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Posts Tagged ‘cake’

I am always looking for an excuse to make a cake. Always. And I can’t think of any better excuse than my husband.

Just a couple weeks ago he graduated from law school (yay!!!). For awhile I was racking my brain trying to figure out how to make his cake. He had already told me that he wanted a German chocolate cake, but it’s shape and everything else was up to me. I thought about making it look like school books, or perhaps something with a cap, tassel and one of those mallet things judges use. But since I hate using food coloring, none of these were overly appealing. And then it struck me!

For his present I got some family members together and we all chipped in to buy him a MacBook Air. He’d been talking about one for f-o-r-e-v-e-r, so I figured since he’d worked and studied his butt off for the last three years, he deserved one. And thus the shape of his cake was born.

German Chocolate Cake

  • 2 C soy milk
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 C organic sugar
  • 1/4 C agave
  • 1/3 C canola oil (non-gmo)
  • 1/3 C apple sauce
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 C AP flour
  • 1 C whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2/3 C cocoa powder (this stuff is awesome)
  • 1/4 C instant coffee
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat your oven to 350. Line a square 8 x 8 in cake pan with parchment in the bottom (don’t worry about the sides). You could use a round pan but I was afraid I’d lose too much mass getting it to look like an apple instead of a ball, so I went with the square.

Pour the soy milk and vinegar into your mixing bowl so it can curdle. While this is happening, sift all your dry ingredients into another bowl so they’re ready to dump right in when you want them.

Once the soy milk is curdled, add the rest of the wet ingredients (including the sugar) and whisk thoroughly. You can do this by hand or with the stand mixer of course.

Add the dry ingredients in three portions. You don’t have to fully incorporate each portion before adding the next. You’re just adding the flour a little at a time to help avoid over mixing which will toughen the cake in the end.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and smooth it out a bit if it’s all in the center. Bake until it springs back when touched and a toothpick comes out clean. Mine took around an hour. When it’s done, let it sit for about 5 – 10 minutes and then run a butter knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the sides. Now put a cooling rack on top of the pan and flip the whole thing over. You should be able to remove the pan at this point, and letting the cake cool upside down will help flatten some of that rounded top.

Be sure to make the cake well in advance as it needs plenty of time to cool before you split it in half or thirds. I actually made mine several days before hand, wrapped it in plastic wrap and stuck it in the freezer. It’ll thaw out in just a couple of hours.

Chocolate Buttercream 

So I typically do half Earth Balance stick butter and half cream cheese with my frostings. Ever since I started paying attention to the way foods feel in your mouth (thank you culinary school) I can’t stand the Spectrum shortening; it coats your mouth as that stuff is solid at room temperature and therefore doesn’t really melt when it hits your tongue. You can use all butter of course but I think the cream cheese creates a lighter texture and better flavor.

In general, you use about 4 cups of powdered sugar to every cup of fat, and then augment the consistency with extracts, soy milk, etc. If you’re making chocolate buttercream, you’re obviously going to have cocoa powder in there so you will need more liquid to offset the extra amount of dry ingredients.

The frosting I made for this cake, I didn’t really like it. The flavor was fine but it dried super freaking fast and I had issues/ got tired of working with it when I was finishing the cake, as you can see from the unclean sides in the pictures. The main culprit? I think it was the chocolate. I decided to put melted chocolate in the frosting along with the cocoa powder. I don’t think it was the best idea I’ve ever had. So if you’re making chocolate buttercream, do something like the following recipe.
  • 4 oz Earth Balance Stick butter
  • 4 oz vegan cream cheese
  • 4 C powdered sugar (sifted if lumpy)
  • 1/2 C cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Soy milk as needed

Have the butter and cream cheese at room temperature and cream them together until it starts to look wet (vegan butter doesn’t get fluffy). Add the vanilla. Add the sugar and cocoa powder in increments so it doesn’t snow in your kitchen. Add the soy milk a tablespoon at a time until you have a thick yet fluffy texture. You can make this ahead of time and just melt it a bit in the microwave and re-whip it with a spatula before using it.

Coconut Pecan Filling

I used this recipe from Mom in the City. I added an extra half cup of organic sugar though as I only had unsweetened coconut on hand and definitely was not going back to the store. Make sure you do this in advance as it needs to cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 6 oz dark chocolate (or mix of semi-sweet and dark)
  • 2 oz vegan butter (Earth Balance sticks)
  • 2 T soy milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Melt everything in a doubler boiler – aka metal bowl on top of pot with hot water in it – and gently whisk it together. Store it in the fridge until ready to use. When you are ready to use it, melt it down in the microwave in short bursts of time, like 10 – 20 seconds. You need it completely liquidy but it doesn’t need to be super hot. I believe I melted mine down and then let it sit at room temp for awhile. If you’re uber talented you can just pour the ganache along the edge of the cake. If you aren’t so sure, use a piping bag like I did with a small whole or tip at the end and do it the careful way

Assembly

First, you need something to put the cake on. I didn’t have a cake board that was big enough so I cut a side out of a cardboard box and covered it with foil.

