Banana Coconut Mini Cakes

B800FD1A-BAE0-4A7F-BCCB-B5CC5DC7A546The hardest part of self-actualisation is that of  discerning what to accept and what to reject– of the world and of  ourselves– as we build the architecture of our character and stake out our stance in relation to our aims and obstacles’– Camus

Recently I’ve been thinking about habits. Today’s mantra shall be this: kicking old habits is just as important as incorporating new, good ones. We all have our good and bad habits, but sometimes the balance just isn’t there. I, for one, may see a scatter of crumbs late at night on the kitchen floor but oh god, it’s late, and I can do it tomorrow morning. It’s not the most serious crime, but little things do add up to be a lot. Doing things like making my bed and preparing my clothes the night before does wonders for saving time, space and maintaining cleanliness throughout the week, day by day. That’s the miracle of habits. Little actions that change routine that change you for the better. Currently working on bettering myself, to be better around others, too. It’s hard, but worth it, I feel. We are capable. And keep being grateful.

So here’s what I wrote last week in my diary about this cake: “Banana coconut cake with miso frosting! So moist and cute and tender. Might have to change the frosting a tad but I’m happy-dappy for now. There’s a flow to it, it’s enticing and dreamy and moody. Happy-dappy”.

Well firstly, wow I sound quite silly whenever I write about how excited I am about some new experiment in my personal diary. Did I really write ‘happy-dappy’ twice? Secondly, wow this cake is good. Like, really darn good, and I can’t wait for you to experience this banana-ful love all over again, from my kitchen and oven to yours.

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Simple, really. You start off traditionally, mixing the wet and dry ingredients separately. Once everything is incorporated, and you pop the thing in the oven and make the frosting. Everything is cooled, then the frosting begins.

I didn’t mean to put miso in there (as is the case for so many random ingredients in my other bakes), but this is what gives the lift, the interest. Banana and miso?? Yes, it works. Please try it. Ingredients of the earth. All from nature. What is so wonderful about baking from home is that you know exactly what you’re putting in it, be it a simple or more complex bake. No chemicals, pesticides or what have you. Flour, sugar, plants… plants! It’s so wonderful, don’t you think.

I was listening to the podcast ‘On Being’ the other night (highly recommend, by the way), and there’s one part which talks about how there’s a link between being in awe of nature and altruism. Just witnessing the greatness of this universe perhaps makes us feel more like we should help one another along in society, keep us afloat in the raging seas, the beautiful yet turbulent grandeur of Mother Earth.

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Banana Coconut Mini Cakes with Miso coconut frosting (makes 4 mini cakes or 1 large 8 or 9-inch cake)

Ingredients

1 and a half bananas, mashed

45g dark/light brown sugar

30g white/coconut sugar

30ml (25g) vegetable oil

1 tbsp vanilla bean paste, or sub with vanilla extract

60ml plant milk of choice (I like using oat or rice milk

145g (little more than a cup) plain flour, or use half spelt/whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

30g desiccated coconut

 

For the frosting:

130g butter

5g miso paste

150g icing sugar

handful of desiccated coconut

 

For the layering (optional):

a sliced banana

more desiccated coconut, the amount here is up to you

 

Directions

Grease an 8 or 9-inch springform pan and preheat your oven to 180C. In a large bowl, mix together the banana, sugars, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla paste/extract. In a separate, medium bowl, briefly whisk together the dry ingredients– flour, salt, coconut and leavening agents. Tip this into the wet mix and stir everything together until all is just about incorporated. Bake this in the oven for 25 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted comes out clean.

While the cake bakes, make the frosting by beating the butter and miso together with an electric whisk, then slowly add the icing sugar until you get a smooth and thick frosting with bits of miso strewn throughout. Add the coconut and mix briefly. Place the frosting in the fridge until ready to use.

