|Caramel apple cake|
As a child, my Mum invested a lot of effort in our birthday cakes. The flavour didn't vary much - usually chocolate or vanilla - but the style and decorations were informed by our requests and the ideas in the Australian Women's Weekly birthday cake book. With hindsight and an adult grasp of the difficulty level, I am particularly impressed by the years she made me a cake castle, swimming pool (with jelly filling), piano, and house. Trains, space ships and boats appeared for my brother, and many animals were made for my sister.
Given these impressive efforts in our childhood, taking charge of my Mum's cake is no trifling matter. I want to create something that she'll enjoy as much as we enjoyed our childhood creations. For my Mum, this doesn't mean fancy shapes or decorations, but flavours that she can get excited about.
Usually, I tackle this challenge with a fruit-based cake. By this I do not mean a Christmas-style fruit cake, but a cake involving fruit. She has had several raspberry varieties, as well as lemon and blueberry. As a child, I remember following a recipe that included soaked dried pears and peaches. Last year, she had peach and vanilla.
This year, it was caramel apple.
This year, it was caramel apple.
The recipe I adapted was Martha Stewart's caramelized apple spice cake. My adaptations included using non-dairy spread instead of butter, egg replacer instead of eggs, soy yoghurt instead of sour cream, apple cider vinegar instead of apple cider, and omitting the pecans. There were several other more minor changes too. It could have gone horribly wrong. To my relief, it instead went delightfully right.
Around the cake, we enjoyed a family barbecue with protein options that ranged from steak and sausages, to fish, to tofu. When paired with two salad options and baked potatoes, it was a meal that catered to everyone's tastes simply and beautifully.
After trying small pieces of the tofu steaks I prepared (marinated in about 1 tbsp each of soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce, lime juice and coriander puree, before being barbecued), my Mum, sister and brother also remarked that tofu could - surprise! - be enjoyable. Given that my brother and sister ate their tofu alongside steaks of the traditional variety, I call that a win.
More generally, I would call the whole evening a win. There was good food, good company, and celebration at its heart. I hope my Mum agreed.
Vegan caramel apple cake
Filled with apples and notes of caramel and brown sugar, no one will guess this cake is vegan.
Makes 2 round cakes, compiled into 1 large cake; serves 12-16.
5 tbsp non-dairy spread (~1/3 cup; I used Nuttelex)
1 tsp vanilla
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and grated
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup apple sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Dry cake mixture
3 3/4 cups plain flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
Wet cake mixture
12 tbsp non-dairy spread (~3/4 cup; I used Nuttelex)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
Egg replacer to the equivalent of 4 eggs (I used commercial egg replacer [Orgran brand] and would recommend this over a chia or flax egg, although they may also work)
1/2 cup plain or vanilla soy yoghurt
1 cup non-dairy spread (I used nuttelex)
2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp non-dairy milk (I used almond)
Preheat oven to 170'C and grease two 20-cm (8-inch) round cake pans (I used one that was 20 cm and one that was slightly smaller).
For the apple mixture, combine the 5 tbsp non-dairy spread and vanilla in a large saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is lightly browned. Add in the apples, cider and 1 cup sugar. Increase heat to medium-high and leave for approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and leave for a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the dry cake ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices).
In a large bowl, beat together the 12 tbsp non-dairy spread, 1 1/2 cups white sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Beat on medium speed for approximately 5 minutes, until pale and fluffy. Then add the egg replacer and beat to combine.
Add approximately one-third of the flour mixture to the large bowl, then beat to mix in. Add half of the yoghurt to the large bowl, then beat to mix in. Repeat for the remaining flour mixture and yoghurt, beating after each addition. Fold in the apple mixture from the saucepan.
Divide the batter between the two cake tins. Bake for 50 - 65 minutes, until tops are dark golden brown and a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean. (Note - the original recipe suggests 55 - 65 minutes of cooking time. I checked mine at 52 minutes and they were done and just starting to overcook on the edges, so I recommend checking at the 50 minute mark.)
Allow the cakes to cool slightly in their pans, before transferring to a wire rack.
To make the icing, combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat on medium-high speed until fluffy and well-combined, approximately 5 minutes. Ice the bottom cake, then add the top cake and ice.
I decorated the cake with chocolate-covered pretzels, which were not vegan.