Sometime back good friend Sweatha, mailed me asking whether I had a vegan sponge cake recipe. At that time, I did not, because I was busy masking my cakes with flavours of fruits, cocoa, and cognac, all of which were great, but I did not strive to make a vegan sponge cake. I decided then that I would develop a good recipe, but forgot about it as usual! A couple of days ago, the gong sounded again. This time, it was a vegan friend, Sonal who belled all vegan bakers for a vegan, sponge cake recipe. A few links were given, but she was not satisfied. Now here was a girl in search of cake manna, and my flavoured cakes would just not do! I am glad she challenged me, for I have noticed that the best way to make me do something is to force me into doing it. And so began the search for the ‘perfect’ sponge cakes.
I went back to my holy grail, the book that taught me everything I know about baking – Making Classic Cakes by Sarah Maxwell & Angela Nilsen. I have tried most recipes in this book when I was not vegan, and repeated many after I became vegan, veganizing them and always finding that none of the recipes ever disappointed me. The recipes are few, but they are perfect. A great book for beginners and a wonderful book if you like icing and decorating. I unfortunately do not have an inclination for the latter, or probably the expertise.
Yesterday, I made a version that called for easily available, local ingredients. The cake was great, but more a madeira cake and less a sponge cake. The taste was great and it was perfect to be sliced, iced and decorated. It did not collapse, or break, or get stuck to my tin. It was firm, but a tad firmer than the softest sponge cakes I have eaten. I sent it to Sonal, but this morning I set out again, a slightly modified recipe, more changes, and voila – I got what I wanted. It was the best sponge cake I have eaten. It was like my favourite sponge cake – the one you get at Bangalore Iyengar’s Bakeries. Yep! They still sell the best sponge cakes. Only I wish they would get rid of the synthetic vanilla, the butter and the milk.
I do not generally make cakes with all purpose flour/maida/refined flour as they are so refined that they do not have any nutrition, and because the daughter is gluten intolerant. But I made this one as a once-in-a-while treat. It is also great for special occasions. I have been very meticulous in recording the measurements, weighing each ingredient, but please use this as an estimate. Please note that the cups I use for measuring are Indian cups which hold less than American measuring cups.
The daughter could not eat the cake but she held it, pressed gently and loved it, and decided that her friends could have it, if not she. Jr.P and my nephew N, were here and N told me it was very good. N is a very appreciative lad. Jr.P said nothing – he was busy eating! My husband’s feedback is always partial so it does not count when I want to give you an honest feedback.
This had a nice brown crust, soft interiors, fine crumbs and dotted holes and they can take up any syrup you might like to use. It can be used as a base for orange / pineapple / kiwi or any other fruit filled cakes. It will hold icing well, is soft, but firm enough to hold its shape and comes out clean without breaking or getting stuck. However, I could not prevent the cracks. Probably I should have had height on the rims. Anyway, it is a sturdy cake and can be levelled easily.
As with all baking recipes please adjust your oven temperature if browning occurs quickly and the timing as needed. Rotate half way through if your oven has burn spots, but not before the cake is risen and half done.
This cake contains egg replacer, corn syrup and mirin, all available in most branches of Godrej Nature’s Basket in Mumbai, and in many specialty stores.
Recipe: Vegan sponge cake
Yield: About 750g.
Source: Adapted from ‘quick-mix sponge cake’ that appears in page 83 of the book ‘Making classic cakes’
Oven temperature : 160 deg. Celsius with fan
Tin: Square 8″ tin, greased and dusted
Maida / Refined flour / All purpose flour – 2 cups – 247g
Macadamia nuts, ground – 1/2 cup – 65g approx.
Baking powder – 2.5 tsp.
Cashew yogurt – 1 cup
Pure Olive oil – 1/2 cup – 75g
Corn syrup – 2 tsp.
Mirin (Japanese rice vinegar) – 1 tsp.
Orgran egg replacer – 3 tbsp.
Vanilla pods – 2, slit and seeded
Caster sugar – 3/4 cup – 152g
Plain water – 2 – 3 tbsps. if needed
Place the flour, ground macadamia nuts, and baking powder together in a blender. Blitz well till uniformly mixed. This helps aerate and distribute the baking powder evenly. Empty into a wide mixing bowl.
Pour the cashew curd, oil, corn syrup, mirin, sugar and egg replacer along with the vanilla seeds in the blender. Blitz to form an emulsion.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients and beat well for two minutes till the ingredients are well incorporated. The beating is easy and does not require much speed. I used a wooden ladle. Do not beat hard or too much as the cake will turn rubbery. If it is stiff add plain water, a table spoon at a time till the mixture is easy to beat but not runny. The mixture needs to remain thick and is not exactly of pouring consistency.
Empty into the prepared tin evenly, and using fingers, that have been wet in water, gently push the mixture to the corners and even out the top.
Bake for about 35-40 minutes at 160 deg. C. with fan. Check half way through for burn spots and rotate the pan if needed. I always do this as my cakes do not come out uniformly done otherwise. When done, the cake will pull away from the sides of the pan slightly and will be brown on top. A clean skewer inserted in the center should come out clean. The cake will feel soft, elastic and bouncy to touch.
Cool for ten to fifteen minutes in the pan before turning it out gently. Let rest on a rack till completely cool.
We had it plain, so I just cut into slices. But this cake is perfect for slicing and icing as well.