16 June 2012

Let's Have Cake

Wow!  Thank you to all who attended the “Desserts for the Often-Deserted” talk at the Lawrence Library.  Your willingness to share your stories and ask questions made the event more cozy and like a chat among friends, a dessert circle.

Photo: Ann Kerr
Photo: Ownie Mom

Photo: Ownie Mom

It was my parents’ anniversary yesterday, and when I asked my mom if she wanted an anniversary cake, she declared without hesitation, “Yes!”  The contemporary gift for a twenty-seventh wedding anniversary is sculpture, but since my brother and I weren’t about to commission a piece, we gave them a gift card to a restaurant in a sculpture garden instead.

Carrot Cake
Modified from Gordon, Elizabeth, “Moist Carrot Cake,” in Allergy-Free Desserts (New York: Wiley, 2010), 98-99.

1/4 cup ground flaxseed
3/4 cup water

1 cup King Arthur Flour Ancient Grains flour blend (or 1/2 cup sorghum flour + 1/2 cup teff flour)
1 cup brown rice flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup organic sugar
2/3 cup canola oil (1/3 sunflower oil +1/3 olive oil)
3/4 cup apple or pear puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups grated carrots (4 large or 7 skinny or 2 fat)
1 cup raisins or currants
1 cup walnuts, toasted and broken up

1 recipe vegan cream cheeze frosting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Pour walnuts onto a sheet of foil and toast in preheating oven for about 8 minutes.  Cut out parchment circles to fit in the bottoms of two nine-inch cake pans (fold parchment square into fourths, line up with middle of pan, trace curve, cut, and unfold).  Spray pan with non-stick spray, drop in parchment, and spray the parchment.  Alternatively, line two 12-well cupcake tins with paper liners.

In a small measuring cup, add water to flax and set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together flours, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt.
Check on those nuts.  Once they’re cooled somewhat, break them up with your hands.

In another bowl, cream the sugar, fruit puree, and oil with a hand mixer.  Add the dry ingredients and beat to combine.  Fold in the raisins and two-thirds of the nuts.
Transfer the batter to the pans and make sure it flows to the edges of the pans. 

Bake for 30-33 minutes or until the cakes have darkened in colour, they pass the toothpick test, and the centres are not wet to the touch.

Cool the cakes completely in the pan.  Cool cupcakes in the pan for five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. 

Do not attempt to frost when warm!  Seriously, cool the cakes, make the frosting, cool the frosting, and assemble at the last second if you have to.  It is not worth frosting a somewhat warm cake in order to cool the thing as a whole in the fridge.  It is better to have cooled every component separately than to try to “save time” by doing it all together.  Nuh-uh.

I stuck my cake layers in the 'fridge for about 10 minutes when they were only warm in the centre on the bottom.  I wanted to hurry along the cooling process because I had a pie to bake next and the kitchen was about to become unbearably hot on an already hot day.  In general, it is very unwise to put hot items in the refrigerator as the heat will raise the temperature of the surrounding items, possibly allowing for bacterial growth.  These layers weren't that warm.

When cakes are cool, transfer one layer to the serving plate and remove the parchment.  Spread frosting (or fruit preserves make good filling) across the top.  Stack the second layer on top.  Frost the top of that, then do the sides.  Crush the remaining walnuts and sprinkle across the top.  Chill before serving if you have the time.  Store in refrigerator, loosely covered with plastic wrap (that’s why you put nuts on top, to keep the plastic off) or in a cake saver.

I deliver this frosting recipe with caution.  My mother and I made it countless times without issue until recently.  I’m not sure if it’s our refrigerator temperature or kitchen temperature or what, but both the chocolate cream cheeze frosting my mother made (repurposed in a tart in an earlier post) and the orange-chocolate chip cream cheeze frosting I made yesterday failed to thrive, as it were.  I’ve made cream cheeze frosting with As I whipped the beejeebes out of it with the hand mixer on 10, the margarine and cream cheeze did not “take.”  Rather, they melted.  Now, this makes no sense UNLESS, since 2011, Tofutti, Trader Joe’s, and/or Earth Balance have changed their formulations of their margarine and cream cheese substitute products.  Annoying.  I made a batch just fine at my grandparents’ house on 1 June using Earth Balance coconut spread and yellow-label Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese; those would be my recommendations.

Cream Cheeze Frosting
Modified from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2006), 158.

1/4 cup vegan margarine, softened (regular stick or spread, soy-free, and coconut Earth Balance are all good choices)
1/4 cup vegan cream cheese, softened (but just barely; use Tofutti yellow label Better than Cream Cheese.  Both Trader Joe’s and the blue label Tofutti haven’t set up well or at all recently)
2 cups organic confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Optional: up to 1 cup soymilk powder or other non-dairy milk powder if your cream cheese substitute of choice fails miserably as it seems wont to do in 2012

Using a hand mixer with beaters or a stand mixer with whisk attachments, cream together margarine and cream cheese until just combined.  Sift in one cup of the powdered sugar and add the teaspoon of vanilla.  Fold in the sugar just to keep it from exploding when you beat it in.  Beat until combined.  Sift in second cup of sugar.  Fold in, then beat until fluffy and somewhat stiff.  Refrigerate, tightly covered, until ready to use.  If, despite your best efforts, the frosting is turning into soup, beat in soymilk powder, half a cup at a time, to get a sticky, stiff icing that’s better for drizzling or filling than for frosting.

Some shots of last year’s cakes from the same recipe.

Yesterday’s cake with orange chocolate chip cream cheeze icing, which was very tasty, despite being puzzlingly melty.

The un-setting frosting unsettles me.  I checked my records and last year my mom and I made carrot cake and red velvet cake topped with blue-label Tofutti cream cheese frosting.  Last September before SPX I made a carrot cake (this recipe) topped with cream cheese frosting made with yellow-label Tofutti and stick (not spread) Earth Balance margarine.  In all cases, I made the frosting in warm kitchens in the summer, and it set up just fine.  I am boggled—it’s enough to make a person turn to experimenting with whole food frostings, which is not a bad idea.  Like my ongoing piecrust experiments, I’m going to try to isolate one variable at a time.

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