Monday, December 29, 2008

Im a Bad, Bad Girl

Or maybe just a terrible blogger. Christmas is over (happy holidays, everyone) and I haven't even discussed Thanksgiving yet. I suck. I also suck for not getting a shot of my whole Thanksgiving table. Lacking that, I'll open this post with our centerpiece:

That there is the Edible Mayflower (higher res on Flickr).

You may ask yourself "Where is that large automobile?" "Why the crap would anyone make an edible Mayflower?!" I don't have a good answer to that question. But I do have a story.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (i.e. about a year ago, on the Internet), my friend found the Meat Ship (insert rather obvious Gross Out Warning here). I was struck by both its grossness and it's awesomeness (hello there, edible BOAT) and decided I had to make a vegan one. My friends were kind enough to gift me a pirate ship cake pan to aid me in my quest, and the rest is history (or dinner).

Once I decided to make the ship itself from cornbread, I took to the Internet to find out what people enjoyed most with the stuff. After polling the constituents, I ended up with sails made from Veganomicon style sauteed collard greens, Pilgrims made from mini Spicy Pinto Sausages wearing sauteed mushroom hats, sailing the seven seas of Yellow Rose Recipes Better Than Basic Chili. Perhaps not the most traditional of Thanksgiving foods, but damn tasty just the same.

Here's my first plate of the night. Yes, we went classy and ate Thanksgiving dinner on disposable plates. Don't judge me!

Clockwise from that poppy-seed covered ball of awesome, we have:

Poppyseed Pull-Apart Rolls (Vegan Brunch). Harvest Vegetable Medley (Vegetarian Times). Sweet Potato Pear Tzimmes with Pecans and Raisins (Veganomicon). Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes (Yellow Rose Recipes). Thanksgiving style polenta seitan (Parsnip Parsimony, The I-40 Kitchen). Gravy (my friend Sarah). Grilled Asparagus (Veganomicon).

I had another plate after that with chili, collards, stuffing, cranberry crumble and I don't even know what else. My foodbaby was enormous.

I made the Chestnut Apple Stuffing from last fall's Vegetarian Times for Thanksgiving dinner, substituting Isa's Spicy Pinto Sausages from the upcoming Vegan Brunch for the store bought ones. Everyone loved it. My mother has some sort of sausage aversion and asked me not to put sausage in the stuffing, so I only put in two and she really liked it. Yet again, vegan food has proven her wrong!

That was my first time eating chestnuts. I don't think I'm a fan. I won't pick them out of anything, but I won't go hunting down chestnut-based recipes either.

I enjoyed the Harvest Vegetable Medley from the same magazine a lot more. Everyone loved it, even my vegetable-phobic grandmother. This was surprising because it's really just plain, old roasted vegetables. Then again, it's not so suprprising because it has almost thirty cloves of garlic in it and who doesn't love metric assloads of garlic? Please note that if you make the recipe as written, you will be able to feed at least a dozen people for two days. I suggest halving it unless you're having a platoon over for dinner and/or really love leftovers.

Thanks to Parsnip Parsimony, I now know about the joy that is polenta seitan. This is not something that would have occurred to me to make, so I'm really glad she thought of it. It's got great bite and I can easily eat a whole batch of it at once if I don't stop myself. Sadly, it's not very photogenic.

Don't let that put you off, though. It's still awesome.

Let the record show I don't like sweet potato. And I don't like tzimmes. I like my vegetables savory, my fruit sweet and never the twains shall meet. My family, however, loves both, so I made them the Sweet Potato Pear Tzimmes with Pecans & Raisins from Veganomicon. Since I made it, I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt and take a taste and actually liked it. Holy crap. That's the sort of word eating I can get behind. I think the pecans may have been what converted me. I love me some pecans.

The Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes from Yellow Rose Recipes are pretty amazing. How amazing? Amazing enough to get my little brother to eat mushrooms. That's borderline miraculous. These potatoes are stuffed with broccoli and mushrooms and win. Mine don't look so great because they're a bit over baked, but that's how we like them.

