Archive for October, 2009

Pumpkin Mummy-Cakes with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

Halloween is quickly approaching – and if you weren’t aware of it, I can help you out. I can tell it’s Halloween time for a few reasons:

1. The weather has gotten crisper and windier, and the red and gold leaves are blowing off the trees into huge piles in my backyard.

2. There are pumpkins everywhere; carved and whole. There are ghosts hanging from trees, and goblins and spiderwebs peeking from behind windows and creeping out on front lawns.

3. I am student teaching in a Kindergarten classroom and the students are excited about Halloween, to say the least. In preparation, we’ve made black paper bats that hang from the windows and pumpkin-shaped paper-chain calendars to countdown till the very day, we’ve measured pumpkins up and down and weighed them and even got to make predictions about what might be inside a pumpkin — and then the kids got to stand on the picnic tables outside and smash them onto the ground to find out! We’ve also been reading Halloween books for weeks. Books about counting and math, about the alphabet, about helping friends, about trick-or-treating, about being kind to each other, about making mistakes, and about making good choices. Besides these good-community-oriented and academic themes, the books involve witches and scarecrows and ghosts and bats and monsters, which captures every student’s attention. We even read a book about a witch who baked her grumpy day into a cake! It went right along with my lesson plan theme, which was to cook pumpkin pancakes! I’ve been teaching small groups of four, five, and six year olds how to make these delicious pancakes all week, and finally the cinnamon smells got the best of me.

The Fall weather, the Halloween spirit, and the pumpkin pancake cooking ingredients all came together to form these cute little cupcake critters. As soon as I saw Lindsay’s post about her creations, I knew I had to decorate some cupcakes just like she did! I used her recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes, and added a ton of cinnamon to a basic vanilla buttercream frosting to top mine off. Aren’t they perfect?

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Orange Chocolate Cake

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My dad’s birthday was last week…or more like two weeks ago…or some time awhile ago (oops) and since I’m a graduate student now I literally have no time to bake or post new blog posts, so really I’m just very behind in posting this recipe. But I hadn’t realized it had been that long. I guess I owe a big apology to my dad and all his friends who I’m sure were checking my blog obsessively (yeah, yeah, I have about 2 readers, who am I kidding?) to see the pictures and get the recipe for this fantastically rich chocolate cake that was dense, delectable, and delicious. And very difficult to stop eating! But that was okay, because it was healthy. Healthy? Cake? Well, it had extra special ingredients that added lots of vitamins and nutrients, so it was healthy, as healthy as a chocolate birthday cake really can be.

The first fruit in the recipe was orange juice, because I wanted a citrus-blast in this chocolate confection. That taste was obvious after the first bite. However, the secret “healthy” ingredient was avocado. Yes, you read that right: Avocado. Before I added the cocoa powder, guess what color the batter was? A lovely bright green! I almost didn’t want to add the cocoa and just savor the neon color, but I knew my dad would appreciate the chocolate cake A LOT so I went for that.

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I used a recipe for a chocolate cake that just happened to have avocado in it, and I found the recipe here. I simply substituted fresh orange juice instead of the water that the original recipe called for, and I got an Orange Chocolate Cake! I made an easy Dark Chocolate Ganache to go on the outside of the cake (1 pound of vegan dark chocolate, melted, then blended with plain unsweetened almond milk, then refridgerated for 4 hours till hard enough to spread) and made a quick Orange Buttercream to use as a filling between the three layers of cake and as decoration on the top. The Orange Buttercream was a variation of the Orange Buttercream recipe in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, based on what I had on hand at home. I used orange extract and fresh orange juice and it was delicious.

Orange Buttercream Ingredients:
1/2 cup nonhydrogenated vegan shortening
1/2 cup nonhydrogenated vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance)
3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tsp. orange extract
2-5 Tblsp. fresh orange juice

For the frosting, cream together the shortening and margarine until well combined and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes. Add the orange extract, and continue creaming. Slowly add the orange juice until the frosting reaches your desired consistency, and beat for another 5-7 minutes until fluffy. Spread or pipe onto the tops of your cupcakes in whatever design you choose.

