baking

Because it’s 2016

I should preface this by saying that back before the federal election last October, I had had visions of baking cupcakes inspired by each of the three major parties, and holding an informal “election” at work.  Life and stuff got in the way, and it never happened.  (That’s okay; I think this was fueled primarily by a latent desire of mine to make Harvey Wallbanger cupcakes, dubious motivation at best.)  Fast-forward six months, and with the victor clearly apparent, I had my work cut by 2/3.  Score one for procrastination!

Some time ago, I had tried the Black Velvet Cupcake recipe in Hannah Kaminsky’s Vegan Desserts.  It was a neat idea, using blackberry puree for colour and flavour not normally found in pedestrian red velvet recipes, but didn’t work so well in its execution.  The blackberries commercially available in grocery stores taste like absolutely nothing, yielding black-ish, flavourless cakes.

For whatever reason, a thought had been brewing for the past few weeks: why not substitute raspberries for the blackberries, and have an all-natural red velvet without all the Red #40?

Red Velvet 1Red Velvet 2

Clearly, Red #40 exists for a reason, because these don’t quite rock the vivid crimson I was hoping for.  However (and this is a big however), the raspberry puree pairs wonderfully with the hint of cocoa for a chocolate-raspberry dessert that doesn’t taste like sugary Torani syrup.

It just goes to show: Better is always possible.

baking, cooking

Do not touch Willie. Good advice.

I have just this to say: lousy Smarch weather!  Things were melting and thawing, darn it, and then whammo, enough snow on March 16 to make things look distinctly Christmassy.  Oh, I’ll admit, it was pretty, but getting snow in my shoes walking through the parking lot to work?  Not so much fun.

Smarch

That’s okay.  I keep telling myself it will melt.  It will melt.

What better way to stave off snow-induced shock than with a hearty vegetarian chili and hot biscuits?

chili1

This is the Vegetarian Chickpea Chili from Sweet Potato Chronicles, and oh, my word.  Now, I haven’t eaten meat-based chili in forever, but in my totally out-of-touch opinion, the pearl barley gives it this lovely, meaty, chewy texture.  It definitely provides a fun twist on the standard cans-of-beans vegetarian chilis.  This recipe is super-hearty, and doubles wonderfully to feed a small army.

With miso in my fridge for the first time since I can remember, I had to make a batch of the Bettah Chettah Biscuits from The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes by Kris Holechek.

chili2

Crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside…it doesn’t get much better than that!

(Kinda seems like a fair trade-off for the snow, no?)

baking, Cross-stitch and Embroidery

Happy Birthday from the Muskrat

I know I’ve disappeared for the last month – January seems to have gotten away from me, but I was quite pleased with myself for having been able to post at least one handmade/home-baked item per month last year, and had no intention of letting my streak disappear!

My mom celebrated a birthday recently, and those of you who follow me regularly know my Birthday Rule.  Obviously there was going to be a homemade cake of some kind; it just took me a while to decide which kind.  I had contemplated tiramisu (vanilla cake, coffee, Kahlua, chocolate shavings) in all its adult glory, but finally decided I needed something chocolate-based.  No matter how fancy I get, she always seems to like my plain chocolate cake/cupcakes best of all.  I got the idea to make a chocolate buttercream frosting laced with raspberry syrup (the latte kind, not the pancake kind), with fresh raspberries for garnish.

Cake 1

Cake 2

But the true stroke of genius, in my obviously completely unbiased opinion, was to place some raspberries on top of the bottom layer once it had been frosted.  It reminded me of some of the fruit tortes from store bakeries, and adds a really nice bit of flavour and texture where one might not expect it.

Cake 3

I also had the perfect birthday card in mind: a Margaret Sherry illustration from The World of Cross Stitching a few months back.  It features a sweet little mouse presenting his hedgehog friend with a birthday cake.

Hedgehog Mouse Card

When I showed it to one of the other party guest, he commented, “Aw, look at the cute little muskrat!”  I’m not sure he was joking.

Also, update on my grammar hoop: I finally got to give it to its intended recipient this week, and he loves it.  He’s displayed it proudly at work, only to have one of his coworkers ask him: “Do you really do it silently?”  Maybe not always…

cooking

Who needs the Good Humour man?

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!

baking

Cake and Ice Cream – Together at Last!

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!

spumoni1

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?

spumoni2

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!

baking

Any time is a good time for cupcakes…

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.”

baking, Cross-stitch and Embroidery

Take me right back to the track, Jack!

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:

traincake1

traincake2

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.

traincake3

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.

morkandcard

*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.