Second, you need to shape the cake into the apple. Use a small serrated knife (like a steak knife) and start by rounding the corners. Next make the indentions at the top and bottom of the apple. Get it looking like an apple before taking the “bite” out of the side.

When you do take the bite out of the side, be careful as this is your stem. You can always  reshape the stem a bit but you only have so much cake.

Now split it into layers. I did three layers but two would be just fine. Take a long serrated knife (like a bread knife) and start sawing horizontally. You can score the cake all around the sides first to help ensure you’re cutting evenly. A revolving cake stand is your friend here. Place the extra layer(s) on the counter, preferably on plastic wrap or parchment so they’re easier to pick back up.

At this point you should brush away as many crumbs as you can so they don’t get in your frosting.

I also brushed my cake layers with a coconut simple syrup, which is just equal parts sugar and water heated until the sugar dissolves and then coconut extract added at the end. I did this to ensure the cake was moist. It definitely was moist but I don’t think the syrup was necessary, so it’s your call.

After you decrumb and syrup (or not), grab the coconut pecan filling and plop a big glob of it on the base layer. Use a large offset spatula to smooth it out. Mine was about 1/2 inch thick but I like a lot of filling, so less would be ok. Place the middle layer (if you have one) on the cake and do the same thing. Now place the last layer on the cake and crumb coat the entire thing with the buttercream and stick it in the fridge for a couple minutes. Crumb coating is just smearing a thin layer of frosting on the cake so that you will be less likely to have crumbs in the finished cake.

Once the crumb coat has hardened, ice the cake with more buttercream and then stick is back in the fridge. Once it’s completely set, grab your ganache and the cake and go to town. You can ganache the whole thing or just the edges or whatever you want. Then when you’re done, (can you guess) stick it back in the fridge.

What happens now is up to you. Add more coconut goo to the top. Or just add some buttercream rosettes or pipe a pretty border. Or you could just cover the whole damn thing with ganache and make it look like the actual Apple logo. Maybe white chocolate!

Regarding the stem, I filled it with coconut goo just like the cake and then frosted it with the buttercream. When that had set I poured the ganche all over it.

And here is the happy graduate with his yummy cake! 🙂

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I won’t pretend to have an excuse for not posting anything to this blog for the last, ahem, 5 months. I have some excuses of course but they’re trivial (like being busy/ worn out from work and not having a photo studio at home… aka laziness). I wasn’t planning on blogging at all until I had a stockpile of posts to put up here as I hate blogging and then going awol for a long time, but I figured it was time to finally break the silence. And I have pictures of a cute cake to post.

I was co-hostess for a friend’s baby shower last weekend, and since I’m now a baker the cake fell onto my list of responsibilities. We decided to do a forest animal themed shower, and while perusing the internet for ideas I came across the tree stump cake and thought that was an excellent idea!!

The cake itself is based off the carrot cupcakes from VCTOTW, but I modified the flour and spices, ixnayed the raisins and added figs (wonderful texture contributor!). A word of caution, carrot cake is DENSE, and doesn’t rise very much in the oven. Originally I made a 3 times batch of cupcakes thinking that would be plenty for my 8 and 9 inch cake pans. WRONG! I had to go back to the drawing board and make another 2 times batch. So, that there cake you see above, it’s equivalent to 60 cupcakes. 60. Seriously. And damn, it was heavy. I had a wrist ache after putting the base coating of icing on.

Don't you just love the owl?! He was my favorite. I wanted to keep him.

All the animals and what not are made out of marzipan. And no, I don’t mean that small, overpriced box of preserved crap you find at the local Kroger. If people knew how easy this stuff is to make they would never buy it in ready to use form. Marzipan is simply almond paste, powdered sugar and corn syrup. I absolutely cringed when I bought the bottle of corn syrup (can you say GMO???) but I at least splurged and got the non-high fructose corn syrup stuff. I’m sure you could sub brown rice syrup or maybe even honey, but you’ll have to play with the amount as the consistency will be different.

He's supposed to be a fox but I think he looks more like a squirrel.

As for the almond paste, you can also buy that in ready to use form at specialty baking stores. Or, you can save yourself $15 and make it yourself (of course). There are a bunch of variations of almond paste out there but I went with this one. And you can totally make this several days or even weeks in advance and store it, wrapped tightly, in the fridge.

