Cakes, General how to's & recipes, Recipe Books, Vegan Baking

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes (using Babycakes’ ‘Red Velvet’ recipe)

Vegan baking is all new to me.  I’ve tried one experimental piece so far and made a remarkable discovery: how to make edible Frisbees.  The recipe I used for my next attempt was from the stunning Babycakes book by Erin McKenna (founder of the hot and happening Babycakes in New York).  Take a peek inside the book at  (you’ll also find some excellent answers to frequently asked questions about vegan baking).

I used the red velvet cupcakes recipe but left out the red food colouring, allowing for ‘vegan chocolate cupcakes’.  Here is my adapted version, ingredients are highlighted in bold (I often re-write recipes so that it’s easier to measure up as I go along):


  • Pour ½ cup rice milk and 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar into a bowl and allow to rest without stirring, thus allowing it to change into ‘buttermilk’
  • Whisk 3 ¼ cups spelt flour, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda and 2 teaspoons of salt in a bowl
  • Add 2/3 cup coconut oil (melt it before you measure), 1 ¼ cup agave nectar and 2 tablespoons vanilla extract and mix into a thick batter
  • Cut in the ‘buttermilk’ gently, stir until just combined
  • Slowly add 5 tablespoons red food colouring until colour is correct (don’t use more than 6 tablespoons)


  • Pour 1/3 cup batter into each, almost filling each of 24 paper liners placed in 2 x 12 cup muffin tins
  • Bake at 180 degrees Celsius on the centre rack for 24 minutes
  • Rotate the tins 180 degrees after 14 minutes
  • Test for readiness – the cupcake should bounce back when gently touched or a tester should come out clean
  • Allow the cupcakes to cool for 20 minutes (leave them in the tins)
  • Place them on a wire rack until completely cool


  • For the icing:
    • Blend 1 ½ cups soy milk, ¾ cup dry soy milk powder, 1 tablespoon coconut flour, ¼ cup agave nectar, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract for TWO MINUTES
    • Trickle in 1 ½ cups coconut oil and 2 tablespoons lemon juice (alternate)
    • Pour the icing into an airtight container (will keep for a month)
    • Spread one tablespoon of vanilla icing over each cupcake
    • Store in an airtight container (will be good in the fridge for 3 days)

I used rice milk and rice powder instead of soy for the frosting.  I also experimented with Baobab fruit powder instead of using coconut flour (couldn’t find any!). 

The final touch was to sprinkle dried coconut shavings onto the iced cupcakes (pictured bottom left in the photo below) for my writers’ group meeting in Betty’s Bay.

For the record, I mistook the coconut oil for a glass of water and forgot to put it into the batter.  Learning: oil-full cupcakes  have a lot going for them!

General how to's & recipes, Patisserie / Pastry, Recipe Books

Great(ed) Apple Pie

'Homebaking' by the harbour with 'simplest apple pie'...


I found this beautiful book the other day: Home Baking.  It’s written by a husband and wife team, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid who are known for their award winning book Hot Sour Salty Sweet.  Sub-titled ‘the artful mix of flour and tradition around the world’, it’s a treat for the eye and the imagination as it shares recipes and photographs collected by the couple on their travels.  They’ve also included some of their favourite home-based recipes. 

The book is divided into pastry (tarts, pies & pastries), bread (festive, family, artisan), smaller breads (rolls, bagels, sweet buns, skillet breads, pancakes, flatbreads, crackers), cakes & cookies (everyday, fancy, cookies).  Jeffrey and Naomi celebrate the tradition of home baking and the idea of enjoying it, taking your time about it, doing things your own way at your own pace without chasing any ideas of perfection – ‘going relaxedly into the kitchen to make bread or a batch of cookies, knowing that you can and that it’s an easy, rewarding thing to do…’  

Baking is seen as an art not a science and there is plenty of opportunity to play and experiment.  I gave their first recipe a bash this morning ‘the simplest apple pie’ – for my sister and her family: 

For the pastry, mix 2 cups all purpose flour with ½ cup sugar while separately mixing 12 tablespoons of soft, cubed unsalted butter with 3 tablespoons of sour cream and 2 large egg yolks.  Combine the butter mix into the flour – mix together with a wooden spoon. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, should you wish.  Work out the lumps with your fingers until the mixture resembles ‘a coarse cornmeal texture’.  Add 1-3 tablespoons of cold water until the dough combines into a solid mass.  Wrap in plastic and place in the fridge to rest. 

