Veganising Nigella: The Spruced Up Vanilla Cake
…also known as Drop Dead Gorgeous Yogurt Cake in this house! This beautiful Christmassy-looking cake is inspired by Nigella Lawson’s original recipe, which is available on Nigella.com or found in her book, the magical Nigella Christmas. It’s the ideal cake for those of you who want a break from traditional fruit cake, instead favouring something seasonally kitsch and worthy of being served up by elves in your fantasy festive grotto – and it smells dreamy too!
This vegan version involves an uncomplicated wet-to-dry batter and the resulting sponge is deliciously fragrant – like ice-cream on a summer’s day – and has a divinely light, slightly damp texture. I made it for my birthday last year and it was a massive hit; I also made a blueberry version back in the summer using masses of fruit and a very purple blueberry Alpro yogurt (instead of the vanilla specified below). It gave the batter a lilac hue – which is, you know, a look. For now, I recommend sticking to the recipe below – and if you like the look of this vegan version of a Nigella classic, please do check out Veganising Nigella: The Ginger and Walnut Carrot Cake.
This cake looks extra special because it’s baked in a Nordic Ware ‘Holiday Tree’ bundt tin. But if you don’t have one, any bundt tin of the same capacity would work, or at a push you could use a deep (three inches minimum) 9″ round cake tin. The cooking times are likely to vary; I would keep a watchful eye and check after about 35 minutes.
425g plain flour
300g caster sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
Tiny pinch of kala namak salt (optional: see note below)
425g Vanilla Alpro yogurt (if you can’t find this or a suitable non-dairy vanilla yogurt, just use plain soya yogurt plus 4 tsp natural vanilla extract or paste).
150g sunflower oil
60ml non-dairy milk
Plus a little icing sugar for dusting – or edible sparkly sugar if you can get some!
Note: The original recipe contains six eggs, which lends an eggy taste that personally I can live without. If you want a hint of that in your cake, simply add a pinch (and I mean a pinch; even 1/4 tsp would be too overpowering) of kala namak salt. It smells of eggs – there’s no other way of describing it – and I wouldn’t be without it for scrambled tofu and vegan quiche. I haven’t tried it in this recipe, but can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work well.
1. Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4.
2. Thoroughly oil your tin, making sure you get into every nook and cranny. I like to sieve a little flour over the tin as well – when the inside looks lightly dusted, tip it upside down to get rid of the excess. Now you’re good to go with the batter.
3. In a very large mixing bowl, stir together the dry ingredients.
4. In a separate jug or bowl, lightly whisk together the wet ingredients.
5. Add the wet mix to the dry and whisk until thoroughly combined. I use a small hand-held whisk for this, plus a spatula to scrape down the sides. Just keep going until there are no visible dry bits; this can take a bit of time as the batter is quite thick, but try to be as quick as you can. If you have a stand mixer you can use that if you like, but be careful not to over-mix. Vegan cakes need a a fast and light-handed technique.
6. Pour the batter into your prepared tin, making sure you get batter into the very bottom ‘tree tops’. Place in the middle of the hot oven for 40-45 minutes. After 40 minutes test with a skewer; it should come out clean and the top will look well risen and springy. Damp crumbs are fine; raw batter is not. You can always pop it back in the oven for a few more minutes.
7. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for about 30 minutes, roughly when the tin is just about cool enough to handle. Turn out on to a cooling rack until completely cold.
8. Dust with a little icing sugar to finish.