Shrooms!

Here’s the marzipan recipe:

  • 8oz almond paste
  • 8oz powdered sugar (10x)
  • 2oz corn syrup

Use the paddle attachment and mix the almond paste and 10x in your stand mixer. Add just enough corn syrup to make the almond paste moldable, but it shouldn’t be sticky. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap.

The bear has pudgy little arms, like a baby!

So coloring the marzipan is where you end up breaking all your culinary ethics and buying a box of Wilton icing colors. I hate fake things. Especially fake things that have high fructose corn syrup in them, but there’s really no other way to get all these colors (which makes me think I need to develop some healthy coloring alternatives…). I rarely make cake or cupcakes with non-natural colors because I hate using that stuff, but this was a special occasion that I felt warranted me going against my food morals.

My grumpy, fat little chipmunk, guarding his acorns.

So, to color the marzipan, you take small blobs of it, grab a toothpick and dip it into the color you want and then stab the marzipan blob all over. Then knead it with your hands until the color is no longer tie-dye but uniform. You’ll most likely have to keep adding and adding color to achieve your desired results, especially if you’re wanting a deep red or black. Start small as you can always add more color.

Ladybugs!

As you can see, I did a lot of hand kneading of the marzipan. It was so much fun though. I had such a great time making all the little figures. I suggest latex gloves, or something similar. The colors will wash off but it can get messy. I need to work on not getting my fingerprints all over the figures, but I think these turned out just fine for my maiden voyage.

I made chocolate cupcakes too. Seems the daddy to be doesn’t really like cake but he likes cupcakes… (I don’t get it either). It’s ok though. I tried to make them look mossy. The green on top is just crumbled up vanilla cake, the same stuff I used for my “grass” around the tree stump.

I also made chocolates for the party (yes, I was a little worn out by the time everything was said and done). The ones in the back are meant to be like the Rocher truffles, there’s a hazelnut in the middle, chocolate ganache, vanilla wafer pieces, chocolate and then cocoa powder. The filled chocolates have either caramel or crisp rice in them, and the clusters in front are just chocolate and crisp rice (word to the wise, make sure you have enough chocolate before trying to make filled chocolates… or you’ll end up making clusters :)).

And, just in case you’re wondering, everything here is completely vegan.

Well, I hope to be frequenting my blog more often. I have tons of ideas but finding time (and money) to actualize them isn’t always so easy. What I REALLY need is a nice little SLR camera and a photo studio my cats won’t tear apart, but that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. I also find myself making more savory food at home these days rather than sweet, so there’s a high possibility this “baking” blog might yield slightly into a more general food blog, but that’s not necessarily the end of the world is it?

Anyway, until the next time, have a great day and happy baking!

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On Saturday my husband and I took a little mini vacation and drove out to Hood River, OR. Hood River is a sleepy little tourist town kind of place about an hour and a half from Portland known for its superb wind surfing and kite boarding (we didn’t do either however).

What we did do is take it easy, have a few pints, taste a couple wines and relax at our home for the weekend called Hood River BnB. We thought about saving a few pennies and staying at your average motel, but a bed and breakfast sounded so much better; and we think it was worth the extra $$. Jane and Jim who own and run the four room B&B are very friendly, hospitable and overall delightful.

We stayed in the Sky room which was rather large, had light blue walls, lots of windows for all that sunshine to come through and a beautiful bathroom complete with jacuzzi tub. And here’s the view from the back patio at the Hood River BnB – I think I could handle waking up to this for a few more days.

On Sunday we took a little walkabout around town. We “hiked” along Indian Creek Trail, had a pint at Big Horse Ales and even stopped to smell the flowers.

And then we found our way into a small, local book store. My husband loves books so we always wind up in a book shoppe when we go places. I’m not sure where he darts off to every time but my radar unfailingly leads me straight to the cooking section. I’m not sure why either as I have about six cookbooks but that I’ve yet to make one recipe out of… Oh well. This time I found an extraordinary book called A World of Cake.

If you haven’t already figured it out, I’m quite fond of cake. Growing up I couldn’t wait for birthdays to come around just so I could have a piece of cake. The corner piece of course. With all the frosting I could manage to get on  my plate. Yes, it’s a miracle I don’t weigh 500 lbs. Though I’m all growed up, I still love cake. I’d go as far as to say that’s my favorite dessert. So when I saw this book I was totally intrigued.

Actually, I thumbed through the entire thing, put it back on the shelf because I told myself I’d wait until I got home and find it cheaper online. Within about 2 hours I managed to talk myself into buying it so back into the store we went. Honestly, I could have found it way cheaper online, but I think it’s worth the $$ I paid. Plus it has a vacation memory attached to it now (which makes everything better).

