Archive for July, 2009

Mint Chocolate Cupcake Heaven


I’m a little behind on my posts! I baked these cupcakes last week with my friend Sonja’s darling niece, Ava, who is 4 years old. Her grandma, Linda, was taking care of her and her little brother Julian, and I got to go over and have a little fun with Ava while Linda and J had some down time. I knew Ava loves chocolate, so I originally suggested that we make Cookies ‘n Creme Cupcakes, which I thought would be a hit since she’d get to crush up cookies – and what’s better than cookies and cupcakes together? Well…Ava had other ideas! She was not thrilled with my idea but was dead set on a mint-chocolate combination. Good thing her “Auntie Sonie” loves mint and chocolate together too, and happened to have left some mint extract in the cupboard for us to use!

So we decided to make a chocolate cupcake base, with mint buttercream frosting on top, and then a dark chocolate ganache on top of that. And of course Ava requested that we add lots and lots of sprinkles on top! We used the Mint Chocolate Cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. We had such a great time together, measuring ingredients and pouring them in, mixing them together, and of course tasting the batter at every stage! It was pretty hilarious; about every 30 seconds, Ava would look slyly at the spoon I’d been mixing with, or the spatula, or the electic mixer attatchments, and say “Don’t you think it’s time to clean that now?” and then proceed to lick it clean! She’s spunky and cute as a button, and thus is very hard to resist. She probably consumed at least a cupcake’s worth of batter and frosting before they were even baked (clearly, we are kindred spirits).



It was very difficult to wait while the cupcakes baked, and then cooled, because we were so excited to put frosting and sprinkles on, and then eat them! I piped the frosting on, and put a dollop of chocolate ganache on top, and then Ava decorated each one very carefully with many colors of sprinkles. It was interesting to watch Ava and her brother J eat their cupcakes. While Ava was happy as a clam, carefully peeling her wrapper off, licking the frosting off the top, and then eating the cake by itself, her brother was not as polite! J was thrilled about the idea of cupcakes; when he woke up from his nap and saw what we were decorating, he was beside himself with excitement. His little 2 year old body was literally shaking! He held his cupcake with one hand and very very very carefully and slowly ate the frosting off the top just using one finger. And as soon as he finished the frosting, he held the cake up and said “Want More Cupcake!”, and pointed to the rest of the cupcakes that I was finishing decorating on the other side of the counter. After we explained to him that he still had a cupcake in his hand, he continued to yell for more cupcakes and then smashed his cake onto the counter and smooshed it with his little hands! I’ve never had quite that reception to my baked goods before. Clearly, the frosting was quite a hit!

I found that, like all the other cupcakes I’ve made from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, these were fluffy and moist and delicious. The icing was great too; perfectly creamy and minty, without getting to that toothpaste-mint-stage. And the dark chocolate ganache on top certainly made this cupcake a bit more “adult” and balanced out the sweet frosting (but clearly was still popular with the children!). I would love to see how this recipe bakes as a larger cake some time.


Lemon Ginger Sunshine Shortbread


I had a young friend over at my house last night, and to keep him occupied, my mom and I baked some citrus cut-out cookies. Or, actually, it was to keep ourselves occupied, as Dylan was happy enough following the dog around the house and watering the flowers in the garden…In any case, there was lots of rolling and cookie-cutter-cutting to do, which was quite amusing to my 2 1/2 year old buddy. We made a huge mess (flour was “snowing” all over the counter, the floor, his hair, the dog…) but we had some amazing giggles and huge toothy smiles caught on camera so that was quite rewarding!IMG_0166

I believe that baking is inherited (see the “About Me” section of my blog for my own baking story), and since my grandmother measured things with “tea glasses” (who knows what size they were), when she bakes my mom therefore doesn’t measure things at all! So this recipe is a little approximated, since it is what I could piece together after the ingredients were all mixed together.

6 oz. Earth Balance, cut into small pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/2 medium sized lemon, juiced
1/4 tsp. dried ground ginger
1 2-inch long piece of fresh ginger, finely grated

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and rub in the Earth Balance with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
Stir in the superfine sugar, ground ginger, fresh ginger, and lemon juice, and bring the mixture together with your hands to make a smooth, firm dough.
On a lightly floured work counter, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/2 an inch. Stamp out sunflowers (or whatever shape you want) with a cookie cutter measuring about 1 1/2 inches across.
Arrange the cookie dough cut-outs on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10-13 minutes, until the cookies are a light golden color.
Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool. Top with Lemon Icing, or sandwich together.