Here's a shot of the full pan of Poppyseed Pull-Apart Rolls from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's upcoming Vegan Brunch. They're good for brunch or any damn time. I obviously thought they'd make good dinner rolls and I was right. However, they are crazy with the poppy seeds. Be prepared to make a mess with these babies.

No SSD family dinner is complete without grilled asparagus. Is that weird?

For dessert, we have leftover birthday cake, my friend Sarah's Tofu Pumpkin Pie and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake with Cinnamon Icing from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Not the prettiest desserts ever (I ran out of decorating time), but they more than made up for it in tastiness. Especially the cake. I can't get enough of it and neither can anyone I've ever made it for.

And that's a wrap. Happy holidays, everyone! Stay safe. See you back here in 2009.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

My grandmother turned 82 on Wednesday. Here's her birthday cake:

Unfortunately, with all the food I made in the last few days, that's the only picture I was able to take outside. The rest were taken at the dinner table (and some things weren't photographed at all), so take a good look at that picture. The rest are going to be crap.


The cake is just the Apricot Glazed Almond Cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World made into a cake, decorated with marzipan letters and dried appricots dipped in chocolate and almonds. It is tasty and moist and not too sweet, and the preserves inside make your mouth say "Why hello there!" and it's pretty damn near perfect. My whole family loved it, especially my grandmother, who normally takes two bites of cake and says she's had enough but actually ate a whole piece of this thing (and took some home with her; she normally hates leftovers. This is historic).

Now that we have the important stuff out of the way, it's story time. Because if I've made a cake, you can be pretty sure there's a story involved. Probably one involving some kind of destruction.

Once upon a time (AKA last Wednesday, AKA Grandma's birthday, AKA day before Thanksgiving), I took the day off to cook. As an added bonus, in order to keep myself (and my friends) entertained (and distracted), I set up a webcam in my kitchen and broadcast my wacky shenanigans live to the whole Internet.

This cake was the very first thing I made, bright and early Wednesday morning. Everything went fine until it was time to decorate. I toasted and chopped my almonds, melted my chocolate, dipped my apricots and everything was fine. Then I popped the top of my can of marzipan to discover it was...Chocolate Schmear. What the crap is Chocolate Schmear? I didn't know, didn't want to know and just wanted it the fuck out of my kitchen. There was much swearing and stomping around, until I remembered I keep an emergency tube of marzipan on hand (when the world comes to an end, I'll be ready to bake. Will you?), grabbed it and made with the decorating. The marzipan letters were great in theory. In practice...not so much. I couldn't get the marzipan out of the damn cookie cutters without poking it with something, which is why all the letters are nicked and strange.

But let's be honest. That's hardly up to my usual standard of cake tragedy. Something else had to go wrong, right? Much to the amusement of my friends quietly watching from their offices, it did.

When the cake was done, I got out my Official Food Photography Table and showed it to whoever was still watching, before taking it outside to take pictures. Somehow, the table slipped out of my hands and INTO THE CAKE. Suddenly, my beautiful cake said "HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRAND*CRATER*"! After the obligatory freakout, I picked the crushed letters out of the cake, moved the rest of them over, made a new "MA", picked one of the apricots off the side of the cake, used it to cover the crater, then redistributed the apricots so it wouldn't be so obvious one was missing. Viola!

In retrospect, I'm pretty pissed at myself for not taking a picture of the cake with the visible crater. I need to get better at documenting my failures.

I usually share the story of how my cakes go wrong while we're eating them, but I didn't this time. Now the whole Internet knows what happened to the cake, but my family is none the wiser. Let's try to keep this between the 7382193719037812738 of us, OK?

And we'll all live happily ever after, the end.

PS: Chocolate Schmear tastes like ass.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Menu Planning

It's the time of the season for cooking.

Thanksgiving is upon us and we're doing it at our house this year. And I'm in charge of the cooking. The family is still undecided about whether or not my mother will make some turkey parts for the two people who will actually eat it, but there definitely won't be a whole bird on the table and that counts for something. Also, my whole family goes vegan for the day after Thanksgiving, so I'm cooking for that too. And the day before Thanksgiving is my grandmother's birthday, so I'm also making her cake.

I've decided to post my planned menus for the next few days, in order to keep myself from giving up on anything. And so if I completely destroy any of the recipes, I won't be able to deny it.

