Vegan Piña Colada Loaf Cake

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“Is that coconut I taste in this food you’ve cooked?” Yes, probably, I’m vegan. With this loaf cake I decided to take the obvious and go large with it – you’re definitely supposed to taste the coconut. In fact, it started off in my head as just a coconut loaf – admittedly, I was thinking about how cute the toasted coconut chips would look against the white icing more than anything else, but in my defence these days you have to be aesthetic-forwards or no one will grant you their precious attention span on the timeline, let alone care how passionately you write. And a coconut loaf cake on its own would’ve been great, but there was pineapple juice in the fridge leftover from another recipe, and I have a lot of rum in my wardrobe (as in, that’s where I have space to store it, Wardrobe-Rum isn’t a weird bartender quirk, it doesn’t enhance the flavour or anything.)

And who is better friends with coconut than pineapple and rum? I mean, to answer that question honestly as a vegan, I’d say there’s not much that I can’t make play nicely with coconut, but in a traditional sense, rum-coconut-pineapple is a classic, an iconic marriage of sweet and rich and zingy. My piña colada loaf cake recipe celebrates this magnificent trifecta – with an added friendly dash of lime – in an easy, one-bowl affair, which is chill enough to eat in the morning, yet elegant enough to eat at night.

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That SPF 50 flavour comes from using three different kinds of coconut – the sandy desiccated stuff in the cake batter, coconut cream in the batter and icing, and a generous handful of coconut chips on top. The rum is optional – but it makes things taste like rum, which is undeniably positive – and the pineapple, one of the most hardworking flavours there is, gives us juicy sourness, golden sweetness and a certain beachy hopefulness. The thing is, a piña colada wouldn’t really be my first, second or third choice of drink (and I’m so glad I retired my practice of naming blog posts for corresponding song lyrics so I don’t have to acknowledge that song) but in loaf cake form, it’s sublime. Is that coconut you taste? Hell yes.

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Piña Colada Loaf Cake

One-bowl, pineapple-coconut-rum magic. Recipe by myself.

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream or full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup rice bran oil, canola oil, or similar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (or lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt

Icing

  • 2 and 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Jamaican rum (or rum of your choice, or an extra tablespoon pineapple juice)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut cream
  • 2 tablespoons pineapple juice
  • 1/3 cup coconut chips/flakes

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a loaf tin with baking paper. Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda and desiccated coconut together in a mixing bowl.

2: Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and tip in the pineapple juice, coconut cream, oil, lemon juice, vanilla and salt. Fold it together till it forms a thick batter. Spatula this mixture into the loaf tin and spread it evenly. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. If it looks like it’s getting too brown on top, cover it with a sheet of tinfoil.

3: To make the icing, mix together the rum, coconut cream, pineapple juice and icing sugar. Toast the coconut chips (I did half and left half raw) over a low heat in a frying pan till they’re just browned, and quickly remove from the heat.

6: Let the cake cool somewhat before icing – it can still be a little warm, but if it’s too hot the icing will slide right off. Spread the icing thickly over the top and then sprinkle with the coconut chips.

Store in an airtight container.

Notes: If your coconut cream is the kind that separates itself out in the can, make sure it’s the thick, creamy stuff that you’re using, and not the more watery part. For added flavour, you can jab the cooked loaf cake with a skewer in several places while it’s still hot and pour over a tablespoon or so of either rum or pineapple juice.

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music lately:

Song For The Sun by Swans. Yes, I like their more difficult stuff, but sometimes it’s nice to reward yourself with a straightforwardly wonderful song like this, and even if the melody is fantastically uplifting, the poetically miserable lyrics are there to grab you by the ankle and make you fall to the floor.

Dashti by Hayedeh. That contralto!

Ever New by Beverly Glenn-Copeland. Simply one of the most gloriously beautiful songs I’ve ever heard, I urge you to listen to it! For your health! Prioritise your health and listen to this song!

Next time: something savoury.

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

incredibly delicious mocha cake

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I went back and forth several times but there’s no real way to make this opening sentence any more thrilling, and even if it’s not thrilling, it’s true: I’ve really been getting into square cakes. They go so much further than a round cake, the relative shallowness of the tin takes the edge off worrying about how tall the cake will rise, and there’s no dicking about with layers. It’s the practicality that particularly appeals to me – a round cake, sliced into wedges, is gone so soon! But a square cake – well, that’s absolute days of coffee-or-tea accompaniment quite sorted. Partway through my writing this, it was announced by the government that New Zealand will be moving into Level 2, significantly lifting the lockdown we’ve all been in for what feels like forever now. Certainly puts the buzz of a square-shaped cake into perspective.

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But as much as a cake can be exciting either on its own terms or in relation to COVID-19 this one has it covered – moist and springy, delicately rich with cocoa-tinted coffee flavour. It’s plain, yet hints of effort, mellow yet intense, sweet, but with the bitter full-stop of caffeine. I’ve made it twice now and imagine there will be several more iterations to come. I used a different icing both times: first, an ermine frosting – which is where you make a roux of milk and flour and beat it into butter, which sounds terribly unlikely but it’s a traditional American recipe where you end up with a silky coating as glossy as a buckskin Akhal-Teke horse. Lovely though this was, I prefer my second go, where I made a quick emulsion to imitate butter and then added icing sugar, it was densely granular and fudgy and wonderful.

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After the swaddling-tight restrictions of lockdown I’m illogically a tad wary about moving into comparatively carefree times, though there’s no kidding ourselves that whatever we considered normal is going to return – especially considering every other country in the world is having its own personal battle with COVID-19. I’ve been extremely lucky and I’m so grateful for it, which is not to discredit any anxiety, but it does put me in an okay position to deal with it. I keep trying to remember what I told myself near the start of all this: one hour at a time, one day at a time. At least with this cake I know where I stand, which is a start – it’s wonderful, and delicious, and the knowledge of its existence, patiently waiting for my next cup of tea, comforts.

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Incredibly Delicious Mocha Cake

A recipe by myself.

Cake

  • 2 and 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 heaped tablespoons instant coffee powder
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain oil, such as rice bran
  • 1/2 cup oat milk or similar
  • 1 tablespoon malt vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup (or similar, eg maple syrup)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup cold water

Icing Option 1: Glossy Mocha Ermine Frosting

  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 cup oat milk or similar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup or similar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee powder
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa
  • a pinch of salt
  • 7 tablespoons (roughly half a cup) vegan butter/margarine

Icing Option 2: Fudgy Mocha Icing

  • 2 heaped tablespoons soft coconut oil (refined or regular, either is cool)
  • 2 tablespoons oat milk or similar
  • 1/4 teaspoon malt vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup or similar
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee powder
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 cups icing sugar

Note: if you don’t have instant coffee but you do have plunger coffee or similar, you can use that instead of the cold water (just leave it to go cold, too) or as well as for extra coffee boost.

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a 22x22cm cake tin with baking paper.

