I don’t eat dairy or refined sugar. For this reason, I rarely have dessert. I don’t miss it, except on holidays and on special occasions. For big family events, my mother will often make me an extra pie crust and I will make a fruit crumble with vegan margarine (most contain whey which is a by-product of cheese production) and maple syrup and/or honey . But sometimes a girl just wants cake. And most cakes require butter and sugar.
After flipping through the myriad cook books in my collection and blog hopping various recipe website, I discovered that vegan recipes use no dairy and many don’t use refined sugar. Even though I was a vegetarian for over 20 years, I wasn’t really familiar with vegan cooking. When I first became a vegetarian, it was much harder to find basic ingredients. One of the first natural food stores I shopped at had sawdust on the floor. The tofu was kept in big buckets – you would reach in and pull out a slab and throw it in a plastic bag. So while vegetarianism was a bit outside the mainstream, veganism was beyond way.
However, as I discovered, vegan cooking is much more accessible these days. There are a ton of different vegan cookbooks and most recipes are easy to put together. Even better, nearly all the ingredients are easily found at the supermarket or natural food store.
I have tried a few different vegan cake recipes but my hands-down favourite is adapted from The Voluptuous Vegan by Myra Kornfeld: gingerbread with blood orange sauce. I have never made it with the sauce – blood oranges are one fruit that is not easy to find where I live. And who needs sauce when you have rich yummy gingerbread. I have made this for family dinners, school bake sales and work events – everyone is surprised when I tell them it is vegan.
The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup of canola oil as well as 1 cup of maple syrup and 12 cup of molasses. I have cut the oil in half and replaced the remaining 1/4 with unsweetened applesauce. Since cutting out refined sugar, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth – 1 and 1/2 cup of maple syrup/molasses is way too much for me. Plus the applesauce adds a bit of sweetness too. So I use the amount of molasses called for in the recipe, but only half the amount of maple syrup. Sometimes I use a mixture of maple syrup, honey and agave, up to half a cup.
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger (you can also use dried, but fresh adds nice zing)
1/2 tsp each ground cloves and ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp each ground nutmeg and allspice
1/4 c. canola oil (I use safflower oil)
1/4 c. unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup maple syrup (or a combination of maple syrup and/or honey/agave)
1 c unsweetened soy milk
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp vanilla (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/ Oil a 9-inch spring form pan, cake pan or loaf pan. Line with parchment paper (this may seem a bit fiddly, but it makes getting the cake out of the pan much easier).
In a medium bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices (except fresh ginger, if using). In another medium bowl, combine the remaining wet ingredients and fresh ginger. Whisk well, until fully emulsified (if you prefer, you could use a hand blender).
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients; mix until combined and batter is relatively smooth. The batter will be quite wet.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place in the middle rack in the oven. Bake for about 55 minutes, or until the cake is springy to the touch. I rely on the tried-and-true toothpick/wooden skewer method – cake is done when the toothpick/skewer comes out clean.
Let cool and remove from the pan. The cake freezes really well. The last time I made it I used 2 small loaf pans, appropriately called “Fat Daddies.” I divided the batter equally between the 2 pans and baked them for about 45 minutes (will depend on your oven). I ended up with 2 cute little gingerbread loaves – I ate one over several days (no, I didn’t share) and put one in the freezer for another time when I need a piece of cake. You just never know.