29 May 2012

Nobody puts Veggie in a corner

Vegan : Noun. A person who does not eat or use animal products. 
Example: a hippy wearing saroual pants, leaving in a tipi tent outside town, refusing to use electricity (or any modern amenities for that matter) and hunting for roots, flowers and wild mushrooms to provide food for his family.

Alright, I’m pushing it for the sake of the joke but this was more or less how I pictured vegan people and vegan food few years ago. Coming from Cheese-and-sausage Land, I did not understand people who chose to be vegetarian…. so vegan? 

(Drum rolls…here comes the twist in the drama. In romcoms, this is the scene when the guy and the girl who hated each other suddenly fall in love)

Since then, I’ve been leaving in a country where:
  • Vegetarians are not looked down onto and can find nice veggie options in every pub and restaurant
  • You find such a wide range of pulses and weird vegetables in every supermarket, which makes it much less boring to be a Veggie or a Vegan here than back in France 
  •  I have shared a house with a Vegetarian (not an extremist one that shouts at you when you eat a big steak in front of him, a super tolerant Vegetarian)
I’ve also travelled a little and discovered other diets. I’ve read few things about the consequences of meat production on the environment and I realised that cutting down a little on meat could do some good to both myself and the planet (don’t worry, I still need my fix of roast chicken and beef stew every now and then!)
But mostly, I have realised that I love trying new foods. The stranger, the better!

So when a colleague requested a vegan cake as a Friday Cake, I was totally up for the challenge. She even asked for the ultimate scary vegan cake: an avocado and chocolate cake. A cake with no egg, no butter, no milk? With water…and avocado in it?! Yeah, that would be good fun.

Avocado and chocolate vegan cake, with raspberry frosting

Friday came.
Everybody gathered in the main conference room around my green cake and thought that I had lost my mind. To everybody's surprise though, even if I had to force my poor colleagues / guinea pigs to try my cake, they did like it!
"Wow...but....that's...NICE ??!" "Yeah right?!"
The avocado frosting wasn't my favourite thing in the world, but the chocolate does is one of the best I’ve ever made. It’s very chocolatey, very light but very indulgent. You can’t really taste the avocado but it (along with the water and the oil, which make wonders to chocolate cakes) brings smoothness and almost fluffiness to the cake.

So I know, you’re scared and if I could hold your hand right now I would, I swear. I can hear my fellow Frenchies thinking “Another crazy British food, she’s lost it. Forever” from the other side of the Channel!
But trust me, you’ll love it. And life is about taking risks, isn’t it?

With avocado icing, for The Braves

I even came up with a safer raspberry frosting alternative, which goes wonderfully well with this cake.

Vegan Chocolate and Avocado Cake

Ingredients for the cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil (rapeseed or sunflower)
1/2 cup soft avocado, well mashed, about 1 medium avocado
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Make the cake:
1/ Preheat oven to 180deg C.  Grease and flour two 20cm round cake moulds (unless you use silicone ones, in which case you don't need to grease or flour them).

2/ In a big bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients except the sugar.  Set aside.

3/ Mix all the wet ingredients together in another bowl, including the mashed avocado.

4/ Add sugar into the wet mix and stir.

5/ Mix the wet with the dry all at once, and beat with a whisk (by hand) until smooth.

6/ Pour the batter into the cake moulds. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

7/ Let cakes cool in the moulds for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting with avocado buttercream.

Ingredients for the avocado buttercream frosting
225g avocado meat, about 2 small to medium, very ripe avocados
2 teaspoons lemon juice
300g icing sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the frosting
1/ Peel and pit the soft avocados.  It’s important to use the ripest avocados you can get your hands on.  If the avocados have brown spots in the meat, avoid those spots when you scoop the meat into the bowl.

2/ Place the avocado meat into the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment.  Add lemon juice and whisk the avocado on medium speed, until slightly lightened in color and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.

3/ Add the powdered sugar a little at a time and beat.  Add vanilla extract until combined.  If not using right away, store in the refrigerator. 

Alternative frosting: Raspberry and cream cheese frosting
300g pack of light cream cheese
384g pot of whipping cream or double cream
1 cup of icing sugar
1 punnet of fresh raspberries

Make the frosting:
1/ Put aside the 12 nicest raspberries for decoration

2/ Whip the whipping / double cream until just thickened

3/ Add to the cream the sugar and the cream cheese and whip together until smooth. Add delicately the rest of the raspberries

4/ Refrigerate until thickened (if need be)

Frost and decorate the cake:
5/ spread a layer of frosting between the 2 cakes and the rest on top of the cake. Decorate the top of the cake with the raspberries that you have put aside

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