Vegan chocolate cake with a secret French twist
A short while ago, I got asked to make my first vegan wedding cake and declined. Then spent a whole month testing vegan recipes for them. They were very good and got me to change my mind after my first refusal. I realised that I knew very little about vegan baking. That this would be a fantastic opportunity to learn something new and explore a new avenue of baking. So yes, I spent a lot of August trying 12 different recipes of vegan carrot cakes, about 5 vegan vanilla sponge recipes; vegan lemon cake recipes, coffee vegan cake…and of course chocolate vegan cake recipes.
The secret twist to the most perfect chocolate vegan cake
A lot of the recipes I tried were less than convincing: Whiter than pasty white uncooked looking flat little doughy things; sunked in the middle crumbly cakes; floury tasting grainy ones.
You name it. But this chocolate vegan cake recipe worked from the word go. A brilliant recipe from the talented journalist, blogger and baker Kate Hackworthy.
So when it came to getting ready for my lovely couple’s wedding cake tasting, I wanted to really wow them with a lot of choice and also some more unusual vegan cake flavours. So I grabbed my secret weapon: My jar of home made praliné hazelnut paste!
What is praline
Praline is a mixture of hazelnuts and caramel: You oven roast the hazelnuts for about 10 minutes; make a dry caramel; pour the hazelnuts into the caramel and mix it well; pour it on baking parchment to cool; then blitz it to oblivion into a smooth paste (it does take time).
Oh and technically it’s called PRA-LI-NEY (with an accent on the E). Yes I know, but if you ask for pralines in France, you will get some very bright pink sugar coated almonds, and not a jar of the lush nutty stuff. Pralines are a speciality form Perouges, not far from where I come from. they are equally delicous to use in baking, but very different from praliné hazelnut paste.
Things to to look out for when you make your own praliné hazelnut paste:
- Caramel- watch it, watch it and watch it every second of every minute. It can go from perfect gold to bitter burn very quickly
- Cooling down your caramel hazelnut mix – Spread it as thin as possible, it will help you breaking it into pieces to blitz it
- Blitzing it – Turning caramel coated hazelnut dust into a smooth hazelnut paste takes time, as the natural oil from the nuts needs to come out to make the magic happen. Be patient an keep blitzing.