Vegan Banana Cake :)

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I have a very problematic relationship with vegan baking. My lovely, vegan friend Klaudia is always missing out on dessert whenever we have a dinner party or some such, which made my sweet-toothed heart cry for her. Determined that she should want no more, I got googling and baking. But these adventures in vegan baking have been very tough on my baking self esteem. However, having wasted crazy amounts of perfectly good chocolate, and many, many bananas, I am happy to report that here is a vegan cake that doesn’t taste… well, vegan.

I know a lot of people say  it’s easy to bake tasty vegan cakes, but I think they must have forgotten what butter, milk and eggs taste like. I’m not a fan of margarine or soy milk, and I always try for recipes that don’t need anything ‘out of the ordinary’ to work. But in the end, I always find that, at the most, they taste ok, but lack something. Either in flavour or consistency. Maybe I’m mistaken, and I’ll happily be proven wrong, it’s just that I’ve tried (and failed) at so many vegan cakes now, that I’ve become very apprehensive at the idea of wasting any more chocolate. Some of these cakes have tasted fine enough.. But not in the way that you’d want to make them again.

And don’t even get me started on vegan chocolate cakes… I just cannot express how many times I’ve been disappointed, when the cake that smelled so good coming out of the oven, was just… meh. So much chocolate wasted. So. Much. I’ve also tried making ganache with coconut oil, but I just find the subtle taste of coconut distracting. Anyways, do please send me your (non-fussy) vegan chocolate cake recipes, if you have any, maybe I’ve just been unlucky!

Whilst more or less an omnivore, I tend to gravitate towards vegetarian food, simply because it makes me feel better after I eat it, and I feel as though I digest it better. And the way we produce and farm animal protein really disturbs and upsets me. I try to be conscious of where I buy my eggs and butter from, but even so… long story short, I’m always happy to find recipes that are vegetarian or even vegan!

I already have a favourite (non-vegan) recipe for banana cake, but this one is, dare I say it – just about as good. And vegan to boot. It’s from a Danish blogger, Månebarnet, which means the moon child 🙂 and it’s everything a banana cake should be, in my opinion – it’s really, really, crazily moist, studded with dark chocolate and walnuts, and strikes a perfect balance between salty and sweet. I’m really curious to try out some more of her recipes! This one turned out so yummy, and she has a lot more interesting and yummy-looking recipes.. albeit in Danish 🙂 I’m especially tempted to try out this courgette/zucchini cake. I shall report back!

Moist Vegan Banana Cake 🙂 (makes one round cake, or 20 little muffins*)
From Månebarnet

  • 200 g (1 3/5 cups) flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 100 g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
  • 130 g (1 1/3 cups) sugar (preferably cane sugar)
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar/powder/extract
  • 100 ml (just over 6 1/2 tbsp) vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
  • 3 ripe, mashed bananas (about 250 g)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar
  • 50-60 g (1/3 cup or 2.1 ounces) chopped dark chocolate (obviously one containing no dairy!)
  • 100 g (1 cup or 4.3 ounces) chopped walnuts

Whisk together all your dry ingredients in a medium bowl (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and sugar, as well as vanilla if using vanilla sugar/powder). Mush up your bananas, then chop your walnuts and chocolate.

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Add the lemon juice or vinegar, the oil and the mushed bananas (and the vanilla, at this stage, if using vanilla extract) into the flour mixture, and whisk until just combined (don’t over-mix, as the cake will become heavy). Add the chocolate chips and chopped nuts, and transfer to a greased springform tin (about 20 cm/9 inches in diameter).

Bake for 45-55 minutes at 160°C/320°F, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cool before attempting to cut (although it’ll taste phenomenal, it won’t cut very neatly otherwise!).

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Keeps for several days, wrapped in tinfoil or covered with a cake dome. 🙂

P.s.: I may try drizzling a bit of dark chocolate over this next time I make it! Where other vegan banana cakes I’ve tried weren’t quite sweet enough, and were easily tipped over the edge towards too bitter with the addition of dark chocolate, this is quite a sweet cake, so I think it could handle a bit of a decorative dark chocolate drizzle. Not that it needs it, but it wouldn’t hurt at all! I also think this would make for wonderful little banana-nut muffins* – with or without chocolate 🙂

*Update: I’ve now tried making these as muffins, too, and they were wonderful! And somehow even more appealing, because they’re slightly easier to eat/transport etc, in this format 🙂 The recipe makes for about 20 little muffins. I added about 100 g finely chopped walnuts on top of the muffins, to add a nice crunch and make them a bit more appealing, visually. Bake them in muffin liners, at 160°C/320°F for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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Havuçlu Kek (Turkish Carrot Cake)

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This Sunday I made two different carrot cakes, 1) because I was curious to try out this recipe, and 2) because I’d grated too many carrots for the one I had initially decided to make, which was already in the oven, and so it seemed meant to be that I should bake this particular cake right this instant.

