Vegan Victoria Sponge Cake

img_3091     I made this recipe for Vegan Victoria Sponge Cake three times before it came out right.  On this side of the pond, the winning flour turned out to be Gold Medal Self Rising Flour.   I could see serving this for birthdays, afternoon tea, and other special occasions.  It’s humble but rich and so very English, with its layer of fruit jam and judicious dusting of powdered sugar on top.  Because this is a British recipe, I got out my trusty food scale.  Then I made sure my baking soda was fresh, and stuck with soy milk for these trials.  I also successively reduced the Golden Syrup, with good results.  In future, I’d like to try making it with almond milk and coconut milk.  And there will be a next time because this cake is good, really good.  Take that, Great British Baking Show.


Makes one 9-inch cake of two layers

400g self-rising flour, plus extra for dusting
1-1/4 teaspoon baking soda
250g vegan sugar
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance Buttery Sticks  (for greasing the pans)

115ml safflower oil  (2/3 Cup)
400ml soy milk, plain organic unsweetened  (supposedly 14 oz.)
1 Tablespoon Lyle’s Golden Syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

6 Tablespoons strawberry jam
5 oz. strawberries, halved or quartered, for decoration  (optional)

for the vegan buttercream
125g Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread  (not the baking sticks)
250g powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease well two 9-inch regular cake pans.  Line the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment paper traced and cut to fit.  Flour each pan and tap to shake out any excess.   In a large mixing bowl, dry whisk the flour, baking soda and sugar.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the oil, plant milk, Golden Syrup and vanilla, lifting the whisk to see that all the syrup is dissolved.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and using an electric hand mixer, mix for 2 minutes until thick and creamy.

Pour batter into prepared cake pans and bake about 35 minutes until risen and cooked through.  Use a cake tester (such as a skewer) and make sure it comes out clean.  Leave pans to cool on racks for 15 minutes.  Run a butter knife around the inside sides of the pans,  remove cakes from pans and cool completely on racks (an hour or two).

While cakes are cooling, make the filling.  With the electric hand mixer, beat together the Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread, powdered sugar and vanilla.  Store in fridge if not using right away.

Spread the jam evenly over the bottom layer, pushing the jam a bit over the edges (so it will be seen once the cake is assembled).  Spread the buttercream on the underside of the top layer.  Put the top layer onto the bottom layer, so that the jam and buttercream meet.  Holding a sieve up over the cake, dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar.  If the top layer is sliding at all, push 2 or 3 shortened skewers into the cake.

Notes:  You could lighten this up and just use one layer, sliced horizontally in two, and then reduce the frosting.  Many bakers use a food scale for measuring ingredients, as it’s more accurate.  It’s interesting to note that I’m baking at sea level and this recipe worked fine for me anyway.  I notice many of the Victoria Sponges online have only a dusting of powdered sugar on top (no frosting on top), so that’s what I’ve done here.  I like Dickinson’s Preserves, particularly the Pure Cascade Mountain Red Raspberry, and the Pure Pacific Mountain Strawberry.  I found the original recipe had barely enough jam and frosting, so have increased those a bit, and reduced the fat ratio in the buttercream.  For this recipe, you will need two 9″ cake pans, some parchment paper, and a sieve for the powdered-sugar dusting.  I use this method to get cakes out of pans, except I use a baking rack instead of a plate or cardboard, and I don’t use plastic wrap.  Let the cake sit on the rack for an hour at least, to cool completely, before wrapping for the freezer, or icing.  Do NOT try to use the baking sticks for the buttercream, because they are made only for baking.  The Buttery Spread has a nice butter flavor.
img_3097  Fresh strawberries can go in the middle, but it’s optional.  I just wanted the pure jammy preserves.
img_3081  My cake layers came out different sizes, so I just used the shorter layer on the bottom, no worries.

Vegan Hollandaise using The Vegg

IMG_0420    This quick and easy vegan Hollandaise Sauce kind of blew my mind–it was so authentically good.  I put it on asparagus, and made vegan Eggs Benedict with it, but I can see where it would be good on a variety of vegetables, or just to dip toast points in.  You whip this up in the blender–so much easier than traditional Hollandaise, and cruelty free!    p.s. This is cholesterol-free too.


Makes approximately 2 Cups

2 Tablespoons of The Vegg powder
1/4 Cup Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, melted
1/4 Cup Reduced Fat Vegenaise
3 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice
1.5 Cups to 2 Cups hot water (not boiling)
1/8 teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch cayenne, or 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper (optional)

Into a blender, put 1.5 Cups of the hot water and The Vegg powder and blend until smooth.  Add in all other ingredients except the vegan butter, and blend again.  Melt butter in microwave at 10-second intervals–do not overheat the butter or it might separate.  Slowly add melted butter to blender, and blend again until glossy.  Serve.