Lemon Icing:
1/4 cup Earth Balance
1-1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 medium sized lemon, juiced

Cream together the Earth Balance with the confectioner’s sugar, and when combined well and fluffy, add the lemon juice. You can add more sugar to reach your desired consistency.

Blueberry Almond Scones


Still on Sara’s farm, we planned a day at the river. We bought lots of sandwich-making ingredients, snack foods, filled our coolers, planned to pack our swimsuits, towels, and lots of sunscreen, and prepared for the drive and hike down to utopia the next day. But we were missing one thing! Something sweet to snack on. We had lots of blueberries from our picking adventure, and what is better than fresh berry scones? Clearly, we needed these for our river trip. So we got to baking, and made these scrumptious treats. Of course, we couldn’t resist the tempting smells wafting out of the oven while the scones baked, and we ate many of them that night while they were warm, and the next morning for breakfast before going to the river, but we still had some left over to enjoy while lounging on the beach after our boulder-climb through the cool blue waters of the Van Buren River (or the Mad River? I can’t remember. But whatever it was called, it was beautiful).

The scones were moist, soft, and crumbly, and intensely rich. The original recipe calls for pure butter, whole milk, and buttermilk, and when I’ve had them in the past, while they were undeniably delicious, it was difficult to eat a whole scone in one sitting because they are so heavy. The vegan version doesn’t lose any of it’s “perfect scone texture”, but it becomes lighter, flaky, and even a little fluffy, but steers clear of any sort of muffin-like consistency.

Continue reading ‘Blueberry Almond Scones’

Basic Blueberry Peach Crisp

IMG_2088Last week I visited my dear friend Sara in Humboldt County, where she recently started a lovely farm! She has a huge garden that I got to dig my fingers into, and plant all sorts of squashes and salad greens. I had a great time sweating it out in her hoop-house green house where I planted the squashes (we even planted a type of decorative winter squash called a “Red Warty Thing“, which is unusual and exciting), and I got to feed her 11 chickens. I may include some pictures of them in my next post, so watch out!

Anyway, back to my baking adventures…It seems that everywhere I go, it is blueberry picking season! Humboldt was ripe with these juicy berries, and together we picked a bucket full. It was the beginning of the blueberry season here in California (unlike when I was in New York, where the berries were busting out all over the place), so the berries we got this time were on the tart side. Perfect for baking with!

This is a pretty basic recipe that I made up on the spot; it was really nice with the fresh-picked blueberries, since their tartness balanced out the sweetness of the topping. It’s an easy and quick fall-back recipe, and is one that you can play around with quite a bit. You can add to the fruit filling with whatever fruits you have around the house, like apples, any sort of berries, or even banana is good in a crisp. You can also add to the topping however you want by mixing in chopped nuts or granola – this would give an added crunch and texture, and throwing in a pinch or two of nutmeg or cloves would give it an extra spicy punch.

Filling Ingredients:
7-8 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups fresh sliced peaches
2 tsp. fresh squeezed orange juice

Topping Ingredients:
1 cup Earth Balance, room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 cups rolled oats

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together your blueberries and peaches and add the orange juice. Combine only till fruit is coated; you don’t want to over-mix and crush your berries. Pour into a 9×13 inch pan. Set aside while you mix your topping ingredients.
In a medium bowl, cream together your Earth Balance and sugars. When they are nice and fluffy, add in your flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Mix till just combined. Add your oats last. You may have to mix these in with your hands, depending on how thick your dough is at this point. Sprinkle on top of your berries and stick the whole thing in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and crispy. If you let it sit to cool for a bit, the filling will firm up and be easier to cut or scoop. It’s nice to eat warm, but can also be heated up later.

