Natural Vegan Rainbow Cake

My sister turned 19 this past week. Much to my relief, she didn’t immediately go out and get drunk (19 is the legal age in BC). I like to think she had a good birthday anyway.

I realized a few days beforehand that a rainbow cake was the perfect type of cake to make for her. If you knew her, this would make sense to you. If you don’t…well, she’s a very special 19 year old. One thing I’ve discovered in the past year, though, is that what they make the food dye out of is nasty business. Not only what it’s made from, but how they test it…pass, thanks. It’s not to say I never buy premade food with food dye in it, because that wouldn’t be true. But I do try and avoid it when possible. Besides, it’s much more exciting to try and colour things naturally.

After a lot of research, I decided to double a 9″ white cake recipe and split the resulting batter into 5 parts.

  1. Pink / Red – Raspberries
  2. Orange – Carrot juice
  3. “Yellow” – Mango (It wasn’t very yellow at all)
  4. Green – Matcha powder
  5. Purple / Blue – Blueberries

For the raspberries, blueberries and mango, I put 3/4 of a cup (approximately) worth of frozen fruit into a mug and threw it into the microwave until everything was thawed and mushy. Then, I squished the fruit into a fine-mesh strainer with a spoon, draining all the juice out into the batter.

Because I was putting extra liquid into the batter, I cut out 1/4 cup of milk for each layer. Then add in 1/4 cup of milk to any layer that isn’t getting extra juice put into it (i.e. the Matcha layer).

It was SO much fun, watching the batter turn colours and then seeing how everything turned out in the end!

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The best part was that the berry layers actually tasted like blueberry and raspberry!

The worst part was, my measurement skills sucked, so the layers are 3 different sizes. I don’t even know how I did it, I was using a scale.

Also, the icing job went very poorly, since there just wasn’t quite enough. I shaved down the cakes since somehow, despite being baked in the same pans, they were different sizes. Regardless, I think I covered it up nicely.

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All I can say is, thank goodness for large coconut shavings. And cake shavings, I guess?

The icing was very very sweet, so in the end, it was a good thing there was only a thin layer on everything. It was delcious though, and you can find it over on instructables. The cake recipe turned out amazingly, even with my tinkering (we ran out of butter so I subbed in some applesauce, and I also used nearly 1/2 c less sugar). It is the Vanilla Cupcakes recipe from The Joy Of Vegan Baking, which is a cookbook I highly recommend. The recipes aren’t “healthy versions”, but they are accurate vegan replicas of the classics, which is really useful to have on hand. And I must confess, the colouring ideas weren’t my own (except for the mango…which didn’t work…), I found a lot of helpful information on Growing A Green Family.

Verdict? I highly recommend making this cake; it’s fun to make and to eat!

 

Easy Coconut Chocolate Sauce

So much tasty food has been made in our home lately, although it has mainly been from recipes. Last Saturday morning, we had vegan red velvet waffles care of anunrefinedvegan! Soooo tasty, and the recipe stays true to red velvet–which contrary to popular belief is not just chocolate with red food colouring! In truth, it was the second weekend in a row we’d had these beauties, but with no soaked cashews, we needed a different sauce.

My mom frequently would make coconut syrup for pancakes and waffles, and while she verbally told me it was just sugar and coconut milk, I never did get that recipe. I suspect it was something like half and half. So, deliciously delicious, but incredibly unhealthy. I did try once with a recipe I found online, but it wasn’t the same.

Instead of dwelling on that, I decided to take a new tactic altogether–make it healthy. It is a very easy recipe, that builds on 3 simple ingredients.

Easy Coconut Chocolate Sauce

  • 1 can low-fat coconut milk
  • 4 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup (or sweetener of choice)

Mix the coconut milk and cocoa powder in a saucepan, and turn the element onto medium heat. Stir frequently. The goal here is to boil off some of the excess water, so this may take awhile. Take it off the element when you like its thickness (something like 30 min). Then add the maple syrup, stir and serve!

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Now this makes a very mild sauce, so if you want something with a bit more punch, increase the cocoa and/or sweetener to taste.

And then, put it on everything. Waffles, pancakes, ice cream, and even…

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Raw vegan cheesecake! The recipe can be found over on The Rawtarian. It was especially amazing because we already had all the necessary ingredients. And there was no soaking of cashews required so that when I decided I wanted to make it 45 min before our dinner guests arrived…it worked out!

One of the people we served it to had eaten a few bites before saying, “Wait…you’re vegan, how is this cheesecake?”

Seriously, make that cheesecake, even if you’re not vegan.

What’s your favourite tastes-like-the-real-thing-but-not recipe?

Cookie Balls (aka What to do With Soft Cookies)

I made cookies the other day (shocking, I know). When they first came out of the oven, they were quite tasty, almost like mini cakes, but as they cooled they turned into crumbly messes. Sad and confused, I wondered what to do with these messy little failures.

