This May represents ten full years of being vegan for me, which is slightly odd to think about. There’s this myth (debunked long ago) that the human body takes ten years to cycle through all its cells (depending on the version of the myth you hear, sometimes it’s seven years), which leads to the pleasant thought that every ten or seven years your body is fully new, fully different from the body you had ten years ago. If this were true, every cell in my body would be vegan, every one powdered by all the plants I’ve eaten over the past decade. It’s a nice thought, too bad it’s total bunk.
I went vegan at sixteen (now you know how old I am), around the time when I was learning how to cook and bake and eat like an adult instead of microwaving whatever instant-thing lay at the back of the cupboard. Prior to this my relationship to food was fairly one dimensional and nearly identical to the dangerously pervasive idea of eating that a lot of young women carry: food was either a thing that tasted good but made you fat, or a thing that tasted bad but made you skinnier. Becoming vegan taught me (or rather, forced me to learn) that food is so much more than any single value that we place on it. While previously food was defined (and just as often categorized as ‘good’ or ‘bad’) by its relationship to my perceived size of my waist that day, after adopting a vegan diet I realized what a greater role food plays, and, although it seems obvious now, how our food choices are one of the ways that we interact with the world around us. Every food choice is at once and all together a decision that affects and is influenced by our health, our environment, our culture, our values, our experiences, and this is of course a non-exhaustive list. For me (and of course I can’t speak for anyone else), veganism was an entry point to a place where I could take the time to learn about food sourcing; where I wanted to share everything I made; where I could decide for myself what foods I felt good about eating rather than following others; and, importantly, a place where I could wholly enjoy the food I ate. I’m sure it’s possible to get to this place of mindfulness and enjoyment without becoming vegan, and I’m also sure there is an endless amount to talk about, but I’m happy to have taken this path, and happy that we’re both here, talking about vegan cake right now.
Whew. Anyways, onto the cake. A celebration cake! Champagne is baked into the cake, giving it just a hint of that elegant flavour and an awesome amount of rise. The batter (adapted heartily from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World) comes together very easily, so no intimidation necessary. Roasting blueberries are a simple way to take them up a notch, into incredibly juicy, dark globes. The liquid released during the roasting process does double duty by being drizzled onto the cake layers to keep them moist. The frosting recipe I give here is pretty basic, and can be changed up as you like it. I think this coconut oil buttercream with pureed blueberries would be particularly amazing. If you follow the recipe given here and want an palm oil-free alternative some of the commercially available vegan butters, I recommend Miyoko Schinner’s recipe (found in this book), which is really easy and basically foolproof in baking.
A few notes on vegan champagne and substitutions: first off, I’ll expose my little lie and admit I used prosecco in this cake because that’s the only vegan bubbly that my local liquor store had in stock. Feel free to use either, or if you’d prefer a non-alcoholic version, use plain kombucha or another not-too-sweet fizzy drink (anything too sweet will affect the taste of the cake). You can also omit it entirely and up to non-dairy milk to 1 1/2 cups total and double the lemon juice. If you’re going to go vegan champagne hunting, I’d recommend pulling up Barnivore on your phone to check which available brands are vegan. My small liquor store had about 15 different brands of champagne, prosecco, and bubbly white wine and two were vegan.
Although I used light spelt flour to bake up these cake layers, I’m confident it would work just as well with an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend (one with xantham gum or similar). I used a kind of cheater-Momofuko style to assemble the cake, by using acetate strips positioned in the ring of a springform pan. If you decide to do this, please be sure to give your cake plenty of time to set up in the freezer (yes, freezer) so that the layers don’t slip, then store it in the fridge. If you want to fully frost the cake, be sure to make a frosting moat around the edge of each layer to keep the roasted blueberries from squishing out. Happy cake-eating!
- 3/4 cup vegan champagne or prosecco
- 3/4 cup non-dairy milk
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 cup organic cane sugar
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp grapeseed or other neutral oil
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups light spelt flour or ap flour
- 3 tbsp potato starch
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup fresh blueberries, pureed
- 3/4 cup vegan butter (see above for recommendations)
- 3/4 cup shortening or additional vegan butter
- 4-4 1/2 cups organic powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/8 cup non-dairy milk
- 2 cups fresh blueberries
- 2 tsps organic cane sugar
- Preheat oven to 425F. Place blueberries in an ovensafe dish in a single layer and sprinkle with sugar. Roast in oven 7-9 minutes, until juices have been released. Let cool.
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- In a large bowl, combine champagne, milk, lemon juice, oil, vanilla, and sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved.
- In another bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Add to wet and stir until just combined.
- Grease three 6" cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper. Divide batter evenly and bake until the centre bounces back when pressed, about 24 to 27 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.
- Pulse blueberries in a food processor until pureed (some chunks are nice, but it's a personal preference).
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and shortening until fluffy. Add in vanilla, powdered sugar, and blueberry puree. Beat until combined, streaming in milk as needed to get desired consistency.
- Assemble by placing a cake layer, drizzling on some of the blueberry juices, spreading some frosting, then sprinkling on a third of the roasted berries. Repeat with other two layers. If fully frosting the cake, be sure to form a dam with the frosting before sprinkling on berries so they do not spill out the side.