“How can you make a cake without eggs and butter?” I can’t remember how many times I’ve been asked this question. The answer, of course, is “Easy!” – Lisa Fabry
Not a question I ask often, but from time to time, one does wonder. As you do. I have eaten amazing vegan cakes when out and about, just not ever had the need to make one myself. Cake without butter is easy - Claudia Roden’s Sephardic Orange cake is a no-brainer – but a cake without eggs has me stumped. The thing is this: baking with eggs and butter is a bit of a faff, truth be told, and baking a vegan cake should, in theory, be a far simpler task. What Lisa Fabry’s new book pleasantly surprised me with was that vegan baking also just happens to require much less equipment - a lot can be done with little more than a whisk and a roomy bowl or two. And that is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Where to begin? I chose the Chocolate Torte because chocolate anything is pretty much guaranteed to win the blokes over around here, and from the photograph it looked suitably rich. Simple to make, made simpler still by using a whisk and bowl to make the topping instead of the recommended food processor, resulting in very little washing up. Their verdict? Great soon after icing, quite nice that night, but “dry and a bit tasteless” the following, though they loved the mousse-like topping. Serve it up and demolish as soon as possible would be my suggestion. We made the Cashew Cream over the holidays and it was gorgeous with a non-vegan cake, yet I can't say we've made it since, mostly because we're not cake-and-cream people. Cake and tea, yes, but not cake and cream.
All of which does beg the question I've been um-ing and ah-ing over typing for a good 15 minutes now: if one has chosen to eschew all animal products, why try to replicate things so obviously associated with them? (I do know the answer – comfort , familiarity - so it’s rhetorical...please, no hate mail) Some of the naturally vegan desserts in here – summer pudding, vanilla poached-pears, jellies made with agar, sorbet –are beautiful desserts, divine creations, just as they are. One of those things that nags at my thoughts occasionally...
Chapters cover any- and every- thing you can imagine from cakes to cheesecakes, “Proper Puddings”, brownies (cleverly made squidgy with sweet potato puree) and soy-based custards and ice creams. Fabry’s case for an ethical, vegan diet at the beginning is convincing but it’s the detailed information on substituting ingredients that hooked me. Those with dietary intolerances are well-covered and there’s even a range of Raw recipes including a pretty damned amazing looking Black Forest Gateaux that is complicated but no doubt worth every second of its making.
I find myself a bit, well, torn. If you are a vegan this book will have you in raptures and if not - and for the foreseeable future, that’s me – the book gives excellent, truly inventive options for our friends and families who are. Fabry - a local - has a blog, by the way, so look her up and say hi: www.divinevegan.com
Available in your local bookshop, or you can head over to Wakefield Press and buy direct.
A word of caution, one I hope won’t distract, but a few recipes marked as gluten-free are, potentially, not. There is a small note made in the introduction about cornflour (cornstarch) being sometimes milled from wheat but the advice is not, I’m sorry to say, repeated. In my experience almost all cornflour is the wheaten kind and I think a note to the un-affected baker cooking for friends at the beginning of each recipe would help enormously.