Moderate Midnight Chocolate Cake

Moderate Midnight Chocolate Cake

I do love a good sale, so Black Friday is loads of fun. What does that have to do with baking? For the purchase of baking pans, of course!

Bundt pans are very useful for high-altitude baking, so when they go on sale I scour the internet with glee. There are several 10-cup Bundt pans in my arsenal; it was time to get a more manageable 6-cup model.

With the smaller version in hand, I looked back at favorite Bundt pan recipes. My Midnight Chocolate Cake has always been well-liked, so I chose that for the new pan. Checking the recipes on Nordic Ware led to the tip that you can simply halve a full-sized recipe to use in the more petite pan. Whew! That makes things much easier.

When my hubby saw me making a half-sized version of the cake, he asked why. My response was a query of what would two people do with a large cake. His reply, “Eat it!” With that, I give you my sensibly-sized revision.

Moderate Midnight Chocolate Cake

Shortening, to grease pan
1/2 cup cocoa powder (packed tightly) + extra to dust pan
1 cup + 3 tablespoons boiling water
1.25 teaspoons instant coffee
1.25 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt, depending on how salty your butter is
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup vegan butter (at room temperature)
1.5 cups organic cane sugar
1/2 cup pureed silken tofu
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Vanilla pastry cream and crushed peppermint candies, for decoration

Preheat the oven to 350F. Use shortening to grease a 6-cup bundt pan then dust the inside with cocoa powder. Set aside.

Mix boiling water with 1/2 cup cocoa powder and instant coffee and whisk well. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, sift together the flours, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and tofu. Alternate adding cupfuls of dry ingredients then cocoa liquid to the creamed butter mixture. Scrape down the sides as needed. Add vanilla and beat until fluffy.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out with a few specks clinging to it.

Let cool for 15 minutes in the pan set on a wire rack. Gently loosen the center and cake edges from the pan using a small spatula. Invert the pan onto a wire rack and let the cake sit for 20 minutes.

To unmold, pick up the rack with the pan on top and lightly tap both on the counter to loosen the cake. Remove the pan from atop the cake and place the rack on the counter to allow the cake to cool completely. Once cooled, decorate the cake as desired.

Until next time, happy baking!

Snicker Bar Sugar Cookies

snicker bar sugar cookies
snicker bar sugar cookies

October means only one thing to some people … Halloween candy! I often make candy to celebrate the season, but I found an idea for a new tasty treat. This was the year for cookies reminiscent of the flavors of a candy bar.

My holiday sugar cookies have a simple dough, so they make a great base for additional flavors. Peanuts, dates, and chocolate can mimic the tastes of a Snicker Bar, so adding chopped dates and peanut pieces to the dough then dipping the cookies in chocolate makes a wonderful cookie-meets-candy-bar.

My recipe was already high altitude and vegan, of course, but I made a few tweaks to accommodate a drop cookie. I also made a chocolate dipping sauce and sprinkled crushed peanuts on the dipped cookie. Halloween candy has nothing on this decadent delight!

Snicker Bar Sugar Cookies inspired by Vegan Snickers Cookies

4 tablespoon non-dairy milk, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
2.25 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1.5 sticks vegan butter, at cool room temperature (I used Country Crock)
1/4 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon brown sugar
1.5 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 soft medjool dates, pitted and chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted peanuts, chopped and divided
3 ounces vegan dark chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine non-dairy milk and vinegar. Let sit for 15 minutes to curdle.

Place the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in medium bowl. Whisk together, then set aside.

Place the vegan butter and both sugars into the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until well-combined and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the vinegar-milk mixture and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the flour-leaveners mixture and mix on low until incorporated. Stir in the dates and 4 tablespoons of peanuts.

Place the bowl of dough in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to stiffen. After 10 minutes, scoop out balls of dough the size of walnuts then place them on the baking sheets. Flatten the balls with the bottom of a measuring cup.

Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until cookies are set and beginning to brown on the edges. Let cookies cool for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cookies cool, melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a double boiler set on the stove. Dip the cooled cookies, one at a time, into the melted chocolate. Let the chocolate go halfway up each cookie. Place the dipped cookies on a wire rack set over a piece of parchment paper (to catch the drips). Before the chocolate sets, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of peanuts over the melted chocolate on the cookies. Let the cookies sit until the chocolate has fully cooled. Makes 25 cookies.

