Category Archives: Cakes

Vegan Coconut Apple Spice Cake

The perfect snack for a nice fall day!

Before I talk about how to make Vegan Coconut Apple Spice Cake, allow me a little blathering. I try to post a new recipe once a week, and usually on the weekend. However, this past week I’ve been recovering from some medical stuff and have been napping extra much to recover my strength. All of which is to explain why this week’s post is a few days (cough*week*cough) late! It’s also a particularly easy recipe, and vegan to boot! Whether you’re eating a plant-based diet because it’s healthy, or because it’s easy to make from pantry ingredients, I definitely recommend this recipe for some easy, healthy, and (very importantly) TASTY fall flavour!

I took my basic vegan spice cake recipe and added apples for some extra nutrients and because it’s apple season right now, here in Ontario, Canada. I also added in some coconut, just to change up the flavours a bit, and also because I had some in my pantry that I wanted to use up. And voila, Vegan Coconut Apple Spice Cake was born!

This snack cake is easy to bake, freeze, and pack for lunches. It’s also delicious sprinkled with icing sugar and served with tea, if that’s your jam. You can make it in a cake pan and serve it in wedges, bake it in a square pan and serve in square pieces, or even bake it in muffin cups for a grab and go breakfast that’s guilt-free. It’s super-versatile, in other words.

Let’s get to making this delicious snack cake!

Vegan Coconut Apple Spice Cake

  • 1/2 c. shredded coconut
  • 2 apples, peeled and chopped (I used Gala, but McIntosh would be fine too)
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. each: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. vinegar
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/4 c. oil

Mix together wet ingredients and in a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Then add wet to dry and mix until just moistened (you’ll see some foaming action as the vinegar hits the baking soda). Do not overbeat. There WILL be lumps, and that’s ok! Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.

It took me less than 15 minutes to mix up the batter for this cake and pop it in the oven, including the time to peel and chop the apples. Easy peasy apple squeezy, right? This means it’s easy to mix together on a weeknight. Or weekend. Or basically, anytime. Let there be cake!

Next Post: I’ve been making multiple batches of broccoli cheddar soup lately, so I think I’ll share my reduced fat recipe with you! It’s extra-full of vitamins and taste but lower on the fat. Guilt free yumminess, woohoo!

Easy Cacti Cupcakes, Because Succulents are Super-Trendy

Plant lady is the new cat lady. Intrigued? Read on!

I love cupcakes, I love buttercream, and I love a good challenge in the kitchen, so when I saw a picture of some Cacti Cupcakes recently, I thought “I can do that!” And decided to craft my own version. So yes, that’s this week’s recipe! Easy Cacti/Succulent Cupcakes! To be specific, spice cake cupcakes with coconut buttercream frosting. Yum, yum, YUM!!!

I read somewhere recently, that “Plant lady is the new cat lady”, and a) burst out laughing and b) was struck by the truth of it. What am I talking about? Well, lately it seems that succulents are all the rage with the younger (or youngish) crowd. If you are on Instagram (or Insta, as the young’uns say, IG for short), you can’t get away from all the photos of succulents, especially in geometric shaped planters. There’s  a ‘hens and chicks’ succulent pic here, a ‘mother of thousands’ succulent pic there…and then a ‘wandering dude’ plant in the corner, just to round things out.

I’m young enough that I follow trends in things like nail design (I just got my nails did, in a glamorous yet impractical almond-tipped shape), but old enough that I’m more of a cat lady than a plant lady, despite the many plants I have in my home (although to be honest, while succulents are trendy now, cats are kind of universal and will never fall out of fashion. Who doesn’t love a purring kitten?). Nevertheless, I jumped on the design trend, and decided that I wanted to try crafting some cacti in buttercream.

And you can too! It only takes three different icing tips (Wilton 104, 7, and 352) to make these designs.  Shall we? (Honestly, it’s easier than it seems. Don’t be intimidated by how much I’ve typed — I can be verbose at times — and try making these cupcakes yourself!)

My faves! Wilton tips 352 and 104.

Easy Cacti/Succulent Cupcakes

  • 1 batch spice cake batter
  • 1 c. graham cracker crumbs (I used chocolate because that’s what I had, but regular ones would likely imitate sand better)
  • 1 batch coconut buttercream frosting
  • green, pink, and yellow food colouring
  • Wilton tips: 104, 7, and 352
  • plastic piping bags
  • two ice cream cones (the wafer type, not sugar cones)

Bake the cupcakes and let cool. Frost the tops lightly with frosting, and press the iced tops into a bowl of the cookie crumbs, making sure all the buttercream is covered in crumbs. Congrats, you’ve just created the Mojave dessert in cupcake form!