2: Place the flour in a large mixing bowl, then sieve in the baking soda (to ensure there are no lumps and to make the mixture rise evenly) then stir in the cocoa, coffee powder, and sugars.

3: Make a well in the centre by pushing a hole in the flour with your spoon, then tip in the remaining cake ingredients and stir to combine into a thick cake batter. Spatula this into the cake tin and bake for about 35-40 minutes or until the top is springy. This is your cake and you may have it and eat it too as it is, or proceed to the following icing recipes once it’s cooled.

Icing 1: Glossy Mocha Ermine Frosting

1: Whisk together everything except the butter in a small saucepan. Cook this mixture over a low heat until it becomes thick and almost gluey, removing it from the heat as soon as it starts to come away from the sides. Keep stirring it for a minute or two once it’s off the stove, just to prevent it burning in the residual heat of the pan. Allow this mixture to cool to room temperature.

2: Using electric beaters, a stick blender, or a small food processor, whip the vegan butter for a minute, then continue beating while adding small spoonfuls of the room temperature coffee-flour mixture. Keep going in this manner until it’s entirely beaten together, by which point it should be thick, glossy, and smooth. Spread evenly over the cooled cake. You will need to store the cake in the refrigerator if you use this icing.

Icing 2: Fudgy Mocha Icing

1: Using a stick blender or small food processor, blitz the soft coconut oil, milk, vinegar and golden syrup together. You’re essentially making a quick emulsion in the manner of homemade butter here. Transfer this mixture to a larger bowl and gradually stir in the coffee powder, cocoa, icing sugar and salt until it forms a thick, dense icing. You may wish to add another splash of milk but do so carefully, as a little liquid goes a long way. Spread over the cooled cake.

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music lately:

Houston in Two Seconds, by Ry Cooder. A long, slow sunset in music form.

Teardrops, by Womack & Womack, a shining star of the “incredibly sad lyrics to an upbeat melody” genre and possibly one of the best songs of all time. I know I say that a lot on here, but the reason is just that I have incredible taste in music! That’s all!

Being Alive, Bernadette Peters. I can never, ever get sick of Sondheim’s musical Company but her version of its closing number is – transcendent. Her voice is so delicate but so hefty, like a rhinoceros in ice skates and whatever emotion there is left to be wrung from this admittedly over-performed song, she finds it and drop kicks it into your very soul.

Next time: I still haven’t made ice cream!

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

Canned Peach Cake

 

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Without wanting to overly romanticise the cheap staples of a pantry there’s nonetheless something comforting about canned peaches. Whether on cornflakes with evaporated milk for dessert or blended up in my grandmother’s old blender to make a smoothie (literally just the peaches and their syrup – as you can see I was always gourmet-minded) they’ve been a faithful constant throughout my life. Even the smell of them – when I was a kid I thought it would be the ideal perfume fragrance – specifically canned peaches, not the real thing – and if I’m honest I’d still buy it. Obviously in lockdown canned peaches are only reliable if you actually own them already, but this is a super chilled out cake that you don’t even need to use the titular fruit for: mashed bananas, stewed apples, canned pears or apricots would all likely work perfectly well and bring their own deliciousness to it.

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As far as other substitutions go – I couldn’t say for sure if they’ll work but you’re welcome to try. I used margarine here because I figured it was cheap and easy to find, I promise you can’t taste it at all in the finished cake. And I appreciate that there’s a relatively large amount of flour involved – but if you’ve got it, you might as well use it.

The finished cake isn’t wildly peachy – more a broadly lush fruitiness – but it’s fantastically moist and springy and so delicious, warm with cinnamon and vanilla, sticky with its peach-tinted glaze, and most of all – that word again – comforting. In lieu of being able to get a hug, I guess eating food that evokes a sense of cosiness is the next logical step.

It never hurts to pause and think on what you’re grateful for, indeed, having the means to stop and be grateful is frankly worth having gratitude for in itself. Some aspects of lockdown are getting harder and others are easily surmounted, but I am very fortunate that cooking is what I love and it’s still an avenue of enjoyment available to me. And while making a cake isn’t going to solve anything on a grand scale – you do still get cake.

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Canned Peach Cake

A recipe by myself.

  • 1 x 400g can peach slices
  • 4 tablespoons vegan butter/margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup (or maple syrup)
  • 1/2 cup plant milk
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Icing:

  • 3/4 cup icing sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons reserved peach juice
  • 1 drop food grade lemon oil (optional) or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Fresh thyme leaves, to serve (optional)

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line the base of a standard square cake tin with baking paper.

2: Drain the peaches, reserving some of the juice for the icing (I would recommend simply drinking the rest yourself.) Either using a stick blender or in a food processor, blend the peaches until smoothly pureed. If you have neither of these, mash the peaches thoroughly with a fork, and the finished cake will have a bit more texture to it – not a bad thing. Add the butter, sugar and golden syrup and blitz again briefly – it might look a little messy but will come together!

3: Mix together the milk and vinegar in a small measuring jug and set aside for a minute. Fold the flour and baking soda (I definitely recommend sieving the baking soda to prevent lumps) into the peach mixture, along with the cinnamon, vanilla, followed by the milk and vinegar mixture.

4: Spatula all this into the cake tin and bake for around 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool completely.

5: To make the icing, stir the peach juice into the icing sugar a spoonful at a time – a little liquid goes a long way – followed by the flavourings if you’re adding them. Drizzle evenly over the cooled cake and sprinkle with the thyme leaves if using.

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music lately:

Denise, by Fountains of Wayne. This was the first song of theirs I heard back in 1999 and I’ve loved it ever since, it’s somehow 90s yet 60s, perky yet sour at the same time. Band member Adam Schlesinger died of COVID-19 complications on April 1 and this one hit me hard – he co-wrote most of the songs on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a TV show that means an enormous amount to me, and his ability to lovingly pastiche was unparalleled. For example – Love’s Not A Game which I genuinely think exceeds its inspiration, Luck Be A Lady Tonight, and I couldn’t even exaggerate the number of times I’ve watched the video for it.

Farewell Transmission, by Songs: Ohia. Sounds like every single Neil Young song blitzed together like peaches in an old blender, so obviously I completely adore it.

Next time: I’ll try to lay off the flour.

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Also! I wrote a round up of television recommendations if you need them while stuck at home, which anyone can read on my Patreon for free.

ginger-molasses cake

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It’s nice to know I can climb to the weird age of thirty three (thirty four in just over a month!) and still be astonished by an ingredient previously unknown to my tastebuds. I say weird only because I seem to socialise with people much older or way younger than me and I’m either like “oh god, the eighties, what a time that was,” or “how do you find Frozen 2 compares to Frozen 1?” and were it not for my friend Charlotte in Wellington who was born ten days before me I’d think I was the only thirty three year old in the world, and even so I’ve missed the boat on knowing what a person my age is supposed to be like, and honestly, why is no one frantically trying to jovially relate to MY stuff?