Here’s a shot of the cake, after cutting into it:

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Trying-to-Be-Sonja’s Chewy Mint Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

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One of my friends (and now classmates!), Sasha, had a birthday yesterday! Since we had a long day of student teaching and then classes of our own, I knew she was going to need some treats to keep the day fun. One of her favorite cookie recipes is the Post Punk Kitchen’s Chewy Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies, and one of my favorite kinds of cookies is my friend Sonja’s Mint Chocolate Cookies, so I decided to meld the two together and create Chewy Mint Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies. I used the PPK’s recipe (which is simple and quick!), and instead of 2 teaspoons of vanilla I used only 1 teaspoon vanilla and added 1 1/2 teaspoons of mint extract to the batter. The cookies are dark and chewy just as promised, with a strong hit of mint. They are not quite as thick as Sonja’s cookies but to my memory, they taste just as good. Mmm. They were eaten with gusto by many of our classmates and professors, and I got a big grin and hug from Sasha – which was definitely the biggest incentive for making them!

Mango Cupcakes

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For many many months, my friend Julie has been making different requests for her birthday dessert. Last year I made her Apple-Cinnamon Muffins with Mead Frosting and a Honey-Swirl on top, and at one point she told me she wanted to have the exact same thing this year. And then she wanted a variety of other desserts – a list of which I honestly can’t remember at the moment (oops. Bad friend…). But that’s not important, because when she came up with the idea of Mango Cupcakes, she changed her mind completely and settled on that as her most favorite choice. Mango is her favorite fruit, and perhaps one of her favorite foods. Since then, I did a lot of research about making mango cupcakes, and never found much interesting material to work with; there are lots of recipes for mango muffins and cupcakes with chunks of mango in them, but neither of those sounded appealing. This felt like a great challenge that I was totally up for, so I was pretty thrilled that Julie selected mango as her birthday dessert wish flavor.

I wanted the cupcakes to taste fresh and tropical, and to let the mango flavor really shine. I wanted to try to replicate the silky smooth, juicy texture of fresh mangoes, and I thought very hard about how to accomplish this. I decided on a mango-flavored cupcake (without chunks of mango mixed in), and to fill the cupcakes with a homemade Mango Jam that would give the effect of juicy mangoes when you bit into the cupcake. The jam would also serve as a super fresh mango blast with each bite. It took me a long time to settle on frosting flavor. I debated between a brown sugar glaze, a cream cheese frosting, or just slathering the top with more Mango Jam…I couldn’t figure it out though. None of those ideas really fit. But then I remembered the perfect ingredient that I happened to have sitting in my cupboard, waiting for just the right use! Fresh Vanilla Beans that I had found in the bulk section of my local health food store. A vanilla bean buttercream would be perfectly paired with the mango cupcakes, and not overpower the mango flavor. And then I remembered that Julie’s favorite type of frosting is cream cheese…What to do? How could I decide? Well, I decided to brave it and mix the two together – and suddenly, I had the *perfect* frosting. It would be delicious on ANY cake, anywhere, anytime. It may just become my fall-back frosting recipe (especially since I’ve found vanilla beans in bulk and they surprisingly aren’t that expensive). Here is the final product of The Mango Cupcake Experiment, which was received with screams – yes, literally screams of joy!

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Mango Cupcake Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tblsp. cornstarch
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup canola oil (or any lightly flavored vegetable oil)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup pureed mango
1/2 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
Whisk the almond milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside a few minutes to get good and curdled.
Beat together the almond milk mixture, oil, sugar, and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Add in the pureed mango and combine thoroughly. Sift in the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix only until no large lumps remain.
Fill cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full, and bake for 20-24 minutes till done (you can stick a toothpick in the center and it should come out clean). Leave in muffin tins for 3-5 minutes after taking out of the oven, so the cakes can set, and then take out of the tins and place on a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting. While you are waiting for them to cool, you can prepare your Cream Cheese Vanilla Bean Frosting (recipe below). When cupcakes are completely cool, cut a cone out of the center of each cake, and remove tops. This is where you will spoon in your Mango Jam, or if you choose not to make the Jam then you can also use this method and add extra Cream Cheese Vanilla Bean Frosting into the center of the cupcake, replace the cake top, and pipe more frosting on top. Both methods are beautiful and extremely tasty.

Cream Cheese Vanilla Bean Frosting Ingredients:
Vanilla Bean Frosting:
1/8 cup Earth Balance margarine, room temperature
1/8 cup Earth Balance vegan shortening, room temperature
1/4 cup tofutti cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out
1 tsp. vanilla extract

To make the frosting, cream together the margarine, shortening, and cream cheese until just combined. Add the powdered sugar half a cup at a time, mixing in each addition until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds, and whip until fluffy and smooth. It is a thick frosting. Keep tightly covered and refrigerated until ready to use, then pipe onto fully cooled cupcakes.