If the Hollandaise starts to set up or get too thick, add some of the remaining water, a Tablespoon at a time.  Store in fridge.  To reheat, add a little water, heat and re-blend, or whisk in saucepan.

Notes:  To make vegan Eggs Benedict, extra-firm Silken tofu is good to fry up, as it has the consistency of over-easy eggs.  The Vegg really tastes and looks like egg yolks and even has that slightly-sulfury smell.  Home cooks and chefs all over the world are doing amazing things with The Vegg.  If you don’t have The Vegg, I suppose you could substitute in nutritional yeast and a bit of kala namak (black salt), but I have not tried this yet.  This recipe is adapted from this post and this post.  As I make this in future, I’ll try cutting some fat out of it, and start by reducing 1 Tablespoon of butter and 1 Tablespoon of mayo.  Should be fine.

IMG_0414  I already put this on my Instagram, but will add it here.  I prefer thicker asparagus, but make sure to peel the bottoms of the stalks with a potato peeler to remove stringy texture.  Meaty but tender.

Vegetarian Plus Vegan Ham Roll

IMG_1369    After having such good success with the Vegetarian Plus Vegan Whole Turkey, I decided to give the Vegetarian Plus Vegan Ham Roll a try.  And I’m glad I did.  I got this specifically for Christmas day, but I could also see having it at Easter.  I was amazed at how much it smelled like ham as it was baking, and the flavor is very hammy as well.  Everyone knows that Ham Biscuits are a Southern Tradition.  For many, Ham Biscuits are served on New Year’s, but I have a girlfriend from South Carolina who always serves them on Christmas Eve.  I ordered this from Vegan Essentials and it was shipped with cold packs around it.  When it arrived, I called Vege USA on their 888 number and was told I could put it immediately into the freezer, which I did.  I paid about $40 for it, including $4 for the cold-pack shipping.   The box says this 2 lb. vegan ham roll serves 14 and I believe it.  When it was partially thawed, I cut it in half and put half of it right back in the freezer, and we had ham every which way for the next 4 or 5 days.  On Christmas Eve I made a bunch of vegan Sweet Potato Buttermilk Biscuits and put them in the freezer (un-baked).  On Christmas Day, I made the ham roll and some of the biscuits and we had them with slices of Daiya cheese and my homemade mustard (photo below).  I did prepare the Apricot Plum Glaze that came in the box and it’s surprisingly good (Lars has been having it on his ham biscuits).  I also made a delicious ham salad, with some Vegenaise vegan mayonnaise, organic sweet relish, and a bit of salt and pepper.  This minced ham salad would be good for a rustic ham roll, or tiny finger sandwiches for afternoon tea, or on the aforementioned biscuits.  With the half that’s still in the freezer, I’m thinking Portuguese Bean Soup, and Lars suggested Ham and Pineapple Pizza.  This is a convenient, delicious solution for those transitioning or entertaining omnivores, and for vegans who want traditional flavors on holidays.  I also like that it allowed me to focus on the baking and side dishes and holiday preparations, and not worry so much about the main dish.  If you want to make this at home for pennies, try this vegan Candied Ham.   We’re talking about vegan ham, of course.  Bless all the pigs and may we never torture and eat them again.  Happy New Year.
IMG_1383  Real Southern Style Sweet Potato Buttermilk Biscuits (vegan) for the traditional holiday Ham Biscuits.



IMG_3024     I had some leftover Almond Feta, so decided to make vegan Spanakopita.  Here’s a quick Greek spinach pie that’s great for any occasion, even on a special holiday like Easter.  Spanakopita is often made of phyllo dough folded into triangles (think of folding a flag), but here I’ve used Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets to make a simple casserole (photo below) that saves a lot of time.  Often made with eggs, feta and ricotta cheeses, and lots of olive oil, this is a lighter, cleaner dish that still has that savory decadence.  To make it even easier, we’ve used frozen organic spinach, but I did use fresh dill for the sake of authentic flavor.


Makes 8 pieces

1 box Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets,  thawed but cold
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced fine
1 clove garlic, pressed, or smashed and chopped
16 oz. frozen organic spinach, thawed, and drained
1/2 Cup fresh parsley, chopped, stems removed
2 Tablespoons fresh dill, chopped, stems removed

1 Cup Almond Feta
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, ground or grated
Ener-G Egg Replacer to equal one egg
1 teaspoon mild white miso  (optional)
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.   Lightly oil a 9×13 inch baking pan and put it in the fridge.   Remove puff pastry sheets from the box, and set to thaw on the counter. Squeeze spinach in colander until pretty dry, then press it with the back of a spoon to get any last water out.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.   Saute onion until soft, adding the garlic in toward the end.   To the onions, add spinach, parsley and dill, and stir to combine and heat.   Remove spinach mixture from heat and set aside.

