Vegan Carrot Cake

It's May 25th and National Vegetarian Week is upon us.  In honor of this I haven't touched meat since Monday, it's been tough.  Hold on, it's only Tuesday isn't it? Hot damn! I wonder if I'll stay strong enough to make it through.  A few weeks a go I asked a good friend, and one of the best veggie chefs I know, how he came to be such a great cook.  He told me it's all part and parcel with being a vegetarian. Once you eliminate meat from your diet you have to start getting more creative with your tastes and textures, it's the key to sticking it out.   So, till Sunday I will be saying good bye to the meat and hello to the colourful yumminess that is vegetarian cuisine.

To tell you the truth, it's not that tough for me.  I've always been a big meat eater but growing up in a house with 3 boys and a vegetarian mother often meant that I'd be left with the veggie choice while the boys chowed down on sausages and bacon.  Over the years I came to prefer it, and will often go down the none meaty road to full tummyville when given the choice, I just like the taste and texture of meat too much to ever contemplate giving it up.

Anyway, I thought this was a perfect time to post a delicious vegan carrot cake.  Yup, no animal produce what so ever!  This cake was a breeze to make and baked up beautifully and the frosting was to die for.  Also, with no eggs and butter you can almost get away with eating twice as much ;)

Vegan Carrot Cake
(recipe adapted from BBC Good Food)

250g Wholemeal self-raising flour 
1 tbsp Baking powder
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Ground nutmeg
130g Vegan Marg, I used Pure
130g Light brown sugar
250g Carrots, grated
1 Medium banana mashed
1 Orange, rind zested and juiced

For the frosting I used my cup measures, I'm not too sure why but for some reason to me it made sense at the time...

1/2 cup vegan marg
1/2 cup vegan cream cheese
4 cups icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Lightly grease a 18cm round or 20cm square tin.

Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a large bowl.

Melt the margarine in a pan, add the sugar and stir until dissolved.

Make a well in the flour mixture, then add the margarine and sugar. Mix in the carrots, banana and orange zest and juice.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top with the back of a spoon.

Bake for around 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. allow to cool before removing from the tin.

For the frosting cream the marg and cream cheese together till well mixed.

Add the icing sugar half a cup at a time, turning the mixer up to a high speed for several seconds between each addition.

Mix in vanilla extract and spread generously over the cake.

Caribbean Brownies, put a little sunshine in your food!

The sun is shining in Newcastle and we can finally dust off the barbecue and join the alfresco eating craze that seems to be sweeping the rest of the country.  But, along with mountains of sticky ribs, honey roasted chicken drumsticks and haloumi skewers we need something sweet to satiate our ever demanding dessert tummy.  Thanks to Levi Roots' excellent sunshiney book Caribbean Cooking Made Easy, I have found the perfect garden sweet treat, Caribbean Brownies.  Take a pretty normal brownie recipe, add ginger, pecans and the special ingredient rum, yes rum and you've got yourself a special Caribbean brownie treat! Delicious.

So, what are you waiting for.  Drag your barbecue to the patio, give your garden furniture a wipe down and have yourself some fun in the sun.

Caribbean Brownies
Caribbean Cooking Made Easy

250g plain chocolate, minimum 70 per cent cocoa solids, broken into pieces
250g butter
5 free-range eggs 
350g dark muscovado sugar
1-2 tbsp rum (optional)
150g plain flour sifted
125g pecan nuts, roughly chopped
4 pieces of stem ginger (from a jar), chopped 
Icing sifted, for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line a 30cm x 20cm/12in x 8in, deep-sided cake tin with greaseproof paper.

Bring a little water to the boil in a pan, then reduce the heat until the water is simmering. Suspend a heatproof bowl over the water (do not allow the base of the bowl to touch the water). Add the chocolate pieces and butter to the bowl and stir until melted and glossy. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar using an electric whisk until pale, fluffy and thick.

Add the melted chocolate mixture and rum, if using, then whisk again until smooth and well combined.

Carefully fold in the flour, using a metal spoon. Add the pecan nuts and stem ginger and fold into the mixture, then pour the brownie batter into the prepared cake tin.

Transfer the brownies to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is firm to the touch but a skewer inserted into the centre of the brownies comes out slightly sticky. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly in the tin.

When the brownies have cooled slightly, cut them into 18-20 squares or triangles and carefully remove from the tin. Pile onto a plate and dust with icing sugar, if using.


Giant Cupcake for Birthday Season!

I have a love hate relationship with this time of year.  First of all, it's spring! The lambs are leaping and the sun is shining, well supposed to be shining, and it's the month I grow by one whole year.  The thing is, it's also the month that the majority of my friends and family do the same thing. My purse quivers and I'm stuck eating beans on toast for a month.  But, all of that is worth it when you get to give your nearest and dearest something that makes their face light up.  And that's exactly what this cupcake did.

Tate and Lyle were something of a saving grace this year.  The lovely Jo contacted me asking if I'd like to try some of their fair trade sugars out as part of their We Love to Bake initiative. Well, anything that makes the next few weeks easier on my purse strings is fine by me. So I accepted and a wonderful hamper of sugars were soon winging their way to me.  Thanks Tate & Lyle!

Using their array of ethical sugars I set about making a giant cupcake for my soon to be sister-in-law's birthday.  This is only the third giant I've baked so I was slightly worried about my amateurish icing and slightly wonky sponge, so I decided to try my hand at a fondant bow to distract from my shaky hands work.    Considering it's my first real attempt at sculpting I'm quite happy with the result, and it's made me hungry for bigger and better things.  I think I'll get my little self booked onto a sugar crafting course this summer.  The day I can hand craft a delicate sugar rose is the day I'll jump for joy!

Peanut Butter Truffles, Gee Whiz!

I'm afraid I'm going to have to keep this brief.  Yesterday was the 27th anniversary of my birth, yep, I'm getting on in years!  Anyway, as I'm sure most of you can understand, I'm feeling a little fuzzy in the headular area.  The only thing to fix the fuzzy is for me to be taken for lunch by my lovely mother and spend the rest of the day being pandered to by my little brothers.  Bliss.

Right, on to the truffles.  This weeks pick was the choice of Mara from the lovely blog Love Your Mother Earth.  Well, I love peanut butter and I love making truffles so for me,  this week was a massive bag of win.  The only problem I had with the recipe was the quantity of peanut butter.  I decided to make half of the truffles in honor of my attempt to drop a stone before my holiday, but left the amount of peanut butter the same.  Still, the flavour wasn't half as strong as I would have hoped. So if you're thinking of making these, and you love peanut butter as much as I do, up the quantity to around 1/2 a cup.

As usual don't forget to check the other ladies for their opinions.
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