cakes and tarts

Sometimes you have to change your plans. And I am a huge plan changer. Especially when it comes to recipes. The fact that I cannot stick to recipes is one of the main reasons why I develop my own. And I think changing plans, being flexible, or having an alternative on hand is a big part of being vegan, too. Especially when it comes to non-vegan recipes.

When Amatō of Wagashi Maniac asked me to veganize one or two Japanese dessert recipes, I said yes, if I could have a look at the ingredients first. Not because I wanted to scan them for unusual ones, but because I wanted know exactly how many eggs were involved and what baking skills those desserts called for. After all, I have no clue about Japanese cooking and baking. I don’t know what to expect from a recipe and I have no idea how it should turn out.

Amatō sent me a translation of a matcha soufflé roll that looked beautiful. And called for four eggs. Which are not that difficult to replace. But the egg whites had to be separated and beat stiff. After all this was a soufflé roll. Egg white foam substitutes and jelly rolls are not a vegan’s best friend, at least not mine. I could have tried ordering a certain egg replacer online that is said to mimic egg white foam and probably would have solved my problems. I thought about that for a minute. But then I changed my plan. I have made a vegan sponge cake before and thought this might be a good starting point for the jelly roll.

Well maybe I should have ordered the egg replacer. In the end I was glad I didn’t. My cake didn’t turn into a  jelly roll, the sponge cake crumbled as soon as I tried to roll it up. But I wasn’t disappointed. I changed my plan once again and made a layer cake instead. This recipe  isn’t very close to the original version anymore. But that’s not a bad thing. The really good thing about vegan cuisine (ha, I said it!) is that you might start with a substitution but end up with a really great new item. I think one of the things I’ve learned from being vegan for four years is the fact that the question “but does this taste like the real thing?” is irrelevant. It probably doesn’t but it will still taste great. And it will probably be something new.

The original (non-vegan) recipe, which you can find here, calls for tsubu-an (anko), a sweet bean paste made from whole adzuki beans. I didn’t have that on hand so I asked Amatō for a substitute. She suggested sweet chestnut spread. Luckily I still had several cans of a French spread on hand, bought on our trip to France last year.

The original filling consists of whipped cream, matcha powder and tsube-an. I used a slightly adapted version of Amatō’s recipe for matcha and wasabon mousse instead.

Layered Matcha Cake

For the sponge cake:

3 tablespoons chickpea flour
180 ml (3/4 cup) hot water
100 g (1/2 cup) sugar
60 ml (1/4 cup) canola oil
125 g (1 cup) German type 405 flour or pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
25 g (3 tablespoons) cornstarch
10 g (2 tablespoons) matcha powder

Line a 29 cm x 29 cm (11 x 11 inch) square pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 175°C (350°C). Sift chickpea flour into a bowl. Add hot water and whisk until you got rid of most lumps. Some small lumps are okay. Add sugar and oil and whisk constantly. Sift in flour, starch and matcha powder and whisk until the batter is smooth. Pour into prepared pan. Make sure to distribute the batter evenly by using a dough scraper. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

For the filling:

Adapted from this recipe

120 g (1 cup) cashews, soaked for a couple of hours
300 ml (1 1/4 cup) almond or soy milk
1/2 cup (110 g) refined coconut oil
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon agar-agar powder

Combine cashews and non-dairy milk in a food processor or blender. Purée until very smooth. In a small pot, melt coconut oil over low heat. Add soy milk mixture and whisk in powdered sugar. sprinkle agar-agar on top, whisk, and bring to a boil. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the mixture has thickened. If it is not that thick yet, don’t worry. Most of the thickening will take place as the mixture cools. Let cool completely. The mass will become very solid and a bit rubbery. Now transfer it to your food processor and process until smooth.

Cake assembly:
1 100g (3.5 oz) can chestnut spread
powdered sugar

Spread the cake with a thin layer of chestnut spread. Carefully cut it into four equal strips. Take the first layer of your cake and spread with filling. Place another layer on top, spread with filling, repeat with the other layers. Make sure you have enough filling for each layer but also for the sides of the cake. After you have assembled your cake use the leftover filling to carefully ice the sides. Sift some powdered sugar on top. (You can also use a mixture of matcha powder and sugar.) Place the cake in the fridge for 2-3 hours before serving.