Then I thought, you know what makes everything better? Chocolate! Yes, chocolate makes emotional wounds better, as well as all sorts of food.

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Chocolate Covered Cookie Balls

  • approx. 10 large soft cookies
  • approx. 1/2 c nut butter (I used peanut butter)
  • 1/2 c Semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tsp Canola oil

In a medium bowl, mix with a spoon (or your hands, that’s what I did):

  • 10 large soft cookies
  • 1/4 c nut butter

Add more nut butter as needed until mixture can be squished into 1″ balls and not fall apart.

Place 1″ cookie balls on a plate or some other flat surface, I recommend using parchment paper or other non-stick mechanism between the cookie balls and the plate. Put plate in the fridge for about 10 minutes.

In a double broiler, melt

  • 1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tsp canola oil (the canola oil will keep the chocolate soft at room temperature, instead of it turning into a hard shell)

Pull cookie balls out of the fridge and move them to one side of the plate. Dip and roll each cookie ball in the melted chocolate until it is completely covered, then place back on the other side of the plate. When all are coated, return to the fridge for another 15 min or until the chocolate coating is hard.

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And that’s it! How to turn a baking mistake into a delicious chocolate covered cookie ball.

Don’t have a soft cookie recipe? My applesauce snickerdoodles will work decently. Oh, you want a vegan recipe? How convenient! I just happen to have a way too soft vegan applesauce snickerdoodle recipe handy.

Too-Soft Vegan Applesauce Snickerdoodles

Mix together thoroughly …

  • 1/4 + 1/8 cup melted vegan butter
  • 1/2 + 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 Ener-G egg

Sift together and stir in …

  • 2 cup bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Sugar Mixture

  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon 

Chill dough (required). Roll into balls the size of walnuts. Then roll each ball in the sugar mixture before placing about 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 400ºF until lightly browned but still soft, approximately 8 – 10 minutes.

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I used candycane bits instead of cinnamon sugar for this batch — it was season-appropriate at the time, I swear!

 

These cookies really weren’t that great as cookies, so consider yourself warned. I promise I will post a vegan applesauce snickerdoodle recipe as soon as I come with one!

Happy baking!

What are your fixes for baking mishaps?

Black Forest Cookies

It’s that moment we’ve all been waiting for…a new cookie recipe! Took me long enough, I know, but life has been surprisingly busy lately (I wonder why). But last night the urge to bake hit me and out came something delicious. And, applesauce-ified.

 

This recipe is based on the Joy of Cooking’s chocolate chip cookie recipe, modified to be a bit healthier and, of course, the addition of cocoa and cherries.

Black Forest Cookies

Whisk together:

  • 1 c plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Beat in a large bowl until well blended:

  • 1/4 c unsalted butter
  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar

Add and beat until well combined:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c unsweetened applesauce

Stir in the flour mixture until well blended and smooth, then stir in:

  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 c chocolate chips

Grease a cookie sheet and drop the dough by heaping spoonfuls about 2 inches apart.

Now take out an equivalent number of maraschino cherries (my batch made 19 cookies) and squeeze them between some paper towel to get the excess liquid out. Push one cherry into the center of each cookie.

 

Bake for about 10 minutes at 375°F, until cookies spring back when poked OR a toothpick inserted comes out clean (except for chocolate chips, of course).

So, how were they? Extremely tasty! They have that same cake-y texture as most of the applesauce substitute cookies I have tried, but don’t seem to have that baking soda flavour. The dough itself is not very sweet, but the cookies (and cherries) definitely make up for it.

Enjoy!

P.S. I love feedback! If you make one of my recipes, please leave me a comment saying what you thought of it!

Strawberry Chocolate Banana Bread

It has been a very busy few weeks, and even when we were actually in town, there were still tons of things to catch up on from when we weren’t in town. I think we are almost caught up now though–I even had time to get my hair done last weekend! I now look like I’ve actually been on the beach this year (without the requisite sunburns).

But enough about hair, let’s talk about yumminess. Most important part about catching up is that I had time to bake again! And the weather cooled down enough that using the oven wasn’t going to mean sleeping in one. There were a couple of very ripe bananas lying around which can mean only one thing: banana bread!

I started with the recipe “Banana Bread Cockaigne” from Joy of Cooking, and made some tiny mods based on what I had available. Here is the end result:

That’s right, there are chocolate chips and strawberry pieces in the banana bread.

Strawberry Chocolate Banana Bread

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8.5″ x 4.5″ loaf pan.