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Returning to my original point: I’m thirty three years old, and I tried molasses for the first time. In my defence, it’s not a terribly common ingredient in New Zealand, though the word is so easily part of one’s everyday vernacular and thoughts – slow like molasses, Blackberry Molasses, the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 – that perhaps my brain complacently assumed I’d already eaten it. My brain was, typically, incorrect. Who could mistake that flavour! That heady, thick, magnesium richness, like sweetened road tar, like a puréed cedar hope chest, like a photo negative of Marmite. I practically needed a lie down afterwards. It’s too much! I thought. Too intense! And then I went back for another spoonful.

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My reason for trying molasses was this Ginger-Molasses Cake recipe from Bryant Terry’s excellent book The Inspired Vegan – I pared his down a little for simplicity (he includes walnuts that have been caramelised with further molasses, you should definitely consider following his lead there) but other than that the cake is entirely his and it is wonderful. Dense and intense, hefty and hearty yet light and springy, with the ginger’s rhizome heat and the baritone sweetness of the molasses and I swear, notes of chocolate appeared from somewhere. It’s incredible warm from the oven, and amazing after sitting in the fridge, the chill making it extra fudgy. And it takes about three minutes to mix together.

You know that feeling, when you can tell a recipe is going to be part of your life forever? A feeling almost as delicious as that which you just cooked? That’s this cake.

Ginger-Molasses Cake

Adapted very slightly from Bryant Terry’s recipe in his book The Inspired Vegan

  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup unsweetened rice milk
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a loaf tin with a sheet of baking paper.

2: Whisk the molasses, coconut oil, rice milk, apple cider vinegar, and salt together briskly. The coconut oil might form little clumps as it combines with the cold rice milk, which didn’t cause any issues – but if it puts you at ease you can gently microwave the mixture in fifteen second bursts to bring it all together. If you’re heating the liquids, do this before you add the vinegar.

3: Sift the flour and baking soda into a large bowl, and then stir in the sugar, ground ginger and walnuts.

4: Fold the liquid into the dry ingredients, stirring gently until just combined. Don’t worry if it’s a little lumpy or wet looking.

5: Spatula this mixture into your loaf tin, and bake for fifty minutes or until the top is springy and firm and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool for fifteen minutes before slicing, and store in an airtight container.

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music lately:

Love Is In The Air by John Paul Young. This, like Berlin’s Take My Breath Away, is from a highly specific genre – that possibly exists only in my head – of songs that are instantly, heart-poppingly euphoric, unflinchingly sincere, and bafflingly simple – I can’t think of anyone currently writing songs like this but I want to be proven wrong! Anyway, this song, with that come-hither disco beat, those iconic stair-step chords, the fact that he just repeats the title over and over and yet it sounds more profound every time? It’s a reward for being alive.

Emmenez-Moi, by Charles Aznavour. He was dubbed the French Frank Sinatra, although I personally pick up Scott Walker vibes – his voice ripples effortlessly over the music, I love the echoey, theatrical production, his deliciously glottal pronunciation, and the way the words speed up practically into patter at various intervals. Glorious! And without his jaunty Parce que tu crois we wouldn’t have Dr Dre’s What’s The Difference, so.

Next time: I was given some tiger nuts for Christmas and still haven’t tried them, it’s hard to tear my eyes away from what remains in the jar of molasses though.

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon.

look who’s here, I’m still here

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This time last year when my blog turned eleven I made a moderate fuss – a big chocolate cake that I ate with my best friends and a solemnly cogitative post about everything I’d learned from the moment I pressed send back in 2007 right up to that very second. This year I kind of completely forgot until literally just now, but that’s okay! Sometimes you’re Dewey Cox in Walk Hard singing a retrospective song that sums up your entire career, sometimes you’re Dewey Cox in Walk Hard telling his wife “I’m gonna miss some birthdays…I’m gonna miss some births, period.”

Nevertheless, let us take a moment, because if nothing else, twelve years is a ludicrously long time for a food blog to exist. Like, you can fit a WHOLE DECADE in there with wiggle room on either side. That’s so long ago technologically and culturally that it might as well be the 90s. Yes, I’ve hit some walls, and yes, only some of them were metaphorical. Yes, as I’ve said, I sometimes feel like the Velvet Underground of food blogs but instead of the six people who listened to them going on to form influential bands there’s just six people out there who have read this and then gone on to make a nice pilaff. Yes, it’s just a food blog, not War and Peace. The War and Peace of food blogs, perhaps? (I mean, I’ve never thought “that’s three hours I’ll never get back” about my own writing.)

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Last year to mark the occasion there was chocolate cake and entirely coincidentally I have a chocolate recipe for you this time as well. These Balsamic Triple Chocolate Squares were intended to be brownies but they’re just not quite there, texturally – you might feel differently and can call them what you like. They are nevertheless extremely delicious. The idea simply appeared in my head, fully formed, but based on the concept that balsamic vinegar and chocolate have pleasantly overlapping properties – inspired by another chocolate cake this year which was itself a variation on last year’s aforementioned celebratory chocolate cake – you know what, maybe this is on a level with War and Peace.

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The balsamic vinegar doesn’t override the strident flavour of the chocolate – how could it, when the chocolate is present threefold – but it has this kind of fruity juiciness which is wonderful alongside the rasping bitter edges of the cocoa, it almost, but not quite, tastes like some berries were involved. Any actual vinegary sourness is completely beveled off by all the sugar, but the pleasing complexity remains. It’s 2019 so I don’t know if we are still surprised that aquafaba, the brine from a can of chickpeas, is a useful ingredient – indeed, I made macarons with it this year – but in case this is new to you, the brine acts very similarly to egg whites and is thus a useful means to glue all the remaining ingredients together. As I said, I couldn’t in good conscience call these brownies, they’re just a little too cakey, although once they’re in your mouth the texture turns melting and dense. I can’t put that last sentence in a recipe title so chocolate squares they shall be. Most importantly, this recipe is as delicious as it is easy, and vice versa.

Balsamic Triple Chocolate Squares

A recipe by myself.

  • 150g dark chocolate (roughly a measuring cup full)
  • 4 tablespoons plain oil, such as rice bran
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup soy milk (or your preferred variant of this stuff)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup aquafaba (canned chickpea brine)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate drops (or just more dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a regular baking tin, the kind that you’d make this sort of thing in, you know the one I mean, with baking paper.

Melt the chocolate (I do a few 20 second bursts in the microwave.) While this is happening, stir the balsamic vinegar and soy milk together.

Thoroughly mix the brown sugar, white sugar, balsamic/soymilk mixture, oil and aquafaba into the melted chocolate. Sift in the salt, cocoa, flour and baking powder and then stir it in along with the chocolate drops or extra dark chocolate.

Spatula the lot into your baking tin, and bake for 35 minutes. Allow to cool for around ten minutes before slicing. Store in an airtight container.

