Cake. Even the word is compact: remove any part of it and you no longer have cake. Cak? Cke? No, I don’t think so! Just like the actual product itself. Let’s be clear, right now I’m talking about your classic sponge cake, one of the finest pieces of food technology you’ll ever find. Other flavours are just that - flavours. When you think of Walkers you think of ready salted and when you think of cake, the finest standard is a sponge. But just how perfect is our delightful standard vanilla cake? Is every layer, every ingredient, really necessary?
Let’s start at the foundations, the base layer of beauty, a delightful fluffy circle of edible sponge. It’s ingenious really, which leads me to the question, who invented sponge cake? Scientists probably, it’s the only logical assumption. When they started I like to think they started here, at the sponge, for where would be a better place other than these fundamental underpinning? Of course, many of you know the sponge cake as a ‘Victoria’ sponge cake, an addition which it got from Queen Victoria’s love of the food.
Now we know a little history, what are the ingredients? The standard is a combination of flour, eggs, sugar, butter and usually some baking powder, a bland list that when combined makes something only the Gods could have designed. However, it seems like the Gods didn’t have vegans in mind, so are these all necessary? Are vegans deprived of sponge cake? Of course not, for you see cake may be compact and to the point but it is also a celebration of unity! Everyone can enjoy a sponge cake with just a few substitutes for the not so vegan butter and eggs. A recipe I used made with the help of some cake experts swapped out the non-vegan aspects for some almond milk and vegan margarine. Did it live up to its non-vegan counterpart’s tall heights of success? It did! Though we took a few liberties with the recipe we used so a little creativity might be required. But worry not, the vegan cake family is only getting bigger, this year alone the Bake Off hosted its first ever vegan week!
Jam. Jam is what follows the base, for where would we be without jam? I know I’ve praised the sponge cake up until now but let’s be honest, it’s a dull affair without the middle section. This is no flaw though. No, it’s the sponge cake’s greatest strength. The key to sponge cake, no matter what substitutions you’re making in the ingredients, is the structure, and in that structure, you need a little flavour boosting taste, the sugar in the sponge alone won’t cover it. But it doesn’t stop there, the middle section is in fact a two-part operation! For what would be better than just jam?
Cream! Yes of course, have you ever had strawberries and cream? (Don’t pretend like you didn’t know I was talking about strawberry jam.) And don’t act like the cream isn’t integral to the whole structure; try eating our beloved cake with just jam in the middle, it’s one of the biggest disappointments a person can experience in their life. Once again though, you may wonder what the vegans can do in this creamy situation. Remember, sponge cake is an all-inclusive experience and of course there is a substitute - any dairy-free butter/margarine pretty much solves the problem for most buttercream recipes.
But what do you do if you’ve already created something so clever and brilliant at the base of your cake? What if it goes unnoticed at the bottom? Compact in product, but versatile in recipe masterpiece, what do you do if you’re worried that no one will see that invention? Well you take some inspiration from another clever little invention and you make it a sandwich! Yes, the final layer is simply the first again, for if it isn’t broke…
I can’t stress this enough, I love cake. Nearly everyone does - it’s a near perfect design in structure and how you achieve it leaves a little wiggle room. Never has there been a food that manages to be both structured, versatile and just so damn tasty at the same time! But those clever little scientists, those inventors that brought us the cake, they did leave an optional addition. For what makes a perfect thing just a little bit better? A cherry on top.
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