Caramel Pecan Bars


I recently made these Caramel Pecan Bars that I had been drooling over for the last few months. I saw them on Kristen’s site and just couldn’t get over how delicious they looked. They have a pecan cookie bottom with a thick gooey caramel layer over it, and crushed pecans sprinkled over the sticky top. I drizzled lots of chocolate on top of my bars, because I happen to think that caramel and chocolate are best when paired together. These were great bars, and I whole-heartedly recommend the recipe! The only thing is, when it came time to cut my bars into pieces, the caramel was very difficult to cut through; they were too sticky and hard, so while I didn’t get a nice even cut the way Kristen did, I certainly got an arm workout! Perhaps I cooked the caramel too long so it got too high in it’s “firm ball” range and closer to the “hardball” stage? I was trying to be very careful with temperatures, but it’s possible that this was the problem. In any case, the bars were rich and tasty, and the soft cookie bottom was a great contrast with the chewy caramel and crunchy pecans.


Cupcakes & Cocktails: White Russian and Strawberry Daiquiri Cupcakes


My friends had a slammin’ party last weekend, and requested some home-baked desserts. Of course I complied, and even took some flavor requests. First, Julie wanted White Russian Cupcakes. Sure, no problem! Then, we realized there would be a lot of people attending this party; more than would eat just one batch of cupcakes. And baking a double batch might get boring, so I wanted another cupcake flavor to make as well…We thought something still cocktail themed, yet different. It would have to be something fruity, lighter than a White Russian, so that each would stand out on it’s own. The Strawberry Daiquiri Cupcake was born.

I have to admit, both cupcakes were superb. The White Russian was creamy and nearly melted in your mouth. The cupcake itself had Kahlua baked into it, and we soaked the top with a mixture of Kahlua and vodka so it would have the intense flavor of both in each bite. Because of this soaking, the cupcake was incredibly moist – lending it’s texture to that of a drink, but not too soggy. The frosting had to be creamy and rich, so I made a thin cream cheese frosting that had both Kahlua and vodka in it as well. It tasted just like a White Russian, which was one of the drinks being served at the party (along with Blueberry White Russians, which were amazing! I was inspired by them – perhaps it will be my next cocktail cupcake flavor? I’ve been making lots of blueberry treats so it would fit perfectly).


The Strawberry Daiquiri Cupake was made with a rum-flavored cake, with a cone cut out of the center of the top after baking. We filled this hole with sliced strawberries, topped them with a blend of Daiquiri ingredients (strawberries, lime, confectioner’s sugar, light rum) that I threw together, and then placed the cupcake cone-tops back on. A slice of strawberry on top of each “cone hat” was a cute decoration.


To make the baking of these cupcakes easier, I cheated a little and used the same starting recipe for the cupcake batter itself, so I could bake them at the same time. The recipes are the same except each has a different alcohol in it for a liquid, and different extracts added to the batterat the end. Essentially I made a Kahlua Cupcake and a Rum Cupcake, and then the fillings and toppings for each made them into their unique cocktails.

White Russian Cupcake:

Kahlua Cupcake Ingredients:
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup Kahlua
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1/3 cup Kahlua
1/8-1/4 cup vodka

Creamy White Russian Icing:
1/4 cup Earth Balance
1/2 cup Tofutti cream cheese
2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 Tblsp. Kahlua
2 Tblsp. vodka

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners.
Whisk the non-dairy milk of your choice and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside for a few minutes to get good and curdled. Beat together the milk mixture, Kahlua, oil, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Sift in the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix until no large lumps remain. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full, and bake for 20-22 minutes. Let sit in the cupcake tin for 5 minutes so cakes can get firm and set. Then, take them out and set cupcakes on a cookie sheet or a cooling rack that has a paper below it to catch any drips from the topping.

To add the topping, combine the 1/3 cup of Kahlua and 1/8 cup of vodka in a small bowl. Prick the tops of the still-warm cupcakes with a fork. Make sure to prick them deeply. Carefully pour your Kahlua/vodka mixture on top of the cupcakes, so that it drips into the holes you made. Let sit till cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

Cream Earth Balance and cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy. Slowly add confectioners’ sugar, half a cup at a time, until well-incorporated. Add Kahlua and vodka and mix until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Taste, and add more alcohol if you like. Spread onto cooled cupcakes.

