One of the few thing I miss about working in an office is the birthday cake. At every company at which I've worked, there has been a birthday cake and the birthday girl or boy gets to choose a cake. I would choose the one with cream cheese icing, whether it was a hummingbird cake or a carrot cake. I miss slicing up the cake, handing out pieces of it on a paper towel or napkin, eating the icing and then getting a sugar rush that would get you through the rest of the day. I missed it so much that I wondered aloud on twitter if I could just pop into someone's office for the day for a bit of nostalgic birthday cake action. I could pretend to be in some obscure department housed on the basement floor, or perhaps seconded for the day from an interstate or overseas office.
The world of corporate cakes had changed and people told me about birthday cake months where for two months a year, they'd get cake to suffice for everyone's birthdays throughout the year. This worked because they would have seasonal period of frantic activity and this would be their reward after a hard slog. Other companies did away completely with the birthday cakes, citing reasons of health and apathy - and cake apathy is a terrible apathy to have! ;) Then a friend told me that they always get their birthday cakes from one of the best patisseries in Sydney and I instantly thought "now that is a place that doesn't have cake apathy - I want to work there!"
I used to bake birthday cakes for friends and family. It was actually a chance to make something and then share it but after a while, it started to be taken for granted. People didn't care that you made the cake for them, and after a while, nobody really cared that you spent quite a bit on the ingredients, until that is, they had to buy a cake from a shop and they have to hand over $40 for a cake. So I decided to just pop up randomly to birthdays with a cake.
So instead of having pressure to bring one and expectation, I just bring one if I have time to make one and there was no expectation if I would and there was never anything wrong with an extra cake. This one was for Mr NQN's mother Tuulikki, she of the vegan diet. Last year, I had made her a chocolate vegan cake and this year, I wanted to make a vanilla version but one moist with summer fruit.
Before you turn away and tell me that vegan cakes without eggs and dairy can be dry, please let me assure you that this is not. In fact it is probably one of the most moist cakes I have made, courtesy of the summery fruit in the filling and topping. However, the cake itself is no after thought. Even without eggs and dairy it remains moist and I actually make this when I have run out of eggs or I haven't taken the butter out of the fridge in time. You and your lucky cake eaters won't notice either missing out of it, you'll probably be busy smitten eating the cake.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you have birthday cakes at your office? What do you think of the office cake tradition? Excuse for sugar and reason why everyone puts on weight or harmless, delicious fun? And what kind of cake do you usually choose?
Luscious Vanilla Vegan Cake With Mango & Passionfruit
An Original Recipe by Not Quite Nigella
2 cups plain or all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups caster or superfine sugar
1.5 teaspoons bi carbonate of soda
1 teaspoon salt
1.5 cups water
1/2 cup mild flavoured vegetable oil
3 tablespoons white vinegar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
90g dairy free spread, softened
140g icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 whole passionfruit
1/2 a mango
It's a little green because I ran out of oil and used a little Grove avocado oil
Step 1 - Line a 20cm round baking tin with parchment and preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix together. In a jug mix the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla and then add to dry ingredients. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.
Step 2 - Make buttercream by beating the dairy free spread until smooth and then adding the icing sugar and vanilla until it becomes a smooth, fluffy texture.
Step 3 - First make a crumb layer. Slice the cake in half horizontally and spread a thin layer of buttercream on it. Top with the seeds of one passionfruit and some thin mango slivers. Make them but slicing the cheek of the mango thinly and cutting thin ribbons. Place other half of cake on top. With a clean spoon, add some buttercream on the cake top and sides and using an angled spatula, spread it thinly to pick up any stray crumbs (you should still be able to see the cake through it). It's not a particularly crumbly cake so you can skip this step if you want. Place in the fridge to at least 30 minutes to stiffen up.
Covering it with the icing
Slicing the mango into thin layers
Cutting the mango into ribbons
Step 4 - Spread the buttercream around the cake and top again-you can make patterns with the angled spatula. The one on the side of the cake is simply by pressing the spatula against the sides of the cake. Do swirls on top. Top with the rest of the passionfruit and add more mango ribbons.