Saturday, January 26, 2013

Vegan caramel apple cake, for my Mum's birthday

Since I was about 10, I have taken great pleasure in making my Mum's birthday cakes. When I lived at home, I also enjoyed preparing a birthday breakfast, usually including summer fruit (given the timing of her birthday) and homemade muffins. I dropped the breakfast efforts when I moved out of home, and my sister has helpfully taken up the breakfast baton now. The cake, though, remains firmly in my domain.

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.

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.


Ingredients
Apple mixture
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


Icing
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)

Method
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.



Who do you make birthday cakes for?


Also, Happy Australia Day to my fellow Australians, whatever the day means to you!

30 comments:

  1. Looks delicious! So impressive that you veganised the recipe and it worked out so well... I have had some disasters doing that :)

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    1. Oh don't worry, me too ;) I am really glad this one worked out!

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  2. What a fantastic cake - layer cakes always have a look of celebration about them. And caramel and apple are flavours I keep meaning to include more in my baking. My mum has always made her own birthday cakes and seems to like doing so but I love making birthday cakes in our little family. And the bbq sounds great too

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    1. Thanks Johanna :-) My Mum makes the cakes for everyone else, so other than her I only make Mr Bite's. I am glad to have those two to focus on as without birthdays, it is hard to find excuses for elaborate cakes!

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  3. Hey Kari! That cake looks so amazing! The last layer cake that I made was for a guy that I was dating and it was 7 layers! The icing was homemade and it had chocolate bits in it.... It made a TON of icing too! It was so good...I must find that recipe and make it again!

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    1. 7 layers?! Oh wow - you put me to shame :-) That sounds amazing Brandi.

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  4. That cake looks beautiful Kari! I love to bake cakes, but none of mine look that pretty. I usually only bake cakes a couple of times a year and one of those is for my hubby's birthday.

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    1. This didn't look super pretty uniced, if truth be told :P Thankfully icing hides a lot!

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  5. Hope you had a great Australia Day. This cale looks and sounds fabulous! Hope your mum had a good day for her birthday.

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    1. Thank you :-) I hope you had a great Australia Day too!

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  6. Happy Australia Day for yesterday! (I was at an Aus Day BBQ listening to the JJJ hottest 100 countdown with friends)
    This cake looks absolutley delicious- and I bet it tasted even better! :) xxx

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    1. An Australia Day BBQ with Triple J in the background is what Australia Day is all about :-) I hope you had a great time.

      And thank you!

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  7. Aw! Happy birthday to your Mum! Sadly I haven't been with my mom on her actual birthday in years, but this year she will be visiting on her birthday (it lands the same day as my graduation) so I'll have the opportunity to bake her a cake this year!

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    1. What a lovely coincidence! I imagine I'll really miss being with family on their birthdays when we leave Australia. I'm glad you get to have the day with her this year :-)

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  8. Your cake looks incredible. I'm sure it tasted even better. I'm chief family cake maker too. My Mum actually worked on that book and the photography was done at our house. There is a party scene in our backyard and my brother and I am in there. So cool. Mum used to make us cakes from the book too :)

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    1. Oh wow! That is such a claim to fame! Next time I'm at my parent's I'm going to look for photos with a backyard :-)

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  9. Oh man, that's one good lookin' cake. And it's always wonderful to convert people away from tofu hating! :) I don't usually make birthday cakes...usually just birthday cupcakes. The last ones went to my boyfriend!

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    1. I like cupcakes too, so both options are great in my eyes :-)

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  10. Aw, happiness! Happy birthday to your mum! And hey, chocolate covered pretzels! ;)

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    1. Oh my goodness. I was enjoying chocolate covered pretzels on the very same day that I expressed doubt over chocolate covered crisps. The hypocrisy! I retract all of my earlier comments!

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    2. That was my basic point. ;)

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    3. I'm surprised you were so restrained when pointing it out ;)

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  11. What a good daughter you are!!! what an exquisite recipe, I'm sure all the details to attention were appreciated. It looks do dense and rich, I would LOVE this for my bday cake!!!

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  12. Oh my goodness.... I always wanted that jelly swimming pool cake!! My Mum didn't attempt that one, but I did get the farm-version of that cake (the chococlate biscuit fence with plastic farm animals!) She also made me the butterfly, dragon, hedgehog and a Number 4. So many memories!

    Your cake sounds delicious (as do the tofu steaks and salad) - your Mum would have been stoked with your efforts.... you are such the good daughter :)

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    1. I loved the look of that farm cake too and my sister had the butterfly and hedgehog! Will you be making healthy versions of the cakes for Misty at all? ;)

      Also, thank you :-)

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  13. oh this is so sweet and happy birthday to ur mum!! it's cool how the tables have turned and now u can shower her with love and make her one heck of a bday cake...looks way too yummy!

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  14. This looks delicious Kari! Your mom is very lucky :)

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    1. Thank you Gabby - you're very kind :)

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