Once the cake is totally cool, or about a half hour later, use the lip of a glass cup to stamp out circles in the cake. You will get about 4 circles, so two mini cakes. Once the cakes are stamped out, add a dollop of frosting onto one cake, then add a few banana coins and a sprinkling of desiccated coconut on top. Place the second layer on top, then frost the top and add more desiccated coconut to decorate. Alternatively, you can leave the cake as is and frost it right there and then, or just frost the 4 circles individually without layering them, to get 4 separate open-faced cakes. These cakes will last 3-4 days in an airtight container in the fridge. If you’re just making the cake by itself, you can store it at room temperature for the same amount of time and in the same way.

The Best Chewy Snickerdoodles

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I have made these cookies at least 3 times, all within the same week I realised these cannot be anything less than the best vegan snickerdoodles EVER. Really, I was so excited. Just sitting there, spatula in hand, the other covered in a greasy mix of cinnamon, butter and sugar. How could this be? These must be one of the best things ever to savour (in moderation, of course). Preceding the most wonderful vacation I’ve had in a while (Belgium, Germany and Austria, woot!) were these cookies. Just these, nothing more and nothing less, and nothing more was needed, to be very honest. Now I’m babbling, but clearly you can tell how excited I am about these. I considered sharing the recipe for these on a whim on Instagram, but realised they’re too special not to have a reserved spot in the archives.

The word ‘best’ of course elevates everyone’s expectations, and I promise these won’t let you down. All my friends who tried it said various things:

‘Better than Ben’s (with reference to the popular Ben’s Cookies here in London)?!’,

‘Oh my God I can’t stop’

‘Holy s***.’

But enough with the all bark and no bite. I’ll rat this one out, you deserve at least that. These are by far the most chewy, delicious, cinnamony snickerdoodles I have ever had. Loving the cracks and crags of these, which you can enjoy below, alongside some shots of the trip I just came back from, where every day ended with a full belly and fuller heart.

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Munich’s harsh light that fine day
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Ghent, Belgium: That time someone actually cooked breakfast for me: Hot sautéed cinnamon apples on a bed of warm porridge. Mmmmm.
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Schladming, Austria: Where we dined on a dinner of fresh air, a view of the mountains, crisp white wine and a sweet potato eggplant curry

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Stiff and chewy all the way through. Rolling them in my ratio of cinnamon and sugar will yield incredibly chewy outer edges and a perfectly sweet bite each time. Cinnamon goes way back, and this love affair with this spice has no end. Cinnamon is able to prevent cognitive brain decline, whilst boasting many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Petri dish experiments, as reductionist as they sound, still have shown some potential anti-cancer properties. How cool is that?

Another day, another one-bowl wonder. It’s a simple matter of creaming together vegan butter and sugar, before adding the dry ingredients and mixing everything until you get a relatively dry mixture. But texture should not fool you– this recipe will yield the most chewy cookies after baking, as the butter melts and moistens everything. It is a true dream, I say.

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Vegan snickerdoodles (makes around 12 medium cookies)

Ingredients

330g plain flour, or use half whole-wheat if desired (I have not tried the latter, but I guess this would yield a sturdier, more earthy-tasting cookie)

1/2 tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

pinch of salt

1 flax egg– mix 1 tbsp ground flaxseed with 2 tbsp water

1 tsp vanilla extract

150g vegan butter or margarine

130g (around 3/4 cup) of white sugar

120g (around a packed 3/4 cup) of light brown sugar.

mixture to roll cookies in: 30g white sugar mixed with 1 tbsp ground cinnamon (you may realise you do not need all of it when rolling your cookie dough in this mixture)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 180C and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

Mix the ground flaxseed and water in a small bowl and set aside to gel up. Cream together the butter and sugar using a fork or electric whisk. I simply use a fork and spatula to cream it to save on some washing! Mix the butter and sugar until you get a smooth, fluffy consistency. Add the flax egg and vanilla extract and mix until incorporated.

Next, add the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Mix everything by hand or with an electric whisk. The mixture will be quite dry and crumbly (don’t worry, they won’t turn out like this). Roll the mixture into 2-inch balls, then roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place the balls at least 1 inch apart as they will spread a little.