Until next time, happy baking!

Vegan Honey Mini Cakes for a Sweet New Year

vegan honey mini cakes
vegan honey mini cakes

This week was a celebration of the Jewish New Year. The tradition is to eat honey cakes at this time to ensure sweetness in the upcoming year. Because honey is not a vegan food, vegan bakers can turn to a honey substitute to have a sweet new year.

I have a honey-like syrup in my files from my “A Sweet New Year Apple Muffins,” so I went in search of a honey cake recipe that I could use it in. What I found was perfect because the spices in the cake would go well with the fruit in the vegan honey. Also, the cake was already vegan, but I amped it up by using my own egg substitute described in “Super Flegg – A Perfect Egg Substitute.”

Next I put the high altitude spin on it by adding flour and liquid (in the form of applesauce), then reduced the leaveners. The batter was divvied into mini cake pans to help with rise issues caused by altitude, but that had an added bonus. I now had several mini cakes so each person could have their own tasty treat to enjoy while ringing in the new year.

Vegan Honey Mini Cakes for a Sweet New Year adapted from Vegan Honey Cake for Rosh Hashanah

for the vegan honey
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/8 cup pure maple syrup
1/8 cup agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon vegan sugar
1/2 organic orange, thinly sliced
1/2 organic lemon, thinly sliced
for the cakes
1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
3 tablespoons aquafaba (the liquid from a can of chickpeas)
1.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1.25 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup raisins, optional

To make the vegan honey, combine the syrups and sugar in a medium saucepan with high sides. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add the sliced fruit. Lower the heat and cook at a low boil for 15 minutes, stirring a few times. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain a low boil. Once a syrupy consistency is reached, pour the liquid through a mesh strainer into a heat-safe measuring cup, discarding the fruit. If you do not have 1/2 cup of syrup, then add agave syrup to reach that amount. Set aside to cool.

For the cakes, preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour the cups of a mini cakes pan, or a muffin tin.

Prepare the super flegg by putting the ground flaxseeds and the aquafaba in a small bowl and stirring well. Set aside to thicken.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves into a large bowl. Place the applesauce, oil, vanilla, vegan honey, and super flegg into a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine. Stir in the raisins, if using.

Divide the batter among the cups of the pan you are using. Do not fill the wells completely or your cakes will overflow while baking. Bake for 18 to 23 minutes, depending on the pan used, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out with a few small crumbs. Place the baking pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then tip the cakes onto a wire rack to fully cool.

Until next time, Happy New Year and happy baking!

Chocolate Shell for Ice Cream

chocolate shell for ice cream
chocolate shell for ice cream

We are nearing the end of Plant Milk Week. I hope you enjoyed the journey from the origins of World Plant Milk Day, to advice for making milk at home, and through to a soup that obtains its creaminess from plant-based milk.

Plant milk is also an important ingredient in vegan ice cream, as I’ve demonstrated in my posts for Coffee Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches and Cookies and Cream Vegan Ice Cream. I show how to make ice cream with your homemade plant milk, but to complete this excursion I decided to provide a chocolate shell to dress up the ice cream.

If you are unfamiliar with this ice cream topping, you may have heard it called Magic Shell. Why is it magic? Because the liquid chocolate hardens on ice cream as if by magic. The chocolatey, oily dip gets its “instant-hardening ability from oils like coconut and sunflower that are high in saturated fat. As temperature drops, saturated fats harden, and coconut oil in particular turns firm, almost glassy, when cold,” according to Serious Eats.

So, dish up some vegan ice cream (DIY or store-bought), pour this chocolate shell over it, and have fun cracking the coating so that you can reach the luscious frozen dessert underneath.

Chocolate Shell for Ice Cream

8 ounces vegan bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons refined coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the chocolate and oil in a large bowl and set the bowl above water simmering in a pot. (This is the double boiler method for melting chocolate.) Be sure that no water or steam gets into the bowl. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and let the contents come to room temperature. Stir in the vanilla. Serve over very cold ice cream. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

curried sweet potato soup
curried sweet potato soup

Okay, I know that soup isn’t baked, and you may be wondering why I am posting a soup recipe here. Well, my last blog showed how to make homemade plant-milk and I wanted to offer a way to use that milk.