Place almond feta in a small mixing bowl, and add salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg replacer, white miso and flour, and stir until well mixed.   Fold almond feta mixture into the spinach mixture until well combined.

Unfold one puff pastry sheet, and cut and piece it to fit the bottom of the baking dish, gently pinching together any seams.  Spread the spinach/feta mixture on top of the pastry sheet.   Cut and piece the second pastry sheet and place over the top of the spinach mixture.   With a sharp knife, score portions into the casserole (for ease of cutting later).   Bake about 25-30 minutes, until puffy pastry is cooked through and golden and puffy all over.  The corner pieces might puff first, so make sure the center pieces are puffy as well.

Notes:  You can remove the box of puff pastry sheets from the freezer and put into the fridge a few hours ahead.  The mild white miso just adds a touch of umami, it’s not vital.

If you want to, you could make your own vegan phyllo dough, and some other brands of phyllo dough are supposedly vegan, such as Athens brand.  I wrote an email to the Athens company and received this prompt reply:  Amanda, Thank you for your interest in phyllo dough and our products. Yes our phyllo dough and mini phyllo shells are vegan.  Sincerely,  A.J. Shepler,  R&D Chef,  Athens Foods,  13600 Snow Road,  Brook Park, OH 44142.  216-676-8500 ext. 338.


Candied Vegan Ham

I love whole foods, but Lars went vegetarian and really likes seitan.  So, the Candied Vegan Ham I saw on Pinterest caught my eye.  This recipe is from Chubby Vegan Mom, is very easy to make, and has the flavors  of the candied hams my Mom used to make when I was a kid.  What you see below is the recipe in half, because my slow cooker is only a 4 quart.  I changed a few little ratios, and in future, I would add ketchup, both for the red color, and some added acidity/tenderness (although this was not tough in texture).  I cut back on the fat–just used a Tablespoon of oil, and it worked great.

Serves 4 to 5

1.5 Cups Vital Wheat Gluten
1/2 Cup water
1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
1/4 Cup pineapple juice
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon liquid smoke
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1.5 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 Cup vegetable broth  (I use any of the vegan Better Than Bouillon)
1/4 Cup of ketchup  (my addition)

For the glaze:
1/4 Cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons pineapple juice
1 Tablespoon oil
1 Tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1.5 teaspoons molasses

Spray/oil your crock pot and turn it on low.
In a large bowl, dry whisk together gluten, nutritional yeast, pepper, onion powder, paprika and cloves.
In a smaller bowl, stir together pineapple juice, soy sauce, liquid smoke, maple syrup, water and catsup.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and stir until well mixed, using your hands if you need to.  I ended up having to add a few Tablespoons of extra water to get rid of any dry spots.
Form a round loaf and place in slow cooker.
Pour vegetable stock over and let it cook for two hours on low, and then three hours on high.
Once your vegan ham has cooked, place the loaf in a greased casserole dish.
Score the ham (make shallow criss-cross slices in the top of it with a knife).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, mustard, pineapple juice, oil and molasses.
Pour this glaze over your vegan ham and bake in oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
Let it sit for 15 minutes before slicing.

Notes:  This makes good vegan ham-and-cheese sandwiches.  It’s also great on vegan sweet potato buttermilk biscuits.   If you double the recipe, then you must shape it into two loaves so that they cook properly, and use a larger slow cooker.  If you want to get fancy, you could also garnish each loaf with a ring of pineapple and a maraschino cherry, like my Mom used to do.

Vegan Potato, Sweet Potato and Onion Latkes

I adapted and veganized this old Martha Stewart recipe that I’ve been meaning to try for years, and it came out great.  It’s simple, and I like that you get that deep-fried effect with only a few Tablespoons of oil.  I increased the onion just a bit to get a better potato/onion ratio.  Replaced the egg and followed a couple of Latke Tips from other web sites.  Now we’re able to make these ahead, and reheat them in the oven to an even crisper effect.  These little vegan Latkes are special due to incorporating the sweet potato, and the Martha recipe advises that you could also use carrots and parsnips.  I don’t think I’d eliminate the white potato altogether, however, for structural reasons.  There are many latke videos on youtube and I chose this one from the Culinary Institute of America to share with you here.  The C.I.A. also does an eggless latke, and I knew you didn’t need the egg after making this egg-free potato galette.  After doing some reading, I realize these are not kosher for Passover due to the small amount of flour in them, but they’d be great for Hanukkah.  Supposedly, you can simply substitute matzo meal to make them kosher for Passover, but I can’t vouch for that because I haven’t tried it myself.  But then again, I’m not Jewish, I just like Latkes.  I made a quick dill sour cream with some softened Tofutti and chopped fresh dill, and it was perfect with these, and I threw some organic applesauce on the side too, which played off the sweet potatoes.  Now we can have excellent Latkes at home, and serve them to guests without having the hot-oil fuss going on.  These would be great for a breakfast, brunch, luncheon, or side dish with supper.
Vegan Potato, Sweet Potato and Onion Latkes

