Guest blog: Ella Hulbert, Ella Rose Cakes – Beat the January Blues with cake

Guest blog: Ella Hulbert, Ella Rose Cakes – Beat the January Blues with cake

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll probably be familiar with my lovely friend Vicky @theflourishingpantry but you may not be as familiar with her wonderful and incredibly talented sister Ella, Founder and Chief Baker at Ella Rose Cakes. I was especially keen to get Ella on as a guest as my own baking skills often leave a lot to be desired (I’m a pretty nifty cook but I don’t practice at baking so often) and I wanted to offer something delicious, comforting and feel good that ticked all our usual dietary boxes in the Can Eat house, to brighten up the somewhat more grim month of January. Now if you’re thinking “I’m not allowed cake in January, I ate too much at Christmas” please drop me a line, we should have a chat about that – because sitting down with a cup of tea and a slice of cake and taking a few quiet moments to savour them may just be the self care moment that you need. Anyway, over to Ella with her GORGEOUS creation for you (I’m off out to buy some flour as I need to get me a slice of this, excuse me).

Ella Rose Cakes Founder and Chief Baker, Ella Hulbert

I am so excited for 2018, I love the fresh start and fresh opportunities the New Year brings. Each year I set resolutions and they always include trying something new – whilst my January isn’t Veganuary, I am certainly going to improve my vegan baking skills this year. Thankfully, to get me started Lea has encouraged me to perfect my vegan (and gluten free) baking skills with her invite to write this blog!

From resolution to revolution – I’ve always felt that if I were to start a revolution it would be “Cake For Everyone!” –  whether it’s a personal choice or a medical led one, no matter what you are cutting out, avoiding or minimising I can assure you there is a cake out there with your name on it and it does taste good! You can’t beat the sense of satisfaction baking something that is delicious and that fits someone’s dietary requirements too. So for this cake, in true Ella Rose style, I started by researching existing recipes that fit with the Can Eat Attitude ethos and took inspiration from this Tesco Vegan Victoria Sponge recipe, with a few amendments and twists to make it my own.

Sponge cake decorated with blueberries and fresh flowers viewed from the top down with a cake cutter and cup of tea on the side

On a more practical level, 2018 has already brought me a new found empathy for shopping as a vegan – forgive me for preaching to the choir but – it’s just not clear on many products that are in fact Vegan that they are! For example, I was pleased to see that Stork Original Baking Block doesn’t contain dairy (and yet it didn’t have the comforting vegan symbol that would make checking that much quicker), but you can check online and even read their dairy-free blog here! To talk a little more about butter, if I may, what I’ve learned in years of baking cakes is the real difference between margarine and butter in the rise of a cake (one will give you a perfectly flat cake, and one will dome up (perfect for butterfly cupcakes and the like)). Looking at the vegan alternatives I used in the recipe below, I got a fairly substantial dome so maybe I need to do a little more experimenting into getting my vegan cakes a little flatter but either way you can slice the top off and it still tastes good – and we all know that is really what counts!

Beautiful gluten free and vegan sponge cake topped with fresh roses

Here is what you’ll need:

  • 400g gluten free self-raising flour (Doves Farm is my go-to brand)
  • 2 tsp baking powder (you’ll need a little less if you’ve not used gluten free flour)
  • 220g caster sugar
  • 120ml olive oil (or sunflower if you’d rather)
  • 400ml plant milk – I used Alpro Original Almond but Soya or Coconut would also work well (bear in mind that you will lose sweetness in the cake if you pick an unsweetened version, but if it’s all you have don’t worry too much)
  • 3tbs golden syrup
  • 2tsp vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • ¾ pot of Alpro Sweet Creamy Caramel soya dessert
  • Handful of fresh blueberries
  • 75g Stork Original Baking Block (this form is Vegan unlike the tubs which include buttermilk)
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 1tbsp plant milk

Here’s what to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line the base and grease two 7” sandwich tins with some of the baking block, or a dairy free margarine from your fridge (I used Vitalite).
  2. In a large bowl (or stand mixer), combine the flour, baking powder and caster sugar with a couple of whizzes
  3. In a large jug lightly whisk the oil, milk, syrup and vanilla so they are combined
  4. With an electric whisk running (if possible) gradually pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients
  5. Mix by hand or electric until it is thick and creamy (4-5 minutes)
  6. Split the batter evenly between your two pre greased tins
  7. Bake both tins on the same shelf for 30-35mins (oven dependent)
  8. Check a knife or skewer comes out clean to be sure the cake is thoroughly cooked and let them cool in the tins for 15mins before turning them out onto a wire rack. Let them cool completely.
  9. In a new clean bowl, with an electric whisk, combine the stork baking block, icing sugar and second lot of plant milk – this is your basic buttercream, you can use it like this, or keep going for a little extra indulgence…
  10. Add a handful of blueberries (as many as you’d like), let them squish in the mixer
  11. Add as much of the Alpro Caramel dessert as you wish for a rich, sweet caramel flavour
  12. The mixture will likely appear quite runny now, so you may need to add more icing sugar if you want to make it a little thicker and easier to sandwich your cake together (no one wants the top sliding off before serving!)
  13. Once you have the right consistency – it should be holding soft peaks – you can prep your bottom cake by slicing the domed centre and making it as flat as possible.
  14. Spoon a little of the filling at a time on to the bottom sponge, carefully working it towards the edges – do not over fill!
  15. Slice the dome of the second cake and turn it upside down onto your filling and bottom cake – this will give you a very flat top to your cake making it much easier to decorate
  16. Carefully spoon and smear more filling mixture to the top of the cake and then leave for the filling to set – it should firm up enough at room temperature but you could give it a hand in the fridge if you have space
  17. Before serving, decorate with as many blueberries, flowers and yummy things as you wish

Slice of vanilla cake with buttercream frosting topped with blueberries with full cake in background

In my mind, you can’t go wrong with a classic and reliable vanilla sponge recipe that means you can whip up a cake when your friends/neighbours/in-laws pop over without much notice. The real fun comes with the flavour of the fillings. Whilst I chose fresh blueberries mixed with rich caramel in this version, next time I’m going to mix the buttercream with these mini moo bars I found in my local supermarket, but you could always add lemon juice and zest for a citrus twist or anything else you fancy!


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