No bread is an island

...entire of itself. (With apologies to John Donne!)
I live and breathe breadmaking. I’m an evangelist who would like everyone to make his or her own bread. I want to demystify breadmaking and show it as the easy everyday craft that it is. To this end I endeavour to make my recipes as simple and as foolproof as I possibly can.

I call my blog 'No bread is an island' because every bread is connected to another bread. So a spicy fruit bun with a cross on top is a hot cross bun. This fruit dough will also make a fruit loaf - or Chelsea buns or a Swedish tea ring...
I'm also a vegan, so I have lots of vegan recipes on here - and I'm adding more all the time.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

VEGAN CHOCOLATE CAKE - How easy (and cheap!) is this?

[Posted originally in August 2011] There's a doubled-up recipe, plus cupcakes and Swiss roll - pics at the foot of this post. This is my up to date recipe - adapted from the original.

 Vegan Chocolate Cake (20cm or 8")

200g sugar
30g cocoa powder
200g self raising flour
300g water
25g vegetable oil - or unsweetened apple puree

Measure the sugar and the cocoa powder, and mix them together. The sharp edges of the granulated sugar breaks up the clumps of cocoa powder, so sieving should not be necessary. Add the flour and mix, then add the water and oil. Stir, initially with a dessertspoon, and then with a whisk, and pour into a prepared 20cm (8") silicon cake former.

Place in the microwave (800w) for 7 minutes. In my experience, not only do you get a quicker cake, but the cake rises about 25% higher in the microwave.

No microwave?
Bake in the oven at 175C for 30-35 minutes.

No oven?
Then pour a little of the batter into an oiled frying pan, on a medium to hot heat, as if you were making pancakes. For a bit of fun, baking with your youngster, cut out circles of the (pan)cake, and sandwich them with - I don't know: jam, homemade fruit puree, homemade chocolate spread (recipe below). Or, why not invent your own fillings?

(It's also possible to make an excellent gluten-free version of this cake.)

I'm amazed at how little this cake costs (these prices are from Lidl products):
Sugar 10p
S/raising flour 8p
Cocoa powder 10p
Veg oil 5p
Total 33p

Who says that it's expensive to be a vegan? :)

The story:
Anybody who's taken a look at some of the bread conversations I've had on this blog will know I'm not a cake maker - bread's my thing.

Whenever anyone asks me if I make cakes I always tell them there isn't time - there's always another bread I haven't made yet!

However, it was the birthday of both my daughter and my son-in-law this week, and there are bound to be plenty of cakes when we meet up tomorrow. And none of them will be vegan.

Apart, that is, from the one I've just made!

I followed this recipe here:

And tweaked it slightly.

It was a bit of a faff, since each step is on a separate page - unless you sign up, which I didn't want to do. And it's in cups, which I've weighed off into gms for the next time I make it - which I will.

166g s/raising flour
30g cocoa powder
198g sugar
1/2 tsp salt
80g sunolive oil
250g water
2 tsps vanilla extract

Stir the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients, mix together and pour into 2 18cm (7") lined cake tins. (I placed 354g of batter in each tin.)

Bake at 175C for 20 minutes.

I shall sandwich the cake with the vegan chocolate spread I made yesterday:

And probably spread a bit on top - just to finish it off!

Update, Sunday 31st July:

As I said I would, I 'iced' the cake with a little chocolate spread.

And it went down very well, I must say - much better than I thought it would. My mother-in-law said loudly, "But it's actually very nice!". Everyone at the party who had a taste thought it was lovely and moist - and I had to answer several queries as to the recipe and how it was made.

This was undoubtedly a success - and it's now firmly in my repertoire. This from a guy who'd only ever made one cake in the last 20 years prior to this!  

I'm beginning to wonder if we've been conned all these years into thinking that cakes naturally have to contain eggs and butter (or marge)? Clearly, they don't!

I have asked all my friends on Wildfood for  their opinion. There's a variety of opinions on there with some agreeing with me.

I decided to forgo the salt and the vanilla:  I never use salt in my sweet bread recipes, and I see no place for it here; I couldn't detect any vanilla flavour, but others may.

3 days later. I ate the last remnants of the cake - and it was as moist and lush as when it had just been made. I did think of seeing if it would keep into a 4th day - but who keeps chocolate cake for four days?

(Well, my mother might - she used to extol the virtues of her madeira cake - "It'll keep for a fortnight!" she used to announce to all and sundry. And every time we went home and we were served cake, she felt she had to make good her claim. The damn cake was always well over a week old! In every other respect she was a decent cook. Well, I suppose we all have a chink in our armour!)

3rd November.
After telling my colleagues at my Thursday care home about my cake-making, I was prevailed upon to make one for the residents.

