Who needs the Good Humour man?

September 27, 2015

I did this a couple of weeks ago and only just downloaded the picture from my camera…oops!

Back in June, I scored a Cuisinart ice cream maker at a garage sale for $30.  Sweet!  And then…it sat in the basement for a couple of months, occasionally being moved if I needed access to something under/behind it.  I understand now why I never bought one before: it’s a bit of a one-trick pony, and takes up space (oh, the space!) when not in use.

While flipping through Hannah Kaminsky’s Vegan a la Mode, I found the perfect recipe to break in my new treasure: double chocolate fudge chunk.  Only I decided to leave the chunks out.  Why waste time making chunks if the base itself wasn’t going to work out?

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Well, it did, so darn it, I cheated myself out of chunks!  It was quite a simple recipe, and used both cocoa powder and melted semi-sweet chocolate for an extra rich flavour.  A single scoop makes a perfectly decadent mini-dessert.  And now that I’ve got my feet wet, more involved recipes await!

Thanks for looking!

I’m still alive – and still baking – but really, there are only so many times one can photograph and blog about chocolate cupcakes (which get made more often than not, as they appear to be a perennial favourite).  I needed to break out of my routine!

When I first saw the recipe for Spumoni Cake in Kris Holechek’s Have Your Cake and Vegan, Too!, I was immediately drawn to it.  Spumoni is one of those things…just mmmm…I don’t crave it that often, but there is nothing quite like it, and substitutes (such as plain chocolate) will not be accepted.  I had dragged my heels in making it, though, because although I don’t mind making full-blown cakes for birthdays and other occasions, I find that cakes beget terrible portion control.  Say what?

See, anyone who’s baked a cake or even whipped up a Duncan Hines mix knows that a standard two 8-inch layer cake uses 24 cupcakes’ worth of batter.  Not a problem, except truthfully, when’s the last time you got 24 servings out of a cake like that?  Unless you’re feeding the masses or are hyper-heath conscious, no one cuts slices that thin.

The really obvious solution was to halve the recipe and turn it into cupcakes.  Tah-dah!

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The original recipe makes a 9-by-13 sheet cake, and instructs the baker to randomly drop blobs of all three batters, then marble.  Because I was working small-scale, I contented myself with layering a spoonful of each in the cup, knowing full well that they’ll heave and bake up in random patterns.  See?

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I did alter the recipe a bit: instead of puréeing cherries for the pink batter, I diced up a few maraschino cherries, and added a bit of raspberry-flavoured Torani syrup for flavour and colour.  I added the syrup to the frosting, too, for a chocolate-raspberry topper that helps bring out flavours in the cake.

When I fed these to my test group, I was told the flavours “kind of play together – it’s hard to pick out each individual flavour without tasting each part separately”.  Hmmm…just like the ice cream!

Thanks for looking!

Last week, I decided that I hadn’t baked cupcakes in a while, and it was high time to change that.  And just in case I needed a reason, it was my cat’s birthday – according to the official Humane Society paperwork, which may or may not be all that accurate.

In any case, I brought out my trusty chocolate cake recipe from VCTOTW, and gave then a kitty-centric decorating job, since I had some fondant left over from my dad’s birthday cake.  As one of my professional-baker friends noted, fondant lasts practically forever, and with a little kneading is good as new.  Suddenly, buying a whole box of the stuff for a few little cutouts doesn’t sting so much.

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That’s blue raspberry frosting, by the way.  I can’t resist anything blue raspberry.  And, as my mother noticed, if you turn the cupcake 90° to the left (or your head 90° to the right), the cat turns into a bunny of sorts, like one of those bizarre optical illusions.

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The birthday girl was mildly intrigued, until she determined they were non-fishy in nature.  “Thanks a lot, Ma.”

Where does the time go?  One day, I was stitching up Christmas ornaments, and now, poof!  Finals, summer birthdays, that feeling of irritation that occurs when you upgrade your operating system only to find out that none of your (admittedly embarrassingly rudimentary) Windows XP software will run on Windows 8.1….