Please excuse the lack of pictures – I managed to gobble up all of the cake but for one little tinfoil-wrapped piece, which I hurriedly took a picture of before eating it for breakfast a few days ago. This is different to any carrot cake I’ve tried, more a cinnamon-spice cake really, than a classic carrot cake. It’s super moist but somehow less ‘wet’ than most, containing about half the amount of grated carrots than other carrot cakes, sweet and subtle and perfectly studded with roughly chopped walnuts. It’s my favourite carrot cake to date, and that’s saying a lot, as it’s hard to go wrong with any carrot cake, in my opinion. While I don’t think any carrot cake really needs frosting to begin with (I know that this may come as a shock to most of the die-hard classic cream cheese frosting fans out there, but I am not one of them!), this cake is somehow even more unassuming than other carrot cakes, and is just perfect as is – no muss, no fuss, and no frosting. Just perfectly moist cake with cinnamon and walnuts, and a hint of grated carrot. I even ended up bringing all of the carrot cupcakes with lemon-orange frosting I’d just made to work with me the next day to give to my colleagues, although they were perfectly delicious, because I only want to eat this one right now. It also seems completely perfect for this time of year, red and yellow leaves on the trees and ground, and brisk autumn winds and all 🙂 the same way spiced cider and big, woolly scarves do.

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Long story short, I’ll certainly be making this again 🙂 and most probably not just in autumn.

Havuçlu kek (Turkish carrot cake)
Adapted slightly from Hayriye’s Turkish Food and Recipes

  • 3 eggs
  • 300 g sugar (1 1/2 cups)
  • 240 ml (1 cup) olive oil (or whatever oil you prefer)
  • 250 g (2 cups) flour
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2-1 tsp salt (I used 1 whole tsp because the salt I have is fleur de sel, but if you’re using fine table salt, then I suggest cutting the amount to 1/2-2/3 tsp)
  • Grated zest of one half to one whole lemon, depending on how big your lemon is. If in doubt, go for half (I didn’t have any oranges, but I will try adding orange zest as well, next time I bake this) (*I’ve now tried adding the zest of one orange as well, and while I don’t think it makes a huge difference in taste, it certainly doesn’t hurt!)
  • 1 cup finely grated carrot (240 ml)
  • 100 g (1 cup) roughly chopped walnuts

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric mixer, until pale and foamy. Add the oil, and mix well. Add in the grated carrots, lemon/orange zest and chopped walnuts. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt, then fold this into the wet ingredients.

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Pour the batter into a well-greased and lightly floured bundt cake tin, and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C/350°F for about 45 minutes, until the cake is golden and a tooth pick comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the tin, then carefully cut around the edges with a very thin knife, to loosen it from the sides of the tin. Turn the cake out onto a plate, and enjoy 🙂

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Keeps well for several days wrapped in tin foil.

 

Marble Crumb Cake

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A while back, I’d planned on making a blueberry crumb cake to bring to a dinner I was going to. I was also going to make a tomato tart, and a vegan tahini and orange blossom cake. It didn’t quite work out that way, because on my way home from work, I got caught in a summer storm (told you it was a while back!) of epic proportion; it was pretty great 🙂 I love a bit of dramatic weather. I left work, and the heat and humidity hit me like a wall as soon as I left the clinically cool air conditioning of my office. Everyone was wearing shorts and skirts and mellow ‘gee it’s hot ‘ end-of-the-work-day expressions. I was  sitting on the tram, lost in thoughts about the week, when the sky went almost completely black. When the tram stopped and the doors opened to let people on and off, you could feel the drop in temperature, the wind picking up, and a sort of collective sigh of relief going through the passengers, despite the sudden darkness and promise of rain.

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I got off at my stop, and immediately big fat raindrops began to hit the hot asphalt, so I legged it to the supermarket, trying to dodge the worst of it (unsuccessfully, but gleefully – lightning and thunder overhead, and the wind making my umbrella turn inside out). I did my shopping, drenched. And legged it on home with my groceries.

But when I emptied my shopping bag, lo and behold, I’d forgotten blueberries. And the tomatoes. And also several of the ingredients for the vegan cake. It didn’t really seem all that dramatic, what with everything else in my head, so I just sort of shrugged my shoulders, and decided I’d buy a Spanish tortilla the next day, to bring to the dinner instead of the tomato tart, and, in the name of improvisation, to make the crumb cake, but to try substituting apricot jam for the blueberries (this really, really amazing apricot jam I got in Provence). But let me tell ya, it did not taste good. Way too sweet, too much lemon zest, and the jam just sort of fused itself to the crumble topping, making a sort of hard but chewy layer, rather than crispy, buttery crumbs. I must have not swirled the jam into the batter properly. But at least I learned that, were I to make it again, and this time with actual blueberries, I will definitely cut both the lemon zest and sugar quantities down a bit.

