If Hobbits Were Vegan

Happy Happy Hobbit Anniversary to all you Tolkein lovers!

Today is a wonderful day, this day 75 years ago was the release of the first copy of The Hobbit. It’s not just a literary celebration my friends, the Hobbit has grown into more then just a book. It is something that transforms imaginations, and it converts even the most stubborn realist into the realms of fantasy and wonder. Mr Tolkein’s seamless weaving of worlds, keeping the fantastical world of Middle Earth entwined with very real descriptions is beautiful. There is no sugar, no cotton wool, and it’s a children’s book. That is why I love it, it’s not some pansy fairy tale. It’s incredibly real, it helps children get acquainted with real emotions, it is painful, it is exhilarating and it’s violent and it doesn’t apologise for being so. As a nine year old reading this book, it was incredibly refreshing being able to feel all of that whilst still keeping that amazing imagination running alongside.

To me, it transcends the literary community, it’s an ideological state of time and people idealise their simple lifestyles. Which consists of entertaining, eating, partying, exploring, eating some more and drinking. It’s the essence of everything, those simple tasks, and I try my very hardest not to forget it, even when I’m tangled up in books, HTML coding and working. So, in the spirit of this ideal, the wonderful people over at ‘The Hobbit Second Breakfast’ had this idea, to get together at work, or at home, or out with friends and people and spend ten minutes, enjoying something that you have made. Well obviously it’s past 11am sharp so the invitation is a little out of date, but I love the image!

I knew that I was going to make something for the occasion, it just happened that a very good friend of mine had requested some vegan cupcakes from me a few days ago, so it tied in quite nicely. Now i’m not vegan myself, so I’ve never really needed to bake vegan cakes before, I was a little concerned at how the cakes would come out. I really didn’t need to worry, they really aren’t difficult. As I’m still riding my pride-train at the moment I thought I would write a little about it!

Now, I did study for a few hours before I made them, to see the effects that different fats and methods had on the end product (which is, useful in any recipe, but more so here!). There is SO MUCH information out there for vegan cakes. I was literally going around in circles trying to find some half decent information that was just straightforward. I did find some little gems on Vegan awareness sites, but it kept getting tangled up animal rights arguments, and I wasn’t there to read about that. I was there to read about cooking and nothing more. So I’ve sifted through a lot of the controversy to give you a recipe that you can use. If you’re vegan, if you have vegan friends, or if you just want to try something a little different from the rich, buttery sponges you normally get, give them a go. I only needed a small amount for the commission, so this is a relatively small batch, making only six cupcakes! There are two different flavours, so go to town if you like, they’re very easy! I must apologise in advance, I made entirely by eye, following the basic rules of baking, so it is in cups rather then grams *shudder*. Looking back this was a stupid decision, as I always work with scales, but it worked so I’m not going to mess.

Jess’ Vegan Cupcakes
Makes 6 lovely little cupcakes

3/4 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup caster sugar, plus maybe a little extra
Just under 1/4 cup sunflower oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon (do I need to say unwaxed? Nobody likes eating wax!)
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1 heaped tablespoon cocoa powder (good cocoa!)
Vanilla extract
Small carton of plain soya single cream/milk (I used cream!)
1 tub of vegan cream cheese

Decorations of choice
Optional: Gianduja bombs

– Preheat your oven to 170C regular oven/150C fan oven/gas mark 3.
– It really is a very simple mixture, sieve the flour, a pinch of salt, and just over half the sugar into a bowl. Add 2 tsp vanilla, vinegar and oil and mix until it’s a thick paste. 
– Split the mixture into two bowls, add half the zest and juice to the one mixture, and half the cocoa to the other half. 
– This is the bit where you have to sort of play it by sight, the batter needs to be runny, but not completely liquid-sloshy sort of thing. Add some soya cream to the chocolate half first, you’ll need a little more in this half. And keep adding it until you get the runny batter. Then do the same with the lemon half. 
– Pour into cupcake cases (if you’re using the Gianduja bombs push them into the middle of the chocolate cakes!) and bake for roughly 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye on them though! They won’t rise straight away, they will rise gradually over the course of the cooking time, unlike regular sponges. Don’t be disheartened if they don’t rise straight away like I did, they will, have faith! 
– Do the regular skewer test to make sure they’re cooked all the way through (don’t forget to skewer the edges of the chocolate cakes as they have truffles in the middle!) and leave them to cool a little. 
– Skewer a few extra holes in the lemon ones, mix a little of the left-over lemon juice with as much or as little sugar as you life, and spoon over the lemon cakes. 

– To make the icing is simple. Soften the vegan cream cheese with the back of a spoon, add 1 tsp vanilla, the rest of the sugar (you may have to taste to get the proportions just right, I’m a bit approximate) and split it into two bowls. – Add the rest of the cocoa powder to the one half, and whatever lemon zest you have left. You will have to add a little lemon juice to get it super lemony, but don’t over-do it. It’ll be too runny!
– Give a reasonably thick layer to the top and flatten it (you can pipe it, but it is a bit of a pain), then decorate it however you like. I went for chocolate buttons and sugar stars for simplicity. But go nuts.

And Voila! Really light, tasty cupcakes with very little effort! If you’re curious, the Gianduja (jahn-DOO-yuh if you’re feeling Italian, zhahn-DOO-yuh if you’re feeling British) bombs I bought are from Hotel Chocolat and are 70% dark chocolates filled with an incredibly smooth praline paste. They are absolutely gorgeous, and if you haven’t tried them before I highly, highly recommended it! You don’t have to include them in but it’s a really nice surprise when you bite into a really moist cupcake and find a huge burst of rich chocolate filling.

There you have it, a simple recipe for Vegan cupcakes, useful to have around, just in case there is someone who is lactose intolerant, allergic to eggs or…is Vegan I guess. No fuss.

Enjoy, my fellow Hobbits of the world.