Farmhouse fruitcake (vegan)

IMG_3325.jpgI’ve just been looking on the memory card on my camera to find the photos for this bake, and I came across some shots I took when we went to Kastellorizo a couple of weeks ago. The harbour there is always a good place for loggerhead turtle spotting – before we’d even reached the hotel, we were treated to a group of three of them playing together in the water near to the harbour wall.

They are such fantastically benign creatures, who don’t seem to mind at all if we are swimming next to them, and they’ll often pop up in an inquisitive way near the harbour wall or next to the boat to see what’s occurring in the human world.

As we were in Kastellorizo on a Friday, the Rhodes ferry arrived with both supplies and passengers – it is almost as big as the harbour, so most other boats have to leave the harbour and wait until the ferry has departed until they can return. Here it is turning around – I have absolutely no parking or reversing skills, so I don’t think this is the job for me, but the captain made it seem quite effortless, despite the lack of room for manoeuvre.

Anyway, back to the important matter of cake. Our friend David is spending six weeks in Antalya having radiotherapy treatment, so when he comes home for weekends I’ve been plying him with cakes to take back with him. Apparently the radiologists who are giving him the treatment have also developed a penchant for English-style fruitcake and are demanding more supplies, so I had a baking spree this weekend.

In our house, food (including cake) is sometimes vegan, sometimes not. This week’s cake was vegan by necessity, as I had run out of eggs and, noticing that the weather seemed unduly warm, I checked the thermometer to find that it was 44 degrees on our terrace – far too hot to be schlepping up the hill to the shop. I remembered that the juice (aquafaba) left over from a can of kidney beans was lurking in the fridge, so decided this cake could definitely go vegan.

I was unsure whether the rather alarmingly dark pink juice would result in a strangely-coloured cake, but it just disappeared under the combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and other goodies. I don’t have any xanthan gum here (and can’t get it), but I would have added a pinch if I could have got my hands on some – the cake was slightly crumbly without it, though tasted utterly delicious. I combined the aquafaba with a cornflour ‘egg’ to help stabilise the mixture, and added an extra half teaspoon of baking powder and a splash of vinegar to replace the raising activity that would normally be dealt with by the eggs.

The cake was everything an old-fashioned fruitcake should be – spicy, squidgy, crumbly and fruity all at the same time. I would defy anyone to notice that it was vegan, which is exactly what I wanted. I tire of reading vegan recipes that call for fancy ingredients that you’ve never heard of and you can only buy online or from an expensive health-food shop. Mix up brown sugar, margarine (or oil), something to replace the eggs, and some flour, and you’ve got cake. Add whatever you like to make it your own – chocolate, raisins, spices, apples, pumpkin, blackberries… the list is endless – in short, nothing that you can’t buy in your local shop.

Farmhouse fruitcake (vegan)

Cuts into 10 slices

You will need a 1kg loaf tin, approx 21cm x 11cm, lined or well greased

130g non-dairy margarine, softened at room temperature
130g brown sugar (I used Demerara) plus extra for sprinkling
3 tablespoons aquafaba (the juice from canned beans or chickpeas)
2 teaspoons cornflour (corn starch)
1 teaspoon white vinegar (rice, apple, white wine are all fine)
250g self-raising flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons of mixed spice, or one teaspoon each of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum (optional)
1 apple
250g sultanas, raisins or mixed fruit of your choice
Splash of non-dairy milk or apple juice


Pre-heat the oven to 170°C.

Put the cornflour into a small bowl or cup, add three tablespoons of cold water and stir thoroughly until dissolved.

Peel and quarter the apple, then remove the core from each piece. Cut each quarter into three, then slice the pieces fairly thinly – you want to make sure the apple pieces are quite small so that they cook completely.

Put the softened margarine, the sugar, the cornflour/water mixture and the aquafaba into a large mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. (If your margarine is not soft, nuke it in the microwave for a few seconds before you add anything else). Stir in the vinegar.

Sieve in the flour, spices and baking powder and add the xanthan gum, if using. Use a large metal spoon or rubber spatula to fold the flour into the mixture – it should be quite firm, but not too stiff. If you are having problems mixing the flour in, just add a little non-dairy milk or apple juice – start with a tablespoon and add a little more if necessary.

Add the chopped apple and the raisins and stir briefly until the fruit is evenly distributed.

Tip the mixture into the prepared loaf tin, smooth the top and sprinkle generously with more brown sugar. Bake for approximately one hour. Check after 45 minutes and turn the cake around if one side is browning more than the other. The cake should just very slightly shrink away from the side of the tin when it is cooked and a skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean and hot.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin – it is best to wait until the cake is completely cold before cutting it, as it tends to be even more crumbly while it is still warm.

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