Apricot Glazed Almond Cake based on a recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

Thanksgiving Dinner
Note: I was told we don't need soup, salad, gravy or rolls, so they're not missing because I'm lazy.
Grilled Asparagus
Harvest Vegetable Medley from last fall's Vegetarian Times
Chestnut Apple Stuffing from last fall's Vegetarian Times
Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes from Yellow Rose Recipes
Poppyseed Pull-Apart Rolls from Isa's upcoming book, Vegan Brunch
Polenta Seitan from a recipe that will hopefully be posted on Parsnip Parsimony soon, with seasoning suggestions from The I-40 Kitchen
Sweet Potato Pear Tzimmes with Pecans & Raisins from Veganomicon
My friend Sarah's gravy
My mother's Cranapple Crumble, which I made into mini pies for last winter's challenge
My friend Sarah's pumpkin pie
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake with Cinnamon Icing based on a recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World
And something I'm pretty certain I'm going to screw up, so I won't talk about it yet.

Friday Brunch
Pesto Scrambled Tofu with Grape Tomatoes
Paprika Rosemary Potatoes
Raised Waffles with Baked Cinnamon Apples all from Isa's upcoming book, Vegan Brunch

Friday Dinner
Caesar Salad with Roasted Garlic Croutons
Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits both from Veganomicon
Leftovers and fresh fruit for dessert

And if I have nothing else to do, I think I'm going to attempt home made English Muffins on Sunday. One more thing from Isa's amazing book of amazingness (AKA Vegan Brunch).

Happy holidays!

Monday, November 17, 2008


It's been a while. My only excuse is that I'm lazy. That, and most of what I've made over the past couple of months hasn't been all that photogenic. How can one possibly read a post without pictures in it, right? Over the weekend, I was actually rebuked by a friend for slacking off on this whole blog thing, so here I am.

So what's been cooking lately? Good question. I barely remember.

I've tested some more recipes for Isa Chandra Moskowitz's upcoming book, Vegan Brunch, and they pretty much rule. Hopped on and off the raw bandwagon a few times (currently dangling off the side). Baked some brownies. And some blondies. And some brandy fruit cake stuff. And some cookies. In short: lots of baking happened.

That there is a Lemon Poppyseed muffin from the aforementioned brunch book. I don't usually like lemon baked goods, but these muffins are great. They're both sweet and lemony and the crumb is perfect and I love them. While this may not be saying much, these are probably the best muffins I've ever made. My mother went so far as to say they're the best things I've ever made. Seriously good stuff.

I baked for Election Day. I decided to be non-partisan and just go with a patriotic red, white and blue...ish. Red and white came from the Raspberry Chocolate Chip Blondie Bars from Vegan With a Vengeance and the blue came from the Veganomicon Fudgy Wudgy Blueberry Brownies. Yes. I know. They're brown, not blue, but they have "blue" in the name and they're tasty and one of the many things we've all learned from this election is that color does not limit what one can do or be.

Also, I think I've said this before, but I love those blondies SO. DAMN. MUCH. I've made them with different berries and they're always great. It pains me to share them. Really.

(OK, not really. The fun part of baking is the sharing.)

Close up shots of the brownies just looked like a load of brown (not so appetizing), so here are the blondies in all their chocolate raspberry glory.:

And then there's this: Sticky Spiked Double-Apple Cake with a Brown Sugar-Brandy Sauce. It's kind of ridiculous.

Baked in honor of my friend passing the bar (actually, Little Miss Genius Pants has now passed not one but two bars).

It was really easy to veganize. I used one tablespoon ground flax seeds dissolved in three tablespoons water and 1/4 cup applesauce to replace the eggs and MimicCreme for the heavy cream in the sauce. The recipe made me kind of nervous. When it said "Add the eggs and beat on medium speed until thickened and pale" I got jumpy. What if flax and apple sauce won't make it thicken and pale? What if I end up with a thin, dark mess of grossness? No worries, though, it totally worked. The cake was really interesting to make because it was more like a pan full of batter covered fruit and nuts than a batter with some fruit in it. It was cool to see how it all expanded as it baked and turned into a cake, not a mess. I didn't think I would like this much because I'm not a fan of brandy, but I was wrong. Some of it bakes off and the fruit and nuts overpower the alcohol enough for it to be tasty goodness.