But I digress.

My dad celebrated a birthday a few weeks back, and in keeping with my Birthday Cake Rule*, I knew I had to come up with something good.  I had seen this cake on the Brown Eyed Baker some time ago and had been wanting to try it for a while.  Here’s my take:

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Since my dad is just a wee bit (ha!) older than the BEB’s birthday boy, I passed on the rainbow cake in favour of something just a little more adult.

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This is my modification of the basic chocolate cupcake recipe from…wait for it…Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  It’s rich and moist without being too sweet, nice and light, and goes down easy.  Absolutely worth skipping a half-day of classes to make!

I also took a break from needling away at the rather large needlepoint project that’s been occupying my leisure time to stitch him a card.  I saw the pattern in an issue of The World of Cross Stitching, and he rather reminded me of my parents’ cat.

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*The Birthday Cake Rule, for the uninitiated: If you really love someone, you’ll make them a birthday cake, or pie, or cookies, or other dessert of choice, from scratch.  None of this store-bakery sheet-cake stuff.

Flowers for…spring?

March 23, 2014

Sure…”spring”.  There are still snowdrifts up to my head in some places, but hey, I firmly believe that one day it will melt.  Until that happens, I’ll have to content myself with a garden of cupcake roses.

Cupcake Roses

These are the vanilla cupcakes from (of course) Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and I jazzed up vanilla buttercream icing by adding a package of cherry Kool-Aid to the mix.  Fun fact: it’s more tart than you might expect, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  It keeps the finished product from being too sweet.  And instead of my usual outside-in piping, ending in a peak of frosting in the centre, I piped from the inside out, creating a vaguely rose-y look.

It almost makes me forget about the snow…

What happened?  One minute I was basking in the glory that is a month off from any real grown-up responsibility, and the next thing I know: Wham!  I’m thrown headfirst into school, and all the assorted homework and studying that accompanies it.  I’m still not sure what happened to January.

My regular readers will be familiar with my Birthday Rule; that is, if you don’t make someone a homemade cake/cupcakes/pie/cookies/whatever, you don’t really care about them.  So, school craziness aside, I knew that last weekend I’d be whipping up something for my mom’s birthday.

I had toyed with the idea of a blue velvet redux, using a different recipe and significantly less food colouring than the last time, but my mom is one who, if I make marble cupcakes, will ask why there’s so much more white cake than chocolate.  So, chocolate it was.  My mock-Hostess cupcakes always go over so well, that I decided to try a layer-cake version.

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That’s two layers of deep, dark chocolate cake (the basic chocolate cupcake from VCTOTW, doubled and baked in 8-inch round pans), with a generous layer of vanilla buttercream in between, and smothered in rich ganache.

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All purtied up…

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The Pac-Man shot. 🙂

The birthday girl loved it; I picked up some vanilla ice cream to go with it, just for her, and within a few days only a few crumbs were left.

I want my mummy!

October 27, 2013

I’ll keep this short, because who wants to read about cupcakes when they could be assembling last-minute Halloween costumes?  (Speaking of which: according to WordPress stats, people are finding this blog by searching “Dolores Haze costume”.  This makes my day in ways you cannot imagine.  I wish I didn’t already have a costume lined up myself; there are at least a couple of people who would appreciate the reference.)

But…following my last rant about overpriced festive bake kits at Target, I saw an equally overpriced kit at Chapters to make mummy cupcakes.  The kit made 12, and it cost $10.50.  And, okay, yes it came with candy eyes, but how important are those to the overall integrity of the finished product?  And do they really taste like much?  So I broke out my trusty chocolate cupcake recipe as well as that for buttercream icing, and made my own, no doubt tastier, version.