In the post “Chai Spiced Milk and DIY Plant-Milk Tips,” I mention that you can get thicker milk by changing the nuts to water ratio. Denser plant-milks make wonderfully creamy soups, and this soup is a shining example of that.

A local restaurant makes a curry sweet potato soup that I adore so I sought to recreate it. I found a recipe using powdered curry, but I find that the concentrated paste has a more bold flavor. And I like bold flavor.

Curried Sweet Potato Soup adapted from Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup

1 cup raw cashews (no need to soak)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, rough chopped *
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 garlic cloves, rough chopped *
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed *
1/2 cup butternut squash or carrots, peeled and cubed *
2-3 tablespoons green curry paste, depending on the strength of the brand used
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1/2 tablespoon Thai basil, chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted, for garnish

Place the cashews and water into a high speed blender and blend until almost smooth. Set aside. (No need to clean the blender yet; you’ll use it again soon).

Warm the oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and salt and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the sweet potatoes, squash or carrots, and curry paste. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the broth and coconut milk. Stir in the cashew milk you set aside.

Cover the pot and bring to a simmer. Add the Thai basil, if using. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Carefully transfer the soup to your high speed blender and puree to desired thickness. Put the mixture back in the pot and warm it over a low heat until heated through.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds.

* You don’t need to finely chop any of the ingredients as you will be blending the cooked soup.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Chai Spiced Milk and DIY Plant-Milk Tips

Chai Spiced Milk and DIY Plant-Milk Tips
chai spiced milk and DIY plant-milk tips

I’m still celebrating World Plant-Milk Day (or Week, as the case may be). If you’re new to the event, and wondering what I’m talking about, then catch my post from earlier this week. If you’re ready for some advice on making your own plant milk, then read on.

Tips for the best homemade plant-milk:

  • The ratio for making nut or seed milk is 1 part nuts/seeds to 3 parts water. Use less water if you desire a thicker, richer beverage.
  • Soaking the nuts or seeds beforehand makes them easier to digest and softens them for blending.
  • Storing pre-soaked nuts or seeds in the freezer allows you to make milk at a moment’s notice.
  • You can strain your blended nut/seed milk with a nut milk bag. (I’ve heard that paint strainer bags also work but I haven’t tried them). Alternatively, use cashews as your base because they blend in fully and don’t need to be strained out.
  • Homemade plant-milk stored in the fridge between 35 and 41ºF should last up to 5 days (according to VeganMilker).

You can make plant-milk as neutral-tasting as possible so it can be used in sweet or savory dishes. But it’s also fun to add flavorings to the blender for an instant, delicious beverage. Being a huge fan of chai lattes, I like adding chai spices to my milk and either heating it on the stove or adding ice for cool refreshment.

Chai Spiced Milk

3.5 cups water (filtered is best), divided
1 cup raw cashews
4-5 pitted dates
1/8 teaspoon clove powder
1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, optional
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch sea salt

Boil 3 cups of water. Add the cashews to a bowl and cover with 1 cup boiled water. Add the dates to a small bowl and cover with 1 cup boiled water. Add the spice powders to a small bowl and cover with 1 cup boiled water. Let the three bowls sit for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour.

Strain the cashews and add them to the jug of a high-speed blender. Add the dates and their soaking water to the blender. Add the spiced water to the blender. Add the vanilla, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup water to the blender. Blend on high until smooth and frothy.

Serve over ice, or gently heat in a pot on the stove over medium-low heat until warm. Serves 2.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

World Plant Milk Day Celebrated with Easy Plant Milk Recipe

World Plant Milk Day and Easy Plant Milk Recipe
World Plant Milk Day and Easy Plant Milk Recipe

Happy World Plant Milk Day! So, what is World Plant Milk Day?

According to the website National Today, the day is “a worldwide campaign to transition from consuming whole fat milk to plant-based milk. Health experts, environmental activists, and some industry experts campaign and encourage people to learn about plant-based milk and how they won’t be missing out on taste or nutrition (because) plant-based milk is rich in nutrients.”

When the holiday was created in 2017, it was a chance to motivate people to switch from dairy milk to plant-based versions. At that time there were quite a few milks with plant ingredients, which was considerably more than when I ditched dairy in the 1990s.