Check out the beautiful vanilla bean flecks in the frosting:

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Mango Jam

My friend Julie’s birthday celebration dinner is tonight. To prep, I made this fabulous fresh and sweet Mango Jam, which was easy to whip up and will be perfect paired with the rest of the dessert that I am making. It is also great on a slice of toast or a rice cake, and (as I discovered this morning) delicious when combined with almond butter! The best thing about it is that if you are making jam yourself, you can adjust the amount of sugar to your liking, as opposed to store bought jam. Because I am using this mainly to add to a dessert, I made it a little sweeter than I would normally want it for eating as a spread. Next time, I will put a little less sugar in and the mango’s natural sweetness will shine!

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This recipe makes about 2 cups of jam.

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cubed mango
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. arrowroot powder
2 1/2 Tblsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice*

*You can use lime juice for this if you want…Lemon was all I had on hand.

Put all the ingredients into your blender. Blend until the mango is fairly smooth (small lumps are okay, it just depends on what consistency you want your jam to have). Pour this smoothie-mixture into a pot, and cook on medium heat, stirring intermittently. The sugar will dissolve and the mango should break down a bit more. After 15-20 minutes, it should thicken considerably, due to the natural pectin content in the mango and the help from the arrowroot. Turn off the heat, and let the jam cool completely. Store in a clean airtight container or jar.

Decadent Coconut Layer Cake

I baked this incredibly rich and delicious cake for my friends’ triple birthday party last weekend. It was three layers of moist flavorful coconut cake, with homemade vegan Lemon Curd sandwiched between each layer. The citrus from the lemon complemented the coconut in the cake, which really brought out the tropical flavor nicely. I topped it all with a silky smooth coconut frosting that was a treat for every taste bud!

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Cake Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup coconut flour
1 cup dried unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
1 2/3 cup coconut milk
1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans.
In a large bowl, combine AP flour, coconut flour, shredded coconut, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together oil, coconut milk, almond milk, sugar, and vanilla.
Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients bowl, and pour your wet mix in. Stir together, making sure to smooth out any lumps. Your batter will be fairly thick.
When thoroughly combined, gently fold in the apple cider vinegar, making sure it’s completely incorporated.
Scoop batter into prepared pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Frosting Ingredients:
1/2 cup Earth Balance shortening (or other vegan shortening), room temperature
1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine, room temperature
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup dried shredded coconut (for garnish)

Whip together the margarine and shortening with electric beaters until creamy and fluffy.
Slowly add the powdered sugar, alternating with the coconut milk.
When fully combined, add the vanilla and continue beating till the frosting is smooth.
If the consistency is too runny to spread onto your cake immediately, you can refrigerate it for a few hours until it has thickened.
Spread onto your cake and top with dried coconut.

Vegan Lemon Curd!

For months, I’ve been trying to come up with a vegan Lemon Curd recipe. I’ve seen versions in a variety of cookbooks and online that just didn’t do the trick. This recipe ended up being perfect and I’m so happy to have it! The Lemon Curd is tangy and is a great cake filling, so that it will contrast with the sweetness of frosting – I’m using it in a coconut cake that I will post about soon, so keep checking back here to see the final reviews.

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This recipe makes about two cups worth of Lemon Curd. It’s delicious. You can certainly use it for anything you’d like; I’d eat it on toast, muffins, scones, or, as it was quite thick, I could see using it also as a filling for Lemon Bars! For that, you might have to let the mixture boil for an extra minute so that it thickens even more – but remember to stir with a whisk the whole time so it doesn’t burn!

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup cold water
1 3/4 cups white sugar
4 Tblsp. cornstarch
3 Tblsp. thinly grated lemon zest (I used 3 large lemons to get this amount), divided
2 Tblsp. Earth Balance margarine
3/8 cup (6 Tblsp.) unsweetened plain almond milk

Combine the lemon juice, water, sugar, cornstarch, and 1 Tablespoon of the lemon zest in a blender. Blend for a few seconds until mixed well.
Pour mixture into a saucepan and add the rest of the lemon zest. Whisk quickly while pot is over medium heat. You want to make sure you are stirring constantly until it comes to a full boil.
Stop stirring and let the lemony liquid boil on its own for 1 minute. It should thicken and turn somewhat clear.
Add almond milk and Earth Balance, and stir in well with the whisk.
Remove pot from heat. Cool the curd in room temperature air, then you can refrigerate it in a covered container until you want to use it.
It will continue thickening as it cools. This should last about 2 weeks while refrigerated and covered.


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