Well, it’s a month since the last cake post, and I’m in a pretty similar spot: enjoying a rainy afternoon at home, everything bursting with greenness outside. I don’t think this blog or the world particularly needs another cake recipe, but I wanted to share the simplest vegan cake I know, which I often prepare when I cook for big events, retreats and festivals. It’s a crowd-pleaser, sitting well with seemingly everyone… recently, a little girl at the last retreat I cooked for declared it was “the best cake ever” and asked for the recipe. So, time to share.
The cake uses straightforward ingredients you can find in most regular stores, and takes about 10-15 minutes to throw together once you’ve read through the recipe. It is not gluten or sugar free, doesn’t contain “superfoods” and doesn’t look particularly fancy. Just a good, old regular cake, like your grandmother might have baked on rainy afternoon many years ago (if she had soy milk ;)).
The key to success then, is a couple of simple rules to keep in mind, which will be helpful in all your baking endeavors:
Weigh it: baking is a more precise art than other forms of cooking, and it’s easiest to get it right if you weigh everything.
No over-stirring: a lot of cake recipes have you put together the “dry” ingredients (flour, baking powder and so on) separately from the “wet” ingredients (oil, milk..) and then combine the two just before baking. Important, if you are baking with gluten-containing flours such as wheat, is not to over-stir when putting together the final dough. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to mix together with as few strokes as possible until just combined, even if there’s a few lumps. Then pour into your baking dish and bake straight away. This will yield a tender crumb and avoid dense, chew-y disasters.
Bake it: usually at 180 degrees Celcius, until the top is golden and when you press lightly on it, the cake springs back. Or you can insert a toothpick or butter knife in the center — it should come out mostly clean, a few crumbs are ok. Take the cake out the oven and let it cool for ~10 minutes, and then try to remove it from the baking form and let it cool on a wire rack. Baking paper helps to be able to lift the cake out, if you’re not using a springform pan.
A simple cake
Check the tips above before starting out! You can also use a mix of white and whole-wheat flour, using 1/3 up to 1/2 whole-wheat. This recipe also works well with light spelt flour.
Makes one 26-cm round cake
400g white flour
15g baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
250g sugar, fine-grain
1 pack vanilla sugar, or a little sprinkle of vanilla powder
280ml soy milk
250ml neutral-tasting oil, such as mild raps oil or refined sunflower oil
Optional, but good to choose at least one of these to pimp your cake:
160g dark chocolate (I like 60-70%), chopped into pieces
Seasonal fruit slices on top or mixed in: apples, pears, rhubarb, peaches, plums, cherries…
Separate the mixed batter in half, and stir in 100g of ground poppy seeds into one half, then pour into the pan one after the other to create a layer or marble effect
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius
Line your baking form (e.g. 26-cm springform pan) with baking paper and oil well
Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl
Mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl
Pour the wet into the dry, and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon with as few strokes as possible. Add any of the mix-ins.
Pour the batter in the prepared baking form, and bake for 25-45 minutes, depending on your form. See the instructions above for checking when the cake is ready.