Currently there is an abundance of plant-based milks to choose from in most markets, so using it instead of animal milk is easy. You will find plant-derived milks made from all manner of nuts and seeds, including hazelnuts and sunflower seeds. Milk alternatives are also based on oats, soy, rice, coconut, hemp, peas, and bananas (yes, I said bananas).

But, you don’t have to go out and buy milk just for today’s celebration. If you have a jar of nut or seed butter in your cupboard then you are on your way to enjoying the easiest milk ever. All it takes is 1 tablespoon of nut (or seed) butter to 1 cup of water. Blend the two ingredients in a high-speed blender for almost a minute until the mixture is creamy and well incorporated.

Some tips: use a creamy (not chunky) nut butter and filtered water for best results. You can also flavor your beverage by adding 1/2 teaspoon of liquid sweetener, a dash of vanilla, and a pinch of salt before blending. If you are daring, or live with a chocoholic like I do, then add 1/2 ounce of cocoa powder and a smidge more sweetener for a chocolate milk with no additives or strange sounding ingredients.

Not only is today, August 22, the opportunity to try plant-based milk. But on World Plant Milk Day’s website they encourage you to switch to plant-based milk for a week with their 7 day dairy-free challenge. So, come back to my blog throughout the week and I’ll offer tips and recipes involving plant-based milk to help make your challenge less challenging.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Image courtesy of phasinphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Chocolate Crispy Rice Treat Cake

Chocolate Crispy Rice Treat Cake
Chocolate Crispy Rice Treat Cake

Argh! It’s still too darned hot to turn on the oven. But I won’t let that stop me from enjoying an indulgent treat. Rice crispy treats are a good one to turn to when the weather is a scorcher.

A quick online search pulled up a crispy rice treat from Soom Foods. The recipe was already vegan and no-bake, so the changes I made were based on what I had in the cupboard. I didn’t have their vanilla bean tahini, but I had the chocolate flavored one, so I used that and added vanilla extract. If you only have regular tahini, then add cocoa powder and liquid sweetener along with the vanilla.

Also, I have learned that most rice treat recipes have more cereal than I can stir in so I change the amount. A tip for you is to add the required amount in slowly and stop when you start crushing the cereal with your stirring. My recipe is 1/2 cup less than listed in the original because that is when I began smashing the cereal.

Another tip I can offer is for how to clean your dirty pot when you are done preparing the dessert. The marshmallow mixture is gooey when warm, but it will harden as it cools and stick with fierce determination. Try adding water to the pot and set it to boil for a few minutes on the stove. Let it cool just enough so that you won’t burn yourself. Proceed with your cleaning; the goo should have released making the job is easier.

As I have several rice cereal treat bar recipes on the blog, I decided to make this one more glamorous and decadent. Instead of a sheet of bars, I removed my treat as one piece and decorated it with frosting. Now you have a crispy rice treat cake that is suitable for any occasion.

Chocolate Crispy Rice Treat Cake adapted from Vegan Vanilla Tahini Crispy Rice Treats

for the cereal treat
3 tablespoons vegan butter, plus a little extra to grease the pan
1½ tablespoons Soom Chocolate Tahini
1 10-ounce bag vegan marshmallows
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch fine sea salt
4 ½ cups crispy brown rice cereal
for the frosting
1/4 cup vegan powdered sugar
1/4 cup Soom Chocolate Tahini
1/4 cup coconut cream (the thick stuff, not the liquid)

Line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper, then grease the paper with a bit of vegan butter. Set aside.

Melt the 3 tablespoons vegan butter in a large pot over low heat. Once melted, stir in the tahini. Add the marshmallows, stirring constantly until the mixture is well blended. Add the water and stir until everything has melted together.

Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Add the rice cereal to the pot and stir to coat the cereal with the marshmallow mixture. Press the cereal mixture into the prepared pan, flattening out the top. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip together the powdered sugar, 1/4 cup Soom Chocolate Tahini, and coconut cream. Place the bowl in the fridge for 15 minutes to allow the frosting to firm up. When firm, scoop the frosting into a piping bag fitted with a star tip.