I think that's all for now. Thanksgiving is coming and I'm in charge this year, so all of my food-related thought is going into that at the moment. I will report back on that before January, I swear.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Duhnuhnuhnuhnuhnuhnuhnuh BATCAKE!

I promised a cake, and here we are. Thank you to the birthday girl for providing the pictures.

My friend loves Batman. Her birthday was last month, so I made her a Batman birthday cake. Yum.

I didn't get to take any pictures right when it was done, so please excuse the wax drip and candle holes. And general squashiness of the cake. As we all know, I can't make a birthday cake without some sort of drama:

I work next door to a box and paper store and not far from a cake supply shop but could not find a box the right size for a 9", two layer cake. So I used a box that was slightly too small with toothpicks taped into the corners to hold it up. It looked more like a shirt box than a cake box, but I figured it would do. Guess who was wrong!

The cake left my house in perfect condition, I swear. Halfway to the party, some guys on the train started talking to me and asked to see the cake (don't ask me how they knew it was a cake). I showed it to them and it was fine. The cake was still totally intact. Somewhere between Queens and Brooklyn, the toothpicks fell off and the lid fell in. When I got to the restaurant and took the top off the box to show the birthday girl's husband the cake, half the bat symbol came off on the inside of the top of the box. And some the ganache was stuck to the sides. The cake was ruined! It was so bad the staff couldn't even tell what it was supposed to be (the husband could, though). I stood there shaking and shitting my pants (well, dress) while the staff brought us some chocolate sauce. The husband was able to fill in the outline left by the original bat with the chocolate sauce* and still get the basic look I had been going for. I didn't do it myself because my hands were shaking and they said the chocolate was at about 100 degrees.

We brought in the cake, everyone loved it and no one seemed to notice anything was wrong with it until I told them the story.

The cake is a doubled recipe of the Golden Vanilla Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Like the book suggests, I heated the soy milk and whisked in some tumeric, to get it really yellow (I was too lazy to do this for the Iron Man cake). I made this cake multiple times, because in my effort to get it good and yellow, I kept adding too much tumeric, and you could taste it. Blech.

I needed the cake nice and flat to get my stencil to sit on it, so I asked for suggestions on the PPK and got the idea to make my own cake rings:

They say cakes dome because the edges cook faster than the center. The slower cooking center puffs up, leaving the more done edges low. Cake rings are supposed to keep the edges from baking so quickly. I made mine by soaking some newspaper in cold water, wrapping it in tinfoil and taping it closed around my cake pans. I think the cakes were a bit straighter than usual, but it was hard to tell since one broke in half right out of the pan (I should have known that was an omen). Obviously, that was the bottom cake. I wonder if anyone noticed the break while they were cutting (if not, they'll know if they read this!).

I topped and filled the cake with the Fauxstess ganache from Vegan With a Vengeance because I think that one comes out closest to black. I printed the bat symbol out from the Internet, traced it onto cardboard and used that as a stencil for the icing.

Here's the cake with candles:

And the birthday girl blowing them out:

The birthday girl also loves Harry Potter. As a super nerdy bonus, this doubles as a Hufflepuff cake from the inside (assuming we keep pretending the ganache is actually black):

After this, the Iron Man cake, the Indiana Jones cake and the Yoda cupcakes, maybe I should change the name of this blog to Seitan Said Bake Dorky Things.

*Two days later, I realized I had no idea what was in that chocolate sauce and I just used it because I was desperate to save the cake. I doubt it was vegan, but such is life. It honestly didn't even occur to me at the time. I was the only vegan there, though, so with luck, my piece only had ganache on it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Brunchening 2.0

I know I said my next post would be about cake, but I don't have pictures yet, so you get brunch instead. Sorry!

I celebrated Labor Day with a brunch picnic in Prospect Park. Almost all recipes came from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's upcoming brunch book Crack of Noon. I cannot express how much love I have for most of the recipes that will be in this book. The sausages, waffles, scones and scrambles are some of the best food I've ever eaten.

