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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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?

The Dark Side Has Cake

TO round out these posts abour June that have dragged on into mid-July, I brought cake. Well, pictures of cake. The actual cake has been gone for weeks.

It’s Lord Vader, and he was delicious. I used this pan by Wilton to bake a chocolate cake, then covered it with black frosting according to the instructions included along with the pan. By the way, it took a whole canister of black frosting coloring to make it even this dark.

And, of course, I forgot to get a cake box. Because I never write a list for the store. But I learned that it is actually quite easy to fashion one from a turkey roasting pan and a cookie rack. Just remember to tape the cake plate in place first.

Icing The Trash Truck (Birthday Cake Semi-Tutorial): Part 2

So yesterday we baked a cake. Now it’s time to frost and decorate.

We have two sheet cakes that were left to cool all afternoon, now we have to truck-ify them. Yes, that’s a word. A word I just made up. Anyway, starting with one cake, cut the corners off one short side and the top of the other. Cut the other cake in half and place it next to the first cake. Now take a circular cookie cutter that seems like a good size for the wheels and cut two wheel wells into the body of the truck and one into the front. Then cut three wheels from the remaining half-cake and put them into place. Also, cut the front at a slight angle to create the windshield.

Now is time to make the frosting to hold this thing together.

Again, gather your ingredients. Then, start by measuring out your powdered sugar, your shortening, and add another 1/4 cup of sugar because you accidentally used a 1/4 cup rather than the 1/3 cup measure you meant to grab. Here’s where I changed it up again, I used 1 teaspoon of strawberry extract rather than the vanilla called for in the recipe. Like the recipe says, this looks nothing like icing at the beginning, but let the mixer run and it will soon smooth out.

Now you can mix in colors and “glue” all the pieces together with it. You want to thin it out and make a crumbcoat first. That has to sit overnight at least. Then you will also thin out the icing you use as your base color.

Make more icing, using the original vanilla flavor this time, to use for decorating. I used the “grass” tip to add texture to the wheels, a flat tip to fill larger spaces, and a number 2 tip for piping lines. Here’s the end result:

The icing sweat because it had been kept in the refrigerator overnight, but other than that it turned out perfectly. It’s still really delicious, and it is now nearing a week old.

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.