a food processor (of course the Thermomix made light work of this) with about 100g of dark chocolate, 3 tablespoons of maple syrup and a teaspooon of vanilla extract. I’ll admit to being initially dubious about how much of the tofu taste could be masked by chocolate but I was pleasantly surprised. More than just edible. Master Seven gave it a go too but declared it ‘something adults would like maybe’. I think he was referring more to the bitterness of Lindt’s 70% dark chocolate.
Indeed that was my only problem with the mousse. My vegan colleague said it was a nice mousse but I should have used Lindt’s cooking chocolate which was a milder blend. Another colleague (non-vegan, Indonesian) said he couldn’t detect the tofu but agreed that the chocolate was too bitter. Damn you Coles for having regular Lindt blocks on special!
Heartened by my relative success in making vegan mousse, I decided to experiment with baking the mousse into a kind of baked cheesecake style dessert. I made up a quick batch of biscuit base (1 cup of processed oatmeal, 1/3 cup of Nuttlex, 1/3 cup of caster sugar and a dash of water mixed together then baked on moderate oven for 15 minutes) in mini round cake pans and put a good dollop of the mousse on top. I baked the mini cakes in the oven (at around 180C) for about 25 minutes or until the mousse was no longer super jiggly. Chill the cake and serve. With this recipe the bitter dark chocolate worked well with the sweet base and you could really not detect the tofu at all once baked.
With all this tofu tinkering, you would be forgiven for thinking that tofu was going to feature in the birthday cake but I just wasn’t game enough in the end. After all, this cake was to delight not only my vegan colleague but ten other non-vegan work folk. Yep. I played it safe.
After quite a few attempts (two of which were complete and utter fails), I finally struck gold with a gorgeous, moist chocolate and coconut cake. I adapted the recipe from Sweet Utopia: Simply Stunning Vegan Desserts but simplified the ingredients a tad. I found that the wetter the vegan cake mix, the more likely the cake is to cave in if you’re using a large round cake pan. There’s just no support for ingredients that aren’t getting held together by the mighty egg. I also used a loaf tin for more support. Vegan cakes are pretty fragile once out of the tin.
If I may say so, the cake was a winner! Even my most critical of critics (aka hubby) enjoyed the cake and couldn’t believe it was vegan. I was personally amazed how beautifully moist the cake was on the inside as my previous successful cakes still seemed a touch dry. I credit this entirely to the coconut milk used.
Requests to make this cake again have already come in and oddly enough, mostly by non-vegans!
Chocolate & Coconut Vegan Cake
2 cups of self-raising flour (or regular flour with 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda & 2 tsp white vinegar to get the rise happening)
3/4 Dutch processed or baking cocoa
1/2 cup of vegan butter substitute (Nuttlex works great or butter if making non-vegan version)
1 cup icing (powdered) sugar (I suspect to help keep the batter light and to help rise the cake)
1/2 cup maple syrup (can use more icing sugar instead)
1 cup light coconut milk (non-light is OK, I just had light)
1/2 cup soy milk (if you’re not worried about keeping things vegan, use cow milk)
Vanilla frosting with roasted coconut – 1 cup of icing sugar, 2/3 cup of Nuttlex, 1 tsp vanilla (1 tsp of soy milk to soften if required)
To make: Pre-heat oven to 180C. Beat Nuttlex and icing together until smooth. Add maple syrup and beat again. Add coconut and soy milk and blend well. If not using Thermomix, sift together flour and cocoa (and other ingredients if not using self-raising). Add dry mix to the wet mix and blend well. Be careful not to overmix with Thermomix. Cake mix should be firm. If too wet (ie – slides out of bowl easily), add 1/4 cup of flour and mix well. The ideal mix is one that needs to be coaxed out a little with a spatula. Put mix into a large loaf tin or a smaller round cake pan (18cm). Cake may be taller this way but the centre shouldn’t cave in. Bake in oven for 30 minutes. If skewer test is clean, the cake is done. Keep oven on to toast shredded coconut (10 – 15 minutes or until browned – keep an eye on it).
To prepare frosting, process icing sugar, Nuttlex and vanilla together until smooth. Ice cooled cake with frosting and sprinkle with toasted coconut. Serve :)
I highly recommend allowing the cake to cool completely before icing as Nuttlex based frosting gets soft fairly easily. It may be best to ice the cake and leave in fridge before serving. Me? I had to madly cool the cake on the floor of the passenger side seat before icing it at work!