Saturday, 30 March 2013

Kunzle Cakes- but vegan: cupcakes in a chocolate shell

(Image: www.

Who remembers Kunzle cakes from the Sixties and Seventies? Since home baking is so popular right now, especially all things chocolatey and cupcakey, I am surprised there hasn't been a Kunzle cake revival. (Apparently Waitrose tried it around 8 years ago but it never took off...) I remember them as square sponge cakes topped with buttercream encased in a chocolate shell but apparently they can be other shapes too...I did a bit of Googling and found out that Christian Kunzle, the Swiss baker who invented these cakes actually based his business in Birmingham, where we live right now! He made so much money from them that he was able to fund a hospital for sick children back in Switzerland, and he donated his house and grounds to the people of Birmingham as a park. After finding that out, we just had to have a go at reinventing them vegan-style for this year's Easter bake; but this is NOT a healthy recipe, so if you were looking for wholefood cakes, click away now and try one of our other cake recipes! (See Sugar Free Recipes page for the links.)

Apologies for the hasty piping- there was a hungry family waiting...!

Surprisingly, these cakes are not too difficult to make; just a bit fiddly- and you have to be patient and let the chocolate set and the cakes cool. But then this is an Easter holiday bake, so we're assuming you have some time on your hands. The snap of the chocolate as you eat them, the light sponge cake and the fluffy buttercream are an experience well worth the time they take- about 2 hours from start to finish. You will need either 2 sets of identical silicone cupcake moulds like we used or paper muffin cases and a smaller fairy cake tin. We made 12 cakes from this recipe.

We used glace cherry pieces and chocolate leaves for decoration, but you can use whatever takes your fancy.
For the shells:
350-400g vegan dark chocolate. If it's not cooking chocolate you may need to temper it. (Heat it and cool again before using.)

For the cakes:
200g self-raising flour
100g soft light brown sugar
2 tsps baking powder
200ml soya (or other plant) milk
75ml peanut/ ricebran/ sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla essence

For the buttercream:
200g unhydrogenated vegan margarine- one that is labelled as suitable for baking (low fat spreads have too high a water content)
300g icing sugar (aka confectioners' sugar if you're in the States)
some food colouring of your choice

For the decorations:
12  glace cherry halves
12  chocolate leaves- see here for how to make these; it's easy and fun!

  • Melt your chocolate in a bain marie or microwave, 1/3 at a time.
  • Paint a layer inside each of the first 12 silicone moulds.
  • Repeat this two more times, allowing the previous layer to set each time. Make the second layer thicker than the first and third layer, and try to ensure that the thickness is maintained right up to the top edges for a neat and tidy finished result. If you are making chocolate leaves, do this now as well.
  • Between painting on the layers, make the cakes in the other set of silicone moulds: combine the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another, then beat the wet into the dry. Half fill each mould and put them in an oven preheated to 180C for about 15 minutes, or until a thin skewer inserted comes out clean.
  • While the cakes are cooling and the chocolate cases are setting, make up the buttercream by creaming the ingredients together. We chose two colours so we split our mixture equally into two bowls.
  • When the chocolate cases have completely set hard (which they probably will have by now unless you live somewhere really hot) and the cakes have cooled, take the cakes out of their moulds and cut them down to fit the cases with a large, sharp knife. You will probably have to cut the tops off as we did, because the idea is that the cake only comes part of the way up the shell, leaving room for a generous layer of piped buttercream. Any leftover pieces can be mixed with leftover buttercream and eaten up ;)
  • Once the cakes and shells are assembled, it's time for the real fun bit: the decorating. We used a star nozzle to pipe the buttercream, and placed a cherry piece and a chocolate leaf in the centre of each cake.
...And for a real Seventies feel, why not try a Black Forest version of these cakes? Make a chocolate sponge and decorate with whipped cream/ vegan cream, black cherries and chocolate flakes/ curls.

Happy Easter everyone!

