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F*** you i won’t do what you tell me!

November 15, 2011


You’ve probably guessed by now that one of my favourite things to do is to take other people’s recipes and basically mess about with them. I know I’m not unique in this respect – my boyfriend’s mother told me about a casserole she made using a recipe from a book, but by the time it was on the table, realising that she’d replaced every single one of the original suggested ingredients with something else. I’m sure you probably do this yourself, and if you don’t, I’m frankly a bit baffled. Are there really people who look at a recipe in a book and think “dammit this recipe calls for borlotti beans and I’ve only got kidney beans”?.  Why be dictated to by somebody elses tastebuds, budget and pantry contents? I really hope if anyone is following the recipes on this  blog that they absolutely don’t follow them to the letter. If you do, you’ve possibly missed the point.

I find substitutions are pretty straight forward in most cases – one bean works just as well as another, one kind of root vegetable can sit in for another provided you adjust cooking times a bit, spinach can replace watercress etc, etc.

There’s also the “added extra” philosophy, which I’m a bit addicted to. My other half has been known to complain that I’ve added too many ingredients to something and masked the best flavours (I rarely make pumpkin soup, or tomato soup, or mushroom soup – it’s always to some extent “mixed vegetable soup”). More often than not this is because I’ve accidentally bought far too much of something that was going cheap and I desperately need to use it up before it goes off. I don’t know why I ever buy whole cabbages for example – I don’t even like cabbage all that much, and they are always huge. But every time I see one on sale for 20p I find myself reasoning that they’re full of iron and really good for me, they’re not bad in stir fries or with gravy, and a good way to bulk out soups and casseroles. Then the cabbage will sit in my fridge for the next fortnight, reluctantly shrinking a few leaves at a time as I try adding them to things in the hope it will work out. Cabbage pancakes are a stupid idea. Pasta with cabbage isn’t too nice. Curried cabbage is great. Cabbage soup with plenty of onions and garlic and beans is nice to take to work for lunch, if you can put up with people making flatulence jokes when you tell them what’s in it (Incidentally I’ve never found cabbage or beans to cause many problems in this regard – processed fast food, on the other hand…).

Sometimes I like to add things for nutritional or taste reasons – I put a spoonful of brewers yeast into baked beans to add a bit of a cheesy, nutty taste, as well as a bit of extra B12 (very important for veggies and vegans, in case you didn’t know – look it up!) . I often feel standard veggy dishes lack protein – so I’m prone to chucking a tin of chickpeas into a vegetable curry, some flaked almonds into a pasta dish, or a handful of lentils into a soup to remedy that. Also, I do like my food spicy and pungent. There are few things which cannot be improved by a dash of chilli sauce or a bit of extra garlic (obviously there are exceptions to this: ice cream, meringue, food you’re giving to a dog…). I also have a few standard additions that some people find bizarre – a Mexican style chilli is not truly Mexican unless it contains a few squares of dark chocolate and a squirt of lime juice – if you haven’t tried this, I promise you it makes all the difference. Conversely, I find a pinch of chilli powder in a chocolate cake makes an interesting secret ingredient (enough to give it a barely detectable kick, rather than make it into one of those joke cakes that kids used to bake for their least favourite teachers).

The recipe I’m about to post here was the surprising result of an experiment with a classic Victoria Sponge recipe. I wasn’t expecting much from it, and I personally found it a bit crumbly for my tastes – but the consensus from the others that tasted it was that it was “the best cake I ever made”. So I could hardly not share – since then I’ve worked on it a bit, and come up with something that I enjoy myself, but hopefully still appeals to everyone else.

What I was doing here was playing with the idea of replacing the butter in a cake recipe with coconut cream, in order to make a dairy free but affordable version of the old classic. That isn’t quite how it ended up. Coconut cream is quite dry, so I eventually ended up using a mixture of coconut oil and coconut cream – I also added some cherries, to compliment the coconut flavour.

If you haven’t encountered coconut oil before, you can buy it in Indian grocers, and in health food shops. It behaves in a similar way to butter, in that it’s white and solid at room temperature, but melts easily when heated up. As well as having various culinary uses, it makes a great moisturiser and hair conditioner.

You can buy two types: Expensive extra virgin stuff from the health food shops, or cheap and cheerful refined stuff from the grocer. Some people will tell you you should always go for extra virgin on health grounds – but – this is for a cake, since when was health the point?

I’ve successfully used both types in this recipe. The advantage of the fancy pants oil is that it does actually smell and taste very strongly of coconut, so adds extra flavour to the cake – but the cheaper stuff works absolutely fine and you get flavour from the coconut cream anyway.

This recipe does use eggs, but you can omit them and add a little extra baking powder and milk if you are completely vegan – it affects the texture slightly, and you’ll have a more puddingy type cake, but it holds together fine.  I have made this with gluten free flour very successfully as well, just adding a half teaspoon of xanthan gum to help it hold its shape.

Dairy Free Cherry & Coconut Cake



125g slightly melted coconut oil

75g grated or crumbled coconut cream

150g sugar (I think golden caster sugar works best, but anything will do)

Shot of rum, brandy or malibu

2 eggs (optional)

1tsp baking powder

150g flour (plain white, or gluten free)

3 tbsp soya or rice milk

Handfuls of glace cherries


–          Cream the coconut oil and sugar with a whisk until fluffy. Then whisk in the coconut cream and the booze.

–          Beat in the eggs, one at a time

–          Add the baking powder, flour and milk and whisk again

–          Fold in the cherries. I like to break them up into little bits to spread them more evenly through the cake.

–          Pour into a baking tin (I use a 20cm deep, round tin, or a standard loaf tin), and bake at 190° / Gas 5 for 25 -30 minutes.


I have been known to add ground almonds to this recipe, which makes for a heavier texture and a good “slicing cake” that’s awesome with a cup of tea. You could replace the cherries with almost anything – blueberries, chocolate buttons, raisins, bits of sliced apple – whatever you fancy. Just let me know if you stumble across anything really good!


3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 15, 2011 14:42

    I totally do that! It’s impossible to keep something exactly the same, I think.

  2. The Bystander permalink
    March 13, 2012 17:13

    It’s gone a bit quiet – I hope all is well with you.

    I’m not telling you what to do so please don’t tell me to f*** off, just thought I’d suggest it’s time for another post… missing my monthly read here.

    But I do appreciate that blogging can become a chore and doesn’t always come high on the list of life’s priorities.

    Best wishes, etc.

  3. March 26, 2012 19:24

    Thanks for the kick up the proverbial Bystander – you’ve inspired my next post, coming just now…….

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