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You might ask, Laura, what is your end game here? Are you like one of those shrews in that self-help book, Women Who Love Too Much, clinging on to a loveless unreciprocated relationship, because you’re too scared of doing anything different and don’t believe in yourself? And because I spend much of my time rehearsing powerful answers to hypothetical yet inevitable interviews, I would say: somehow, twelve years on I love hungryandfrozen.com more than ever and I imagine this will continue to extrapolate out with mathematical accuracy until my ecstatic food blogging is ceased only by the collapse of the earth itself. I am currently writing a novel, I would love to write another cookbook of some kind, I would like it if a new quantity of readers – numbering the population of a New York borough, perhaps – somehow found me. Is this blog a strange manifestation of my absolute tunnel vision, is it a work of art, is it a snake, asking whether eating its own tail is vegan? Whatever: I’m going to keep writing.

title from: I’m Still Here, the bitterly triumphant song from Sondheim’s musical Follies that eventually came to belong to Elaine Stritch, a woman as elegant and acidic as balsamic vinegar itself. I think I’ve earned the right to use it here (not least because Stritch is now dead and therefore can’t beat me up for being impudent.)

music lately:

A Mistake, by Fiona Apple. This song is so on point it’s puncturing me, I get actual shivers when she sings I’m gonna make a mistake, I’m gonna do it on purpose, the absolute swaggering recklessness of it all.

Work It Out, Monie Love. She’s so good, effortlessly getting the words out rapid-fire as though the crunchy beat were actually moving three times as slowly.

Next time: potentially time for me to finally try making seitan? Starting to think it might be like haircuts and mathematics, best done for me by other people.

PS: you might say, damn it Laura, now I’m impressed, what can I do after twelve years to show my sincere adoration of you? And I would say, first of all it’s an obvious horse to lead to water but sharing my blog around to anyone you think might like it is a lovely thing to do; if you want to support me even more directly there is of course my Patreon where you can join a discerning coterie of people who, for a modest monthly sum receive exclusive content from me.

I will look at you with the focus I gave to my birthday candles

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Guess who’s back? But also about to leave again? But also perhaps, in a way, never really left at all? But perhaps, in a more literal way, literally did leave? Also by “back” I mean, back in the city of Wellington? The answer to all these questions – to any question ever, in fact – is me. Like a beloved TV character who moved away because in real life they started to get movie roles but is contractually obliged to make occasional appearances, I’ve returned for a big party, in this case my dear friend Kate’s Russian Doll-themed 36th birthday. The thing about leaving your full time bartending job to move far far away to a rural village is that you still end up seeing your friends roughly the same amount anyway, but this visit did feel especially special since it has been a relatively long time since we’ve all been in the same area code and I’ve been missing them so much it sometimes feels like my heart is trying to relocate under badly-managed witness protection to my elbows, or something.

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Though I lack initiative, I do love being useful – it’s a real rare treat for me – so I jumped at the chance to help out by making a birthday cake. As you can see, the cake is decorated very specifically, that’s because I was emulating the cake that was actually visible in Russian Doll, (which is, to clarify, an incredible TV show on Netflix that you should absolutely watch.) This cake is quite similar to the one I made for the eleventh anniversary of hungryandfrozen.com last year, but I tweaked and simplified it a little and also – I’ll be honest with you – I just wanted something to blog about while I was down here in Wellington so am happy to opportunistically shoe-horn this in.

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Birthday Cake (aka, a simple vegan chocolate cake)

A recipe by myself.

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup good quality cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup soy milk or similar
  • 1/3 cup plain oil such as rice bran or sunflower
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or apple cider or malt vinegar, but balsamic goes beautifully with the chocolate)
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup (or similar eg maple syrup)
  • 1 cup cold water

Set your oven to 180C/350F. Use baking paper to line either one 22cm springform cake tin or two 20cm cake tins if you want layers. Or you can do what I did and make one big one, panic that it is overcooked, make a whole entire new one, realise the first one isn’t really overcooked, and then layer those up!

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the wet ingredients – I like to dig a hole in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the liquids into it – and then whisk together to form a thick batter.

Spatula the mixture into your chosen cake tin or tins. Bake for about 25 minutes if you’re making two small cakes, or around 40 minutes for one big one. However, this will depend on your oven – you may need more or less time. When the top is firm and bouncy, the cake is ready to come out.

Allow the cake to cool thoroughly then ice however you wish. For the white buttercream I used four tablespoons of olive oil-based vegan butter, two cups of icing sugar, and the juice of half a lemon, plus a tiny splash of strawberry essence. It didn’t make the icing taste of strawberry, but balanced out the flavour of the vegan butter really well somehow. It was honestly just a guess on my part, but it worked. I then melted 200g dark chocolate to pour over the top, this does set very hard though so I had to use a skewer to make indentations for the birthday candles to sit in.

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This cake is extremely low-effort to make – a real one-bowl affair – and it gives you a big, friendly, old-fashioned chocolate cake, the sort that everyone is always pleased to have a slice of. It’s moist and springy and rich but not ridiculous, just an old-timey proper cake that you could give to your grandmother, in fact, I did make it for my own grandmother’s 85th birthday in July. The hardest part was writing “happy birthday” on the top, I kept making the letters all wonky and then taking them off and eating them and then writing them even more wonkily, growing ever more frantic and sugar-riddled, but as you can see from the photos, I…eventually stopped doing this. Fortunately the party was not only dark, it was illuminated by a series of different-coloured lights, as per the aesthetic of Russian Doll itself, which the cake – indeed, all of us – definitely benefited from.

It was a wonderful party, so so good to see so many people I care about in one place and to celebrate the sweet birthday baby Kate while having an opportunity to dress up fancy and glue great quantities of glitter to my eyes – not so much call for that in the rural countryside.

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Guess who else is back! Ghost the dog’s modelling career, that’s who!

It’s sweet and strange and kind of wildly over-stimulating being back in the city that I spent thirteen years in, not least because it’s really easy to drink like three pints of strong filter coffee without realising, and I know if I blink too hard I’ll suddenly be very far away from it again, and I haven’t achieved half the things I meant to, but I am so so happy I got to spend time with the people I love, and to feed them cake, and then to hear them say that the cake was really delicious. That’s what friendship is all about.

title from: Love Ridden, by Fiona Apple. She really knows how to make a song that crawls all over you.

music lately:

Mariners Apartment Complex by Lana Del Rey. Hold onto your tear ducts, there’s a new Lana album. This song is so, so lovely and late-sixties sorrowful, it has these melodic echoes of numerous songs – one that leapt to mind was Never Learn Not To Love, the Beach Boys song that was originally a Charles Manson song. “They mistook my kindness for weakness” is a great line, “I’m your man” is a great line.

Waves, Normani feat 6LACK. This is dreamy and swoony and aerated and lush but with this crunchy bassline holding it down. It feels reminiscent of Mine by Beyoncé in its silky spaciousness, so if you like that song you’ll probably enjoy this, if you don’t like that song then I don’t know what to say to you to be honest!