Friday, 29 March 2013

Carrot and Coriander Soup- vegan

This soup is delicious with soda bread rolls and home- made peanut butter for a satisfying lunch.
In the Gaudiya Matha, eating carrots is prohibited (look here for details) but some practitioners of Bhakti Yoga will use the orange European sort (as opposed to the dark red Indian carrots), so on this blog for the first time is a carrot recipe for those who do. This soup was really popular in bistros back in the 80s and we thought it deserved a makeover; our version is thick and hearty and contains fresh coriander leaf as well as ground coriander seed.

(Makes about 6 servings)
1 kg fresh carrots
200g potato, diced small
2 tabs cold-pressed sunflower oil
1/2 tsp compound hing
2 rounded tabs ground coriander seed
stock made from 1 tab brown rice miso and 1l of water
25g fresh coriander
2 tsps black pepper
seasalt to taste
  • Prepare and slice the carrots thinly.
  • Cook the potatoes in the oil for 2-3 minutes, stirring to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan, then add the carrots and mix well.
  • Stir in the hing and the ground coriander.
  • Add the stock, put the lid on your pan and simmer until the veg is soft, adding the fresh coriander at this point. 
  • Now blitz it in the blender until smooth and return to the pan.
  • Add salt and pepper, adjust the liquid if you like, and re-heat gently to serve.
Note: ginger and orange are two flavours that go really well with carrot- you could try adding one or both of these to the soup.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Mango Cashew Kulfi- vegan, sugar free

This "creamy" golden dessert is a healthy treat!
Happy Gaura Purnima (appearance day of Caitanya Mahaprabhu) and Holi Hai to you all! This dessert is a great way to celebrate today, and suitable for those following a farali (no grains) fast. What better way to welcome in Spring than with juicy mangoes, which will soon be ripening all over India? To celebrate the birthday of the Golden Avatar, this kulfi as beautifully-coloured as His complexion.
 So how can you have kulfi without dairy? -Well, according to Wikipedia, what really sets kulfi apart from regular icecream is that it is not whipped and therefore very dense and rich. This cashew-based dessert is not whipped either, so we think it can be classed as kulfi. The recipe is very simple, but you do need a food processor/ blender/ grinder for grinding and pureeing. This makes about 700g of kulfi, enough for about 5 people.

200g cashew pieces (unsalted)
500g diced fresh ripe mango flesh

  • Grind the cashews to a fine powder; as fine as possible so as to achieve a smooth end result.
  • Add the diced mango and blend to a puree.
  • Put into a tub or bowl and freeze.

Monday, 25 March 2013

My Fitness Diary 7: Ideas for when you can't exercise outside...

Who would think this was the end of March?!
I was enjoying my evening run in daylight once more, even contemplating shedding the hi-viz jacket when suddenly....
...SNOW!- Yes, proper snow, and just as the flowers were starting to bloom too (but that's another story). The odd flurry was no problem, then last Thursday night it began in earnest, and by Sunday morning we had nearly as much as in January. Knowing from experience how frustrating and risky running on frozen snow and ice can be, we decided to give it a miss until it melted. So far we have missed four days- grrr! But this got me thinking about ways you can exercise until it's safe to go out running again:-

  1. Go Swimming: We have been doing this for a couple of weeks now, just once a week after work on a non-running "rest" day. Vigorous swimming burns plenty of calories (350 per half hour) and excercises muscles all over you including your arms and abs. It's relaxing and there's also much less chance of injuring yourself. There's nothing quite like the feeling of being "swim fit!"
  2. Use a treadmill: This is not something I've tried, but I know a lot of runners do this in bad weather. You can go to your local gym, or, if you have one at home, it's even easier.
  3. Walk: going for long, brisk walk in the snow is better than staying on the couch! Even walking counts as exercise and as long as you are dressed appropriately and take care on slippery terrain and near snowdrifts. Make sure someone at home knows where you are going and what time you expect to be back and always carry your phone and some money with you in case of emergencies. Walking is free and you can do it any time you like.
  4. Dance! Just putting some music on and getting down (make sure it's energetically) to your favourite music will keep you fit if you do it for long enough- and it's great fun too! Make sure you warm up and cool down to protect your muscles though. Like walking and running it has the advantage of being free and you don't need to go anywhere like a sports centre to do it. (Or you could enrol in a class like Zumba, salsa, bellydance etc. and go out to do it.)