To assemble, flip the cake pan over onto a plate. Remove the pan then remove the parchment paper from the cereal treat. Pipe the frosting on as desired.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Vegan Espresso Date Shake

vegan espresso date shake
vegan espresso date shake

With a scorcher of a weekend imminent, it’s time to turn off the oven (no baking??) and bring out the blender. Thoughts of blended beverages has my imagination conjuring up frosty glasses filled with cool drinks. But then, an old memory surfaces.

When I was a child my family visited Hadley Fruit Orchards in California. I remember ogling seemingly endless displays of dried fruit and fresh nuts. And beyond these tempting shelves was a cafe where they scooped up their (in)famous date shake.

Fortunately Hadley’s website has a post for this date-sweetened concoction so I don’t have to leave the recipe up to my sketchy memory (I did say it was when I was young). The recipe is good, but to make it my own I veganize it with non-dairy versions of milk and ice cream, and I add espresso. I’m glad for this addition because now I know that espresso and dates are a delectable combination.

Vegan Espresso Date Shake based on Hadley’s Famous Date Shake

1/4 cup non-dairy milk
1/4 cup fresh espresso, cooled
1/8 cup date paste
1.5 cups non-dairy vanilla ice cream
toppings, optional: non-dairy whipped cream. fresh strawberries, mini chocolate chips

Add all ingredients, except toppings, to the jug of a blender. Blend until creamy. Garnish with toppings. Makes 2 small drinks or 1 generous drink.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches

vegan ice cream sandwiches
vegan ice cream sandwiches

While I was shopping recently I decided that it was so hot that I deserved a treat for running errands in extreme conditions. Sauntering over to the frozen foods section, I spied vegan ice cream sandwiches. They seemed like the perfect snack — until I looked at the price. They were over $5 each. Each!

Armed with the ingredients needed to construct them myself, I returned home to my kitchen. A quick recipe search brought up a biscuit that would be soft enough to mold into a sandwich but sturdy enough to contain ice cream. And a look around my cupboard revealed mini chocolate chips for decoration.

Cookies do not generally require high altitude changes, so that wasn’t an issue. However, the recipe I found was not vegan; it didn’t even list ingredients found in an American market. So, I set out to adapt it to my needs. I lightly ground my oats in a food processor to closer resemble the porridge oats called for in the recipe, then I did the same with my vegan sugar so it would be like caster sugar. Vegan versions were brought in for butter and milk replacements.

The final change was to make the cookies a bit larger so they would make decent-sized sandwiches. This meant they needed to cook longer, but I kept an eye on them to see what the new time would be. The result was a wonderfully chewy cookie that was the ideal backdrop for both my vanilla and chocolate ice creams. I’m ready next time the extreme heat rolls in.

Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches with cookies adapted from Oat Biscuits

for the cookies
75 grams old fashioned rolled oats
50 grams vegan sugar
75 grams vegan butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons non-dairy milk
75 grams whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
for sandwich assembly
vegan ice cream
garnishes: mini vegan chocolate chips, vegan sprinkles, or chopped nuts

for the cookies:
Heat the oven to 350F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Lightly chop the oats in a mini-food processor until the oats are broken down in half. Place the oats in a bowl. Place the sugar in the food processor and grind it until it is less coarse but not until it is powdered. Add the sugar to the bowl of oats and set aside.

Put the butter, maple syrup, and milk in a small pan and heat gently until the butter melts. Take the pan off the heat and stir until the ingredients are combined. Set aside.

Sift the flour into a large bowl. Whisk in the baking powder and oat-sugar mixture. Pour the melted butter mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.

Place scoops of batter onto the baking sheet and shape it into round cookies. The batter is wet so the cookies need to be coaxed into rounds. The cookies also need to be spaced apart as they will spread a bit more.

Bake for 15-17 minutes or until the sides are firm and the bottoms are golden brown. Move the parchment paper with the cookies to a wire rack. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 8-10 cookies, depending on how big you want your sandwiches.

ice cream sandwich components
ice cream sandwich components

for sandwich assembly:
Remove the ice cream from the freezer while the cookies are cooling. When the ice cream is soft enough to scoop but not runny, spread large spoonfuls of it onto a flipped over cookie. Place another cookie on top to complete the sandwich. Take a garnish and push it into the ice cream along the sides of the sandwich. Repeat until all cookies are made into sandwiches. Place the sandwiches on a tray in the freezer for 15-30 minutes to firm up.

Until next time, happy baking!