It was a friend’s 42nd birthday. She is vegan (allergic to eggs), and a fan of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
I made a cake. The recipe was culled without shame from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World:
3/4 cup of flour, 1/3 cup of cocoa, pinch of salt, 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of baking power, sift all dry ingredients together in a bowl;
1 cup soya milk (plain, unflavoured, unsweetened) curdled with a tablespoon of cider vinegar. Mix with 3/4 cup sugar (I used dark brown sugar), 1/3 cup oil (any unflavoured oil is fine: I used sunflower oil).
Sift the dry ingredients over the sugar, oil, and soy milk mixture and stir gently till everything is mixed together;
Obviously, if you are making cupcakes, you now spoon the mixture into a tray of cupcake papers. But what I had done was grease and flour a metal tray with deep sides, and pour the cake mixture entire into that. (Leftovers did go into a small tray for cupcakes. I had plans for a few extra cupcakes.)
I baked the cake in a hot oven (I hovered over the oven and took it out when it smelt done and the cake rose springly in response to the gentle press of one fingertip: it took about 20 minutes) and set it aside to cool.
Then I repeated the process 3 more times.
I had 4 cakes all the same shape and roughly the same thickness, and six cupcakes. (I ate one to taste-test it. It was fine.)
When the cupcakes were cool, I mixed up a batch of lemon icing: a lot of icing sugar mixed to a paste with small quantities of lemon juice, judiciously added.This makes a white, sweet/sharp icing,it’s very good. All the surviving cupcakes were throroughly dipped in this icing and set aside to dry.
When all the cakes were cool (I baked the last set the morning of the party, and waited rigorously for hours) I layered them together with orange “buttercream” icing between the four layers:
I had covered a wooden teatray with aluminium foil, and the cake was resting on the foil.
Mix sugar and vegan margarine together, beat in the juice of an orange and some Cointreau. Stop when the icing is soft and fluffy. (I had to do this twice because I kept running out of frosting. The cake turned out not to have any structural integrity at all, and it was surprisingly hard to keep it together. This is why I love eggs. Still, by the end of it, I had four layers of chocolate cake and three layers of fluffy, rich, slightly alcoholic orange filling.)
But the important part was coming: the chocolate ganache.
First of all, because I would need to act fast once the ganache was on the cake, I rolled out a piece of marzipan into the shape of a screen, and wrote on it “How many roads can a nun walk down?” (She isn’t a nun. Private joke.)
A 100g bar of chocolate is just about 4 ounces, which is worth knowing when converting recipes in your head.
I broke 3 bars of chocolate into small pieces, and heated 3/4 cup of soy milk in the microwave. I mixed the hot soy milk with the broken pieces of chocolate, and spooned in 6 tablespoons of maple syrup.
I should have made the ganache in smaller batches: it sets very fast. But I succeeded in covering most of the cake with it, though by the end I was scraping it out of the bowl and smearing it on with a knife.
Then I laid the marzipan screen onto the cake, in an appropriate position, and added the cupcake buttons. (Obviously, the button labelled OFF went off the cake.)
I added a couple of white mice to the top of the cake, and spread some flying saucers (rice paper filled with sherbet, if you didn’t know) on and around the cake.
This was good. The cake itself was chocolatey from the high proportion of cocoa: the ganache was very nearly pure chocolate made liquid enough to spread with soy milk and maple syrup: and the layers of filling just added some really gorgeous rich orange/booze flavour to the cake. Mentally, I named this cake Deep Thought, but it didn’t survive the party long enough to really need a name. There was enough for everyone at the party to have all they wanted, and still about a third of the cake left (it is a chiffon cake, made with oil, which is liquid at room temperature, so it would tend not to harden or dry out) for my friend and her partner to take a week to finish off.
The only things that were not vegan about the cake were the white mice (dairy), the coloured icing I used to write the words on the cake (dairy again), and the marzipan, if you are the kind of vegan who cares about exploiting bees.
PS: I’m afraid if this were a professional cake it would show up on Cake Wrecks, but it’s strictly amateur, okay?