Vanellie Birthday Cake.

This past weekend, no less than three of my friends celebrated their birthday. Two of them went to uni with me and will graduate with me in the same ceremony at the end of this month. I feel endlessly blessed to have these two girls in my life, so I wanted to honour them both with a cake – a ‘Vanellie’ cake, just for Ellie and Vanessa. 

I was a shy, invisible thing with big bushy hair when I came to uni in London. All the other students sported the most effortless just-tumbled-out-of-bed hairstyles, wore the coolest hipster glasses, had read and studied all the English classics at school, spoke eloquently and confidently in class. And all formed friendships nearly instantly. I thought I might never fit in. I wasn’t like that girl in the striped shirt with a messy but pretty bun on top of her hair, the girl who sounded so clever. I saw her the first day at induction and thought, ‘She’d never be friends with me.’

Three years on, I’m successfully graduating with a bachelor degree, I have a bunch of unforgettable life experiences, and I’ve acquired some pretty cool hipster glasses along the way, too. And Ellie, the girl with the uber cute bun in her hair, is not only my library buddy but also one of my really good friends. Uni wouldn’t have been the same without her. 

One evening in the uni’s student bar, I was doing my best to socialise, awkward, shy little me, nervously cradling a glass of Malibu & Coke in my hands. A friend of a friend sat down next to me – a skinny, boisterous American, with enough energy to light the room. I couldn’t not talk to her. We spent a good couple of hours talking of cats and boys and life and she was just so nice. And not exclusively American, but a little German as well, which made me grow even fonder of her. 

Vanessa is the rare kind of person who cultivates that fine balance of wisdom and fun. She’s there when you need to go wild, and still there when you’re spinning and need someone to talk you down. This girl is the bomb dot com, period.  

Ellie loves purple and vanilla, and she can’t eat wheat or dairy. Vanessa told me she had a preference for fruity, summery flavours at the moment. Wish granted. Happy birthday, girls, I’m so lucky to know you both. 

Vanellie Birthday Cake

Serves 12


For the cake:

600g (3 + ½ cups gluten and wheat-free self-raising flour

175g (¾ cup) caster sugar (more if a stronger sweetness is desired)

200g (1 + ½ cup) white chocolate buttons + extra to decorate

300ml (1 + ¼ cup) almond milk

80ml (1/3 cup) coconut oil

1 mashed banana

¼ tsp xantan gum
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the blackberry cashew cream:

170g  (1 + ¾ cup) cashews, soaked for 2 hours

200g (2 cups packed) blackberries

30ml (1/8 cup) date syrup

125ml (½ cup) water

For the strawberry cashew cream:

100g (¾ cup) cashews, soaked for 2 hours

200g (2 cups packed) strawberries

30ml (1/8 cup) date syrup

125ml (½ cup) water


Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC/ 338ºF.  Line a round cake tin (20cm/8 in diameter) with baking parchment, or coat with a thin layer of oil or vegan butter.

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and xanthan gum.

In a small saucepan, slowly melt the white chocolate buttons in the coconut oil and half the almond milk. Stir continuously until combined.

Pour the white chocolate liquid over the dry ingredients and fold in with a spatula, adding the banana and the rest of the almond milk as you go.

Pour the batter into the lined tin and bake for 35 minutes, until golden on top, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

For the blackberry cashew cream: blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender or food processor until smooth. The mixture will be thick, so you may need to stop the machine and help it along with a spatula.  Store in the fridge until ready to use.

For the strawberry cashew cream: idem blackberry cream.

When the cake is cooled, carefully slice in half to obtain two identical disks. Spread the strawberry cashew cream over the bottom half of the cake, then place the top disk over it. Spread the blackberry cashew cream over the top, decorate as you like, and store in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.

8 thoughts on “Vanellie Birthday Cake.

  1. What a pretty cake!I And such a lovely, happy story 🙂 I've just finished my undergrad degree too and similarly have made some very special friendships along the way.
    Hope you girlies had lovely celebrations.


  2. I just re-read this and got so totes emosh! This is such a special thing that you've done and I'm so honoured to be featured here (and to have been immortalised in cake!). You're a very special human being Clem – bouyant, curly hair and all (which I'd love to have for a day) xx


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