The day before the big 20, it was the 16th of the 16th. That’s nice. American Psycho (by Bret Easton Ellis) kept me up well, and Ellis knows how to write with exhilarating speed and menace. He zooms and I go with him. The night was full of speed slowed down. Memories of 19, last year in my small little dorm room, faces everywhere showering me with ‘whoa, 19’, and now fast forward just a little, and all a 20 year old can do to console him or herself is to chuck in the reminder that it’s really the beginning, not the end of, a decade.
How do I feel? Still alive, still an inexperienced student, still a hopelessly romantic dreamer, still tremendously excited about making cakes like this. I was honestly worried about constructing something that was vegan and still appeal to everyone, because everyone still has this idea that anything without eggs or dairy will ultimately taste like crap, but no I was so determined, and this pumpkin berry cake which I adapted from one of my all-time favourite blogs turned out to be beyond my dreams, and I’m pretty sure I dreamt up something similar on the night of the 16th.
‘Holy shit, this is vegan? Ummmm… No. No.’
‘Wait, but it really isn’t, I mean it doesn’t taste like it’s those vegan raw things I’ve tried at those cafés, so are you sure?’
During a little picnic that Thursday night, I sprinkled everyone with a bit of surprise.
Yes it is all vegan (not raw though), and of course you can completely unveganise it with the substitutions I put in the recipe below, however this cake was more fluff and fire than drab and dense.
I made this cake as I rebelliously ignored all the Facebook notifications. Putting it together, I could feel my heart hardening. The year of 20 is no mistake. Old to some, young to most. Whisk, plonk, poof. So much expectation, so much trying-to-prove. But you come home to the easy comfort of good-hearted people and the dim light which holds the promise of new things to learn and love the next day, and you sigh and realise life is so full and promising. Cake calls, too. Slice it, savour it. With this one, you make an easy pumpkiny berry-y (?) batter for two cakes, sandwich them with this divine cream ‘cheese’ frosting, then smear the sides with the stuff to make a naked frosting, the first layer weighing down on the second making this bit easier than you might initially envision.
Assembly. Treasures lie in the smallest details and the cake breathes love. Karen Carpenter knows how I feel when she bellows such a feeling’s comin’ over me…
Now I sit here typing, already 20 but heaving with the juvenile stains of life. Soon the sun will properly be up, and I’ll heat up some pancakes I saved from Sunday, which I shared with someone I love. I will top them with whatever I fancy, because 20 allows that. Other thoughts? Well, I can’t find my lunch box cover, which is deeply disconcerting, and I realised damp hair shouldn’t be put in a bun too soon else the curl effect will quickly vanish the following morning. Important things.
Pumpkin Berry Cake with a Cinnamon Frosting and ‘Cream Cheese’ Glaze (makes one large 8-inch double-layer cake, though you can halve the ingredients for a single cake! Adapted from this beautiful Cinnamon Bun Cake)
For the cake:
600g all-purpose flour (subs: gluten-free/ half white and half whole wheat)
4 tsp baking powder
540g sugar, half white and half brown
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
large pinch salt
260g pumpkin purée
200g vegan butter (sub: normal butter), softened at room temperature
2 flax eggs made by mixing 2 tbsp flax with 10 tbsp water and letting sit for 10 minutes before using (sub: normal eggs)
2 tsp vanilla extract
200g fresh or frozen berries of choice
For the frosting:
1 tbsp cinnamon
50g vegan cream cheese (subs: regular cream cheese/ sour cream)
170g icing sugar
For the ‘cream cheese’ glaze:
120g vegan cream cheese (sub: regular cream cheese/ sour cream, as before)
130g icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp almond milk (sub: any milk of choice)
1 tbsp cinnamon
Preheat your oven to 177C (350F) and grease 2 8-inch cake pans, then sprinkle the bottoms and sides with a mix of granulated sugar and breadcrumbs (or just sugar if you don’t have the breadcrumbs). This will give the cake a nice sweet crust once baked. Tap the pans so that the mix is evenly spread.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon and baking powder. In another bowl, beat together, either using sole arm strength and a whisk or an electrical beater, the sugar, butter, flax eggs, pumpkin purée, vanilla extract and salt. Add the dry to the wet mix and mix until everything is just combined. Put roughly a quarter of the mix into one of the pans, then sprinkle half of the berries all over. Dollop another quarter (so now you have half of the batter left for the second cake) on top. Do the same in the second pan. Bake the cakes for 50-60 minutes (mine took 60 minutes exactly).
While they are baking, make the cinnamon butter frosting and cream cheese glaze. Beat together the ingredients for the frosting in a bowl using an electrical beater, then place in fridge to set a little. In another bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the cream cheese glaze and set aside.
Once the cakes are done, leave to cool in the pans for a half hour before over turning and putting on a cooling rack. Using a serrated knife, level one of the cakes to prep it for the frosting that will sandwich the two cakes together. Put the frosting in the middle of the cake, then put the second cake on top, letting its weight spread the frosting out to the sides. There might be some frosting that spills a little too much onto the sides of the bottom layer, but that’s ok; you need this bit of extra frosting for the naked frosting effect. Using a palette knife, spread the excess hanging bits of frosting along the sides of the whole cake, so you get the effect seen in that third last picture. Dollop the cream cheese glaze on the top layer, and sprinkle the top with chopped chocolate, more fresh berries if you like, and cinnamon. The dashes of cinnamon give a beautiful, rustic yet polished final effect.
Slice, serve, enjoy. This cake can be kept at room temperature for 2-3 days.