Monday, April 28, 2008

Wedding Bells are Ringing...

Marriage. I guess it's what happens when you enter your mid-twenties, but it's still pretty weird. I was one of the first in my group of friends to do it, but it still weirds me out. We're dropping like flies! I got married at the end of last year (yes thats us in the picture to the left, yes we took professional picture with beer cans in our hands haha), a had two of my very favorite people in the world get married a few months before. My wonderful Jen got married a few months ago (On the Starship Enterprise!!!), I have a wedding in 20 days, I have a wedding in August, and I have another set of friends who got engaged on New Years Eve. Sheesh!

I think I have more wedding fever now then I ever did planing my own wedding! All these weddings have got me thinking about my favorite part of the wedding... cake. I won't be able to eat the cakes at most of these weddings-- eggs, butter, milk... yuck. Before I became a vegan most wedding cakes were still a no-no because of fondant (gelatin and glycerin were always on my "no" list). So you can imagine my joy when I found a vegan fondant recipe (PPK message boards for the win!)!

According to Wilton's personnel their glycerin is completely corn derived and their pre-made fondant is completely animal ingredient free! I wanted to try my hand at making my own fondant, but was so glad to hear the pre-made stuff is safe for animals of all shapes and sizes!

Following the advice of the PPK message bored I used Wilton's fondant recipe and replaced the gelatin with agar-agar powder. Worked like a charm! I've never worked with fondant before so I decided to do a small cake and make it like the top of a wedding cake. I kept my friend Jen (the Starship Enterprise) in mind while designing the cake. I wanted it to be simple but dramatic. I was planning out something pretty elaborate-- it wasn't really working on my average sized cake, so I wasn't too upset when my cat sat on it and I had to start over (okay thats a lie, I was pretty pissed, but whatever my cat is awesome)

I used the same cake recipe as I did for Ian's birthday cake. Instead of adding food coloring I added 1/4 cup mini carob chips to one batch of batter and 1/4 cup colored sprinkles to another batch. I ended up with 5 layers (we ate the 6th layer while watching a movie haha). I prepared the cake with a light layer of butter cream frosting (the same recipe I always use) before draping it in the fondant.
(As you can probably see from the picture, I forgot to layer the cakes in any sort of order so there are two chocolate chip layers on top of each other. Oh well!)

Here are the results. For my first time I'm pretty proud of it. It can only get better from here, right?
I marbled the fondant on the side by just patting the cake with a wet paper towel dipped in black food coloring (I use the gel type that comes in jars). Some of the shades came out a bit green-ish for some reason.

I made the marbled fondant roses by mixing in black food coloring in the white fondant-- but not fully mixing it in. The roses needed 24 hours to dry, so I made these the day before making the whole cake. The mini flowers were made with a small fondant color and lots of black dye fully mixed into fondant (also dried 24 hours). I used a small icing tip to put the white middles in the day I made the cake. The flowers were "glued" to the cake using vegan butter cream.

While it wasn't exactly as I had imagined it in my head, I think my first time playing with fondant was a success. I feel my original idea would have worked better with a taller, thinner cake-- so I may invest in some specialty sized pans soon.

A note, we had some friends over for pizza (made with Teese) and cake last night-- they enjoyed eating the fondant (I think it tastes disgusting) so maybe vegan fondant tastes better then regular? I've never heard of people actually enjoying the flavor of fondant!

Here's the fondant recipe in case you don't want to search around the Wilton site:

1 tablespoon (+2 teaspoons) agar agar
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup glucose
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (I used Earth Balance shortening sticks)
1 tablespoon glycerin (I used Wilton)
4-6 cups powdered sugar

Combine agar and cold water; let stand until thickened. Boil 5 minutes or until agar has dissolved. Remove from stove, add glucose and shortening, mix until dissolved. Add glycerin. Cool until lukewarm. Make a well in 4 cups of powdered sugar, pour the agar mixture into the well and stir with a wooden spoon, mixing in sugar. Add more sugar little by little until mixture is no longer sticky. Knead in remaining sugar until fondant is smooth, pliable and does not stick. If fondant is too soft/sticky add more sugar; if too stiff add water one small drop at a time.

When ready to use, knead fondant until soft and workable.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

This is the newest edition to my kitchen. Thanks to Jessie over at Cakespy! I'm just totally in love, I think it's fantastic! I messaged her about a wedding themed piece as a gift for my kitchen and this is what we came up with.

The line is from an ee cummings poem, one of which was very important in the beginning of my relationship with my husband. Falling in love is SCARY and this poem spoke to me due to my husband's work with birds of prey. I actually have a ridiculous phobia of birds, but they interest me (from afar... truly, hearing a bird "sing" makes me nauseas [yea, I'm crazy]). Eventually I began to refer to my husband as bird and it stuck!

