Vegan chocolate cake with a secret French twist

A short while ago, I got asked to make my first vegan wedding cake. Said no sorry, it’s not my forte. Then spent a whole month testing vegan recipes! This lovely, very adorable couple were very good and got me to change my mind. Not only about making their vegan chocolate wedding cake, but also about vegan cakes generally.

I knew very little about vegan baking before I met Eli and her fiancé. 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.

vegan cakes with white chocolate vegan ganache frosting

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 – 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.

Chocolate cupcakes with hidden praliné heart

I won’t copy the original recipe I used because it wouldn’t be very cool obviously. Hence I linked to it above in this post.
To make my “French twist” version with praliné:
1- Omit the instant coffee granules
2- Add 1 heaped tablespoon of praliné paste to your batter
3- Don’t overmix and bake as normal
4- When the cakes have cooled down, remove a piece in the centre and fill with more praliné paste before pipping your vegan chocolate ganache frozting on top.
The cakes on my picture were topped with a vanilla vegan buttercream, but you can also go all chocolate using the cocoa powder based frosting on the original recipe from Veggie Desserts. Or a dairy free, vegan chocolate ganache (like the one I teach at my class on chocolate ganache magic ).

What next?

I’m going to keep testing and experimenting with vegan baking recipes, especially with vegan chocolate. What would you like to know? To improve? to find out about vegan cakes and baking? Let me know in a comment and I can make sure I include this in my future rounds of testing. I’ll update this post as I go along with my new findings.
chocolate vegan cake with praline and chocolate frosting