Double chocolate brown sugar lamingtons

(Double chocolate brown sugar lamingtons)

The best things I ate this week? Juicy, dribbly, sweet and sour West Indian cucumber pickles, straight from the jar. Plump steamed dumplings stuffed with barbecued eel and spring onions. Misshapen blue corn tortillas piled high with ceviche, pickled jalepenos, avocado, chilli and lime. And this lamington. Turns out the best things in life aren’t necessarily always the prettiest.

My favourite things act as antidotes to the melancholic nature of a season. August feels less friendly when you’ve misplaced a favourite woolen blanket or feel too keenly the cold creep of kitchen tiles on bare feet. Sometimes, it’s also just about wanting a little bit of cake, nothing too heavy, preferably chocolate flavoured, maybe with a sprinkle of coconut and some brown sugar as well, thanks…

Double chocolate brown sugar lamingtons :

For the sponge :
6 eggs
140g brown sugar
pinch of salt
125g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

chocolate sauce for dipping (recipe below)
250g dessicated coconut

Whisk the eggs in an electric mixer until very light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and salt and continue whisking for a few minutes. Sift the remaining dry ingredients over the egg mixture and fold in gently but thoroughly. Transfer this mixture to a greaseproof paper-lined 8″ x 12″ baking tray. Bake in a preheated 175’C oven for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

Once the cake is cooled, peel away the baking paper. With a serrated knife, trim the edges of the cake (or leave it if you don’t mind slightly rough edges on your end product) and split the sponge in half lengthways. Spread filling of your choice on one half of the sponge. Here I’ve used a salted caramel sauce but you can also use cherry jam, chocolate custard or whipped vanilla cream. You can also skip this step if you want unfilled lamingtons. Sandwich the sponge back together and cut into as many squares as you like (12-16 squares, depending on how big you want each portion to be). Dip each square in chocolate sauce and dredge in dessicated coconut.

For the chocolate sauce :
(You can use a more traditional recipe for chocolate frosting, but I prefer this one because it has more depth of flavour and is less sugary. It doesn’t set the way the frosting recipes do, but the sauce soaks in a little and sticks well to each sponge square.)

200g brown sugar
120g cocoa powder
400g water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium pan, place the brown sugar and cocoa. Whisk in the water and vanilla. Bring to boil, stirring. Allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes until slightly thickened. Strain and leave to cool before using.

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Vegan chocolate cupcakes

(Vegan chocolate cupcakes with fudge frosting)

We interrupt our regular broadcast to bring you One Bowl! Vegan! Double Chocolate! Fudge Frosted! Cupcakes!

Sounds like a complete mouthful I know, and these actually are, in a delicious way. I made these the other day when in a cupcake kind of mood. Cupcake moods are defined by that instance you look in the baking drawer and discover you have way too many cupcake liners in colours you don’t ever recall wanting or buying. Orange, fire engine red and green polka dot, to name a few.

Not long after baking these, I started to notice vegan chocolate cake recipes popping up all over the internet and realised that not only are there a lot of said recipes out there, but like mine, they are pretty much all the same with minor variations in the type of sugar used or the ratio of vegetable oil to flour and cocoa powder.

Around this time, I also read an article where a chef claimed to have pioneered a technique used in a particular dish. Quite amusing when it’s obviously untrue, but since so many prize originality above all things, it seems almost expected that the wheel should be reinvented on a regular basis.

In an effort to reduce clutter, this is one less vegan chocolate cake recipe. The frosting is made with bittersweet chocolate, water, custard powder, brown sugar, cocoa powder and malt.

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Vegan Baking

(Joanne Chang’s Vegan Chocolate Cake)

Once upon another lifetime ago, I decided to ‘do my bit for the environment’ and adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. This lasted several years until eventually I gave it up as my interests in cooking and restaurants grew to the point where I wanted to be able to learn from eating/tasting everything at least once.

Chefs are often notorious for being quite vocal about their dislike of vegetarians and vegans. Sometimes you can’t blame them, when customers claim to be vegan right up to the dessert course, where they knowingly order the creamiest dish on the menu.

These days, my kitchen lifestyle choice is to cook with eggs and butter, in moderation, but I’ve always been interested in what vegan baking has to offer. Working under certain constraints sometimes inspires you to think more creatively.

When we were in New York late last year, I got a chance to visit the famed vegan/gluten-free bakery, Babycakes NYC. Inspired by the trip, I even bought their cookbook. Unfortunately, despite the many delicious things we tasted at their store, I couldn’t get the book’s recipes to work for me. For example, this Babycakes banana bread I made recently, with agave nectar, coconut oil and other expensive ingredients, looked better than it tasted.

Despite being discouraged, it didn’t stop me from wanting to try the vegan chocolate cake recipe in Flour by Joanne Chang. You can’t help but love the simplicity of the recipe (Essentially, combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients. Bake. Eat.) and the lack of having to seek out speciality ingredients.

This is by no means the best chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten. As a vegan (and low-fat!) cake, it is suitably moist with a pleasing chocolate flavour. A recipe worth attempting especially if you have long deleted eggs and dairy from your baking life.

Vegan Low-Fat Chocolate Cake :
(from Flour by Joanne Chang)

210g unbleached all-purpose flour
100g caster sugar
40g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder, or 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
240g water
50g canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsulfured light or dark molasses

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 175’C. Butter and flour a 6-inch round cake pan. [I used a slightly smaller pan and reduced the baking time by about 10 minutes]

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, caster sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk together the water, oil, vanilla and molasses. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and mix together with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth and homogeneous. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the middle with a fingertip. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 1 hour. Then invert the pan onto the rack, lift off the pan, turn the cake right-side up, and let cool completely.

Just before serving, dust the top with icing sugar. [I topped the cake with a vegan chocolate sauce instead]

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