Monthly Archives: September 2012

Vegan Chocolate Cake with Blackberry Filling and Spiced Chocolate Buttercream

Yes, you read the title right.

Vegan chocolate cake.  Vegan buttercream.  Vegan dessert.

I think I am probably the most omnivorous person around – I really love all types of food.  Meat, milk, fish, vegetables, sugar (obviously)…the list goes on.  Baking with limitations, therefore, is not my forte.  However, one of my closest friends is vegan, choosing to eliminate all sorts of ingredients commonly found in sweet delights from her diet (which totally amazes me.  I could never do it, so PROPS TO YOU, Miss Bailey !).  When her birthday rolled around, I was DETERMINED to concoct a vegan-friendly dessert…for what is a birthday without cake ??  Though it was definitely an adventure for me (the ingredients list is more exotic than normal…did you know vegan butter exists ?!  Super cool !), the end result was pretty tasty – I would definitely make the cake again.  While I’ll admit that it feels strange to make a cake without eggs, the texture is exactly the same as any chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten and I bet a blind taste test would fool you.

In order to make the cake a little interesting, I chose to fill the center layer with blackberry jam and add spices to the frosting – there is nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves added to the frosting to bring in a little texture and round out the cocoa flavors.

Give it a try – you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  🙂

For the cake :

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup natural cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 3/4 cup unsweetened soy milk
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
A few shakes of cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment paper.  Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the soy milk, vinegar, sugar, oil, and vanilla. I know, it looks a little odd – vinegar and olive oil usually connote salad dressing – but I promise it works out in the end !

Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a spoon until well combined.

Spoon or scrape the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake for 40 to 55 minutes.  You’ll know it’s done when you smell the cake and a fork comes out clean.

Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen before inverting the cake onto a wire rack (or if you are a lowly college student, on a plate dusted with confectioners’ sugar) to cool.

For the filling :

Blackberry jam – I used about 1/3 of a jar….but this part is entirely subjective – use as much or as little as you please.  Also, I think that raspberry jams would be DELICIOUS in place of blackberry.

For the frosting :

1/2 stick vegan butter
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup cocoa powder (more or less depending on your love of bitterness)
1/4 cup soy milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves

In a large bowl, whisk the vegan butter until it’s creamy.  Add the cocoa powder first, blending slowly until well incorporated (start slow simply to avoid cocoa powder explosions…that fine dust tends to make me sneeze when it clouds the air).  Add the vanilla and the powdered sugar, adding the soy milk when necessary to assure a good texture. Add the spices last.

Make sure to taste along the way to make sure everything is to your liking – I gave my ratios of spices BUT THEY ARE APPROXIMATE as I tend to make it up as I go, adding a dash of this and a dash of that until I find the taste I prefer.  It’s good to be spontaneous.  🙂

Assembly :

First, center one layer of the cake on a plate that has been dusted with powdered sugar.  This will be useful when the time come to cut the cake, as each slice will be easy to remove.

Using a flat metal spatula, (or a knife…again…I lack proper tools) spread a very thin layer of the frosting on the cake.  As we are going to add jam, this thin coating of frosting will keep the cake from going soggy on the inside.

Once evenly distributed, add the jam, spreading with the back of a spoon.  I love jam, so I was rather liberal with the amount I put on the inside…it is your call.

Prepare the second cake layer by spreading another thin layer of frosting on the side that will touch the jam.  Once ready, flip this layer onto the jam layer. It’s a process but it isn’t that difficult – if you miss, just pick the cake up and put it back on.  No harm done !

Cover the rest of the cake with the frosting.  Dust the top with a combination of the spices used in the frosting – it looks classy and tastes good, too.

We obviously decorated ours with candles….

Happy Birthday, Bailey & Ambika and bon appétit !

 

 

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Lemon Meringue Tart (Tarte au citron meringuée)

Passing a recipe from one person to another is a practice that deserves some attention.  Like getting a letter, a recipe reminds you of something – a memory, a friend, a moment – and today I made a little dessert that my darling souris taught me to make.  Though I’ve made it since our last encounter, I think that handwritten recipe page complete with images of dancing lemons will always make me smile.  What’s more – I’ve not yet failed this recipe, which at first glance seems a wee bit complicated.

When in France (oh so many moons ago…), I NEVER ate lemon tarts (tarte au citron for those who have visited ze land of wine and cheese).  I didn’t like the taste or the texture, finding it to be far too bitter a choice when situated next to the oh so sweet and visually appealing tarte aux fraises…creme patissière…miam….but I digress.

When Pauline decided, in a spur of the moment frenzy of Sunday afternoon decisions, to prepare this delicious creation, I was skeptical…lemons….meringue….together ?!  It was, however, warm and creamy, just sweet enough to tingle the tastebuds without leaving them thick and mute.  I think it’s safe to say I fell in love with the shortbread crust, lemon curd, and delicate floufs (yes, floufs – what would YOU call them ?) of meringue topping.

And so it happened that I purchased lemons.  Eggs.  Butter.  A 10 pound bag of sugar (it was on sale…).   Oh.  And I brought a champion whisk from home with me to school – all in preparation for the serious whisking needed to make this treat.

Without further ado, I present to you Pauline’s “tarte au citron meringuée” or lemon meringue tart.

For the crust :

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
7 tbsp butter (almost a stick !)
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375F.  Combine the flour and butter and sugar in a bowl.  Mix together either with a fork or with your hands (I start with a fork and move to hand kneading…) until crumbly.

Add the egg and continue to mix until very malleable – it ought to look like dough, very easy to pinch.