Take two spoonfuls of buttercream and place them in a bowl with two drops of pink food colouring and mix to create the pink buttercream that you will be using for the pink flowered cacti. Then do the same with yellow food colouring to create yellow buttercream. With the remaining buttercream, add enough green food colouring to create the shade of green that you want.

Now, you can decide which cacti/succulents to make.

Wilton tips 7, 352, and 104.

For the spiky tipped cacti, take an ice cream cone, and cut it into two horizontally, where the cone widens. Place the bottom of the cone upside down on a cupcake, and place the top of the cone on top (it will drop down, forming a ring around the base). This gives you a shape to pipe onto, because if we tried to create the entire thing from buttercream, it would be too heavy to support itself (and also, that’s too much buttercream for anyone, even ME!). Using Wilton tip 7, pipe little spikes all over the ice cream cone shape, until the entire thing is covered in little spikes. BAM! You’ve just created a buttercream cacti, yo’! You be talented!

For the flower-topped cacti, use Wilton tip 352, and little spiky leaves in a large circle (not touching in the centre) and then build up layer after layer of leaves on top of each other, each layer in a slightly narrower circle than the previous one, until you’ve created a little plant.

To make little flowers, just google ‘how to pipe an icing rose’ on youtube, and you’ll see a million and three videos just like this one. Try making a flower yourself using tip 104 — they’re super-easy, and look super-fancy! The tutorials usually tell you to use a piping nail, but you could use a very small metal bowl turned upside down, or even just a small square of parchment paper. The piping nail makes it easier, but it’s not crucial.

Once you’ve made the flower, place it on top of your succulents, using a pair of scissors (what a weird, yet useful, technique, yes?). You can see this technique in the video that I’ve linked to, just above. Such a pretty cupcake, yes?

To make the long-lined cacti, take the bottom half of a ice cream cone (using the same cutting technique as before), and ice lightly in green buttercream. Stick on top of a cupcake. Using the same Wilton leaf tip (352) that you used before, angle the tip and pipe thick lines all the way up and down the cone. Then top with a flower. Now that’s a tasty cacti!

All packaged up and ready to be delivered! (This was actually a custom order.)

If you’ve never used piping tips before, they’re honestly not as intimidating as they might seem. I encourage you to pick up a few and play with them! You’ll find that they up your cupcake game, and garner you lots of compliments!

Kitchen Hack: If you don’t have piping bags, you can create a temporary one by reinforcing a Ziploc baggie with packing tape all over to reinforce the seams. (I tried it first without reinforcing the seams, and WHOOSH! Buttercream all over my hands. Learn from my mistake and reinforce the baggie.) Cut the tip off of a corner and place a tip inside the baggie, with the pointing end of the tip just coming out of the corner that you snipped. Et voila! You’ve successfully hacked yourself a piping bag!

Next Post: Hmm. How about a Coconut Apple Spice Cake recipe? Or should I save that for later, and do something hearty to balance out my buttercream posts? Let me know in the comments!

Linking up at Meal Plan Monday! And at Happiness is Homemade!

Coconut Buttercream Frosting, Plus How I Develop Flavour Combinations

Bubblicious! Also coconutty. And chocolatey. Basically, just fork it up, ’cause it’s just plain yummy!

This Coconut Buttercream Frosting is basically a coconut mouthgasm. Not even kidding, every time someone tried this, their reaction was “Mmmmmffff!” (That’s a happy moan, btw). The magical combination of buttercream and coconut was a happy accident for me, but it’s one that I’ve now made a staple in my icing stable (try saying that three times fast!) and people are always happy to bite into a cupcake topped with this delicious concoction.

Speaking of concoctions, I made chocolate mini cupcakes, then topped them with this coconut buttercream frosting, and then topped that with pearlized gumballs. That’s right, I mixed chocolate, coconut, and bubblegum flavours…and it was a hit! Sometimes there’s just no way of knowing whether a flavour combination will be tasty until you try it.

And you should definitely try making the Coconut Buttercream Frosting!

COCONUT BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 1/3-1/2 c. coconut oil, room temperature
  • 3 1/2 c. icing sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Whip butter and coconut oil together until thoroughly mixed. Add in icing sugar and vanilla, and mix until combined. Beat on high for at least 10 minutes (this is what makes it super-fluffy and increases the volume of icing). Spoon into piping bag (or spread on a cake with an offset spatula), and enjoy everyone’s happy mouth-gasms!