I don't know how I managed to eat almost nothing but brunch for three months without a waffle maker. I didn't realize I had that much restraint, but my period of deprivation is over. To celebrate, I made Cornbread Waffles With Pantry Mole Rojo And Seitan and Buckwheat Waffles With Red Wine Tarragon Mushroom Gravy.

Cornbread Waffle with Pantry Mole Rojo and Seitan:

The cornbread waffle is great. It's almost like a waffle-shaped corn muffin. I love corn muffins so much. The seitan is so simple, but incredibly tasty. I made the Simple Seitan recipe from Veganomicon, and sauteed it with some red onion and yellow pepper. Easy and delicious. I actually ate most of it without the mole or the waffles and think it'd be great over rice. This was my first mole and I found it really interesting. I don't think I've ever made anything with such a wide variety of ingredients before. Chocolate, chili, raisins, peanut butter, tortilla chips and other things all came together to make a really nice sauce. It was so nice some of my friends at it alone and one did a little dance with her waffle:

Buckwheat Waffles with Red Wine Tarragon Mushroom Gravy:

That waffle looks a little odd because it was the last one, made with the leftover batter. It was the only one to get eaten at the picnic because we were full and it was small. The buckwheat waffles are good, and feel kind of healthy, which is nice. The gravy is rich and awesome. I'd love to put it over mashed potatoes (actually, that may be dinner tonight) or seitan steaks. I'm definitely going to make it again in the winter.

Wallowing in Waffles:

Of everything I've made for brunch so far, I think I've had the most fun with sausage (get your minds out of the gutters, people). The recipes are so easy: make dough, wrap it up like a Tootsie Roll in some foil and steam it. In less than an hour, you have tasty sausages. This time, I made Cherry Sage Sausages. Dried cherries in sausages never would have occurred to me, but I'm glad it occurred to Isa because they freaking rule.

You know what else is kind of awesome? Tofu Benny. Seriously. Have you ever had homemade vegan hollandaise while sitting on the ground in Brooklyn? I have. It'll be something to tell the grandkids. Someone else's grandkids.

Yup. That there is marinated tofu over a slice of tomato with smoked salt, on a bed of Diner Home Fries from Veganomicon, smothered in hollandaise. It tastes even better than it looks and sounds, I swear. And the cute little circles sit so nicely on top of the tomato slices (the tomato in the picture is hiding; you can almost see it on the right). It's one of those fairly easy but impressive looking dishes I love so much (it looks way more impressive when it doesn't spend an hour on the train, honest).

Does Scrambled Tortillas sound odd to you? It sounded odd to me, but I soldiered on and I'm glad I did because this is easy comfort food. It's sort of like Mexican Matzo Brei. The flavor took a few bites to grow on me, but I totally dig it now. I swear it tastes better than it looks.

Scones are required eating for brunch, right? How about Berry Lavender Scones? Those should be required eating for all the time. The recipe calls for marionberries, but I've never even seen one of those, so I made mine with a mix of raspberries and blackberries. I can't say anyone complained! These were my first scones ever and they came out quite well. Sadly, they got squished under the rest of the food on the way over (but they tasted fine, just the same):

We also had Polenta Rancheros with Cashew Sour Cream. I love polenta. I'd put it on anything. This is a nice, beany way to have it. I've eaten it for lunch every day this week and am not sick of it yet (which is sad because I just ate the last portion). I have to say the Cashew Sour Cream doesn't really taste like sour cream, though. Instead, it tastes good. I've always hated sour cream, but I'm throwing this cashew stuff on pretty much everything. Both are really easy, make a lot and reheat well, so this is a definite not-miss recipe.

All that was great, but a meal is nothing without dessert. Lucky for me, Lauren (pictured above with waffle) brought the Veganomicon Strawberry-Plum Crisp. Even after all that food, I had two large helpings. She managed to keep it warm the whole time and it was one of the best desserts I've ever had. I will definitely have to make it myself soon. Like weekly.

Despite that, when getting together with a group, I can never resist the urge to bake something (and the scones just weren't enough), so I made donuts. Yes, donuts. I got the recipe from VeganYumYum, the mini donut pan from Amazon and had a grand time.

