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Chocolate and Cherries, a dairy-free birthday cake

June 17, 2010

When T told me she was no longer eating dairy, I was horrified, for she is one of the people who eats a lot of the cakes I make. It has become easier to deal with, I keep one eye open for recipes that are diary-free and now stock soya margarine in my fridge for times I need a butter replacement. Somehow, quite accidentally, most of what I bake has become dairy-free.

Tomorrow T is having a birthday party, a little late, having ignored her actual birthday because she was in the middle of finals. She asked me to make a cake for her birthday, and I was happy to oblige, but she had specific requirements: her original wish, chocolate and beetroot cake failed miserably. In order to make a cake that didn’t taste too strongly of beetroot I had to tone the beetroot down to a point where there was no longer any point on putting it in.

We finally settled on a chocolate and cherry cake, not quite summery, as a June birthday cake should be, but cherries are definitely seasonal.

The hard thing with dairy free baking, is not the cake, but the icing. For this kind of cake I’d normally make butter cream or chocolate ganache. The water-chocolate icing I made set as I was icing the cake, which was a pain, and I ended up having to remake the icing. By the time I put the cherries on top, the icing was pretty much set, so they were precariously balanced rather than set into the icing. I wouldn’t make this icing if I wasn’t trying to make a diary free icing, it tastes ok, but nothing more.

Chocolate cake

adapted from Devil’s Food Cake from Green and Black’s ‘Unwrapped’

This is half the Green and Black’s recipe, it will make a 2 layer, 8-inch cake.

I made 3 times this recipe for a very large 4 layer cake.

220g self-raising flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

55g cocoa powder

210g cold water

110g soya margarine

250g caster sugar

1tbsp kirsch

smooth apricot jam

Preheat oven to 180˚C

Sift together the bicarb, salt and flour. Blend the cocoa powder and cold water together to form a smooth paste.

Cream margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat the eggs into the margarine and sugar. Stir in the flour and cocoa powder paste.

Divide between 2 lined and greased tins, and bake for 25-30 minutes.

When cool, fill and cover the cake with apricot jam.


200g icing sugar

150g dark chocolate, melted

cold water.

1/2 tbsp kirsch

100g grated or curled dark chocolate

Beat together melted chocolate, kirsch and icing sugar with enough water to make a smooth, but thick icing.

Ice the cake quickly, before the icing sets, and press chocolate shavings into the sides of the cake whilst the icing is still soft.

Scatter cherries over the top

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