The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss), by Cher. The sheer ebullience coming off this song is unreal. My friend Charlotte showed me the 1990 film Mermaids, which is where this song is from, and even though I’d never seen the film before I also felt in my bones that I’d watched it once a week since I was five years old, you know those kind of instantly comforting films? I also recommend the original 1964 version of this song by Betty Everett, it’s gorgeous.

Next time: Not sure, but I’ll be back in the countryside, and I’m STILL looking for a good seitan recipe!

PS If you derive any particular enjoyment from my writing, there exists the shrewd business opportunity to support me directly on Patreon. A dollar a month gets you exclusive blog posts, two dollars a month gets you that plus further exclusive content and access to everything I’ve already written this year. It’s easy, and it’s extremely appreciated!

yesterday I woke up sucking on a lemon

 

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If you thought my Old Fashioned Lemonade recipe a few weeks ago used up the bulk of the lemon supply then you are deeply mistaken; I live in the countryside now and lemons are like, how we communicate. If you shake someone’s hand and there’s not a lemon that has been furtively passed from person to person via that handshake it’s tantamount to a slap in the face. If you wake up and there’s not a bushel of lemons anonymously placed in your letterbox then you might as well move to a new province. People will give you lemons soon as look at you. People will give you lemons and then you’ll give those lemons back to the giver in the form of lemonade. I’m exaggerating for comic effect, but only slightly. Am I exaggerating about how slightly I’m exaggerating though? Slightly.

Anyway, when mum mentioned that it might be nice to have something baked for a quickly-pending afternoon tea drop-in; I was like right, that sounds like my idea of fun, but what: it has to be something reliable, delicious, and that uses existing abundant resources since there’s no shops nearby to get ingredients from. Naturally: the answer was lemons. To be specific, this lemon syrup cake, which is wonderfully delicious and impressively big, mixes together in five seconds, and can be served still-warm from the oven to your arriving guests – although given time to cool its flavour and texture is even better.

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This recipe is adapted from one I blogged about seven years ago; that recipe was adapted from one I found on a site that appears to no longer exist; so while today’s cake is basically my own I had some help getting there, I’m just not sure who from anymore. Since I first blogged about it in 2011 I’ve made numerous versions of it and have found it to be a most versatile and resilient cake – it can adapt to any tin shape or size, lasts for days and everyone always loves it. And it happens to be vegan, which like is not necessarily something I need to announce at this point aside from the fact that my Google SEO is already so woeful, so let me just be clear, person to algorithm: this is a vegan lemon syrup cake.

My aim with this iteration was to make a traditional style iced/lemon drizzle cake, but I was thwarted by the whole lack of proximity to shops thing: we only had a bare amount of icing sugar left, so I had to switch tactics and make a syrup instead. In the end I think it worked out for the best, because we could eat the cake right away and the syrup made everything stickily luscious, and once cooled the sugar granules formed a wonderful crunchy carapace on the cake’s surface.

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Vegan Lemon Syrup Cake

A recipe by myself

  • 1 x 400g can coconut cream (or coconut milk if it’s all you can find)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • the zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Syrup

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons icing sugar
  • zest of a lemon, to garnish

Set your oven to 180C/350F, lightly grease a 22cm springform cake tin and line the base with baking paper.

Whisk together the coconut cream, sugar, lemon juice and zest, oil and vanilla till combined. Sieve in the remaining ingredients and stir briskly to form a thick batter.

Spatula the batter into the caketin and bake for around 1 hour although you might need longer – I found this took precisely one hour and 5 minutes and I covered it loosely with tinfoil from around 50 minutes in to make sure the top didn’t brown too much.

To make the syrup, bring the lemon juice and sugars to a good robust simmer in a small pan, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat.

Remove the cake from the tin and transfer to a serving plate. Stab the cake with a skewer in several places and spoon over the syrup (you may not require all of it.) Sprinkle over the second lot of lemon zest. Ideally allow the cake to cool completely before serving, but it is good warm – just be aware that if you do it might get a bit crumbly/fragile, so proceed with caution. Once it’s cooled it becomes a lot more solid.

Although there’s an entire can of coconut cream in the cake the flavour is barely discernible, it’s just a lemon hegemony from first slice to last. However, you could point up this aspect by stirring through a cup or so of shredded coconut into the batter before baking; there are also any number of other directions you could take this in: lemongrass in the syrup, blueberries in the batter, different citrus juice – although if you’re using orange juice on its own I’d add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar just to make sure the necessary acid content is present. If you have any food-grade citrus essential oils a drop of one or two of them in the syrup once it’s removed from the heat is a very good idea; you could also let the cake cool completely and pour over the lemon icing that I never managed to make. Finally, leftover slices are great heated up and served with ice cream, tasting comfortingly like a steamed pudding.

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Lemons!

Now that I have your attention; allow me to take you on a brief tour of where you can find me on the internet other than here: upon gloomily discovering that Campari isn’t vegan I wrote about some different options for fans of the classic Negroni cocktail for Tenderly; I also for Tenderly tried making the best mac and cheese that I could conceive of motivated entirely by the tweet of a celebrity. I also wrote a piece that I’m very proud of about Catherine O’Hara’s singular performance as Moira Rose on Schitt’s Creek for The Spinoff. Finally, I wrote a blog post about caramel walnut slice for my Patreon subscribers; if you wish to access it you can do so for one literal dollar, doing so will also directly support me and my writing.

title from:

Everything In Its Right Place by Radiohead, from their 2000 album Kid A which is my absolute favourite of theirs but also, I freely admit, the last new album of theirs that I’ve actually listened to. This song is amazing, somehow foreboding yet feeling like the sun rising at the same time.

music lately:

Young Ones Everywhere by Stephanie, as in, Princess Stephanie of Monaco, daughter of Grace Kelly. Turns out she was a singer for a while in the 80s and while I’m not sure if she’s the most technically gifted vocalist, her music is GREAT, like, with a dusting of highlighter this song – coldly synthy and vaguely yearning despite its fairly pointless lyrics – could literally be Carly Rae Jepsen.

Change The Beat, by Fab Five Freddy, and its famous b-side, both equally magnetic with languid French rapping over a lush, lush beat.

Give It To Me, Miya Folick. My dear friend Kate recommended this to me and it’s…perfect. Emotional in a combative way, sorrowful in a wild-eyed way.

Next time: I’m really keen on making my own seitan but can’t seem to find a definitive through line in the recipes I’ve seen online, so if anyone can recommend me one I would be most appreciative!

if you want a banana republic that much why don’t you go move to one

Before I get further into anything I extremely invite you to read Protect Ihumātao’s website to learn about the incredibly important occupation of the land happening right now; if you are feeling unfamiliar, this story by Leonie Hayden from 2017 for NZ Geographic is excellent for further background and context to this ongoing journey. There is also an ActionStation page where you can donate to the cause. Ngā mihi nui!

