the vegan way

A dairy-free diet is becoming increasingly popular, and not just with people who reject dairy for ethical reasons. A dairy-free diet can have health benefits as well. Eating dairy products has been negatively linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. In the twenty-first century dairy-free and vegan eating is much easier than it ever has been before. I was a vegetarian for ten years before becoming a vegan and I was amazed by how easy it was to go vegan and by how many alternatives to dairy products were on the market. People who eat a vegan diet don't just eat lettuce leaves! Vegan and dairy-free eating does not mean boring. The aim of this vegan column is to showcase some of the delicious cakes that people on a dairy-free or vegan diet (for ethical reasons or who happen to have food allergies) can enjoy. If you are a Vegan or if you are cooking for one, this column will tips, suggestions and recipes for you.

This month the vegan column is on the all time classic chocolate cake. There are a multitude of recipes on the internet - just type 'vegan chocolate cake' into Google and you will get page after page of results. The BBC Food website is always a good site for vegetarian and vegan recipes (they have a Black Forest chocolate cake recipe that I cannot wait to try out!).

Alternatively if you like chocolate cake but are not very good at baking (or just don't have the time) you can still find something. The first vegan chocolate cake that I ever had was a slice bought from a market stall at Spitalfields in London. I ate it on the train coming back up north and it was delicious, especially the chocolate icing! Reasonably sized supermarkets often stock vegan items in a special section that generally includes some cakes. Other options are mail order and the internet. Currently you can order vegan cakes online at Baby Cakes Direct, who are registered with both Viva! and the Vegan Society , and you can also order cakes at Blue Lotus Products.

If I make chocolate cake the recipe I tend to use is one I adapted from a recipe in Leah Leneman's book Easy Vegan Cooking the title of the book does not lie. The instructions are easy to follow and the ingredients are not overly complicated. If you are just cooking for one (which is what a lot of us do end up doing) then she has written another cookery book called Vegan Cooking for One. The latter book was originally published in 1989 as The Single Vegan. I can see why they decided to change that title: it sounds more like a bachelor way of life than a cookbook!

Leneman's cake is meant to be a proper sized cake, but I tend to make four smaller individual cakes. The normal size tastes delicious but doesn't hold together very well and tends to crumble. If you are making the cake to share with friends it doesn't look very presentable. I have found that it holds together better if you make smaller cakes and it also avoids the problem of trying to cut the cake into even portions.

In her recipe, Leneman adds either 2 tsp cider vinegar or wine vinegar with the vegetable oil and vanilla essence, which I'm not so keen on and so tend to leave out. One reason perhaps why I am put off is that one time I accidentally put 2tbs of cider vinegar instead of 2tsp and it completely spoilt the cake!

Here is my amended version of Leneman's recipe. It is very user friendly. Enjoy!

vegan chocolate cake


115g raw cane sugar
4tsp of cocoa powder
tsp sea salt
170g wholewheat flour
tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
90ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla essence
200ml cold water

If you want to make small individual cakes instead of one normal sized cake then what I usually do is use Yorkshire pudding trays and bake for 15-20 minutes instead of 30.

making the cake

Mix together sugar, cocoa powder, sea salt, wholewheat flour and bicarbonate of soda
Add vegetable oil, vanilla essence and cold water.
Mix everything together.
Pour into cake tins and bake for 30 minutes at 180C.

making the filling

You can either have a butter cream filling, which is a mixture of vegan margarine (I usually use Pure Soya margarine) and icing sugar (measurements to taste) or use chocolate icing as a filling. For a fully indulgent experience, use chocolate icing for the filling and to ice the top of the cake. Alternatively you can be healthy and put lots of lovely berries inside: strawberries, raspberries and even blueberries are suitable.

chocolate icing

55g vegan margarine
30g cocoa powder
4tbs Soya milk
140g raw cane sugar

To make the chocolate icing put the vegan margarine, cocoa powder, Soya milk, and raw cane sugar together in a pan. Bring this to the boil for a minute, take it off the heat, and then keep stirring the mixture until it is cold. You can play around with the measurements if you want an extra chocolaty, extra sweet or more spreadable version of the icing,. I always find that I make too much, but somehow it never goes to waste...!

Serving Suggestions

Although chocolate cake is nice on its own it is of course also nice with cream, ice cream, or custard. As dairy free cream options you can get Soyatoo! Dairy Free Topping Cream . I have had this and it is nice, but I had to mail order it, which requires planning. A diary free cream which is more readily available in local health food shops and supermarkets is Alpro's diary free alternative to single cream. I also like Alpro's dairy free custard as well.

Vegan ice cream is usually called the 'alternative to dairy ice cream'. I usually buy Swedish Glace . It is really tasty and easily available, both from health food shops like Holland and Barrett and also from major local supermarkets such as Morrison's. There is also a whole range of other vegan ice creams out there that I fully mean to get around to trying one day, including ranges of ice cream from Tofutti , Booja-Booja and B'Nice. So many types to try, so little freezer space!

See you next time


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