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F (I put my oven on 180 degrees C). 

For the filling, coarsely grate 8 medium/large apples (8 cups) and add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and sugar to taste (not too sweet).   Mix well. 

Roll out half the pastry (about ¼ of an inch thick) and line a greased baking tray (about 8 inch square).  Pile the grated apple on top (I squeezed out the excess juices) and crumb (or grate) the remaining pastry on top so that the apples are well covered.  (I used a smaller rectangular quiche tin and had pastry left over which I’ve stored in the fridge for the time being). 

Bake until the pastry is golden brown (about an hour).  Serve with cream or ice-cream at room temperature or hot out of the oven (leave for a little while to allow the juices to settle). 

The pie smelled scrumptious and I set off to deliver it to my sister as soon as it had cooled down a little… only to discover that nobody was home.  I left the pie in their kitchen on a beautiful wooden board as a surprise but have yet to hear how it tasted… I hope it’s great!

Recipe Books

Books to feast your eyes on…


Our collection of cookery books is alive and well and our ‘bookshelves’ seem to be taking on a life of their own, growing organically and rapidly everywhere (something like the natural ferments we’re busy experimenting with at chef school)…  Hmmmm, a reflection of what I do in my spare time  – spending forgotten hours at Exclusive Books getting triple doses of inspiration (never mind double doses of espresso from Seattle Coffee Shop next door)…

If you had to pop in now, you’d find cookery books on the coffee table, spread out across the 14 seater dining table, lining one of the walls of the kitchen and spilling off the counter, next to the bed and on the bed… the upside of flu, if ever there was one, is that one can lie in bed all day paging through delicious creations as I’m doing today (inbetween sipping on vitamin C drinks).

Crust – Bread to get your teeth into by Richard Bertinet has left an impression on me that is strange indeed.  As I closed my eyes to go to sleep earlier, I found myself dreaming of a sourbread loaf!  I watched his dvd last night (that comes with the book) and felt myself falling into a deeper understanding of dough and now have an urgent need to get my hands sticky/gooey/doughy/floury as soon as I am over this flu.

The book is beautiful and is a must if you’re into making bread, as is his book ‘Dough’.

In Crust, Richard takes one on a journey of making one’s own ferment (yeast) and demonstrates his technique of ‘working the dough’, somewhat different to ‘kneading’… whereby he lifts the dough and flaps it over, trapping air into the mix as he folds it down again.  He explains why so many people have a ‘bread or wheat allergy’.  He advises not to cut bread out of your diet before you’ve looked at what KIND of bread you’re eating…

Baking One Step At A Time by Marianne Magnier-Moreno is simple and sophisticated in its presentation of what goes into making dishes… and how.  Chef’s eye-view photos are brilliantly laid out so that one barely has to read the recipe.  Marianne gives us a lovely version of Saint Hanore Choux – all dressed up in pink and white.  She shows you how to make the choux pastry and profiteroles in a one-step-at-a-time way (without all the wordiness that you’ll find in my  ‘how to…’!).

The World’s Best Restaurants – The S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards is a great gift for foodie friends.  I bought it to get an idea of the philosophies, inspirations and guiding principles of the top chefs and restaurants… great to see that Jardines in Bree Street is mentioned  (it comes in at 93rd) and that Le Quartier Francais in Franschoek is ranked at number 50…  both restaurants right on our doorstep, well, if you’re from Cape Town!

Back to dreamland…

The Food of France by Murdoch Books (one of our teacher’s favourites)