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Nigella Lawson often, when questioned, says that greed is her chief inspiration for recipe creation. I’m sure I must’ve been asked this at some point around the time my first cookbook came out, but these days I’m more at the daydreaming-potential-answers-to-future-interviews stage of renown, which is like, literally fine, although I wish I could apply my perpetual preparedness to be interviewed to being prepared in even one other aspect of my life. Anyway, if someone were to ask me, I completely agree with Nigella on the greed front, I just think of what I want to eat and then I make that a recipe. My secondary inspiration is probably that if someone on a TV show or movie that I’m watching mentions a food enough times I will get it in my head that I want to make it; but also significantly, I often derive inspiration from seeing people I am friendly with tweeting about food and being like “this is my BUSINESS,” such as the vegan carne adovada that I made earlier this year after seeing such a tweet.

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A few days ago my good friend Jen tweeted asking what the best vegan banana bread recipe was and I was like wow, I don’t know how to answer that, and I feel like I should, so I’m going to do something about it. (I’m only just realising now that I didn’t actually look at any of the recipes linked in other replies to her tweet, I instead just assumed I was the person to provide the definitive recipe and in turn response to her question. Upon reflection I guess I remain unchanged on that opinion?) The difference between a banana cake and banana bread is pretty much lost on me – aside from banana bread being made in a loaf tin – but if pressed for an answer – in an interview situation, perhaps – I would assert that it’s generally a little denser than the cake version and I wouldn’t expect it to be iced.

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This recipe has a fairly traditional-baked-good vibe to it, which is what I wanted – no dates masquerading as sugar content here, just actual sugar. No disrespect, but sometimes vegan baking recipes feel like they’re being blackmailed by a company that sells dates, you know what I mean? It’s light and moist but also firm with a springy crumb, and easily sliced into thick slabs – which are perfect alongside a cup of tea. You could consider folding in a couple of handfuls of walnuts or dark chocolate pieces, or the zest of a lemon, but I love it just as it is, with the sweetness of the bananas offset by the warmth of cinnamon.

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Banana Bread

A recipe by myself

  • 3 medium bananas (roughly 1 1/2 cups chopped banana)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons rice bran oil or similar plain oil
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup (or maple syrup, or similar)
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt

Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a loaf tin with baking paper. By which I mean just shove a large rectangle of baking paper in there as best you can.

Place the bananas in a large mixing bowl and mash them thoroughly with a fork or wooden spoon or whatever. Mix in the sugar, milk, vinegar, vanilla, oil, and golden syrup. Sieve the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into the bowl, and then gently fold it all together. Spatula all this into the loaf tin, and bake for around 50 minutes, or until a knife or skewer inserted in comes out clean.

Note: the first time I made this I only used 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon, the second time round I put in heaps more and I think it tasted better for it but obviously your own feelings around cinnamon are perfectly welcome to override mine if you make this yourself.

I guess only future history books will tell us if this is indeed a definitive banana bread recipe but till then I am definitively delighted with it, which is hopefully enough of a push for you to make it too. It’s very easy, just a one-bowl affair, and it keeps well. If you don’t like bananas I can’t help you there but you should know that this isn’t overwhelmingly banana-y, just comfortingly delicious.

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Speaking of comfortingly delicious, if you wish to support me and my writing directly it’s very easy and minimal-exertion-y to do so through my Patreon account, where your assiduousness will be rewarded with content written just for you.

title from: Stars and Stripes of Corruption by Dead Kennedys, this is an uncharacteristically long but nevertheless excellent song of theirs which ducks and dives through time signatures with lyrics which – sorry for being super obvious – are still timely.

music lately:

You Don’t Have to Cry by Emma Ruth Rundle, from her album On Dark Horses. I actually started listening to her music because Minka, who also inspired the vegan carne adovada, tweeted about it, and I am the highly suggestible type! I’m so happy I am though, this album is stunning, intense and metallic and hard and soft all at the same time, I love it. You Don’t Have to Cry is the final song on the album and it’s just lush, the sort of song you should hear while lying on the floor of a barn or in a car as the sun sets right in your eyes.

Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man, by Oscar-winning actress and singer Miyoshi Umeki. This is from her 1956 album Miyoshi Sings to Arthur Godfrey which features American standards and torch songs, sung in a mixture of Japanese and English in her gorgeous warm voice, including this truly beautiful interpretation of the Kern/Hammerstein classic.

Next time: I ordered myself Rachel Ama’s cookbook as a present to myself for reasons I will work out later – perhaps if asked during an interview context – and can’t wait to explore it. I imagine you’ll be seeing recipes from it on here before very long.

which definitely is as exciting as pudding

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Christmas is approaching with all of the endlessly slow then suddenly in-your-face manner of, oh, to pluck an allegory from the air, the Golden Bangkok pre-amble to One Night In Bangkok from the musical Chess, you know the one, you’re like “oh nice, an overture to open the second act, that’s reasonable” and then after a while you’re like “they’re really just … going to repeat that third movement again” and after a while it’s like “look, when will we ever get to hear Murray Head attempting to rap somewhat incongruously in the middle of this sung-through musical?!” and then suddenly there’s a flurry of violins and there he is rhyming “oyster” with “cloister” and then it’s over! With all this in mind, I made up a pudding recipe for Christmas Day.

But first: I have not been feeling entirely like myself lately, I would say in fact pretty definitively that it has been, in fact, what would appear to the casual observer to be something approaching a depressive episode; the casual observer might follow up by saying “but Laura? Why? Everything appeared to being going fairly wonderfully, perhaps more wonderful than you’d ever dared to be possible and full of more possibilities than you could ever dare wonder, how on earth could you be feeling so down?” And I would reply “well that’s more of a fervent observation than a casual observation but I relish the attention nonetheless.” I would then say, “I’ll tell you why it is so, that I’m feeling kind of blank and absent and not inclined to do much other than lie in bed and watch Frasier. I’ll tell you exactly why.”

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The reason is: you just cannot predict when it’s going to happen, no matter how much trust and faith you put into your current situation, no matter how tightly you hold onto that handful of sand, no matter how long the overture to One Night In Bangkok goes on for, sometimes it just surprises you by not being that thing anymore with all the speed and subtlety of a brick thrown into a bowl of jelly. Now, what I am not saying is that you should go through life with your trust dried out and hardened like an old piece of bread just in case you start to feel down. Please, continue to enjoy a moment without suspicion. I’m just saying, sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down. It is what it is. And while it is what it is, I found myself also feeling like, completely furious about it. I went from never better to better never and I didn’t want to cook or write and that was so infuriating to have these two things that are so crucial to my existence not available to me.

