I'm not an experienced baker. That's partly because I've been cooking vegan for the last ten years, and before that, I hardly cooked at all. Also, I'm not one for following recipes, and I hate cooking anything that's less than great. These things add up.
A couple of months back, however, I had some astonishingly good vegan cupcakes: perfect, moist, fluffy sponge, far lighter than the dense-but-delicious results I'd had substituting flax seed for egg in chocolate cake. It turns out they were made using soy milk and vinegar - my host reckoned the vinegar curdles the soy in such a way as to make it act rather like egg white, holding bubbles beautifully as long as you get it into the oven fast enough.
Knowing that the perfect vegan sponge was possible, and hearing that it's not even very difficult, I decided it was time to experiment when my friend announced she was throwing a Cake Party. One of the things about not eating eggs is that people hardly ever make cake for you, so aside from those chocolate cakes I could barely remember what sort of cakes are good at all, and I wanted to try something different. When I asked for suggestions on my facebook, evilrooster chimed in:
Spice cake: plain sponge (you can substitute a tablespoon of vinegar for an egg in most cake recipes; it won't be sour, but it'll be a little softer on the tooth) + 1t each nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and ginger.*
That sounded promisingly delicious, so I looked through some sponge recipes and went for a variation. I was feeling pretty optimistic about it, but I really didn't expect it to turn out quite as well as it did. Bwerdmuller reckoned it was the best cake at the Cake Party!
For the sponge:
For the filling:
- 2 pears
- 2tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
- 1 slice of lemon
- 1tbs sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Mix all the dry ingredients for the sponge in one bowl, and all the wet ingredients somewhere else (I just used my measuring jug, I'm sloppy like that). When they're good and mixed, add the liquid to the powder and beat it all together until it's nice and smooth.
Pour the batter into two greased cake tins of around about the same size (mine are 20cm in diameter). I poured about two thirds or so into one of the tins, giving me one shallow, flat cake and one big bulgy one, which suited me even if the bulging may have been a sign of too much baking powder. Then put them in the oven for half an hour - they should be a lovely golden brown colour when they come out.
While they're baking, chop and cook the pears with the ginger, sugar and lemon. I simmered mine on a low hob, in their own juices, and ended up blending them with a hand blender, but I'm sure I could have got away with just mashing them with a fork if I'd peeled them first, and perhaps left out the lemon peel.
Tip the sponges out once they're done, spread the pear butter onto one, then stick the other on top. Sprinkle with a little icing sugar for decoration, and you're done.
* I couldn't find any allspice, and I think I forgot about the nutmeg, but they're probably both good ideas really.