Whisk together in a medium bowl:

  • 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Beat in a large bowl at medium speed until creamy:

  • 2/3 c white sugar
  • 6 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice

Beat in:

  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 c mashed ripe bananas (approximately 2)

Add the dry ingredients in about 3 parts, beating until smooth after each addition. Then fold in:

  • 1/2 c strawberries cut into 1/2″ pieces (make some a bit larger)
  • 2/3 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pour/scrape the batter into the greased pan. Bake until a toothpick (or chopstick, if you don’t have any toothpicks handy) inserted in the center comes out clean (about an hour). Cool slightly, then remove from the pan and leave to cool on a rack. Slice after the loaf has cooled completely.

What did I think? Delicious! I was extremely surprised about how light coloured the bread was, I am used to banana bread that is much darker. It also, while still very dense, does not have the greasy feeling that banana bread usually has either. It is possible that perhaps I could’ve gone a little lighter on the chocolate chips……kidding! There’s no such thing as too much chocolate.

Enjoy!

Carrot Cake Variation

Carrot cake. Delicious not just because of the generous portions of cream cheese icing (it really can’t be called carrot cake with any other type of icing)–but also due to the high oil content. Unlike most cakes that use butter, carrot cake just says “screw it, I’m not going to pretend” and uses oil. I read somewhere that it was because oil was much easier to come by during wartime, when the recipe was created. It also helps keep everything moist much better than butter.

However, I tend to balk at putting in 1 1/4 cups of vegetable oil. Instead, I turn to my good friend applesauce. I found this recipe over at allrecipes.com years ago, read tons of the comments, and added the best modifications to it. Then I changed it some more. What’s left is a slightly less unhealthy, but still very delicious cake.

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Carrot Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9″ x 13″ pan.

Beat together in large bowl:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 + 1/8 c vegetable oil
  • 1/2 + 1/8 c unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 1/2 c white sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix in smaller bowl:

  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 2.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Combine dry and wet ingredients, then add:

  • 1 8 oz can crushed pineapple (drained)
  • 3 c grated carrots
  • 1 c unsweetened coconut (optional)

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely (unless you’re using a glass baking dish, in which case you can leave it in there).

Icing

Beat until creamy in a medium bowl:

  • 1/2 c butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 c icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c unsweetened coconut (optional)

Wait to ice the cake until it has cooled completely!

Even halving the oil, the cake was still very moist, thanks to the pineapple and applesauce. In order to compensate for all that extra acid introduced by these oil alternatives, I cut down the baking powder–the previous time I made it, there was a slightly odd taste to it, like it hadn’t all reacted. This seemed to do it because there was no funny taste this time.

Only using 1 1/2 cups of sugar did make a noticeable difference in sweetness. This was definitely compensated for by the icing, but if one was using a less sweet icing (or heaven forbid, none!), it might be worth adding a bit more.

The end result was sampled by at least a dozen different people and everyone loved it. Hope other people love it too 🙂

Sarah

More Applesauce Adventures

Well, having had several batches of Snickerdoodles, specifically applesauce flavoured ones, I find myself temporarily bored with them. So when we (Tristan and I) went to make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies last night, I was initially willing to just make regular cookies. But then I saw the 1 cup of butter, and 1 3/4 cups of sugar….and I just couldn’t do it. Out came the applesauce! We debated for awhile over how to change the ingredients. In the end we replaced 1/2 c butter, 1/4 c white sugar, and 3/4 c brown sugar, with just one cup of applesauce. (We did increase the chocolate chips by 1/2 c as well…but chocolate is way better than extra butter or sugar.)

Here’s the final recipe:

Whisk together:

  • 1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Beat in a large bowl until well blended:

  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 c unsweetened applesauce

Stir in the flour mixture. Stir in:

  • 1 1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 1/2 c rolled oats

Heat oven to 350. Grease the pan(s). Make into 1″ round balls, about 1.5″ apart. Bake until cookies are lightly browned all over, 12 to 14 minutes. Let stand briefly, then remove to a rack to cool.

The cookies are surprisingly non-apple-y, so that was a nice change from the snickerdoodles. They are pretty tasty, though it may be partially due to the high chocolate density. Also, we didn’t have rolled oats, so we used large flake quick oats instead. Unfortunately, the cookies turned out a little bit on the dry side; and, once again, they were very cake-y in texture.

I was very perplexed with all the cake-i-ness from the previous snickerdoodle experiments, so I did a bit of research(Thanks, Cooking for Geeks!) Anyway, what it came down to was things that produce air (acid base reactions) and things that trap the air in. Baking soda is a base, so it reacts with any acids in the dough to produce air. Flour (gluten) traps it in. What adding applesauce does, is not only does it distribute the reactants (baking soda and acids) better–it also adds more acid itself. (Baking powder is a self-contained reaction, it contains balanced amounts of acid and base.) The baking powder in this recipe was already reduced from 3/4 tsp to 1/4 tsp.

The next try will likely be to cut out all the baking powder, and reduce the baking soda as well. As for the dryness, it looks like cutting out a bit of flour may also be in order.

Enjoy!

Sarah