Anyways, there I was, sans (edible) cake. So I flipped through one of my baking books, and, since I’d had my heart set on crumb cake in particular, decided to try out this one recipe I’d been meaning to for years but somehow never got around to (and for which I happened to have all of the ingredients): a marble crumb cake – vanilla and cocoa pound cake with chocolate chips, and a thick layer of dark cocoa streusel on top. And thankfully, it was really good! Phew 🙂 And very, very moreish. I had a piece of it warm, at 11 pm, for testing purposes. And another for breakfast, still for testing purposes. Still good. And even though there were plenty of other desserts at the dinner the next day, there was barely any cake left over to bring home. Even my friend who doesn’t like chocolate cakes liked it. I think everyone likes crumble 🙂 I even made it again a couple of times over the following weeks ’cause I was craving the dark and not too sweet, intensely cocoa-ey streusel topping.

So here is a super comforting, super easy, and super quick-to-make cake, one that can very easily be made the day before as it doesn’t go dry. I baked it in a square baking tin, but I think next time I might try a loaf tin! I’m really into baking things in loaf tins at the moment. Like carrot cake. And this dense chocolate loaf cake.

I don’t think there are many situations or shitty weeks that can’t be made a little bit better by including cake of some sort; and if nothing else, it can’t make things worse… And the process itself, even if the result isn’t always what you’d hoped, is so soothing… at least to me. It’s the only thing that makes my mind go quiet for a bit. I’m terrible at meditation, and making my mind be still. It’s always buzzing, ah-ing and ooh-ing over something, thinking about that thing that I forgot to do, or that thing I need to do tomorrow. Or that time, 10 years ago, where I spilled coffee all over myself and the floor of a newsagent’s when trying to purchase a newspaper, by dropping said newspaper, bending over to pick up said newspaper, spilling the hot contents of the coffee I’d just purchased 5 minutes earlier all over my hand (ouch) and said newspaper. With people all around, staring. You know, stuff like that. Buzz buzz buzz. Anyways, my point: baking quietens that buzzing. And then, afterwards, there’s cake. 🙂

A friend of mine sent me this article from the guardian because it made her think of me, all about how baking is inherently feminist, even though some consider it to be a feminine cliché, a step backwards for feminism. The author posits that “Women who bake and write about it want you to understand what is impossible to understand without personal experience. They want you to know about the magic of it: how you combine a heap of powders which have no real-world meaning (to conceptualize flour, for example, feels impossible), and add something wet, and heat it up, and watch it change. There’s some power in this. And more than that: baking requires (and imbues) a kind of trust that is absent in everyday cooking.”

And I loved this sentence: “People can’t see wild yeast, even though it’s all around us all the time. Wild yeast is what is used in sourdough bread, but here’s the thing about it: you have to catch it.” 🙂 🙂 🙂
I need to start baking some bread. But in the meantime, there’s cake.

Marble (Chocolate Chip) Crumb Cake
Adapted from Dan Lepard’s recipe from How to Bake

Crumb topping:

  • 125 g flour
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 75 g cold butter
  • 75 g sugar (preferably light brown or unprocessed cane sugar)
  • a few good pinches of flakey sea salt

Cake batter:

  • 175 g sugar
  • 175 g butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla sugar
  • 175 g flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 100 g dark chocolate, chopped into medium chunks

Line a cake tin (about 20 cm/9 inches) with baking parchment, and preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F.

Make the crumb by mixing the flour, cocoa, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl, then rubbing the butter into it with your fingers. Add a few drops of cold water to the mixture to bring it together, leaving some bigger chunks in amidst the rubble-like crumbs, and set aside while you prepare the batter.

Make the batter: In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and butter till light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one at a time, and the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking powder, then beat this into the butter mix.

Spoon blobs of batter around your pan, leaving gaps, using about 3/4 of the batter. Mix the remaining 1/4 with the cocoa powder, and stir in the chocolate chunks. Spoon blobs of the chocolate batter into the pan, between the blobs of vanilla batter, then make swirls with the handle of a wooden spoon. Even the batter out a little bit but not too much. Little peaks and valleys are nice 🙂

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Bake for about 15-20 minutes, then remove from the oven and add the crumb topping. Bake for a further 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out with no batter
on it.

Leave to cool in the tin (but be sure to taste some as soon as possible – be careful not to burn your tongue on the buttery crumb topping). I don’t like milk, but if you do, I imagine this would be very good with a glass of cold milk.

Should keep for at least a few days covered in tin foil, if you have any left over.

Travels well in the tin. Serves 8-12 people 🙂