Strawberry Daiquiri Cupcake:

Rum Cupcake Ingredients:
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup light rum
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. fresh squeezed lime juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. rum extract

Strawberry Daiquiri Filling Ingredients:
1/2 cup chopped ripe fresh strawberries
1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
2 Tblsp. light rum
2 Tblsp. fresh squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners.
Whisk the non-dairy milk of your choice and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside for a few minutes to get good and curdled. Beat together the milk mixture, rum, oil, sugar, lime juice, vanilla, and rum in a large bowl. Sift in the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix until no large lumps remain. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full, and bake for 20-22 minutes. Let sit in the cupcake tin for 5 minutes so cakes can get firm and set. Then, take them out and set cupcakes on a rack to cool completely before filling.

To make the filling, chop 1/2 cup fresh strawberries. Set aside. Combine the other cup of fresh or frozen strawberries, light rum, lime juice, and confectioner’s sugar in a blender. Blend till smooth. This is essentially a Strawberry Daiquiri…When cupcakes are completely cool, cut a cone out of the top of each one with a sharp knife. Take the tops off, and put a few slices of strawberry at the bottom of each one. Carefully spoon your Daiquiri ingredients into each cupcake, so that the holes are filled to the top. Gently press the cupcake top back onto the cupcake, and garnish with a slice of fresh strawberry.

Blood Orange Coconut Sherbet


Sherbet usually has a bit of dairy in it, but making a fruity and creamy coconut milk-based ice cream made a great vegan alternative sherbet. My friend Zoe brought me some lovely oranges fresh from the orange tree in her backyard, and we had a blood orange syrup stashed away in the fridge, and my new ice cream maker, so it all seemed to add up to making a blood orange sherbet. I was so excited to use my new ice cream maker, that I didn’t realize how long the bowl was supposed to be frozen in the freezer previous to adding ingredients, and so the ice cream didn’t firm up as much as it should have. But it made a darn good cold and creamy dessert anyway, perfect for a summer afternoon. Just a little meltier than I had imagined…

1 1/2 cups coconut cream
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup blood orange syrup (already sweetened)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, ground fairly finely (but not to a powder)

Blend all ingredients except the chocolate in a blender. Add to your ice cream maker and make according to it’s instructions (i.e.: Make sure you freeze yours long enough – unless you want a melty but delicious mess like I created). Just before the ice cream is done mixing in the machine, add the ground chocolate chips and make sure they get thoroughly combined. Enjoy!

Rustic Mango Pudding Cake


I got the idea for this bread from Dorie Greenspan’s fan site “Tuesdays With Dorie” where blogging fans choose a specific recipe of Dorie’s to make each week and then they all bake the same thing and post about it. So it’s kind of like baking together, from all over the world! One such recipe and post was for Dorie’s Fresh Mango Bread. It looked moist and crumbly and delicious. So I had to veganize it and try it out! My version was certainly moist and crumbly and delicious, but perhaps a bit too moist and crumbly! Next time I will try to cut down on the wet ingredients a bit and turn the oven temperature lower (and increase the baking time) so that the inside cooks more. The inside was moist and pudding-like, especially with the chunks of gooey mango and chewy raisins. The inside firmed up a bit by the next morning, and it was actually quite a nice soft texture. I liked that the outside had a bit of crunch to it. And the taste! Yum. All the ginger and cinnamon spices were delightful, and the lime juice adds a lovely zing. It’s sweet but not too-sweet, was a great dessert cake (with a scoop of vanilla ice cream it would be divine!), and also was a great breakfast cake. Come on, admit it, you like to eat cake for breakfast, and this one is actually mildly healthy (just forget all the white flour, sugar, oil, etc. But it does have fruit in it! So that counts for something, I’d say).

I’ve written out my adapted recipe below; You can choose to lower the oven temperature or the amount of liquid if you want to.

3/4 cup plain soy yogurt
3/4 canola oil
2.5 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
2 cups diced fresh mango
3/4 cup moist, plump golden raisins
Grated zest of 1/2 lime
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 cup of dried shredded coconut
1/8 cup chopped cashews

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pan, dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. Put the pan on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular baking sheets stacked one on top of the other. (This extra insulation will keep the bottom of the bread from overbaking).