German cheesecakes are different from Northern American cheesecakes. Traditionally we don’t use cream cheese or ricotta as a filling  but cream and quark. Quark is a kind of fresh curd cheese that is available in many different varieties and used for different purposes. In German, tofu is sometimes called Sojaquark (soy curd). This might be the reason why many vegan cheesecake recipes used to call for tofu or silken tofu. Unfortunately, I never found a tofu cheesecake that I liked.  Apparently some other people thought so too, so someone came up with the idea of using strained yoghurt instead of tofu. Cream cheese is not really an option as it is very hard to find in most places (you can order tofutti online).

When I made my first cheesecake, I used a mixture of yoghurt  and soyatoo whipped cream. Since soyatoo is not accessible to everyone and since it has a very prominent taste, I wanted to try something with easier to find and more neutral tasting ingredients.

I still think that using soy yoghurt is a great alternative both to tofu and cream cheese. What I do not like so much is the straining process. It is messy and takes long. But it is also easy to avoid, if you find a different way to thicken your yoghurt. Nuts, especially cashews, are great for this. They have a neutral taste and add creaminess and texture.

When I thought about developing a new cake recipe, I wanted to make a speculoos blueberry streusel cake. Speculoos cookies are fantastic Belgian spice cookies with hint of caramel and I have talked so much about them before that this blog could be renamed into speculoos are my motor. I wanted to make a speculoos crust with commercial speculoos cookies, but then they also might not be available to everyone. So I searched for a traditional speculoos cookie recipe online and decided to use the dough for my crust. And then my head kept spinning and spinning and I finally had a blueberry speculoos streusel cheesecake in my mind.

Now you may wonder why I come up with such a complicated and flamboyant sounding recipe. Well, the answer is simple. Because I don’t use butter. Whenever I have to take a cake to a bunch of omnis, I like to make something they never have heard of before. To be fair, most omnis like my cakes and they don’t have any prejudices against vegans and their food. But some do. If you tell them you didn’t use butter in your cake and there might be some soy or tofu involved, they won’t even taste it. Not one bite. But if you come up with something that sounds complicated and non-traditional, they are distracted and will most likely ask you where you got the idea for such a cake, instead of asking how a cake without butter could possibly be tasty. They get curious and eventually try the cake.

Now that you know my (not so) secret (anymore) camouflage technique about how to deal with sceptical omnis, I will finally move on to the cake recipe.

Blueberry Speculoos Streusel Cheesecake (makes 1 20 cm/8 inch cake)

For the Crust:

I used this recipe and halved it. This is the English translation but since the cup measurements are off, I repost the recipe with my slight modifications.

125 g ( 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) muscovado sugar 125 g ( 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) refined coconut oil or margarine, softened 2 tablespoons cold water 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon speculoos spice mix (cloves, nutmeg, ginger, anise) or Lebkuchen spice mix 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 175 g (1 1/3 cups) flour

Cream together sugar, fat, and water until light and fluffy. Add spices, salt, baking powder and half of the flour. Beat with a hand-held blender until the dough comes together. Add remaining flour and beat again until a dough forms. Shape 2/3 of the dough into a flat disk. Wrap both the disk and the remaining piece of dough into foil. Refrigerate for an hour.

For the filling:

100 g (3/4 cup) raw cashews 250 g (1 cup) plain soy yoghurt 60 ml (1/4 cup) coconut milk 30 g (1/4 cup) cornstarch 50 g (1/4 cup) sugar 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

200 g frozen blueberries 2 tablespoons flour

Combine cashews and soy yoghurt in a food processor. Process until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and process again. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Grease a 20 cm (8 inch) round springform pan with oil. Press crust disk into the sides and bottom of the pan. Use the remaining dough to make the streusel topping by tearing it apart and shaping it into crumbs. Set the crumbs aside.

Pour the filling into the cake pan. Evenly coat the frozen berries with flour and pour over the filling. Sprinkle with dough crumbs. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is set. Let cool completely before serving.