Makes 18 small Latkes

1 all-purpose Yukon Gold potato (about 10 ounces), peeled
1 sweet potato (about 10 ounces), peeled
1/3 large white onion, peeled
1 Tablespoon dry Ener-G Egg Replacer
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour, or rice flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt (no kosher salt)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil for frying (not canola) (use olive, peanut or safflower, etc.)

Put filtered water in a large non-reactive bowl (I like glass).   Add a Tablespoon of fine sea salt to this water and stir to dissolve (this will keep the potatoes from going brown).   Grate both potatoes using the largest holes of a four-sided grater, immediately placing the grated potatoes into the salt water as you go.   Let the grated potatoes sit in the salted water for about 20 minutes while you work.

Grate the onion and place it in a small dish and cover it with a napkin (to spare yourself from the fumes).   Dry whisk flour, egg replacer, sea salt and pepper to thoroughly combine.   Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.   Place grated potatoes into a sieve or fine colander, let drain and press the water out well.   Rinse your mixing bowl and wipe it dry.

Place a Tablespoon of the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, and let it heat.
Place potatoes back into the dry mixing bowl and stir to combine thoroughly with the grated onions.   Add in the flour mixture and stir thoroughly again.

With a heaping Tablespoon, shape Latke mixture into discs and place into hot oil in skillet, and do not crowd the pan.   Let latkes cook for three minutes and then turn them only once.   Flatten latkes lightly with a spatula and let cook 3 minutes on second side.  If skillet becomes dry, add a Tablespoon of oil, but you should only need 2-3 Tablespoons total by the time you’re done.   Place finished latkes on paper towels.

Keep warm in a 250 degrees Fahrenheit oven, until ready to serve.
Or, you can place cooled latkes in the fridge and then reheat in the oven on 350 degrees Fahrenheit, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, for 10-15 minutes.
If you must freeze them, reheat from frozen.

Notes:  The pale yellow color of the Yukon Gold potato fools the eye into thinking there is more oil in the latkes than there actually is.  The acid in the onion helps keep the potatoes from turning brown.  The salt water also helps the latkes crisp up, and it helps keep the latkes from browning too quickly in the pan.  Baking latkes after frying them actually creates a crisper latke.  The best ratio for latkes is 5 parts potato to 2 parts onion.  Have a few spidery “legs” sticking out of your latkes, so they’re not too round and perfect, to increase the texture variation, and give some good crunchy bits.  Turn latkes only once in pan, to reduce oil absorption.  My own preference is not to use canola oil for frying because even fresh canola oil can sometimes taste metallic or fishy on high heat.  My own preference is not to use kosher salt due to its metallic, chemical taste.  Supposedly, you can substitute part of the potato for any starchy vegetable, such as beets, zucchini, etc.

Vegan Easter Eggs – EggNots

I ordered a dozen of these EggNots, and they arrived three days later in an adorable egg carton (see photos below).  They are an un-fired ceramic,  dye-able, realistic, inedible, non-perishable and humane egg alternative.  To further quote the label, they are created to bring the Easter coloring experience to children and families affected by egg allergies.  The dyed eggs you make with EggNots are keepsakes, really, and can be used year after year.  I had some ancient food coloring in my cupboard and so I used that to make these marbleized eggs, using a simple technique I saw on Martha Stewart years ago.  Next year, I’ll try using one of the ecologically-responsible dye kits they make now, such as this one called eco-eggs.   Nowadays, you can buy various wooden eggs, and biodegradable eggs made of corn, and make your own natural dyes.  And here’s another good article on Dyeing Eggs Naturally from Martha Stewart Living.  Next year, I’ll probably dye another dozen EggNots, and delve into the lavenders and other colors that I didn’t do this year.  I can see where EggNots will help a lot of vegan families keep the ancient tradition of coloring eggs without harming anyone.  Why shouldn’t we eat eggs?  50% of chicks born are male, and they are not wanted in the egg and poultry industry, so they are simply stuffed into garbage bags and suffocated alive, or even ground up alive.  No male chickens (or roosters) are needed for egg production, because eggs are simply the results of the female chicken’s menstrual cycle.  Also, the suffering that chickens live through in the poultry industry is horiffic.   Eggs are not good for us, and they’re not good for the planet.