Since we needed a large cake, I doubled up the recipe:
330g s/raising flour
60g cocoa powder
400g sugar
160g sunflower oil
500g water

I left out the salt - decided it wasn't necessary - and the vanilla extract  - didn't have any, and didn't miss either of them! The cake, took about 35 minutes to cook.

I have to admit I was pretty bowled over by the size and appearance of the cake when it came out of the oven:

If you're going to make a cake - may as well make a big one!

That's Melissa's hand applying the chocolate icing
10th November.
The cake tin for last week's cake was borrowed from the care home next door - but this time it was decided we should make fairy cakes:

The doubled up recipe actually made 2 dozen of these. Thought at first we hadn't put enough batter in each one 

But when they came out of their cases and were iced - the size was just right! OK, the icing's not very neat - but that didn't affect the taste one iota!
Friday 16th December.
I've been making this cake weekly since I first made it - and today I made a chocolate log with it:

The cake was too thick so I knew it would split. But using the hints I picked up from Eric Lanlard last weekend (cut off the first 2 cm from the edge you're starting to roll from and place it on the edge if the cake and roll up around it) and those I received from Jemma the chef at Longrun (trim the side of the cake - this is where it gets crisp and prevents even rolling), we managed it.

Next time I'll divide the batter between two Swiss roll tins - and then it won't split! To keep it vegan it was spread with jam. I need a vegan filling for next time.

Monday 26th December.
Wanted to make a couple of Yule logs for the family - but I'm far away from my scales, so I did these with the original cup measurements in the link above.

I used a coffee mug to measure with and made enough to fill two Swiss roll tins and make three large cup cakes.

One was filled with sweet chestnut puree (the puree was mixed with some sugar and soya cream) and the other was consumed as it was - everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.

I'm planning to cover the cake with melted chocolate. I'll post a pic when I do.

Thursday, 28 November 2019


[This is just a draft, ATM. Needs more work, but I want to get it out there.]

Dear fellow activists, if you’re feeling down, ATM, things are getting on top of you, feelings of anxiety are coming to the fore, etc, here’s something that may help. 
It’s so easy to put too much pressure on ourselves - we want to do more for the animals, but if we burn out in the process that doesn’t help them. It’s difficult, but we have to try and take a more detached view of things. What helps me to do this is a book I think very highly of, “The How of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky. I recommend you get hold of a copy as soon as you can.

It’s an explanation/description of scientific, peer-reviewed methods which are proven to increase one's happiness. Sonja was a student of Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology. He took the view that psychiatrists had only ever used psychology to treat ill patients - but what if we didn’t wait for people to become sick, but used psychology to create optimistic people who were resilient? 

Sonja’s book explains that we all have a basic level of happiness that we’re born with: that’s 50%, which we can’t do anything to change; then, there’s a 10% component, which relates to our circumstances - it’s not easy to change that 10%. But that leaves 40% we can change, and she details 12 happiness increasing activities that have been proven to work. 

My favourite method is ‘Savouring the moment’. So, I’m in the Cube, it’s already cold and there's a lazy wind blowing (one that goes straight through you instead of around you), my hands are freezing, and I need to blow my nose. But: I’m standing shoulder to shoulder with some wonderful people - I can see one of our group talking to someone, perhaps getting out a card - whatever. And I savour that moment, because I’m part of something so important, so worthwhile, that I wouldn’t want to swap places with anyone. And I feel sorry for those members who didn’t, or couldn’t, for whatever reason, make it to the Cube. 

And I use it when things aren't going my way - I’m in a traffic jam, say, and I really don’t want to be late - but, I’m comfortable, I’ve got some decent music on - and I’ll get there, in the fullness of time. So, once again, I can savour that moment - and in this case, it prevents me from feelings of annoyance, etc, and I can physically feel happier. In situations like that, I often force myself to smile, even though I don’t feel like it - and that always improves things.

Savouring is just one technique: There are 11 more happiness increasing exercises in Sonja’s book; she recommends you choose the 3 or 4 that most appeal to you, and practice those. 

I’ve been described, by Alan Hutchison, Senior Lecturer in Happiness at Winchester University (yes, there is such a subject) as the happiest bloke he knows. I think there are several reasons for this: First and foremost, as an animal rights activist (ARA), I feel I'm doing something positive, in that I'm helping to increase the amount of wellbeing in the world. I've also become good friends with a huge number of ARAs - whom I call my 2nd family. To make such wonderful friends - from all over England - at my time of life, is just a complete joy. Another factor is that I actively work at increasing my happiness and well-being. I also have several forms of exercise I employ on a regular basis. I'm in good health, and, all in all, I have a lot to be grateful for.