But anyway – because (a) it’s Christmas and I would like to bring this jingle-bell curve upwards and (b) because there is more to the story than me being intermittently subdued or incandescent with rage: I came up with a recipe! Which I believe is absolutely a sign of getting better. And now I’m writing about it! Cooking and writing! And indeed, before you get too worried (another thing I’m mad about: now I have to worry people? That’s so far down the list on my preferred forms of attention!) I genuinely am on the up and up and have been doing lots of good good things to augment my festiveness: my best friends Kim and Kate came over and we drank bubbles to toast 2/3 of us finishing work for the year; I’ve been watching Christmas episodes of my favourite television shows; I’ve been listening to the Christmas albums of various Broadway stars; I’ve done my Christmas shopping; I went to my work Christmas party and danced in the sun for roughly yet literally four hours straight and it felt really, really, really good.

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AND there’s this Christmas Sticky Toffee Pudding! Which I made up out of nowhere! And it’s unbelievably delicious! It’s also a pretty straightforward concept: just regular sticky toffee pudding but with some Christmas elements added to make it aggressively seasonal, yet I cannot express how much of a crowd-pleaser it is. By way of illustration: on the day that I made it last week, a friend had come to visit on her way to therapy and we sat there just looking at it and I was like “tbh I’m too depressed to eat, do you want some?” and she was like “honestly I’m too anxious to eat, no thanks.” And so we carried on looking at it. But then, bolstered, united, and probably with a sense of friendly obligation on the part of precisely one of us, we decided to share a slice and agreed that it did indeed taste fantastic! That’s how good it is. So caramelly and butterscotchy and (*checks thesaurus*) caramelly! So dense and rich! So (*checks Nigella*) redolent of Christmas! (Nigella uses that word a lot, that’s the joke.)

Christmas Sticky Toffee Pudding

A recipe by myself

  • 1 cup dates, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup prunes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup/250ml boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (or neutral vegetable oil)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon allspice (optional tbh)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or similar)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 and 1/3 cups plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa

Toffee Sauce

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk (look for one with 80% or higher coconut extract)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons custard powder (or cornflour) mixed with two tablespoons cold water

Set your oven to 180C/350F and lightly grease an oven dish, you know, one of those standard sized ones that you might bake a pudding or brownies in?

Place the dates, cranberries, prunes, baking soda and water in a large mixing bowl and allow to sit for five minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients, with the flour and cocoa last (and consider sifting them, I reckon) and spatula the lot into the baking dish. Bake for 30-45 minutes – it will depend on your oven – until the centre springs back when you press lightly on it and a knife or skewer inserted comes out clean. Cover the edges with tinfoil if they seem to be browning too much while the centre is still uncooked. Again, depends on your oven.

While the pudding is in the oven, get started on the sauce. Tip the coconut milk, brown sugar, golden syrup, salt, and cinnamon stick into a saucepan and bring to a good solid simmer. Allow to bubble away very gently over a low heat for half an hour, swirling occasionally and scraping down the sides with a spatula if need be. Once the time is up, remove the pan from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick. Stir in the custard/water mixture. When the pudding comes out of the oven, stab it several times with a skewer or knife – whatever you’ve been using to check its done-ness – and pour over roughly a third or so of the sauce. Transfer the rest of the sauce to a jug for people to pour over as they please.

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Obviously cranberries are super Christmassy, I also feel the warmth of cinnamon drifting through the toffee sauce and the intensity of all the spices in the pudding itself offer that let-it-snow cosiness which I somehow feel impelled to conjure up despite the sweatingly intense heat of a New Zealand mid-summer Yule. Now, the prunes, they’re honestly just there because I happened to have some; you could leave them out and up the cranberries, or you could include some raisins or sultanas for a more fruitcake buzz. You could consider a splash of brandy or rum in the sauce, or the cake, or your mouth, to add to the general festivity, and you could also consider not worrying at all about the fact that this recipe happens to be vegan: it tastes fulsome and rewarding and abundant and like pudding should.

This morning I, the prodigal son, the fatted calf, am flying up to stay with my family and spend Christmas with them for the first time in a few years, and I am honestly extremely excited to cook this for everyone, and! To relive the traditions of a Christmas at home: seeing the tree decorations from my childhood, listening to the old Disney and Tin Lids and Bing Crosby albums, being studiously, ruthlessly ignored by the cats. As for you, I hope you also have a wonderful time however you observe the holiday: casually or fervently.

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title from: Sam, a mellow ballad as lethargically slow-moving as toffee sauce from my absolute favourites, Meat Puppets.

music lately:

I started watching this musical TV show called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and while I tend to be cautious in terms of receptiveness to parody musical numbers the absolute homework that went into this show is genuinely extraordinary, it’s like, scholarly when it comes to musical references. The title refrain from West Covina, the song the lead character Rebecca sings about deciding on a whim to move cities in the hopes of running into a guy she used to date is really very beautiful. (I also recommend the impeccable Marilyn-ness on The Math of Love Triangles. and I think I also learned some maths from it?)

Mudhoney, Into the Drink. Good energy.

Velvet Underground, Heroin. As utterly bewitching as it is useful as a unit of time to sternly instruct yourself to clean your room for the duration thereof.

Next time: I’m going to try to blog again before the end of the year and also just generally continue hurtling ever upwards on a one-horse open trebuchet!

hold on tight, hold on eleven, this is paradise

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This blog post marks a relatively special occasion: Hungry and Frozen, this very blog that you’re reading, turned ELEVEN years old on Sunday. I’m proud of myself, sure, but I’m also astonished. I mean, I’m always astonished by the passage of time, in that push-pull kind of way (y’know, HOW is it October already but also HOW is it only 8.03pm I swear the clock said 8.07pm before) but eleven years? Doing one thing? Were you even born eleven years ago? Frankly, I doubt it.

As I stand majestically upon this precipice, surveying all that I have done, I acknowledge there’s only so much looking back one can do – and don’t honestly have anything particularly deep or clever to offer you in summarisation of my life up until this point. But I did reread my first blog posts and was struck by how breezily carefree I was and just how much I cooked and blogged: in October 2007 alone I did twenty three blog posts in fifteen days, a hilarious quantity, really. It was hardcore stuff too: pavlova and steamed pudding and marinated ribs and choux pastry and madeleines. Present-day me could do well to be inspired by the sheer drive of then-me, time-rich though I was.

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In the first post I pressed publish upon I asked “does the world need another food blog? There are millions! With really classy photographs as well! What on earth do I have to offer the world?” This was before Pinterest, before Instagram, before influencers, before videos of anonymous hands making recipes all over Facebook, before chiaroscuro or people dropping crumbs everywhere in their food photography, before Momofuku Milk Bar, before the recession – in fact I’m not sure what actually was around, come to think of it. Polka dots were big, if I remember correctly, and we were all getting into cupcakes?