Press into the bottom of a tart pan (or a cake pan – I used a 9” round cake pan lined in tin foil) until evenly distributed.  Score with a fork to prevent air bubbles while cooking.

Place pan in oven and cook until golden brown – about 15 minutes.  You will probably smell the crust and know then that it is done cooking.  Let cool in pan.

For the curd :

Juice of 4 lemons (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
7 tbsp butter (almost a stick !)
2 egg yolks + 1 whole egg
2 tbsp flour

Juice ALL OF THOSE LEMONS.

(I had a difficult time…but ended up with just enough juice.) In a pot, combine the lemon juice and half the sugar (1/4 cup) and whisk over medium heat.

Let this come to a rolling boil for a few minutes (this is to make sure the sugar is well-dissolved into the lemon juice).  In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks, flour and sugar.  Make sure this is nice and light – don’t be afraid to put some elbow grease into the situation !

Once the lemon juice is ready (and so is the egg yolk mixture) temper the yolks by pouring half the boiling sugar combination into the egg yolks and whisking fiercely.  Then, pour the NEW egg mix into the leftover lemon/sugar pan.  Whisk AGAIN and place back on the heat (reduce the heat though – down to low ought to be fine).

I know this is a lot of work, but whisk whisk whisk so that clumps of cooked egg yolk don’t form – it’s just not elegant – and you end up with a NICE, SMOOTH, VELVETY custard.  🙂  Once the curd has thickened (this will happen quickly), remove from heat and stir in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time.

Pour the finished product into the pie crust and use the back of a spoon to flatten.  Let glaze while you prepare the meringue topping.

For the meringue :

2 egg whites (leftover from the curd)
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt or cream of tartar

Place the whites, salt, and/or cream of tartar in a clean bowl.  With a CLEAN whisk (any impurities will make it very difficult to whip the egg whites), beat those egg whites until they hold peaks all on their own – probably the “soft peaks” stage – I think they look like clouds.

Add the sugar and continue to whisk until the egg white mixture thickens – your arm will probably be quite exhausted by the end of this experience if you don’t use an electric mixer (like me) but I promise, it’s worth it in the end…

Set the oven to broil.  When it is the consistency of marshmallow fluff, pour it onto the lemon curd and smooth it out with the back of a spoon.

I like to make little peaks on top – these will broil nicely – and I just stick the back of the spoon on top of the meringue and lift up gently – you’ll get a lovely little flouf.

Place the tart into the oven and broil for about 3 minutes – be sure to watch the tart because it has a tendency to burn (!) and that wouldn’t be fun…or delicious.  Use your nose – it will smell like toasted marshmallow in the house when the tart is done.

Let cool and serve !

Bon appétit ! 🙂

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Cinnamon Rolls

In an effort not to consume too many sweets, my roommates and I seem to have decided not to stock sugary goodies in our kitchen.  In theory, this is a splendid arrangement – if there are no naughty foods, we cannot eat naughty foods. Right ?

WRONG !

I simply love sugar too much to let that happen (probably to everyone’s chagrin) and therefore in a moment of weakness, whipped up some cinnamon rolls for a Friday morning breakfast (and a Saturday…and a Sunday…you get the idea).  I love these rolls because they do not require yeast and therefore a very simple to concoct.  Traditionally, these pair well with a sweet glaze made from mascarpone cheese and a little powdered sugar…but I’m not really THAT fancy (yet) here in my little apartment so I skipped that part.  Also noteworthy – the recipe calls for brown sugar but, again, I didn’t have any and therefore used turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw – thank you Trader Joe’s !).  It turned out JUST FINE 🙂

Filling :

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (or about 1 cup of raw sugar)
1/2 cup pecans (if available)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 stick butter, melted

This is the easiest part – combine all dry ingredients.  Set aside.

Dough :

3 cups flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (or regular milk)
8 tbsp melted butter

Preheat the oven to 425F and butter an oven pan.  Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, making a little moat in the middle.  I don’t know why you must make this little indentation, but my mother told me to do so when I was very small and I guess I never questioned her judgement until now…hmm….

In any case, heat the milk slightly so that it is warm to the touch.  Pour the melted butter into the milk and stir.

Pour this buttermilk mixture into the moat and stir with a spoon.

Add flour to the dough until it is easy to knead.  I recommend turning the dough out onto a floured surface and kneading a little bit – once you can fairly easily work with the dough – it has taken enough flour.  Three cups should be enough, however.

When ready, begin to stretch the dough across a FLOURED countertop.  I did mine right in the pan I was going to cook it in as I used a jellyroll pan.  I also have limited counterspace…so this was my solution.

Once you’ve stretched it out to a large rectangle size, pour half the melted butter on top of the dough.  Cover with an even coating of the sugar and spice mixture.  Finish with a final butter bath.  Mmm.  Butter.

Starting at the edges, begin to roll the dough from the bottom up, being careful not to press too hard as if you do so, the filling will eek out the edges of the roll.  No fun.

Once you’ve rolled it all the way up, pinch the sides a little to seal them up a bit and take out a long, serrated knife.

Cut the roll into sections, making a quick cut through the dough.  I like to pull the knife towards me in a speedy, downward swoop !  However, I didn’t have a serrated knife…so mine were a little lumpy BUT they tasted great just the same.

Place these closely together on a large pan (I like the jelly roll pan but using a cake pan or a square brownie pan works great as well !) and place in the oven.  Cook until the roll is just starting to brown, probably about 25 minutes.

Pour yourself a cuppa joe (or a spot of tea) and enjoy !

Bon appétit !

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