At the start of the Autumn half term school holidays, Lil’ L moved into double digits. I’m still dumbfounded as to how my boy grew up so fast. Seriously, where did all those years go?
His day kicked off with present & card opening. I love watching his facial expressions as he opens presents!
Another sign that he’s growing up is the lack of toys on his birthday wish list. Instead, he wanted new wheels for his scooter, a skater helmet and books (so glad he still enjoys reading!)
We spent his birthday at Longleat Safari Park. We were able to use my Tesco vouchers, which meant we could enter the park for free (saving us over £70!) There’s so much to see at the Park, including a whole bunch of cool Deadly 60 attractions that have appeared since we last visited.
For me, the highlights of the day were seeing the penguins, taking part in the Deadly 60 challenge with Lil’ L, and watching a male lion playing with his cub. The highlight for Lil’ L was going on the simulators. It was the first time he’s been on a simulator and he found it thrilling (whereas I just felt incredibly sick & kept my eyes shut the whole time… I’m such a wimp!)
In the evening, we went to Lil’ L’s favourite Indian restaurant in Bath – Rajpoot on Pulteney Bridge.
The birthday celebrations then continued for the next few days (one of the perks of having a birthday in the school hols!) and included a Laser Quest party; a trip to Dorset to visit his Nan; walks in the forest; and bike rides with his Dad and cousin. What a lucky boy he is!
As usual, he requested a vegan chocolate cake for his birthday. This year, I made a very simple chocolate victoria sponge sandwich cake, which worked out surprisingly well. It was moist, held together well when sliced, and wasn’t too rich or sickly sweet.
I was all set to use cashew cream frosting (which I prefer a million times over to regular frosting) … but then had a change of heart. This cake wasn’t for me, it was for Lil’ L and his friends. Rather than impose my preferences on them, I ditched the cashews and dug out an old box of icing sugar from the back of the cupboard. I even went to the shops and bought some sugar sprinkles.
The cake got great feedback from the family (including my mum!) as well as Lil’ L’s friends. I was particularly surprised when Lil’ L’s best friend came up to me after the party to tell me how much he’d enjoyed the cake. This meant a lot as he isn’t normally a ‘cake person’ (you’re much more likely to seeing him diving into a fruit bowl or tucking into roasted nuts and seeds!)
The cake was super easy to make. Here’s how I did it:
Chocolate Victoria Sponge Sandwich Cake (vegan, dairy-free, egg-free)
Makes 1 x 9 inch sandwich cake Serves: 16-20 (can be frozen)
Hands on time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40-50 minutes
Ready in: 2 hours
480ml / 16 fl oz / 2 cups soya milk (or almond milk)
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
200g / 7 oz / 1½ cups plain (all purpose) flour
200g / 7 oz / 1½ cups fine wholemeal (wholewheat) or chapatti flour (I used the latter)
60g / 2 oz / ½ cup cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
142ml / 5 fl oz / 2/3 cup rapeseed (canola) oil
330g / 11½ oz / 1½ cups unrefined caster sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) / 350F.
Lightly oil 2 x 9 inch spring-form or loose-bottomed cake tins and line the bases with non-stick baking paper.
Whisk together the milk and vinegar in a bowl, and leave to curdle.
Sift the flours, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt into another mixing bowl. Gently stir until thoroughly incorporated, then make a well in the centre.
Add the oil, sugar and vanilla extract to the milk and vinegar. Whisk with a strong fork until it has a caramel-like consistency.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir until fully combined, but do not over stir!
Divide the batter between the prepared tins and smooth the surface. Place on racks in the oven as close to the centre as possible. Bake for 40-50 minutes. The cakes are ready when they are firm to the touch, spring back when pressed and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. (You may find that the cake on the lower rack needs a little longer – I usually baked mine for an extra 10 minutes).
Leave the cakes in their tins until completely cool. Gently run a knife around the inside of the tins to loosen the cakes, then invert them onto a wire rack and peel off the baking paper. Chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the frosting.
I only spread a thin layer of frosting in the centre and on top of the cake. If you want to lavish your cake in frosting, double the quantities listed below.
150g / 5½ oz / 1 cup icing sugar
4 TBSP cocoa powder
50g / 2 oz / 4 TBSP dairy-free spread (e.g. Pure)
2 TBSP non dairy milk
Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a large bowl. Add the margarine and milk, and beat with an electric whisk. Start on slow speed until the mixture starts to come together, then turn the mixer up to high speed. If the frosting looks a little dry, add another 1 tsp of milk. Keep beating the mixture until it is light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).
Frost the cakes, assemble and decorate with sprinkles.
This cake will keep for up to a week chilled the refrigerator. (I find the flavour and texture of the cake actually improves in the next day or two after baking). If you’re not planning on eating the cake all in one go, you can slice it and store it in the freezer in airtight freezer bags.
Products used in this recipe
– Morrisons 23cm Non-Stick Springform Cake Tins – These are made in the UK, cost only £4 each and have a 5-year guarantee!
– Salter Aquatronic Electronic Kitchen Scale – These scales are great as you can weigh everything directly into the same bowl. As an added bonus, they come with a 15 year guarantee!
– Tesco Chapatti Flour – I use this flour in all my baked goods. It’s a very fine wholemeal flour and super cheap too!
– Dr Oetker Sugar Stars and Sugar Strands – Purchased from The Co-Op; also available from Tesco
For those of you that dislike the traditional Christmas fruit cake, I think this would make a great alternative. You could even add some festive sprinkles!
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