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Winter Wonderland Orange and Cinnamon Cake

by Holly Jade from The Little Book of Vegan Bakes

Delightfully festive and equally moreish, this spiced cinnamon cake is a joyous combination of all the flavours we associate with Christmas. An excellent option for a Christmas party, this cake won’t disappoint.

From the book

Introduction

The holiday season is a very special time for me, and I will always treasure the time I got to spend with my adorable cat Tiggs. I would curl up on the sofa with a blanket and a bowl of salted popcorn to watch our favourite movie, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Tiggs would be fast asleep beside me. This movie holds a special place in my heart, and inspired the gingerbread cookie houses you see on my festive cake. The houses remind me of the fictional town of Whoville, with their crisp layer of white snowy frosting and whimsically decorated exteriors.

The cake itself is a moist orange and cinnamon sponge, with a light, velvety orange-flavoured cream cheese frosting. It makes the perfect centrepiece for any festive occasion, and will put a huge smile on everyone’s face. I want to dedicate this festive bake to my special boy and best friend, my cat Tiggs.

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Ingredients

For the gingerbread cookies:
1 batch gingerbread cookies (see recipe linked in Method section)
For the royal Icing
90ml chickpea brine (aquafaba)
1 tsp vanilla extract
520g icing sugar, sifted
For the cakes:
480ml (2cups) dairy-free milk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
420g (3½ cups) self-raising flour
420g (2 cups plus 1tbsp) caster sugar
2½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
120ml (½ cup) sunflower oil
2½ tsp orange extract or flavouring
For the frosting:
300g (1½ cups) dairy-free butter/margarine
2 tbsp dairy-free cream cheese
½ tsp orange extract or flavouring
60g (5⅓ cups) icing sugar, sifted
Dash of dairy-free milk, if needed
20g (¼ cup) desiccated coconut, and a dusting of icing sugar, to decorate

Essential kit

You will need: 3 x 20cm (8in) loose-based cake tins, a palette knife, a piping bag, and a stand mixer

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Method

Gingerbread Houses/Characters

Follow the recipe for gingerbread cookies, making them in advance and allowing time for the icing to set. Make the gingerbread houses, trees, snowflakes and bear using various cookie cutters – I made 8 houses, 5 trees, 1 bear and several snowflakes. If you don’t have the exact shapes, get creative with any festive cookie cutters you do have. If you don’t have any cookie cutters at all, you can print off templates from the internet and use a knife to cut them out.

Decorate the cookies using royal icing.

Royal icing

Whisk the chickpea brine using either an electric hand whisk or a stand mixer with the balloon-whisk attachment on a high speed until frothy – this usually takes around 5 minutes.

Add the vanilla extract and icing sugar and whisk together until it holds a stiff peak.

Use right away or transfer it to a sealed container and keep it in the fridge for up to a few weeks.

Cakes

Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 and line 3 x 20cm (8in) loose-based cake tins with greaseproof paper. If you only have one tin, you will have to bake the cakes separately. Keep the mixing bowl covered with a tea towel between bakes, and stir the batter before use.

In a bowl, whisk the milk with the apple cider vinegar until fully combined. Set aside for 10 minutes to curdle – this creates a vegan buttermilk.

In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, caster sugar, ground cinnamon, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Mix with a wooden spoon to combine.

Add the oil and orange extract or flavouring to the buttermilk and whisk to combine, then add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix.

Divide the cake batter equally between the lined cake tins. Make sure to tap the tins on the worktop a few time to remove any air bubbles.

Pop the cakes into the centre of the oven and bake for around 28–30 minutes. You will know they are baked when they are springy to the touch and a knife or skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Place the cakes on a cooling rack and allow them to cool slightly before removing them from the tins. Put the cakes on the rack to cool fully. Once cool, pop them into a sealed container to keep them fresh until ready for frosting.

Frosting

In a stand mixer, cream the butter or margarine and the cream cheese together on high speed until smooth and creamy, then add the orange extract or flavouring and the icing sugar. Whisk until the frosting is light and fluffy. You can do this by hand, but it will take you longer. If the frosting is too thick, add a dash of milk; if it’s too wet, add more icing sugar. The frosting is needed for filling the cake, the crumb coat, the final coat, the decoration on the top of the cake and to stick the gingerbread cookies on to the cake.

Place one of the cake layers on a cake turntable, serving plate or cake board. Frost the top, then place the second cake layer on top and repeat until all three layers are sandwiched together with frosting.

Using a palette knife, crumb-coat the whole cake. Place the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes or the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up. This will make it easier to apply the final coat of frosting.

Once firm, add a thicker layer of frosting to the whole cake using a palette knife. Smooth out the frosting on the sides and top of the cake using a cake scraper and/or a palette knife.

Add some of the leftover frosting to a piping bag fitted with a patisserie nozzle and pipe a decorative border along the top outer edge of the cake. If you don’t have a patisserie nozzle, use any decorative nozzle you have.

Press desiccated coconut all over the cake to resemble snow.

Use some leftover frosting to stick the iced gingerbread houses, trees, etc. around the sides of the cake. Place a toothpick behind the trees and characters for the top of the cake and secure with some frosting. Stick them into the top of the cake. (The toothpicks will keep them upright and in place, but remember to remove the toothpicks before serving.) Decorate with some desiccated coconut and sifted icing sugar to resemble snow.

This is best eaten within a few days. Store in a sealed container in the fridge and leave at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.

Holly’s tip: To get even cake layers, weigh out the cake batter before pouring into the cake tins.

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From the book: The Little Book of Vegan Bakes

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