Bake them in the oven for 18 minutes. Once baked, take the cookies out and use the bottom of a glass to lightly tap on the tops of the cookies to flatten them just a little. This evens out the conduction of heat and makes the cookies incredibly chewy and less raw in the centre. The cookies will look slightly pale and perhaps a little raw once out of the oven, but leave them to cool on your counter and they will stiffen and cook a little more. Resist if you can (I can’t). Enjoy on their own. These last quite a few days in an airtight container.

 

Apple Strudel

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Things to be grateful for the past week:

  • Billie Holiday. Happy belated, you star.
  • Extended periods of concentration
  • My mum’s lipstick (oops).
  • Discovering new, creative inspiration all around me, in the air, sights, people (Instagram aside, of course).
  • Daily yoga practice. Still trying to get better at certain inversions and balances. Nothing else truly grounds and invigorates me.
  • Love. Everywhere. Phone calls or video calls. Precious and genuine.
  • Making mistakes, and distinct feelings of unease. And then letting the right balance of stoicism and determination kick in. Feel, embrace, face obstacles, before trying to untangle and change them.
  • Coming across the cutest café (named Moreish) near the Wellcome Collection full of delicious vegan options, including vegan gelato!!
  • Coming up with more easy, AMAZING new recipes which I am so excited to release week after week! And just refining some sweet (literally) cult classics whenever I can. Snickerdoodles, red velvet cake, carrot cake, fudgy brownies galore. These things just can’t go wrong.My most recent experiment was particularly exciting and got me squealing on my knees at 10pm last night. Seriously.

Over the Easter weekend I was privileged enough to be hosted by my boyfriend’s family in Austria. On the plane ride back, my hands were itching to start playing with the Austrian cult classic– yes, the one and only apple strudel. I remember my first encounter with the traditional Austrian pastry before I went vegan so distinctly, The first bite was an explosion of thick-cut chunks of tender, stewed, cinnamony apple, enveloped in light-as-air, flaky pastry. Drenched in vanilla sauce (you usually douse your pastry in either this or vanilla ice cream if you have it), each vanilla speckle visible in pure, vivid ivory, if ivory could be so vivid. It’s the perfectly flaky pastry encasing soft apple, firm yet two steps away from being mush upon the pressure of your spoon, that I wished to replicate the past weekend.

And that I did.

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This easy vegan apple strudel is about an hour away from you if you feel like buying some filo tonight. Seriously, it’s so darn easy and delicious I can’t possibly think of what is stopping you. Since I was only making this for me and my uncle last weekend, the strudel I ended up with was a rather small thing of a sausage, but nevertheless satisfying in portion. Double the ingredients if you wish to make this for a larger party or, say, 5 or more friends who are more cautious than carefree when it comes to dessert after a hefty dinner of pot stickers and the likes on a Saturday night. I personally enjoy any dessert a la mode, as opposed to drenching it in custard or vanilla sauce. Ice cream any day for me, who’s with me?? I also drizzled over some of my homemade salted caramel sauce of extra pizzaz, though any sauce is of course optional, if you’re the sort who also hates stuff like sweet chilli sauce. Is that even possible?

Filo pastry actually comes in so handy for these types of dessert– I like to chuck mine in the freezer and let it thaw for at least 3 hours or overnight in the fridge to be used the next day.

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Apple Strudel (makes one 4×8-inch strudel. enough for 2-3 people)

Ingredients

2 large apples, diced

juice of half a lemon

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

2 and a half sheets of filo pastry, with the 2 larger ones cut in the middle along the longer edge, so you end up with 5 halves. If you’re using frozen filo pastry

A handful, or about 30g of chopped nuts (or buckwheat groats, as I used in my case since I didn’t have many nuts lying around– sacrilege!), and some extra for sprinkling later on

4 tbsp vegan butter, melted in the microwave

4 tbsp brown or coconut sugar

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350C). In a bowl, mix together the chopped apple, cinnamon, lemon and nuts. If you don’t have any nuts or buckwheat groats, granola or any trailer mix sort of thing works well too. Set the bowl aside.