The chocolate ones came out very similar to the ones from Entenmann's, just a bit more bitter because I used semi-sweet chocolate. I think I may try these again using rice milk chocolate.

And with sprinkles. Like Homer Simpson, but more awesome:

Hopefully, my next post will be cake!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My Own Personal Cake Wreck?

Damn, it's been a while. Almost two months. I'm still eating (and even cooking), but I've been super lazy about the photographing and the writing. Sorry.

I've resurfaced to share the cake I made for my brother's seventeenth birthday (and another cake I made this weekend, but I don't have pictures yet). Months ago (before the movie came out) he mentioned in passing that he'd like an Iron Man birthday cake. One of the bonuses of having a big sister who likes to bake is that if you mention wanting any cake in passing, it's bound to end up in your face sooner or later, whether it comes out right or not.


Errr....yeah. I'm not sure if it's bad enough for Cake Wrecks, but it's certainly....something.

I'm kind of proud of how the face bit came out because I had to draw that freehand (onto cardboard to make a stencil to use on the cake). I can't draw anything. I fuck up Tic-Tac-Toe. And this is almost identifiable, so that's a big step for me.

As for the I thought I bought gold for the face, but I bought copper. I added a bit of orange and loads of yellow and I think it got a little better, but the icing was getting over beaten and too wet, so I had to stop. Wilton calls that pinkish color on the outside burgundy. What? I do not think it means what Wilton thinks it means. As you see it, I added some black and about half a container of red. Sheesh. I guess it's Springtime for Iron Man. He's got his Easter bonnet on.

So what is this monstrosity? Outside, it's the Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Inside is the Golden Vanilla Cupcakes recipe from the same book, filled with a strawberry variation of the raspberry layer from the Raspberry Chocolate Chip Blondie Bars from Vegan With a Vengeance. I was trying to go for a red and gold theme on the inside, too, but I was too lazy to add the tumeric to the cake (more on that in my next cake post), so it looks more red and white:

(the eyes are marzipan, by the way)

Regardless of how it looks, it was still damn tasty and that's the important part, right? I don't seem to be able to make a birthday cake without some sort of screw up, and this is a pretty low-key one, when I think about the problems I've had in the past. I just wish Wilton made Pantones.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Educational Cake

While in line to see Iron Man, my friend Shawn said, "I'd want an Indiana Jones birthday cake". I was pretty sure he wasn't hinting, but that didn't stop me from making it anyway. The cake making was complicated by two things:

1. Shawn is a very picky eater.
2. I didn't remember anything about Indiana Jones.

But I tried my best and it turned out semi-decent. More importantly, I learned a lot.

Many thanks to our friend Adrienne who was kind enough to take the pictures below.

When I think of Indiana Jones, the first thing I think of is brown. The second thing is that scene where the guy rips the other guy's heart out and it beats in his hand. I don't have the skills to make a beating heart cake topper (but hope to add it to my repertoire by Valentine's Day!), so I decided to make the cake brown using the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. The cake itself was a double recipe of the Crimson Velveteen Cupcakes from the same book. I topped the cake with a "whip" made of marzipan and wrote Happy Birthday Shawn in the closest I could get to the Indiana Jones font.

I used the Crimson Velveteen Cupcake recipe, not a regular cake recipe, because I already knew the birthday boy liked it. Oddly, I was short a tabelspoon of food coloring, but was still able to taste it in the cake. I've made this recipe as cupcakes many times and never experienced that before. It was really weird. Because it wasn't a cake recipe, the cakes turned out a little larger than they should have and the tops rounded. I was dumb and it didn't occur to me to trim them until the next day, so as you can see here, the cake was very lopsided and has a noticeable seam:

My first idea was to make a fedora (or heart full of cherry pie filling) out of home made chocolate clay, but after discussing it with Adrienne, I decided to stick with marzipan because I already knew Shawn liked it and a whip because it should be relatively easy. I used Wilton's coloring paste on it and it ended up the exact same color as the frosting. That wasn't good, so I added some black. Then it was 3 AM and I decided the color was good enough, so I worked on the shape, modeled after this picture.