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I used a basketweave tip (Wilton #47, I think) to pipe on the bandages.  That was tricky!  I’m a big fan of symmetry and pattern, and to try to maintain a random order of bandage direction?  Killer!  The eyes are mini chocolate chips, and the mouth is red gel food colouring applied with a toothpick (my parents’ idea; before they suggested it, my mummies had a bit of a Hello Kitty vibe and no mouth to speak – ha! – of).

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(Yes, that’s my mummy holding my mummies.)

Have a safe and happy Halloween, everyone!

Ahhh….I love Halloween.  I might have mentioned that before, but it bears repeating.  This is an entire day where you’re expected to wear a costume and eat candy.  If television would air Technicolor-filmed musicals all day instead of horror flicks, it just might be the perfect day.  And I don’t let being an adult (ha!) with a career (ha!  ha!) stop me – I’m shameless, and will show up to work in costume even if I’m the only one in the whole office who’s dressed up.

While browsing the Halloween department at Target recently, I was a little disappointed.  Sure, Tar-zhay had some different costumes than WalMart (for which I have yet to come up with an adorable, French-sounding pronunciation), but their candy selection was rather mundane.  Same old, same old – and nary an Eat-More in sight.  (These are a precious, precious commodity, and I would trade my strictly hypothetical firstborn for a bag of the minis.)

Ah, but they did have some different food preparation products – juice blends with ghoulish names, a set of four different sprinkles in test tubes, some cake mixes.  One that caught my eye made an orange-and-black marble cake with purplish icing.  Cute.  The price?  $7.99.  Eight bucks for something I could do myself?  No way was I paying that kind of money!  So I came up with this:

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This is the basic marble recipe from…well, you know.  I used gel food colouring to get the batters just the right shades, and then proceeded to fill and swirl as usual.

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With purple icing!  Clearly, my marbling skills need work; this one looks mostly orange.

Now the only hurdle to clear is whether my test audience finds black cake appetizing or not.  Come on, it’s chocolate….

Whenever I have to deal with carrots (peeling, grating, chopping…anything that ensures my hands will be fairly covered in their juices) and am left to marvel at my Oompa Loompa palms, I’m reminded of the story of how Susan Dey ate so many carrots that her skin turned orange, creating problems during filming of The Partridge Family.

Another coworker is moving on to bigger and better things, and somehow I determined that his lovely parting box o’ cupcakes should be of the carrot variety.  How is it that I’ve had Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for years, but always bypassed that particular recipe?  Time to change that!

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Just look at that dense, raisin-y, carrot-y goodness…mmm…..

These turned out really well for a first attempt, and gave us an answer to that ubiquitous question: “What’s your idea of a hot Saturday night?”

“Standing in the kitchen with the oven on during a heat wave.”

Go ahead – tell me I’m wrong! 🙂

Timbits are ten for a toonie!

I didn’t quite realize how many uniquely Canadian desserts there were until just a few days ago.  You’ve got your matrimonial cake, your Nanaimo bars, your beaver tails – which might not be as cruel as their name suggests, but in any case, aren’t exactly part of a balanced diet.

And lo, the humble butter tart became my baking project for the long weekend.  (This would be way more fun that studying, I knew it!)  I used the “Better than Butter Tarts” recipe from Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard’s How it All Vegan!, and I’m pretty darned pleased with how they came out.

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The recipe was soooo quick and simple.  The longest part was letting the raisins plump for 10 minutes before I could do much of anything else, but seriously?  So not a big deal when your payoff is tasty pastry.

My momma is a bona-fide butter tart aficionado, and had been more than willing to schlep me to the store to buy raisins and flaxseed.  She dubbed these “less cloyingly sweet than some of the others you get” (where?  Commercially?  From your recipe?), but “really, really good”.  I liked the addition of chopped walnuts on top.  They toasted up as the tarts baked, and added a hint of crunch to the whole deal.  I think this recipe is a keeper!

But before I resume hitting the books, a riddle: What does a Canadian gang look like?

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“Hey, tart.  Where do you think you’re going?”