Place a piece of parchment paper that fits a standard baking tray, and place the paper on the tray. Flour the parchment and lay down one sheet of filo pastry. Carefully (filo pastry is quite delicate) brush on some vegan butter, then sprinkle on a tablespoon of brown or coconut sugar, then some of your finely chopped nuts/granola/something crunchy basically! Then lay down your second piece of pastry and repeat. Repeat until all five sheets are used up. Place the filling in the middle of the pastry, leaving a border of an inch from the shorter edge (breadth) and 2 inches from the longer edge (length). Refer to the pictures above for a clearer idea of what I’m saying. Using a sharp knife, roughly cut lines going from the edge of your filling to the length of the pastry, spaced 2 cm away from each other and parallel to each other. The lines should match up to each other on both sides of the filling.

Carefully fold the strips of pastry towards the middle, using the extra melted butter to stick any overlapping bits together. Continue doing this along the length of the strudel until you reach the bottom. Brush the top of the pastry with more melted butter, sprinkle on some brown sugar, and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. The pastry should not be dark, but crispy all the same. Serve with a healthy dollop of vegan vanilla ice cream, and more nuts for crunch. This can be kept in the fridge for a few days

 

Double Chocolate Coffee Cookies (gluten-free)

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Bossa nova, and then Elvis in the background. At a new café in London (Abuelo) in the heart of Covent Garden, enjoying the serenity of solitude. Peaceitude. Hopefully there will be a vegan mud pie for me soon, to complement this matcha latte velvet. Despite my need for solitude, this heart is full with emptiness after a full 2 weeks of living and enjoying life to the fullest with my favourite human being over the Easter break. The past few weeks taught me that sometimes, all that’s needed is frugality and acceptance of what is. A fresh page in my diary for a fresh day. The simple, dense crumb of a freshly-baked loaf (missing the cheap and delicious bread from Germany so much!). The still invigoration of a short morning yoga flow, which pervades the air you breathe every second of every day with a keen alertness, curiosity and beauty. Nothing more sleek or necessary.

Success need not be about ticking off the 100 things on your to-do list, rather it could be absolute mindfulness. The absolute mindfulness of a cheeky bite of a chewy-edged, gluten-free chocolate chip cookie, which I made for my boyfriend’s dad who is extremely sensitive to gluten.

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These cookies have double the chocolate than your average cookie. In other words, they’re double the fun and flavour. Each break and pull yields strands and streams of melting dark chocolate (or stuff in some vegan milk chocolate if you wish, go on). The best part is of course the coffee, which brings out the flavour of the chocolate while illuminating a hint of morning smokiness. Using just buckwheat flour will make the cookies sandier in texture, but this is somewhat offset but the chewy edges, gooey middles and countless pools of melted chocolate. YUM.

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Gluten-free Double Chocolate Coffee Cookies (makes 6-8 medium-large cookies)

Ingredients

180g (1.5 cups) buckwheat flour (or use half buckwheat and half whole wheat/ plain flour)

100g chopped dark chocolate, or use a mix of dark and milk vegan chocolate if you prefer slightly sweeter cookies

100g vegan butter, at room temperature. Alternatively, you can use coconut oil.

140g brown/coconut sugar

1/2 tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

1 tsp espresso powder

1 tbsp vanilla extract

120ml (a half cup) plant milk of choice

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C and line two baking trays with baking parchment. In a bowl and with a fork or whisk, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the baking powder, baking soda, espresso powder, vanilla and plant milk. Mix everything together well. Add the buckwheat flour and chopped chocolate, and mix together until batter is well incorporated. It should look relatively thick and clumpy.

