Chocolate torte: a divine vegan treat

Pouring the milk and cracking the eggs are essential steps to baking a cake - unless you're a vegan.

It might seem impossible, but there are ways around adding animal products to home-made desserts to make them vegan-friendly - it's all about substitution.

Lisa Fabry has been a vegan for 12 years and in that time has never had to miss out on the delights of a rich chocolate cake, a gooey creme brulee or sticky banoffee pie, simply by experimenting with different ingredients to create her own version of a recipe.

She has released Divine Vegan Desserts, a cookbook to show fellow vegetable eaters that being vegan doesn't mean missing out on the sweet stuff and to give omnivores some ideas on how to make healthier after dinner treats. It is filled with recipes she invented over her years as owner and baker of Bliss Organic cafe in Adelaide and peppered with vegan desserts chefs from restaurants around the world have created.

"I really wanted to include all the traditional favourites, so if someone wanted to make a dessert but didn't know how to make it vegan, they would hopefully find it or something like it in my book," she says.

From a black forest gateau that uses cashew cream in place of the whipped variety to ice-cream recipes that use soy custard or coconut milk in place of dairy, Fabry says there are a huge range of alternatives to traditional ingredients.

"It's easy if it's milk and cream and butter because you can just replace those with the soy versions. Eggs are a little bit harder, because they do so many different things," Fabry says.

"The only thing I haven't been able to do really successfully is meringue."

She believes vegan desserts are a much healthier option than the sugar-laden, full-fat tarts and biscuits bought from supermarkets. Vegan desserts are just as decadent, but don't contain high levels of saturated fat and many of the recipes in this cookbook are gluten-free and low in sugar.

"Even if it's full of fat and sugar, the fat is not saturated fat and the sugars I recommend are never completely white, it would usually be an unrefined sweetener. I use a lot more nutritious grains, I might use whole-wheat flour or spelt or rice flour to include a bigger range of vitamins and minerals," Fabry says.

Fortunately, chocolate is still allowed on a vegan diet, as long as it is of the good-quality dark variety, - something for which Fabry and her two daughters, who are also vegan, are grateful.

Fabry credits her teenagers' cravings for treats as her inspiration for many of the recipes when creating a vegan alternative.

CHOCOLATE TORTE

Gluten-free and nut-free

 Don’t expect the torte to rise like a sponge, it’s moist and dense and will stay flat, or even sink a little. This isn’t a failure, just top with frosting. The torte will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days. Serves 6–8

TORTE

¼ cup (35 g) cocoa

1 cup (135 g) gluten-free flour mix or other gluten-free flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup (100 g) sugar

½ cup (120 g) silken tofu

¼ cup (60 ml) maple syrup

¼ cup (60 ml) light oil, e.g. sunflower

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

2 tablespoons double strength coffee, or coffee substitute

FROSTING

½ cup (120 g) silken tofu

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons soy or rice milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 bar (100 g) chocolate

Oven 180°C

METHOD

Grease and line the base of a 23 cm round cake tin.

To make the torte, sift the cocoa, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl. 

Add the sugar. In a food processor or blender combine the tofu, maple syrup, oil, vanilla and cider vinegar and mix thoroughly until creamy. Add the coffee and blend again. 

Add this wet mixture to the bowl of sifted flour and whisk until smooth. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly. Bake for 20 minutes or until cake comes a little away from the sides of the tin. Cool in tin. When cool, invert onto a plate.

For the frosting, melt the chocolate in a bain-marie. In a food processor, blend the rest of the ingredients until very smooth. 

When the chocolate has melted add it to the mixture and blend, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula now and again. Transfer the mousse to a bowl and refrigerate for about an hour until it thickens. Then spread a thick layer on top of the torte.

Source: Divine Vegan Desserts

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