For the writing, I printed out the Happy Birthday and tried to trace it onto cardboard using a Xacto knife. Unfortunately, I don't have any hand-eye coordination, so Adrienne had to trace out the stencil for me instead. I thought that if I frosted the whole cake, then put the stencil on top of it, I'd ruin the frosting, so I left a blank area for the stencil, which I filled in using a pastry bag and some light yellow royal icing. I then went over it with some orange food coloring on my finger, then red over that. I intended on using a small knife to frost between the letters, but once I was done, I knew that'd never work and ended up with a naked stripe across the cake. Next time, I'll definitely frost the whole thing, do the stencil, then just smooth the defects in the frosting as best as I can.

As you can see, it totally needed more filling:

The final thing I learned making this cake: brown marzipan looks like a turd. D'oh!

Thankfully, that was my last cake for June. As far as I know, July will be a month of rest. Then I hope to bake for two or three people in August, depending on who lets me honor their birthday in pastry fashion.


Last Sunday was bittersweet. My friends and I got together, which is always fun. It was a happy time because it was a birthday. It was a sad time because the birthday girl is moving home (Barbados) next week and will be missed.

For dinner, I brought the Fresh Mango Summer Rolls from Vegan With a Vengeance. For dessert, I brought a big fruit tart. She loves them, but they can make her sick because she's lactose intolerant, so she asked me to veganize them. I did:

First, I made Betty Crocker's Baked Pie Crust and sealed it with an apricot preserves glaze. I filled that with the pastry creme filling of the Brooklyn vs. Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (yes, the stuff with the amazing, non-dissolving agar flakes. This time, I doubled the recipe and got the flakes dissolved in about an hour. That's comparatively no time) and topped that with kiwi, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and more glaze. Viola!

I was lazy about skinning the kiwi, so I just cut the sides off, not realizing it would leave me with rectangular kiwi slices. I felt really stupid, but put them on the tart anyway. My brother thought it was an intentional design and he liked it, so I played along.

No one brought candles, so here's everyone getting ready for the birthday girl to blow out the matches on her cake (store bought, non-vegan, red velvet) and tart:

The Fresh Mango Summer Rolls are very nice, but the Thai Peanut Sauce is really what makes them pop. I had to omit the cilantro, which undoubtedly left them a little less flavorful (and colorful) than they should have been, but they were still very nice. And I want to put the accompanying sauce (which is incredibly fast and easy to make) on everything.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I Havent a Sheep

I haven't a sheep, so I can't make shepherd's pie. I have a garden (of sorts), so I made Fatfree Vegan Kitchen's Skillet Gardener's Pie instead.

With all the brunch and birthday I've been having lately, I really needed to make something healthy to eat this week. As usual, Fatfree Vegan came to my rescue. I can always find something guilt free, relatively easy to make and tasty over there. This dish has the added bonus of being pretty much fuck-up-proof. For some reason, I decided not to chop any of my vegetables in advance, so I left everything cooking longer than it should have a few times, but nothing got grossly overdone. It's all still fine.

I'm not going to go on about it too much because Susan went over it in detail on her blog, but not only does this only have one gram of fat per generous serving, but it's full of loads of vitamins and minerals and all that fun stuff.I guess this dish doesn't really work for people watching their carbs, since it's smothered in potatoes, but I still don't understand that fully anyway, so I'm not too worried about it.

I wasn't able to get an attractive picture of the inside, but at least this gives you an idea of what's inside (other than, you know, yumminess):

Friday, June 20, 2008

Things Fall Apart

The centre cannot hold.

Especially when said centre is made of crepes and pastry cream. Behold! The crepe cake!

Doesn't that look lovely(ish)? It's rather a pity that that's not how it looked when it got to the table. This is:

Back in January, my friend challenged me to veganize this cake. It looked complicated, so I decided to wait a while, until I was a bit more comfortable in the kitchen. A while turned into months and then her birthday was coming, so I decided to figure it out and make it her birthday cake. I really wanted to get it right, so I started working on it over a month in advance because the filling kind of freaked me out. This wasn't merely a case of substituting margarine for butter and a little bit of soy yogurt for an egg and I didn't know what to do, so I took it to The PPK. As always, they were very helpful and directed me toward the pastry cream filling of the Brooklyn vs. Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I decided layering that with a few batches of the sweet crepes from Veganomicon would do the trick and set to work.