Dollop heaped tablespoons of batter onto your lined sheets, and press down on the cookies a little to flatten them. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes exactly. They should be really soft, in fact a little too soft to fiddle with once right out of the oven. Wait 10 minutes for them to firm up a little, before taking them off the tray and eating them (ideally with a cold glass of almond milk!).

Fudgy Brownies (and a special frosting)

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‘Rituals are not natural– we make them, and adapt them to our present requirement… Therein lies our freedom’– Margaret Visser, Rituals of Dinner.

Dissertation research has led me to uncover some incredibly fascinating, worthwhile reads, just like Rituals of Dinner. It has also made me realise that the title of any book may provide a hint of its scope, but never the insightful overlaps with other academic fields. It’s the most amazing feeling to be able to link a myriad different fields of interests to your own, or use their words to fit original insight. It’s actually been really rather fun to start archival research for the first time ever, poring over monstrously lengthy bits of letters and records to suss out their meat. Scour, amend, learn, watch. At the age of 21, it feels as if the world is at your feet. Just recently I had a small and bad mango. Lips puckered and I scowled. It was so full of potential, plucked too early. One shall not be like that mango.

Over the weekend I thought I’d go back to my roots and re-visit a personal favourite recipe of mine– my fudgy brownie squares. This time, I thought I’d amp them up a little with a special icing, made with mushy deglet noor dates (though use Medjool if you have them) and coconut milk. There are so many frosting options out there but this one is special with the bits left in. You know, bits. The stuff that keeps Ben&Jerry’s running, and people on their toes. What is Phish food without the phish? Speaking of which, I really hope they come out with a vegan version of that, soon. There is a smooth, innocent feel to elements left untouched and pure in flavour, such as a perfect scoop of pistachio ice cream. But couple that with textural contrast, say, the crisp shatter of the waffle cone underneath, and you’re 10 times better off.  Salted caramel with crispy bits? Ummm yes. Perhaps that is just the greed in me, though it does depend on mood. Sometimes, an innocent scoop of plain vanilla, or a plain, smooth brownie after your loyal avocad itoast, is the perfect treat.

My old brownie recipe is reliable and definitely can be veganised, but I modified these to be especially squishy (or squidgy, I’ve really been loving that word recently) and chockfull of lush dark chocolate. The old method of whisking until the batter pulls away from the sides of the bowl is not necessary here, but they still end up having chewy edges (best!) and a thick, ooey and gooey centre. This recipe takes half the time, and is thus double the fun.

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Fudgy Brownies with a date-coconut caramel frosting (makes 9 brownies in a 9×9-inch pan)

Ingredients

For the brownies:

250g (2 cups) plain flour (you could also consider using half whole wheat and half plain)

420g (a little less than 2 cups) sugar (I use a mix of granulated and coconut sugar)

80g cocoa powder

1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

150g chopped vegan chocolate (I love Green and Black’s 70%, but use whatever you want! Lindt’s is wonderful too)

1 flax egg, made my mixing 1 tbsp ground flaxseed with 2 tbsp water

1 tsp vanilla extract

480ml (2 cups) non-dairy milk (I used almond)

40g (around ¼ cup) melted coconut oil or vegan butter (I used vegan butter and just melted it in the microwave)

For the caramel:

Handful of chopped dates– soak them in some hot water first for around a minute if they are not soft Medjool dates or something similar

Half a can of full-fat coconut milk

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350F (180C) and line a square 9×9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. First, make the flax egg by mixing the ground flaxseed and water in a small bowl and set it aside. In a bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients, including the chopped chocolate. Then add everything else- the flax egg, melted coconut oil/butter, vanilla and milk, and mix well until everything is just combined. The batter should be smooth, not too sticky, and slightly wet. Place in the oven for 25 minutes. While it is baking, blitz the dates and coconut milk in a blender until the dates are broken up. Make sure the coconut milk has at least half of the solid top you see when you open the can. Leave some of the bits of dates in there for texture, but if you prefer, you could blend them all the way to make a smooth and thick frosting.

Let the brownies cool for 10 minutes before slathering on the frosting and cutting into squares.