Vegan Rye Sponge Layer Cake with Sea-Buckthorn Syrup

vegan, layer, cake, sea-buckthorn

Oh my! How much time has passed since the last post over here, and I hope this first „hello again“ after a long blog break find’s you well and safe. For all of us, the world has changed since we last met over here, hasn’t it. Now autumn is at the doors – or spring, if you live on this lovely earth’s Southern hemisphere. Where ever it is, I’m happy to meet you again, maybe cuddled up in a blanket with a cup of steaming hot tea or coffee in your hand, searching for inspiration for your next Sunday coffee table. If so, I might have something for you 🙂 .

For my forager’s heart, autumn is the time of the year. No other season is as manifold as this, and the last weeks found me more often than never stretching up for some quince or cornel cherry tree’s branches or creeping around a sloe hedge or a sea-buckthorn bush, to name but a few. The latter of which are a rare finding over here. Indeed, I was introduced to sea-buckthorn by my father on the occasion of my parent’s seasonal autumn vavancies on the beautiful island Rügen located in the Baltic Sea. And even though the berries taste quite sourly and are hard to get due to huge thorns, I fell in love at first sight. The bright orange color ligthens up even the mistiest October afternoon and the rainies autumn weekend, be it out in nature on the bushes or inside on a lovely cake. Are you with me?

So when I made that lucky finding lately, I took the chance to make good use of these rare foraged goods to make syrup and infuse a cake with it, with sponge cake layers made with rhye totally randomly since I was short of my usual spelt flour, with a yogurt frosting flavored with white chocolate and with also some gorgeous toasted hazelnuts in between. We shared it with good friends, which makes any cake even more beautiful, doesn’t it. And with the first bite, in spirit I was standing on the white Chalk Cliffs of Rügen, a landscape that inspired Romanticism’s famous painter Caspar David Friedrich to his famous painting of the same name. I have no idea if he portraied sea-buckthorn as well in his gorgeous oeuvre, but he might have tasted the local’s famous delicacies, syrup being one of them.

I’m happy to share the recipe with you now, and I do hope – no, I’m sure – that it won’t take this long again until a next post. Yet, so many things have changed in all of our life’s over the course of the last months, resulting in new perspectives and habits. If we follow each other on Instagram, than you know that during this long break here, I have been much more active on Instagram. Which I never though I would, yet it was and is a wonderful experience. It had been due to Berlin’s lockdown in early spring that I started to post easy lunch recipes for home office needs that our friends had asked me for. And like many other people as well, I had experienced those weeks as a time to come to terms with what is really important in one’s eyes. Which is why I started to write a bit about mindful cooking on Instagram as well.

I have been a practitioner in mindful awareness since many years, and the longer I practice, the more I regard cooking as my Zen. Which for me includes not the least all the things that I have been writing about over here and in my sweetheart Arne’s and my cookbook Die grüne Stadtküche over the years, from seasonal cooking and local produce, to foraging and heirloom varieties, to buying organic and fair trade and many more. And with climate issues becoming more feelable and urging, my voice might become a little louder when it comes to these topics. If you want to know a little more about my approach to mindful cooking, you will find some thoughts about in this blog’s new About and the Mindful Cooking chapter.

And now let’s have cake! Life is beautiful, eat dessert first 😉 .

vegan, layer, cake, sea-buckthorn

Vegan Naked Cake with Rye Sponge, Hazelnuts and Sea-Buckthorn Syrup


For the sponge cake:

  • 270 g spelt flour, type 630
  • 100 g wholegrain rye flour
  • 30 g chickpea flour
  • 150 g icing sugar (if possible made of raw sugar)
  • 10 g baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground vanilla
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • pinch of sea-salt
  • 200 g plain soy yogurt
  • 100 ml sunflower oil (with a high smoke point, if available)
  • 3 drops of bitter almond oil
  • zest of 1 small organic lemon
  • 250 ml carbonated mineral water
  • 1 springform pan, 28 cm Ø

For the yogurt & white chocolate frosting:

  • 1.500 g plain soy yogurt (or any other plantbased yogurt you prefer)
  • 2-3 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp. sea-buckthorn juice
  • 1 tsp. ground vanilla
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 80 g vegan white chocolate

For the sea-buckthorn syrup:

  • 5 tbsp. sea-buckthorn juice
  • 5 tbsp. raw sugar (don’t use cane sugar in this step since it doesn’t caramelize)
  • 100 g sea-buckthorn berries, freshly picked or deep-frozen


  • 1 handful of hazelnuts, toasted, skins rubbed off, and ground


Line your springform pan with parchment paper, both on the bottom and on the side. Special hint: While greasing & dusting is perfect for other kinds of dough, this is the best way for your sponge dough. Since I try to avoid plastic waste, I use compostable parchment paper.

Preheat your oven to 160°C convection or 180°C top & bottom heat.

For the dough:

Combine all dry ingredient in a bowl. In a separate mixing jug, whisk yogurt, oil, bitter almond oil and lemon zest until well combined and smooth. Pour the liquid over the flour mixture along with the carbonated water. Fold in loosely and swiftly. It doesn’t matter if little nubs of flour remain since they will be dissolved while baking. Overworking the dough however will result in a chewy consistency.

Pour the batter in the prepared springform pan and flatten the surface with a knife if necessary. Bake in the oven for about 40 min. (test with a skewer if the cake is done).

Take the cake off the oven and allow to cool down a little. Open the sprinform pan, carefully turn the cake upside down on a plate and remove the parchment paper. Turn back on a cooling rack to cool down completely. With a sharp knife or a fine thread, cut in half horizontally.

For the frosting:

Line a thieve with a clean kitchen towel and place over a bowl. Pour the yogurt in the sieve, cover the surface with the towel’s ends and place a plate on top. Let drain for 1 h.

Spoon the drained yogurt into a bowl and fold in maple syrup, juice and spices.

Coarsely chop the white chocolate. In a bain marie, carefully melt the chocolate. Thoroughly fold into the yogurt.

For the syrup:

Pour the juice in a sauce pan and add sugar and 5 tbsp. of water. Bring to a boil while stirring, reduce the heat and let simmer until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid starts to thicken a little. Add the berries, heat up again, reduce the heat and let again simmer for another 2-3 min. In the end, the consistency should be half liquid since it thickens further while cooling down. Also, the berries should keep shape in this process. Put aside and leaf to cool.

Composing the cake:

Lift the upper layer from the cake and put aside, place the bottom layer on a plate or a cake stand. Sprinkle with half of the hazelnuts and evenly coat with half of the frosting (spread the frosting close to the rim). Top with half of the berries and syrup. Place the second cake layer on top, with the downside pointing upwards (since this is usually the more flat and even side). Sprinkle with the remaining hazelnuts, evenly spread with the remaining frosting and shape little waves using a knife or a spoon. Pour the remaining berries and syrup between the wave’s ridges.

Leave to cool on the fridge for at least two hours. To my taste, the cake is even better next day since the cake layer’s and the frosting’s consistency profit from an overnight rest, and so do the intense flavors. In that case, I recommend to add the second half of berries and syrup for the top layer only before serving.

To serve, decorate with some fresh herbs and enjoy with a cup of coffee, or matcha, or hot chocolate.

Enjoy 🙂 .

Vegan Layer Cake Sea-Buckthorn
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