Since then I’ve learned so much: how to take a photograph; how to write through literally anything happening in my personal life; to not be so righteous or else I’ll regret that I called vodka soda “a sneeringly dry drink” nine years ago; that if I refer vaguely to us all “reeling from the events this week” I will have absolutely no idea what I was talking about six weeks later especially in this rapid news cycle life that we’re stuck in; that if you hear me say something amusing in real life you’re probably going to read it repeated here because I only have so much material; and to write like I’m the most relevant and celebrated food blogger on earth even if there’s only one person in the audience. I mean where I stand currently, on this relatively fallow ground, it’s by no means a high point in my blogging career and it does weigh upon me heavily sometimes. But I’m also feeling happy and creative for the first time in ages, and I think that’s what I should be inspired by from eleven years ago: neither the quantity nor the quality, but the sheer confidence that someone out there wanted to read my writing and therefore I was going to throw my heart and soul into writing nonstop for them. And if I kept writing like that, if it was that good, surely more people would want to read it. Something I hope is still true.

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What care I for the obviousness of a cake to mark a milestone; especially when it’s as incredibly delicious as this one. The champagne is a celebratory conceit but really does add something to the buttercream – a certain biscuity minerality (which sounds horrible but…trust me.) I tend to avoid putting inaccessible ingredients in my recipes and acknowledge that this one contains not just the champagne – which was a gift, I can’t imagine just owning some – but also freeze-dried passionfruit, which gives this eye-wateringly intense blast of sour passionfruit flavour and is almost irreplaceable. If it comes down to it though: I’d replace both the champagne and the passionfruit powder with a few tablespoons of strained passionfruit syrup, it won’t have the aggressive flavour but will undoubtedly still taste good.

Chocolate Maple Cake with Champagne Passionfruit Buttercream

A recipe by myself

Cake:

  • 1 and 3/4 cups plain flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or similar non-dairy milk)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (not extra virgin – or just use plain vegetable oil)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Champagne Passionfruit Buttercream

  • 3 tablespoons good vegan butter (I used Nuttelex Buttery)
  • 4 tablespoons freeze-dried passionfruit powder
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons champagne
  • 3 and 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • a pinch of salt 

Set your oven to 180C/350F. Line the base of two 20cm springform cake tins with baking paper.

Stir all your dry ingredients together in a large bowl – the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, and baking soda – so everything is completely dispersed and free of clumps.

Carefully pour in the water, golden syrup, oil, vanilla, almond milk and vinegar and fold the ingredients together gently till it’s just combined.

Divide this mixture between the two cake tins, using a spatula to scrape out every last bit. Make a swirl in the batter with the end of a spoon (or indeed, your finger) – apparently this helps it to rise evenly and flatly and I’m not sure if I truly believe it but it doesn’t hurt to try.

Bake the cakes for 25 minutes or until they’re both springy and a skewer prodded into the centre comes out clean.

Allow both cakes to cool completely.

For the buttercream, I find it easiest to use a food processor, but a bowl and spoon is by no means the end of the world. Blitz the butter, passionfruit powder, and icing sugar together, and then add the champagne and process again to make a thick, smooth, pale-golden icing. Add more champagne if it’s too thick, but only a little at a time.

Place one of the cakes on a serving plate, and brush half the maple syrup over it with a pastry brush. Spoon a large dollop of the buttercream onto the centre of the cake and use the flat side of a knife to spread it evenly over the surface. Place the second cake on top and repeat with the remaining maple syrup and most of the remaining icing, leaving some to patch up any spaces inbetween the layers. I do this by scooping up icing with the knife and running it around the curves of the cake’s sides. I then run the knife under hot water and run it around the sides again to make sure the layer of icing in the middle is thick and flattened while the cake layers themselves are relatively clean. It doesn’t matter though: the icing and cake will both taste good no matter how it looks.

Dot with sprinkles if you wish, and dust over a little more passionfruit powder. And that’s your cake.

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But nevermind what’s left out of it, let’s talk about what’s in it: this cake is rich and dense but fluffy and springy and moist and has an old fashioned taste to it – the sort of chocolate cake that storybook characters would tuck into. There’s a slightly nutty flavour from the oil and maple syrup (although hell, leave the syrup out too if you’re really strapped for cash, I know I am) and the dark, soft chocolate layers contrast beautifully with the shivers-down-the-spine tartness of the passionfruit. And it’s so easy to make – some idle stirring is all that’s required. While it uses a lot of cocoa powder this cake would be an ideal go-to recipe iced however you want – if you’re the sort of person that is in enough cake-related situations to require a go-to. On top of that, this cake really lasts – three days after making it, it’s still as soft and rich as it was on day one.

Eleven years ago I hadn’t yet met my two best friends Kim and Kate and I can’t even quantify in words or describe with statistics the effect they’ve had on me since. Needless to say there was no better people to share this cake, and the remaining champagne, with, so that’s what I spent the afternoon of this blog’s eleventh birthday doing. As far as reading about it goes though, why, there’s no one I’d want more to do that than you.

title from: Paradise, by Meat Puppets. I love the Meat Puppets so much and have absolutely nothing amusing to say about them.

music lately:

Cornelius Bros and Sister Rose, Too Late To Turn Back Now. That “I believe I believe I believe I believe” bit is just lovely.

The Sacred Harp Singers, I’m Going Home. I did not care for the movie Cold Mountain but it did at least introduce me to the Sacred Harp Singers, who perform – naturally – sacred harp singing, which is like…hymns but as discordant walls of sound crashing about your ears all at once. It’s hard to explain but when I watched this particular recording of the aforementioned song being sung at a convention I genuinely cried from the enormity of it and have listened to little else since. So put in some headphones and turn up the volume and see what happens, is my recommendation and opinion both. (There’s quite a bit of it on Spotify and I enjoy the existence of the album entitled New Years Eve at the Iveys’, 1972. Now, December 31, 1972 was in fact a Sunday and I love the idea of the sheer stone-faced Biblicality overriding any seasonal festivity. “What are we doing this New Years? Same thing we do every Sunday: we’ll stand in a square barking hymns discordantly at each other, and you’re a giddy and frivolous infidel for considering otherwise.”)

Decemberists, The Infanta. I’ve been rewatching Mad Men, and as they say in the Youtube comments, “Mad Men brought me here” when the song was used at the start of one of its episodes. The sprinting drums and use of the word “palanquin” though!

(I didn’t start this format of listing music I’d been listening to until April 2009, and the first songs – with absolutely zero commentary – were Mad Tom of Bedlam by Jolie Holland, Let Me Drown by Idina Menzel and Brian D’Arcy James from the off-Broadway Musical The Wild Party, and Farmer John by Neil Young. All of which hold up well, although I did in the same breath claim to “love music with a dark passion” so you can’t win everything.)

Next time: I used all my mental capacity coming up with this week’s one, but it’ll be good, if eleven years has taught us anything it’s that we can all be certain of this. 

PS: A dedicated fistful of people read this post already on Sunday evening – okay, Monday morning, but it should’ve been Sunday – and if you wish to be part of this enclave who receive my posts sent to their inbox first every week, sign up here. (On the other hand, the distance between that send-out and this post being published gave me room to add even more enthusiastic Sacred Harp Singing content, a trinket that you may or may not consider a reward for your patient waiting.)