Baking Week

We’ve got two back-to-back birthdays in the first week of May. This means a lot of treats getting made this week. This year, it was a cake and some tarts.

We used our favorite cook book, Rosanna Pansino’s Baking All Year Round. Grammy’s cake used the chocolate cupcake recipe from the Mini Easter Egg Cupcakes, poured into two 8 inch round cake pans but cooked according to the instructions in the recipe, and the vegan buttercream icing. We added some peppermint extract into the cake and made this cookie dough frosting to go between the cake layers. And, of course, the chocolate pen made its appearance in writing on top.

Despite my baking assistant’s mother’s birthday coming before his grandmother’s, her treats came next, on her actual birthday, since Grammy was only here for the weekend. We made the Daisy Lemon Tarts over two days so we could make it in secret. Well, mostly secret.


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Vegan Baking

Recently, through some self-experimentation, I discovered that my body does not like dairy. Which is pretty bad, because I kind of love dairy. And have a really tough time not eating it, despite knowing it will give me a rash and an upset stomach. So I have spent way too many nights up late browsing Pinterest to find recipes for my favorite foods that have been veganized.

Our first find was this vegan cherry-filled chocolate cake the six-year-old helped me make for his dad’s birthday. I actually used the vegan chocolate cupcake recipe in Rosanaa Pansino’s Baking All Year Round, just split into two round cake pans instead of a cupcake tin. I typically bake without eggs anyway, because I don’t tend to like to eat eggs and never had them on hand for baking in college. Flaxseed meal mixed 1:3 with water is my preferred “egg” anytime it’s called for in a recipe. And, since I already quit drinking cow milk and only ever have almond on hand, that’s not much of a change either.

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Happy pi day!

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One thing I had seen a lot in vegan recipes but had not yet tried was avocado in chocolate things. So, for Pi day, I made this chocolate pie from coconut milk, avocados, and those new “allergen free” chocolate chips by Tollhouse, with this crust that I just baked at 350 for about 20 minutes. I’m also a big fan of the chocolate chips by Enjoy Life, and I’ve found that Trader Joe’s semisweet chocolate chips also are dairy-free.

For my birthday, I want tres leches cake. Problem is, there are literally no vegan bakeries around here that make them. Or at least none that list it on their website. So I had to resort to making my own from this recipe which was really good (though I did substitute almond milk for the soy milk since I don’t keep soy milk on hand and had to start the process at about 8am and didn’t want to run to the store). Best find of this recipe was the So Delicious Coco whip, right next to the Cool Whip in the freezer section. I didn’t have time to get the coconut cream and refrigerate it overnight to make my own whipped cream, so that was a handy solution.

Most recently, I’ve tried this tomato soup recipe (which even the six-year-old approved of) with this grilled cheese recipe made with the white bean option and my usual staple of Julia Child’s white sandwich bread. Wins all around. Not necessarily sure if the “grilled cheese” really passes as a grilled cheese or not, but it’s delicious nonetheless.

Sometimes I manage to get something great, sometimes it’s a dud. But all of these recipes worked amazingly, so I’ll keep trying more to find what’s good and what’s not.


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Super Special Cookies

I went a little overboard in the mini-candies aisle at Ralphs a couple weeks ago. After eating a bag of mini stuffed Reeses and a bag of Hugs, I decided that the dark chocolate mini Reeses were going to become cookies. Well, be baked into cookies.

Using this recipe, the tiny chef (“I’m gonna help, because I’m a good chef!”) and I made 35 out of the predicted 40 cookies. We had a bag of 37 cups, one was lost to the tiny chef in the unwrapping process and another was crushed so I ate it, and somehow we lost the appropriate amount of dough as well…

These are super simple. You just mix up the batter, roll it into balls, cook those in mini muffin tins, and then you press the cups in right when you take it out of the oven. We unwrapped all the cups and put them in a bowl in the freezer to make that part a little easier, so they wouldn’t melt immediately on impact.

I’ve made these before with regular peanut butter cups, but the dark chocolate are way better. Maybe next time we will have to try the stuffed ones.


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The Baking Bug

Leave me home alone long enough and I will just start baking anything and everything.

Ok, wait. That sounds bad. I’m not saying I start putting random things in the oven. I’m saying I start making an overabundance of random food.

This time, it even extended beyond baked goods to cold foods as I made way too much “salsa” (sans peppers which I didn’t know were already moldy).

All together I have made a loaf of banana bread (in July), two loaves of honey wheat bread, about a gallon of salsa (may be slightly exaggerated, but only slightly), and 48 zucchini muffins in the month of August. And there’s still a week to go.

I Rainbowed Bread

Sunday I decided to make bread. I made this decision around 1pm, went to the store, then came home and laid down until around 6pm. Which left me finishing the bread about 10:30pm. Because I’m good at planning like that. Oh well.