Whisk the soy yogurt and oil together. Add the sugars and continue whisking.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, switch to a sturdy rubber spatula or wooden spoon and mix until blended — the batter will be very thick (really more like a dough than a batter) and not easily mixed, but persevere, it will soon come together. Stir in the mango, raisins, zest, and lime juice. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the coconut and chopped cashews on top.

Bake the bread for 1.5 hours, or until it is golden brown and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. (If the bread looks as if it’s getting too brown as it bakes, cover it loosely with a foil tent – shiny side of foil facing up). I did this at 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before running a knife around the sides of the pan and unmolding. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up on the rack. Let cool completely before slicing.

Wheat-Free Blueberry Muffins

To finish my epic blue baking week, I give you blueberry muffins!IMG_9946

My friend Freya doesn’t like blueberries. But we had picked so many of them! I had to convince her they would be good, somehow. She said she would only like them if they were in muffins, so that’s what we had for last Sunday’s breakfast. Fresh out of the oven, they were wonderful! They didn’t last longer than that, but I’m sure they would have been great once cooled as well. Freya enjoyed them, as did the rest of the group, which was proved by how quickly the muffins were polished off. And, Freya even enjoyed my blueberry pie, so maybe we’ve got a blueberry convert on our hands 🙂

I adapted this recipe from How It All Vegan, and the original recipe said it would make only 6 muffins, but didn’t say what size. I think they must have been using the Texas-sized muffin pans because I was able to make 12 muffins from this recipe. They were somewhat short, but not abnormally. You can choose how high to fill your tins, the muffins don’t rise too much. Also, you can substitute any type of berry you want in these versatile muffins! Blueberries were very good, but I think raspberry would be quite nice too, or even a mix of berries. Continue reading ‘Wheat-Free Blueberry Muffins’

Pick-Your-Own Blueberry Pie

IMG_9911The next item in my unintentional blue-baking series was a delicious blueberry pie. It all started when my friends wanted to get out of New York City, and drive up to the countryside to see trees! I am generally very excited about trees, so I was definitely not opposed to this idea, and hopped in the car. We drove up near where our college was, did the required walking around, seeing buildings that had been important to us, eating a baby-sized burrito from the local burrito stand, and feeling weirded out by being on campus…Then we ventured out into the farmlands and picked bucketfuls of blueberries to take home and share with all the other city kids so they could have a taste of “wilderness”. Picking the blueberries was fun and we got very muddy (more country to take home to the city!), and certainly ate a lot of blueberries before they ended up in our buckets. Yum. Here is a photo of some of our bounty:IMG_9895What to do with all these tart juicy blueberries? Bake them into a pie of course! I usually use my dear friend and pie-guru Wilbur’s never-fail crust recipe, but I didn’t have it on hand this time…I braved a cookbook, and found a crust that looked good in Vegan Planet which they use in their Brandy Apple Pie recipe. I made it using white spelt flour, and it came out just right: Buttery, flaky, moist, and delicious. I pricked the bottom crust with a fork half a dozen times, and moved onto the filling. I forgot to measure the amount of blueberries that I used, but basically I just filled up the pie crust till it was nearly overflowing with berries! This was approximately 4 cups of berries. I sprinkled these blueberries with 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/2 cup sugar, 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, and about 1/4 cup of spelt flour to help it hold together. I piled this mixture inside the crust, making a huge dome, and put a full top crust on top. After pressing the edges together and pricking the top with a fork (in a pretty pattern…We made an “X” but you can choose your own!), it was time to put this baby in the oven. With the oven preheated to 450 degrees, I stuck the pie in, but immediately turned the temperature down to 350 so the pie gets a blast of heat but the insides get more slowly cooked. Make sure to put your pie on an upper rack of the oven, and a large pan on the rack underneath your pie as a catchment system for any drips. My pie dripped a lot, so we ended up with sweet blueberry syrup that could be poured over ice cream or pancakes. Bake your pie for 50-60 minutes, and take it out when the crust is nicely golden.

We let the pie cool for about an hour, and then sliced and ate it with big scoops of vanilla soy ice cream. It was a little goopy when we first ate it, but the next morning the filling had set better. It was delicious for breakfast!


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July 2009

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