I am just so thrilled with my new picture, so I thought I'd share!

I'm well on my way to making my own little photography studio for food, my EGO lights should make it here next week, so expect some stellar looking food in the next coming weeks!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Perfect Party Cake?

I, like most of us, have been hungrily eyeing all of the Daring Baker's 'Perfect Party Cake'. They've all been so beautiful! My husband's birthday was coming up and I decided to make MY version of the perfect party cake. It has the delicate layers from the 'Perfect Party Cake' but it's vegan AND has awesome colors. 'Cuz, at least in our household, it's not a party unless it's colorful and fun!
I was pleasantly surprised with how easy this was to make. My largest concern was my layers. I usually make cupcakes, not even usually... I haven't made a cake in 2+ years. I would LOVE to try and make multi-layer cupcakes... but that'll take more time then I have right now working two jobs. I was fearful that the layers would rise too much, making them uneven. I don't have a serrated knife and I didn't want to try and cut layer's even. So, I used a recipe that's actually disappointed me in the past due to it's lack of rising.

I was also worried about the amount of batter to put in each pan. As I've already mentioned I'm not too "up" on the cake baking and I ended up using a cupcake recipe for the batter. I decided to split the cupcake recipe in half and then add food coloring. To make sure I made a perfect spilt (because of my worry about the layers being even) I used a 1/3 measuring cup to spoon batter into each bowl. Ultimately both bowls ended up with a cup of batter each. Two cupcake recipes = four layers. I only have two 9" cake pans, so I baked two layers at a time.

I used 7 drops of food coloring for the red layer, 4 for the yellow layer, 8 for the blue (I was so worried about this layer coming out funky!) and 5 for the green layer. I am so happy the colors came out so vividly and the taste was not affected in the least!

I'm not the best cake decorator or the most artistic person on the planet, but I really wanted to use white frosting to insure the colors of the cake "popped". I doubled my frosting recipe to insure I had enough frosting for a "crumb layer" (which I had never heard of until I was an undergrad in college and read 'The Hours'... weird how my lit degree comes up in day to day life!). I used an ice cream scoop and a half of frosting between each layer (honestly I had to google search the correct order for the rainbow haha) and then used quite a bit of frosting on the outside of the cake (I once heard it's easier to take frosting off then to put it on). Then I put the cake in the fridge for about 30 minutes to allow the first layer of frosting to set a bit. When I was frosting the cake I wished I had a lazy susan and a larger spreader (all of mine are cupcake sized!) it would have made it much easier!

After the cake had set for awhile I frosted the rest. It is VERY homespun looking, but I did the best I could with what I had!
Of course my main concern wasn't the outside. I was nervous when cutting the cake that the colors wouldn't be great and my layers wouldn't look even... but when everyone oo-ed and ahh-ed (yeah we still do that) I was extremely happy with how it came out!Of course, by the time we got to cake cutting I was having more fun partying then taking time out to snap pictures, so these aren't great... but I am pretty proud of my rainbow plates matching my rainbow cake! So, on to the recipes!

As per usual (lately) I ripped off the recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (have you bought your copy yet???)

Golden Vanilla (Cup)Cake(s)

1 cup soy milk (I always bake with SILK even though it's not what we usually drink because SILK seems creamier in recipes)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons corn starch
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Earth Balance (non-hydrogenated margarine)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Whisk soy milk and apple cider vinegar in a glass bowl and set aside for a few minutes to allow it to curdle (I usually have great success with the curdling, but for whatever reason [it was cold in the house maybe?] it didn't curdle this time... but it didn't seem to effect the recipe)
3. Sift flour, corn starch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl.
4. In another large bowl use a mixer at medium speed to cream the margarine and sugar for about 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Then alternated the soy milk mixture and dry ingredients (I did this in three steps each).
*5. I sprayed my 9" cake pan with non-stick spray. Then scooped the batter into two separate bowls (I had put the drops of food coloring in the bottom of the bowls) and mixed well. They took about 12 minutes (I took my dog for a walk so I'm not positive on the time, oops) until finished. I cooled the pans in the fridge for a moment and then transfered the cakes onto a parchment lined plate to fully cool (the layers are a bit sticky so the parchment is a must). Repeat for the next two layers!

Vegan Fluffy Buttercream:
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening (I use Earth Balance brand)
1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted if clumpy
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup plain soy milk or soy creamer (I use SILK Hazelnut Creamer)

Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes. Add the vanilla and soy milk, beat another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy.

As I said before I made two separate batches of the frosting to frost the cake (I had a bit left over from the second batch).

The fancy cake was nicely complimented with Vegan Hotdogs and Tempeh Bang-Bang!