I'm beginning to feel sorry for January. Admittedly, it's never been my favourite month, but as if following the sparkle of December and having everyone feel miserable about (usually failing) New Year's resolutions and the terrible weather isn't enough, it now has the ignominy of featuring 'officially the most depressing day of the year'.
So good news! When I mentioned Blue Monday to a friend recently, she Googled the significance of the 21st of January and came up with some great alternative contrived days that today also marks: Squirrel Appreciation Day; National Granola Bar Day (twinny, that one's for you); and my personal favourite, National Hugging Day!
Admittedly the third Monday of January won't always fall on the 21st, but I think we can take comfort that whichever day it falls on, there are bound to be some alternative, much more positive options to focus on. Hurrah!
Now I know that I lot of people also observe Veganuary this month. If you are one such person - or indeed, if you're vegan year-round - I both applaud and admire you. Living in East London, vegan restaurants and vegan food is pretty easy to come by, but I don't imagine that's the case all over the world.
To facilitate your endeavours, allow me to bring you this stupidly-easy-to-make vegan dark chocolate orange cake.
I love this cake for multitudinous reasons:
1) as mentioned, it's soooo easy to make;
2) it doesn't require a food processor/mixer/electric whisk, just a bowl and hand whisk (Amen to that!);
3) it calls for neither tricky, hard-to-come-by ingredients nor a long list of ingredients; and, best of all,
4) it's utterly delicious. Honestly, even Dr D, who runs a mile at the mention of vegetarian, let alone vegan food, devours it every time I make it and can't tell it's vegan.
So now we have another reason to be cheerful on 'Blue Monday'. Between hugs, squirrels and chocolate cake, from my perspective, whoever came up with such an erroneous label can do one!
Yields 12-14 slices
For the sponge:
- 250g self-raising flour
- 100g cocoa powder
- 6 tsps baking powder (I know this seems like a lot, but it's necessary)
- 170g caster sugar
- Juice and zest of 2 oranges (note that the size of the oranges will affect the overall baking time: larger oranges = longer in the oven)
- 1-2 tsps orange extract (optional)
- 300ml cold water
- 90ml oil (olive, sunflower or coconut all work)
For the frosting:
- 150g icing sugar
- 150g vegan margarine (e.g. Vitalite or Flora Dairy Free Spread - available at large supermarkets)
- 150g vegan chocolate (containing ideally about 50-55% cocoa, but if you're struggling, Green & Black's 60% dark bar is vegan and will be fine)
Preheat the oven to 180C (fan) and lightly grease a deep 8" springform tin with oil.
Place the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and caster sugar together intp a large bowl and whisk together with a large balloon whisk.
Zest and juice the oranges into the dry ingredients, then add the water and oil and whisk everything together well.
Pour the batter into your tin and bake for 10 minutes at 180C, then for another 30-40 minutes at 160C, or until a knife or skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean (I would suggest testing after 30 mins at 160C; if the knife or skewer inserted into the cake has batter on it, bake for another 10 mins or until cooked through).
Once fully baked, remove from the oven. I strongly advise leaving the cake to cool completely in the tin as, if removed whilst still warm, it can crumble/fall apart. If you leave it to cool completely in the tin it should come out whole at the end of the cooling process.
To make the frosting: beat the icing sugar and marg together with a wooden spoon in a large bowl.
Melt the chocolate either in the microwave or over a bain marie, then add to the icing and marg and beat until it's all well combined.
To decorate, remove the cooled cake from the tin and place on a serving dish. Spread the frosting generously around the sides and the top of the sponge using a palette knife or offset spatula.
The cake should keep well in a cake tin for 4-5 days.