Anyway, I used this white sandwich bread recipe from Julia Child which created two loaves of bread. I only rainbowed the one because getting this:

took about thirty minutes and was only one loaf. Next time I will split the whole thing into seven and dye it before splitting for the two loaves.

Another thing I learned doing this is that, while the glass storage container is roughly the same size as the bread tin and is oven safe, it doesn’t exactly let go of the bread very easily. Even with cooking spray. So I’ll probably be better off just getting a second bread tin like I contemplated at the grocery store.

Overall, the rainbowing process was really simple. After the first rise, I added food coloring to the dough by making a little dimple in the ball and dropping the food coloring in before kneading it with my fingers. It does get a little messy, so I would lay down a cutting board or maybe even parchment paper, and possibly consider gloves. The food coloring will wash off, but it will take a few washings. I’m just saying, if you make this bread in the middle of the day and are planning to go places afterward, probably best to protect your hands.

Pups Save A Cake

The little one has become obsessed with the show Paw Patrol over the summer. And with an end of summer birthday, that meant he knew just what he wanted for his birthday cake (instead of the “George and the man with the yellow hat” cake he had been asking for since his brother’s birthday): “Paw ‘trol wit Rubble sleeping on da grass and da Pup Pup Boogie Monster.”

I used the frozen buttercream transfer method to create the pieces. I found pictures from Google and put them together like that in Photoshop, created the “Happy Birthday” shield, then flipped it all so it would turn out the right side up.

I got a bit creative with mixing the colors so I only had to make one batch of icing for the decoration. I also baked a strawberry cake from this recipe, which is the only one I could find that didn’t use strawberry Jello. Then I had to make a second cake to turn it into a full cake because:

Once that was solved, and the cake was frosted, I pulled the tray from the freezer, flipped it over on top of the cake, and peeled off the parchment paper. All I had to do after that was add the smaller details and it was ready for the party.

Making the cake this way was super simple and created some really nice decorations. Way better than it would’ve turned out had I tried to draw them all on with icing.

Have you ever used icing transfers? Do you bake birthday cakes, or just order them from the store?

Trashy Birthday Cake (A Semi-Tutorial) – Part 1

And I mean trashy in the best way possible. As in a trash truck shaped cake for a trash truck obsessed two-year-old. Before we jump in, perhaps I shall explain what I mean by a semi-tutorial. Basically, it’s my way of telling the story of how I baked this cake in a way that maybe helps you avoid any mistakes I made along the way, or at least let’s you point and laugh at me. I used two easily available recipes for this project: Hershey’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake Recipe and Best White Icing Ever Recipe. I’ll make a note of any changes as I go along.

First, let’s bake the cake, as I did on Saturday afternoon.

You have to start by prepping the pan. Since I was making two sheet cakes and only had one 9×13 inch pan, I used parchment paper to make liners so i could just switch from one cake to the other without having to clean the pan in between. Plus, it helps the cake come out easier.

Detailed Steps:

  1. Grab a pencil, your pan, some parchment paper, and a ruler if you want to be more precise. I had intended to actually measure things, and then just decided it was easier to trace the whole thing and shove the results in the pan.
  2. Tear off a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover your pan with at least two inches overlap on each side (considering the pan is usually 9x13x2 inches).
  3. Trace (or draw with your ruler) the bottom and sides of the pan as if you were peeling the pan apart at the edges.
  4. When you cut the paper out, don’t cut off the tabs created on the short ends. Instead, use them to wrap around so there won’t be any holes for cake batter to seep into the pan.

Once you have your pan ready, preheat the oven and grab your ingredients. This is the place where I differed from the cake recipe. Rather than peppermint, I just used dark chocolate chunks. But otherwise I kept all the ingredients the same.

Start by stirring your “wet” ingredients together: the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. While that is stirring in the mixer, you can move on to the dry ingredients which I always like to put through the sifter.

You could also just stir them in a bowl with a whisk, but that is less fun. Now it’s time to add the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl that has now been running way longer than the three minutes or so the recipe suggested, alternating with the water. Don’t worry about my cloudy water in that picture. The measuring cup I was using did not have 1 1/3 marked so I filled it to 1 and added 1/3 using the same cup as I had used to measure the cocoa powder. We don’t have cloudy water coming out of the pipes.

Once you have that all stirred together and you stir in the chocolate chunks that have been forgotten in the window and are starting to get quite soft, it’s time to pour the batter into the pan, wash all the dishes, and start over again to make the batter for the next cake while it bakes. Then you can let both cakes cool on the counter, continually checking over you shoulder to make sure the dog doesn’t jump up and decide to eat them, all afternoon while you feed, clean, and play with the soon-to-be-birthday-boy who has no idea why he smells cake but doesn’t get to eat any.

Now that we have the cakes ready, we can decorate them. And by that I mean combine them into one and decorate it. But I will save that for tomorrow since this is getting incredibly long.