Here's my first attempt:

Failure. The crepes were too thick and not browned enough and the pastry cream was too loose. The reason? I couldn't get my agar flakes to dissolve. I officially hate agar flakes.

A few days later, I tried again:

Per the suggestions of the lovely people on The PPK, I reduced the crepe batter from 1/2 cup to 1/3 per crepe and dissolved the agar flakes in the microwave (which still took HOURS). The crepes still weren't brown enough, but it was only a test, so I was going for speed (as you can see by my ever-so-smooth filling job). It looked good enough to me. The cream was thick and the crepes were thin, so the cream was able to support the crepes, instead of the other way around. With eight crepes, I called it success. But the recipe called for 25 crepes and it never occurred to me that the number would cause a problem.

Though it looked good, I found the taste slightly lacking. It tasted good and it was nice and sweet, but it didn't taste like anything. Just sweet. I wanted to layer in some thinly sliced strawberries, but I thought that would be too much of a variation (read: cheat) from the original recipe, so I decided to substitute chocolate extract for vanilla in the final cake, top it with powdered sugar and write on it in melted chocolate (at first, I wasn't going to write on it at all, then I was thinking of using royal icing or something similarly generic).

The birthday dinner was on Wednesday, so I planned my week accordingly. Monday night, I went home early and made the crepe batter (four times the written recipe) and the pastry cream (six times the written recipe). I knew I'd have the agar issue, so I did that first, working on the batter while the agar sat in the warm/hot soy milk slowly dissolving, then whisking it for five minutes at a time. For hours. My right arm is currently on strike.

This is a lot of crepe batter:

Please notice the box of soy milk in the background. It's right side up, but I'm pretty sure the text on the back is upside down.

More pastry cream than I ever want to see again:

Tuesday night, I went to see The Futureheads do their first US show in two years (which was superawesome. Expect a fall tour. Run, don't walk for tickets!), then went home and made the crepes and put it all together.

Thirty crepes:

I only needed 25, so I put aside the uglier crepes and the best one (for the top) on a cutting board as I worked. I got to 18, paused to wash my hands, looked over at the cake and it looked like a landslide. As I stood there, the crepes were sliding off of the cake, onto the table, then almost onto the floor! I ran over and caught them (part of them were already hanging off the table), then grabbed up the whole cake and dropped it down on the cutting board. Right on top of the nicest crepe. Crap.

Once I got the pastry cream of of myself (and the table) and convinced myself I was neither going to cry nor throw the crepes around the room, I started reassembling the cake crepe by crepe, using my hands to smooth the filling, instead of my spatula. Since half the filling ended up on the table, cutting board and me, I thought the cake might hold together better with the thinner layers of filling. Since it was already covered with pastry cream, I included the "best crepe" in the cake and topped it off with a clean one, so the cake ended up being twenty crepes instead of 25. That was good enough for me, so I dusted it with powdered sugar and wrote on it with the melted chocolate.

That's how it looked when I put it away. This is how it looked when I woke up:

Appetizing, isn't it? (No)

I IMed the birthday girl when I got to work and basically apologized for completely ruining her birthday (because that's how it felt to me) and tried to brainstorm how to fix it. A coworker noticed I was upset and when I showed her why, she laughed at me. When she was done laughing, she suggested I just move the top of the cake to the center of the pile and trim it around, so that's what I did.

Here it is, with the trimmings my coworkers and I ate throughout the day:

And here's the finished product:

Obviously, it's not nearly as attractive as it started out, but it was presentable enough. And everyone seemed to enjoy it. Even the wait staff at the restaurant tried some, but they didn't tell me what they thought of it, so maybe that was their polite way of not telling me they hated it.

Wow, this post is sort of epic (read: too damn long). Sorry about that. But if it took you this long to read it, think of what it must have been like to do it!

And if you're reading this, happy birthday, Shar! (that's what the cake says, in case you can't tell)