Vegan Cookie Monster Cake. Wait, That Doesn’t Sound Right…Favorite Vegan Mud Cake a la Cookie Monster

Vegan cakes have really tripped me up in the past. But I have been tweaking a recipe I got out of Modern Vegan Baking . I have enjoyed perusing this book for ideas but the recipes are not accurate in their measurements; there are omissions and typos throughout the book. With some work I have made the “Fudgy Triple-Chocolate Cake” heretofore renamed “Vegan Mud Cake” turn out well consistently.

This was an 8-inch by 4-inch four layer cake with vegan dark chocolate ganache filling and vegan American-style buttercream (Earth Balance vegan butter replaces the butter). 

 

I made the eyeballs by covering foam balls with fondant and the hair was piped with a Wilton grass tip (#29).  You should know that those Chips Ahoy cookies in his mouth are not vegan so they were just used as props!

Another note: I scooped out a little of the cake for the mouth but wait to stick the cookies in there until just before presentation as those Chips Ahoy cookies are not sturdy enough to withstand the softening power of the ganache for long (ie.  Cookie Monster ate the first set of cookies I put in his mouth).

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Upside-down Vegan Chocolate Birthday Cake with Vegan Coconut Cream Ganache

After much stress and tears I think I have finally settled upon a vegan cake and vegan ganache that is both structurally sound and tasty. I tried coconut milk beverage, canned coconut milk, soy milk, and finally, coconut cream in two different varieties. I have also tried different ratios of nondairy milk to chocolate. I was sure that coconut cream would be the answer since it comes closest to the fat content of heavy cream. However the first can of coconut cream I bought was a Goya product which was labeled cream of coconut but honestly I’m not sure what relationship it has to coconut cream. It did not perform well at all with the chocolate. It acted more like an oil than anything else. So after some research I settled upon Thai Kitchen coconut cream which performed the way I expected a cream would.

I used a ratio of 2.5:1 chocolate to coconut cream. I used the coconut cream straight out of the can and I did not get rid of the coconut water. The ganache set up beautifully although it took a little bit longer than usual to get it to the right consistency for frosting.

The cake recipe for this vegan cake was out of the book, “Modern Vegan Baking” which I have used before. I like the flavors in this cookbook however the measurements seem to be off. Specifically for this recipe (“Fudgy Triple Chocolate Drip cake”) I had to double the batch in order to get enough for two 8″ x 2″ cake pans. I also modified the recipe a little bit by using coffee instead of just plain hot water.


For the filling I mixed in some raspberry preserves with the ganache. I did not torte these cakes because I wasn’t sure how stable they would be. I left them as 2-inch layers. I think that was ultimately a good decision.

Now let’s get to the fun part which is the construction of this wacky cake. I got the idea for this cake design from this great Online Cake Decorating Classes“>Craftsy class, “Industry Secrets for the Savvy Decorator.” However DH  constructed the stand for me and the idea to use a threaded rod instead of a wooden dowel was all him. Now I will say that it was a lot more wobbly than I expected (not the cake or the stand but the rod) because the threaded rod he used would bend a little bit but it was definitely not going to break. So the wobbliness just made a little bit more fun. I would advise however to do things a little bit differently than I did. I used an MDF board on the top part of the stand with half-inch foamcore hot glued to the MDF board and then my acrylic cake board hot glued to the foam core. The only thing that started to come apart a little bit was the acrylic cake board from the foam core because the hot glue started to crack apart but only after a 20 minute car ride. I should’ve thought better and used an MDF cake board or even a cardboard cake board on which to stack my cakes. Other than that the cake stand turned out beautifully.

So we started with a wooden base with a hole drilled in it and a nut buried in the bottom then a washer and another nut on the top.

The threaded rod went through the bottom 1/4-inch MDF board with another nut and washer on the bottom and on the top.

Cardboard or MDF cake board hot glued to a 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch foam core (to bury the washer) which is hot glued to the bottom 1/4-inch MDF board would be the best way to construct the top part of this stand.

Three 2-inch vegan chocolate mud cake layers with raspberry vegan ganache for filling.

The cake was covered with Satin Ice fondant tinted with Wilton golden yellow.

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Vegan Naan

Another dish for the Church’s potluck lunch.  I feel like I’m in the Coptic Lent version of the Great British Bake Off.  This week’s theme was Indian and I originally intended to make vegan gulab jamun which was a disaster.  So I switched to naan and it turned out quite well actually with the substitution of coconut yogurt.  The flavor of ghee is hard to replicate but with a blend of oils you can come pretty close.  You might recall last week’s church bake and the marital troubles that ensued.  Well, we came to an agreement which was pretty fair. I do my baking after the kids go to bed or during the little one’s nap.  So, since baking is essential to my mental health I am perfectly willing to wake up a little earlier on church mornings to get things done.  This weekend I was making both naan and chai for church and when I woke up I realized I didn’t have soy milk.  The little man was already awake at 6:30 AM because he had just gotten a new toy with which he wanted to play.  This posed a dilemma.  Little man likes his cereal as soon as he wakes up and the whole point of this exercise was to avoid waking up the Dad and alerting him to my potential child-neglecting activities while I baked.  Some women hide their shopping.  I hide my baking (much trickier).  I pulled it off though and I have assembled some tips for you in case you face a similar challenge one day:

