So, recently I had been part of a project at work informally known as the “Blackout Blitz”.  In all fairness, its name comes from its ties to production quotas and inter-departmental deadlines; however, from the very beginning, it made me think simultaneously of the Blitz of WWII and of the blackout drills held during the war.  Hardly unusual, given the name.

(This raises an important question: why do so many people glorify the WWII era?  I do it, too, but why?  I’m perfectly able to wear oxfords and listen to big band music today, but without all the hassles of rationing, polio, wartime casualties, the marginalization of women and minorities…  I can only chalk it up to there being a heckuva spin doctor there somewhere, who made the whole damned thing seem so glamourous and wholesome.  And, let’s face it, the Bomb Girls of the eponymous television series seemed to know how to make a blackout drill a real gas.)

Needless to say, by the time my mom’s birthday was approaching, I had blackouts and blitzes on the brain, and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that for her cake, I decided to duplicate Ebinger’s Bakery’s famous Brooklyn Blackout Cake.

0890_1

I turned to Chloe Coscarelli’s Chloe’s Vegan Desserts for the basic how-to and for the killer chocolate pudding to slather between layers and all over the outside – and was I ever excited when the mixture smoothed and thickened exactly as it was supposed to! – but deferred to Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for the cake portion.  Their Basic Chocolate Cupcake recipe is moist and foolproof, and with the addition of black cocoa powder to make it extra-dark and rich, there was no going wrong.

0893_1

I was concerned that the step of pulsing part of the cake in the food processor to make crumbs to be sprinkled on top would detract somehow from the finished product, but au contraire!  They only add to the chocolatey goodness.

0896_1

Moist chocolate cake sandwiching rich chocolate pudding?  Sign me up!

Thanks for looking! 🙂

At the risk of sounding like a crazy cat lady, Saturday was my cat’s birthday.  I’m not the best cat-mom when it comes to remembering stuff like that; in the eight years that I’ve had her, I think I’ve only remembered once before this.  But hey, my bad parenting/sieve-like memory doesn’t mean she shouldn’t have a fabulous celebratory cake, right?  The stars were aligned: it was a long weekend and I had icing sugar in the house.  And truthfully, I had been looking for an excuse to do up something like this, and what better reason than a birthday?

img_0735

Say, that looks tall.  How many layers did you say it was, again?

I didn’t, but: six.

img_0741

img_0740

Proof that “vegan” ≠ “healthy”.  I used the basic vanilla cupcake recipe from VCTOTW, doubled it, and divided it amongst six bowls to tint each one separately.  You definitely don’t want to attempt this if you have a serious aversion to artificial colours – but my theory is, as long as the majority of my diet isn’t neon-coloured, a piece of cake now and then isn’t going to kill me.  I made a huge batch of the fluffy buttercream frosting recipe from the same book, and barely had enough to finish the cake.  Even though each layer is only 6″ across, it still used a lot!

20160905_190536

The birthday girl was somewhat intrigued by this candy-coloured confection, but quickly lost interest and resumed the nap from which she had been so rudely awakened.  Hey, more for me!

I’m not sure if I’d try this again.  It’s not difficult, just a bit fiddly, and is a bear to store as none of my cake-takers are tall enough to house it.  But I can cross “rainbow layer cake” off my baking bucket list.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

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…

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!

Pink cake and orange cat

February 15, 2015

Hello there!

My mom had her birthday at the end of January, but due to work scheduling, I wound up having to make her cake the weekend before.  I saw the basic idea in an old issue of Woman’s World, which is a magazine that I would generally never, ever buy – except that this issue had featured adorable Hello Kitty cupcakes on the front cover, and I had been unable to resist it.  They also had a layer-cake version of the cupcakes inside, but their recipe used something like four egg whites in the batter and another two in the icing, with no mention of what to do with the yolks, so I quickly dispensed with that idea and instead used my trusty vanilla cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World as well as the fluffy buttercream icing from the same.  I also thought I might leave the kawaii characters off the cake, and maybe give it a more mature vibe.  Because nothing says “mature” like pink cake, right?

Ombre Cake 1

I, of course, did not think to get a picture of it while it was intact and free from candle holes.

Ombre Cake 2

Holy ombre, Batman!  I used varying ratios of gel food colours to get the different shades, and they worked like a charm.

Ombre Cake 3

That’s a chocolate-cream cheese filling between layers.  Since the cake itself is just vanilla and not overly sweet, it provided a nice balance and helped keep it moist for the next few days until we could get it all eaten.

She had to wait a couple more days to get the rest of her birthday goodies.  I always try to make a handmade card of some sort:

Surprised Hedgehog

And when I first saw this design on Urban Threads, I knew it had to be made into a t-shirt:

Meow Shirt

I did him in orange to look like her big ol’ furbaby.  He’s painted on – not embroidered – and I think the blue really makes him pop!

Thanks for looking – have a wonderful weekend!

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.

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.

Hostess Cake 1

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.

Hostess Cake 2

All purtied up…

Hostess Cake 3

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.

…is like pillaging without burning?  No, that can’t be right…

But I do have a theory that if I don’t make somebody a birthday cake (note: cupcakes, cheesecakes, and pies are all perfectly acceptable alternatives), I don’t truly care about them.  So for my dad’s birthday a few days ago, I made him the Peanut Butter Chocolate Dream Cake from Kris Holechek’s Have Your Cake and Vegan Too.

It’s a fairly standard chocolate cake with a peanut butter filling in between the layers and topped off with a chocolate-peanut butter ganache – garnish as desired.  The recipe was easy to follow, and the cake easy to assemble; if and when I do it again, the only thing I’ll do differently is grease-and-cocoa the pans instead of greasing-and-flouring them, to avoid that flour residue (since it’s not frosted all over, it does kinda show).

And yes, I probably will make it again.  Not only did the birthday boy love it, but it went over extremely well with my omnivorous coworkers, too.  Such is the power of chocolate and peanut butter together.