If you’re a dedicated reader (and I’m sure you all are, right? RIGHT?) you’ll recognize that it’s just a variation of one of my pillar content recipes: The Only Buttercream Recipe You’ll Ever Need. In fact, it can even be played with a bit to make Vegan Coconut Buttercream Frosting, perhaps on top of my Vegan Spice Cake! But that’s a post for another day!

As I said, I topped mini chocolate cupcakes with this (made with my fave chocolate cake recipe) and then topped that with pearlized gumballs because they were just so cute. But you could easily make a triple-layer chocolate cake, ice it with this icing, and then sprinkle shredded sweetened coconut on it, for a Chocolate and Double-Coconut Cake! See how easy it is to combine flavours? I encourage you to play around with flavours yourself. What’s the oddest flavour combination you’ve ever tried, that actually tasted good? Let me know in the comments!

Next Post: Either Coconut Apple Spice Cake (totes lunchbag worthy), or Buttercream Succulent-Topped Cupcakes (totes Instagram worthy). Any preferences? Both are delicious. 

Linking up at Meal Plan Monday!

Cake Icing 101, Plus How to Make Ganache in a Pinch

 

Drool worthy! Maybe fork worthy is a better term. Either way, get in my mouth

This cake-decorating post is coming a week later than planned, as I was away on vacay last weekend. I had thought that I could get the post out beforehand, but then I had minor surgery before we left of vacation, so that put paid to that. As much as I know that you all live for my posts (what, you don’t?), I thought my blog would survive even if I missed a week. So my apologies, mea culpa, and here is this week’s post: Cake Icing 101, and how to make ganache in a pinch!

Icing a cake can be intimidating to a lot of people, but once you know the steps, it’s easy to make a cake that looks at least semi-professional. Once you’ve read this post, you should be able to make a cake that will elicit oohs and ahhs from anyone who sees and eats it!

First off, let me give you my top 3 tips to ice a cake and to make a mean buttercream!

CAKE ICING 101

  • Tips & Tricks to Icing a Cake
    • Half freeze cake before icing; this reduces the chance of the cake breaking during icing as well as reducing the number of crumbs that you’ll get coming off the cake while icing.
    • Do a crumb coat. This is what ices down any loose crumbs, and a major step in making a cake look professional.
    • Use a Wilton 1M tip – this is the best tip to use to get those gorgeous professional swirls!
  • Tips and Tricks to Make a Better Icing
    • Butter tastes better, but shortening makes it fluffier and easier to ice. I suggest using my Best Ever Buttercream recipe, as it combines both for a tasty and easy to pipe icing.
    • Also, beat your icing for a long time! This incorporates a lot of air into the icing, and makes it easier to spread.
    • Spread the icing on the cake using an offset spatula. This is one of the few kitchen tools that is hard to substitute, so if you want to ice cakes, it’s worth the investment!

Full disclosure, I did not use a 1M icing tip for this post. I left my only 1M tip at a friend’s house a few weeks ago when I was icing cookies with her son, and haven’t had a chance to either get it back or buy a new one. So do as I say, not as I do! Seriously, using a 1M tip will make any piping you do look professional. If you take away nothing else from this post, just remember to use a Wilton 1M tip!

Now, let’s whip up some chocolate buttercream, and get to icing a fancy-pants cake!

CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM

  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 1/3 c. vegetable shortening
  • 3 1/2 c. icing sugar
  • 1 c. cocoa
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Whip butter and shortening together until thoroughly mixed. Add in icing sugar, cocoa, and vanilla, and mix until combined. Beat on high for at least 10 minutes.

Want me some cake right now!