There are so many interesting, creative and positively yummy recipes in this book! It even has a brief history of cake and holidays around the world and their regional cake counterparts. I can’t wait to make the Marta Rocha Torte from Brazil, the Ube Cake from the Philippines and the Arrollado con Dulce de Leche from Argentina (amongst the many others). None of these recipes are vegan though, so now my only hurdle is to figure out how to sub out 10 egg yolks and heavy whipping cream. =)

If you have any interest in other cultures and their cuisine, I would say that this book is an absolute must! And if you just like cake, you should probably go pick it up as well; I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Hopefully I’ll have photos and a blog post soon of one of these sumptuous cakes!

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There will be more to this post later on, but until then, check out my cheese head cake!  Oh, and have fun watching the game. =)

Go Packers!!!

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The best thing about a birthday is the cake.  It is absolutely, utterly, undeniably and entirely impossible to have a birthday without a cake.  If you do (god forbid) have birthdays with no cakes, you need to do some finger shaking at your, ahem, loved ones.

We celebrated my fiancee’s birthday yesterday.  His real birthday isn’t until Monday, but with work and school we thought it better to do it on a Friday (which was good because it took me a @#&^@%$& long time to frost this puppy).  While most people sit around thinking of normal things like sports, politics and whether or not they turned the coffee pot off, I tend to daydream about baking.  More specifically, I continually try to think of something new to put inside or on top of a cake or cupcake.  My best ideas tend to come to me at odd hours of the night or in the shower.  Sometimes (most times) they turn out better in my head than in reality [insert cupcake bomb here].  This one turned out ok though, thankfully.

We’ll start from the bottom.  Initially I wanted to do cake-cookie-cake-cookie layering system, but I feared that the cookie would be too heavy for the cake and end up crushing the little bugger.  Plus I only have one 8 inch cake pan, so the oven would have been on for an eternity. So I opted to put the cookie on the bottom.  It’s just your typical peanut butter chocolate chip cookie recipe (egg subbed out with flax and water).  I stuck it in the freezer for a bit in order to be able to handle the dough without it sticking to every inch of my hands.

The chocolate cake is from VCTOTW…. not much more to say about that I guess.

The icing in the middle and on top is actually the same.  Why the difference in color?  Well, sometimes I’m a bit of an idiot.  I stuck the frosting in the microwave to soften it up a bit to [hopefully] make frosting the top easier.  Did you know if you get chocolate chips warm they melt?  Yeah, duh.  So, what we have here are two versions of peanut butter cookie dough icing, one a little more chocolatey than the other.  You just take some cookie dough and whip it with shortening or margarine and make frosting as usual.

The icing on the side is plain ole chocolate buttercream.  I would say this one too is out of VCTOTW, but I think I actually pulled it from memory.  My Dad made chocolate cake a lot growing up.  The icing recipe may just be the only culinary thing I took with me when I left home.  Hmm, moving on.

The cookies on the side are obviously mini versions of the big PB cookie on the bottom.  I stuck them on there with a dab of icing.

Now what really matters is, Gary loved it!  The cake was delicious and it didn’t turn into a brick in your tummy.  I do think I need to go to cake frosting school though, or just stick to cupcakes.

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you just have to veganize them.

In all my random perusal of food blogs and various food sites on this big ole web, I somehow managed to never stumble upon .  Until I saw a coworker looking at it.  Now I’m addicted to it.  The site constantly streams all sorts of food pictures from blogs and websites all over the internet.  It’s a superb way to procrastinate, or find something to cook for dinner.  Or dessert.

One of the many pics I “gawked” at was from The Sweet Spot blog.  I don’t think anything on this blog is even close to being vegan, but the woman knows how to bake, evidently.  What caught my eye was this chocolatey, creamy, peanut buttery goodness all wrapped into one scrumptious looking dessert.  I was in love.  But not with all the dairy that’s in it.  I had been thinking about making an ice cream cake lately so I thought this a lovely opportunity to try it out.  I subbed the “cream” layer with some homemade vegan ice cream from Veganomicon.  For the peanut butter layer I made vegan peanut butter pie.  I used the chocolate cupcake recipe from VCTOTW, and the rest was an easy sub.

The result…..

If I were to do it all over again I’d go with ganache on top instead of butter-cream icing.  I’d also wait a wee bit longer before putting the cake together as my ice cream was a tad too soft and therefore didn’t stay put quite as well as I had hoped.  The flavors go well together though.  I’d give it a 9.2 on the Pretty Damn Tasty scale.

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