First we had Movember: men cultivating moustaches in November for charity to highlight men’s health issues. Then came Stoptober: a government-backed campaign to help people give up smoking in October. Now January has been rebranded by a charity set up in 2014 promoting a vegan diet for January (and following that, they hope, forever). It’s the obvious month for two reasons: the words vegan and January (almost!) work together and from a marketing point of view it’s perfect: it comes after the excesses of Christmas and plays into the ‘New Year, New Me’ mindset. And guess what? February’s going to be Febru-dairy. Although judging by reactions on Twitter from Veganuarians it’s unlikely to be an all-out success… I am looking forward to Cakepril though.
Following a plant-based diet doesn’t mean no baking and no cake. Vegan baking might seem challenging but it doesn’t need to be. Replacing dairy is relatively straightforward: there are plenty of dairy-free margarines (not necessarily a healthy alternative but it’s an easy one) or plant-derived oils like coconut and olive oil. There are numerous milk and cream alternatives: nut based ones, soya, oat, coconut and so on. On the other hand, replacing eggs in baking can seem a little more daunting and for good reason. Eggs do so much: they bind and provide volume, texture, moisture, flavour and colour. Although there are various alternatives none of them do all of these things at once which is why it’s important to know what purpose you want to mimic when choosing your alternative. I’ve used apple purée and a small amount of packet egg replacer in this recipe. Apple purée for moisture, taste and a little sweetness, along with a couple of teaspoons of egg replacer for its binding properties and also because it contains a little raising agent. If you don’t want to invest in a packet of egg replacement you can just miss it out. However, if you think you might be doing more vegan baking it’s inexpensive and widely available.
Vegan cake is naturally denser than a traditional one but that doesn’t mean it isn’t just as good, and you’ll find it goes further. I’ve made this cake relatively low in sugar so serving it as a two layer cake sandwiched and topped with icing adds a little sweetness. I like the combination of chocolate and coconut both for the taste and for the contrast in colour but there’s no reason why you couldn’t use vanilla icing or a coconut cream topping instead of chocolate icing.
So whether you are a full-time vegan, a January vegan, allergic to or avoiding eggs and dairy, or just love a good coconut cake, I would urge you to fight the fear and give vegan baking and this recipe a try. In Veganuary and beyond.
125g light brown sugar
400g coconut milk
100g apple purée
40g coconut oil, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
75g desiccated coconut
250g SR flour
2 teaspoons egg replacer (optional)
250g icing sugar
35g cocoa powder
70g dairy free margarine
Approx 20g water or dairy-free milk
Set the oven to 175ºC. Grease and line the bases of two 7″ sandwich tins. 8″ tins can also be used but the cake layers will be thinner.
Put the sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and add the coconut milk, apple purée, melted coconut oil and vanilla essence.
Mix well until there are no lumps.
Add the desiccated coconut and stir in.
Sieve in the flour and egg replacer (if using). Fold in gently.
Divide the mixture equally between the two tins and level gently.
Bake for around 25 minutes, until the cake is well risen and firm to the touch. Make sure a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out dry. If you are using 8″ cake tins instead of 7″ they may be ready sooner.
Allow to cool in the tin for around 10 minutes before removing and leaving to cool fully on a wire baking rack:
Make the icing:
Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the margarine and mix until creamy and lighter in colour. Add some or all of the water as required.
Spread half of the icing over one half of the cake and top with the second. Use the rest of the icing to decorate the top of the cake.
Sprinkle with desiccated coconut to decorate.
You can also use double the amount of icing and cover the sides of the cake as well if you need something a little more special: