Orange, Almond, and Pine Nut Babycakes with Cherry Syrup

There's something about winter and citrus; the stark contrast of the bright, sharp acid bursting against the bitter cold breeze. I find this so contradictory to the natural habitat of such fruits that are embedded in my mind - wedges of glittering lemon found perched along a salty cocktail-glass rim, or swollen grapefruits whose roots originate in tropical Barbados.

These babycakes are my slightly less conservative attempt at making a vegan Madeira cake, which is a very traditional moist, orange-y, butter and egg laden heart attack of a cake (I say this in the fondest, more adoring way possible). Seeing as I eliminated two-thirds of the cake with one fowl swoop in my attempt to eradicate all animal products, wise and calculated replacements were required. With the addition of coconut oil and almond meal, the cakes retain their squidgy moistness without being overly indulgent, and the dash of cardamom and eddy of treacly sour cherry concentrate lifts it from its potentially oleaginous state.

The cherry syrup (or montmorency cherry concentrate) wasn't an intentional addition - my Mum had purchased it from the health store for its anti-inflammatory properties, but the highly concentrated syrup was a little too sugary for her liking. Its sharp, tart, yet sticky and cloying self was therefore my admittedly feeble attempt at 'healthifying' the cakes (oh, the irony) - feel free to omit it if you don't have it handy, as I wouldn't endorse going and buying an entire litre just for the sake of a little swirl. A handful of melted raspberries or strawberries would lend an equally as appreciable contrast from the buttery babycake beneath.


150 grams of spelt flour or a gluten-free flour blend
100 grams of coconut sugar or raw sugar
75 grams of almond meal
2 teaspoons of baking powder
Pinch of salt
Zest of 1 orange
1 cup of plant milk (I used coconut and rice milk)
1/2 cup of virgin coconut oil, melted
1/2 a teaspoon of ground vanilla powder or vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of cherry syrup or melted raspberries or melted strawberries

1/4 cup of icing sugar
1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons of coconut oil
1/4 cup of icing sugar

Pinenuts, flashed in a warm pan until toasty and golden
Orange wedges
Orange zest
Cherry syrup (or melted berries)


  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius bake and prepare four ramekins by greasing them with coconut oil, then lining them with squares of parchment paper (hint - this is easier if you crinkle the paper first).
  2. Begin by measuring out all of the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, almond meal, baking powder, salt) into a large bowl. Zest the orange into the bowl, and set aside for the glaze. Stir until well combined, then make a well in the middle.
  3. In a separate bowl, add all the wet ingredients (plant milk, coconut oil, vanilla) and mix thoroughly. Pour into the dry ingredient bowl, and stir as few times as possible, until the batter is even and visibly combined.
  4. Divide this batter evenly between the ramekins. Measure out the cherry syrup into a small cup, then dollop three equal amounts onto the top of each ramekin of batter. Using a wooden skewer or a knife, move the syrup in random directions until a swirl pattern is achieved.
  5. Place these in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out cleanly and they are golden brown on the top. Allow to cool for ten minutes before lifting out of their ramekins and onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Make the basic orange glaze by stirring together the icing sugar and orange juice from the zested orange until completely smooth. Spoon over the centre of the cooled babycakes - no need to spread the glaze out as it will naturally drip down the sides. Drizzle with extra cherry syrup, sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts, and add the orange wedges.
  7. Finally make the coconut oil frosting by whipping the solid coconut oil in a bowl until all lumps are gone, and you're left with a somewhat creamy texture. Add the sugar bit by bit - it tends to look dry at first, but keep whipping! Once a smooth, creamy frosting is formed, spoon into a piping bag and swirl onto the tops of the babycakes. Sprinkle with some additional orange zest.
  8. Serve alongside a steaming mug of orange blossom tea and a carton of fresh cherries.