Thursday, October 6, 2011

One cake well

I had a really nice afternoon yesterday with some people who are doing an MA in creative writing. I had a great conversation with a couple of novelists about revising long works like novels. How you have to hold the whole thing in your head and if you try and attack it piecemeal it often falls apart. A solution which looks perfect for the chapter or the paragraph undoes the novel as a whole. One of the novelists talked about it as like, 'Trying to make afghans out of something that started as a cake mixture - adding some cornflakes, adding margarine and you don't have afghans and you don't have cake, you have a mess.' The other novelist said, 'She is a great baker.' And she said, 'I can bake one cake well - and really, that's all you need.' The other novelist said, 'Ah, keep the cake, alter the audience.' We laughed at that point because it was starting to sound like the kind of extended metaphor which makes no sense but eventually becomes a self-help book.

I really liked the idea of baking one cake well. I am pretty sure that when I did my MA I did exactly the same thing. I have one great vegan cake recipe and it seems to work for most audiences. My mother first made it when I went vegan. The story is that she got it off a woman that lived in the same old-age home as my grandmother. There are heaps of variations of it around and most of them come from around the time of rationing in the Second World War. There are some really good vegan baking recipes from the Second World War. The New Zealand Electronic Text Centre published the War Economy Recipe Book written by 'Housewife' for the 'benefit of those who desire to economise, or for those who unfortunately, owing to a shortage of supplies, cannot secure the sufficient ingredients to do their usual baking'. It has some great recipes for things like: Tripoli Biscuits, American Fingers, Cairo Nutties, Victory Gems and Allied Cake.

Anyway, here is the Adam family version of a wartime vegan chocolate cake. We use this cake for a lot of things by the way. I've put it in muffin trays and cupcake tins, I've served it warm with sauce and ice cream as a pudding and last Christmas, we made it a couple of days before and used it instead of sponge in a triffle.


Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

1 1/2 cups of flour (I've used wholemeal flour but if its a special occasion I'll use white flour or a mixture of both. Oddly chapati flour works quite well. Oh trap I fell into once, if you're using self-raising flour, you don't need the baking powder)
2 tbsp cocoa (I usually use carob powder)
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dry sweetener (if I use brown sugar the cake isn't quite so smooth - but it's still great)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence

1 tbsp vinegar

5 tbsp oil
1 cup cold water

In a large bowl sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add sweetener, vanilla, vinegar, oil and water and mix together gently until 'just mixed'. Pour into a lightly oiled cake pan (I find it works best in a ring tin) and bake for 45-50 minutes. Test with a knife to see if done. When cooled ice and serve.

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