  1.  Prepare an extra large bowl of cereal for your child so that he is barely finished eating it by the time you get back from the store with the soy milk (or other essential item).  In my case, he actually said, “Wow, Mommy, you were fast!”
  2. If another child wakes up and your baking project starts to run over-time then quickly scramble an egg for second child to make it look like you are a totally dedicated mom who feeds [at least one child] a hot breakfast.
  3. Since you went to the trouble of making 1/3 of your children a hot breakfast you can then ask the Dad  to feed her the hot breakfast .  You then have a few minutes to go back to baking (in my case, making naan).
  4. Now, its your turn again.  Since the naan takes 2-3 minutes to blister on each side you can grab the baby, run upstairs and dress her and then run back downstairs by the time the naan needs to be flipped.  Go ahead and gild the lily.  Put a matching barrette in her hair — it will earn you another point in the awesome Mom tally and also serve as a distraction while you continue baking e.g. “Look how cute she looks!”
  5. By now you have proven how dedicated of a Mom you are to the Dad.  You let him sleep in. You mostly provided breakfast to the kids.  You dressed one of them.  Now you must be the first one in the car so that the illusion of got-it-togetherness is complete and you can thus max out on your points later.  For example, “I let you sleep in this morning, so…”

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Vegan Chai

Sometimes I just want to get to the recipe and don’t want to read the long spiel that goes along with it.  So not all of my recipes are going to be accompanied by a story.  Briefly, I got this recipe from an old friend, Chris Suradejvibul, and have been using it for years.  I just adapted it for Lent.  I used a combination of coconut milk and soy milk for mine. You can use what you prefer.   Check out this post for a great description on how to make a large quantity of chai in your instant pot.

 

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The Cake Wreck that [Almost] Never Was…Vegan Chocolate Cake with Caramel Drip and a Marital Disaster Cake Collar

Two prophetic sayings kept running through my mind today as I drove this cake to church.

#1: The first half of the trip: “The difference between an amateur cake decorator and a professional cake decorator is that the professional one knows how to cover up their mistakes.”

#2: The second half of the trip from my husband: “The closest we ever come to divorce is when there is one of your cakes in the car.” Truer words have never been spoken.  So, sit back and enjoy this story.

Once upon a time there was a beleaguered stay-at-home Dad whose only respite at the end of a long day with the kids was a trip to the grocery store.  Now, you might think that this is not much of a respite but this Dad actually enjoyed any and all kinds of shopping so as soon as the Mom was able to put 1-2/3 kids to bed he would go to the “flee market.”  He would have his list on a shared app that the Mom would often update at the last minute thereby adding to his neurotic state.  But he was quite content to do the grocery shopping whereas the Mom hated it.  However, since the Mom is the baker and frequently had some odd items on the list this led to many terse texts back and forth while Dad was at the store.  Once the Mom would get 3/3 kids to bed she liked to relax and not respond to the banal text messages such as those asking which kind of salt she needed.

One day in particular she had asked for coconut milk to make vegan ganache.  Dad, of course, texted multiple pictures of coconut milk which she mostly ignored but in deference to him quickly sent a formatted “sure” response from her Apple watch.

Unfortunately, Dad brought  home coconut milk beverage instead of canned coconut milk (pay attention, this is lesson #1 in what not to do when using coconut milk in baking).  Since Mom usually does the baking when the house is quiet late at night she found herself with no other options but coconut milk beverage with which to make her vegan ganache.  The Mom also prefers to do her baking at night to avoid the possibility of Dad circling her repeatedly and asking inane questions such as “where is the salt that I just bought?”

The reason coconut beverage does not work is because it does not have the same fat content of full-fat canned coconut milk and it is watered down.  You need the fat content to create a proper emulsion with the chocolate.  But the Mom plugged away.  Every time she would heat up the ganache it would harden again in under a minute making frosting her vegan cake a hair-pulling experience.  Now, at the end she was thoroughly unsatisfied with the appearance of the cake.  With a little vegan caramel and raspberries she was able to make the top look good but the sides were an embarrassment.  Now she remembered a prophetic saying (see #1 above) and desperately tried to come up with a decoration for the sides.  Piroulines would have been perfect had they been vegan. She went to bed thinking she would have to live with the mortification of presenting a less than presentable cake.  But this Mom has serious obsessive-compulsive traits.  She shot up at 6:45 AM on a Saturday (even though she could have slept in) and raced to the kitchen to make her first-ever cake collar to cover the sides.  IT WAS MAGNIFICENT! It made her feel like she could do anything!  No one would have to see the lumpy ganache or the gloppy caramel (again, made with the wrong coconut milk)!  Hooray!  Hooray!

They take two cars to church that day because the Mom has to go to work afterward.  She doesn’t even care she has to work on the weekend because her cake is  a success.  She is humming along with her son in the back to their favorite song.  They stop at a light.  Dad is right behind.  She is checking her makeup and then…it all comes crashing down, literally.  The Dad decides to honk at her because the light turns green and with a start she revs the gas pedal, the car jerks forward and her beautiful cake collar crashes down on one side.  Now, go back and read prophetic saying #2 above because the things running through my head for the rest of the trip cannot be repeated here.

Because they were going to church and because the cake was not horrible when they got there the Mom decided to forgive the Dad (but only after they were half-way through the Liturgy) and I am certain that they will live happily ever after. THE END

I did promise myself that I would post the good, the bad, and the ugly so here it is.  The good news is that it was delicious and one friend said that it looked like abstract art!

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Vegan Tahini Truffles for Lent

Truffles for Lent? Yes, because as my blaspheming husband recently said, “I’m not Jesus.”  That comment shocked me initially until I realized he was verbalizing in a crude way what many of us feel during this time — we are weak and sometimes need chocolate.  Ok, I feel like that almost every day and Lent is no different.  And I am not too proud to admit that I licked the chocolate off my hands AFTER I finished making these truffles for church.  And, yes, I secretly believe that dark chocolate is a magical gift that was provided to us especially for Lent.  Kind of like manna in the dessert.  Like I said.  I am weak.

This recipe was adapted from one in Paul A. Young’s Adventures with Chocolate.  

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