HOW TO MAKE & ICE A FANCY-PANTS CAKE

  1. Grease two cake pans with cake release spread (aka GOOP).
  2. Make a batch of chocolate cake batter. I highly recommend this one (it has the fluffiness of a box mix cake, but is 100% preservative-free).
  3. Pour batter into greased pans and bake a la recipe directions (likely about 350 degrees for about 25 minutes). Only bake until the top of the cake springs back when you poke it lightly with a finger. Don’t overbake, or the cake will be dry! That said, you can rescue an overly dry cake by brushing it with a simple syrup solution once cooled. But it’s easier to just avoid over-baking it in the first place.
  4. Once removed from oven, let cakes sit in pans for about 2 minutes, then invert over a cooling tray. Since you’ve used my fabulous GOOP recipe, the cakes will fall out of the pan super-duper easily!
  5. Let cakes cool until room temperature.
  6. Wrap cakes up individually in plastic wrap and freeze for several hours to overnight.
  7. Remove cake layers from freezer. On a flat cake plate, put a dab of buttercream in the centre, and centre the first cake layer on the tab of icing. This helps ensure the cake won’t slide around when you’re icing it.
  8. Slap on a bunch of icing onto that cake layer, spread it out evenly, and place the second cake layer on top.
  9. Slap a thin layer of icing onto the top layer, and spread it out. Smooth a thin layer of icing onto the sides of the cake, to make the crumb coat.
  10. Stick the crumb-coated cake into the fridge for at least half an hour.
  11. Spread the remaining buttercream  (less 3/4 c.) on the sides and top of the cake. Don’t worry about making it look perfect.
  12. Using a ruler held vertically against the cake (or, if you’re like me and can’t find your ruler, a stiff piece of straight-edged cardboard in a plastic baggie), rotate the cake plate. This will smooth the icing on the sides, and is a big step in making that cake look professional. Don’t worry about smoothing the top too TOO much, as we’re going to be covering the top with ganache!
  13. Chill the cake for at least 30 minutes.
  14. Make your ganache (recipe below) and pour in small circle on the top of the cake. It will start to run down the sides and give it a lusciously drippy chocolate look. Who doesn’t love dripping chocolate?
  15. Using your 1M tip and an icing/pastry bag (or a plastic baggie in a pinch), pipe little rosettes on the top of the cake around the edge. You can also pipe a little edging on the bottom of the cake if you want. You do you, boo!
  16. Stick some decoration on top of the rosettes of icing: chocolate-covered espresso beans, molded chocolates, chocolate wafers, chocolate-dipped strawberries, chunks of chocolate bar…anything you want, really!
  17. Present the cake to your friends, family, or co-workers, and be prepared for compliments! Bask in the oohs, ahhs, and impressed murmurs when you tell them you made it yourself. Ahhh… 🙂

Now about that ganache. Ganache is made using chocolate and cream. Usually, it’s a ratio of 2 to 1; 2 cups chocolate for every 1 c. of cream used. You heat the cream and stir in the chocolate until melted. Yum! But…I didn’t have any cream in the house, and I wanted to finish up the cake to send into work with the DH. (Also, I wanted a slice. I cannot lie.) What to do?

Well, I don’t call myself the Queen of Substitutions for nothing! I just followed my like-replaces-like principle that I talk about in my free e-book (This for That: Easy Kitchen Swaps & Hacks — available free to all subscribers, so subscribe now!), and replaced the cream with evaporated milk, adding in oil, as evaporated milk is lower in fat than cream.

Admittedly, it’s not going to be EXACTLY like ganache, but it’s close enough to work in a pinch. And it’s tasty, so eh, good enough. Life is too short to be a constant perfectionist. And I wanted a slice of that cake asap!

Want to make some good-enough ganache yourself? Let’s!

GOOD-ENOUGH GANACHE

  • 1 c. chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. evaporated milk
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil

Mix chocolate chips, milk, and oil in a microwave-proof bowl. Heat in microwave in 30 s bursts, stirring in between each 30 s., until chocolate is softened and you can stir the mixture into a homogenous thick chocolate sauce. Et voila, good-enough-ganache!

By the way, remember that vacation that I told you I took last weekend? Well, the DH and I went to Vegas with some friends! And, since the DH and I are total romantics, plus we wanted the full Vegas experience…we got (re)married in a limo in a drive-through wedding chapel! (Yes, you read that right!) And being a capital R romantic, I proposed to the DH (he proposed last time, so it was only fair). Of course, me being me, I proposed using food. A slice of cheesecake to be exact.

I proposed at a restaurant, in front of our friends. Sweeet!

The DH, being the DH, ate the cheesecake, and then gave me an answer. Apparently, food really is the way to a man’s heart!

I may or may not have helped him eat that slice of cheesecake. (Hint: It was soooo yummy!)

Next Post: Reduced-Fat Alfredo Sauce & Why I Licked the Plate

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday! And at Happiness is Homemade!

Easy Dutch Chocolate Cupcakes & What To Do When You Run Out of Icing Sugar

Creamy, chocolatey goodness!

I had a milestone birthday last week (and no, I won’t be telling you my age. I like some mystery in our blogging relationship, dear reader!) and one of my colleagues gave a present. Best present ever, because it was chocolate sprinkles that she picked up in a local Dutch goods store! Naturally, I had to bake with them, so I baked up some Easy Dutch Chocolate Cupcakes!

Are you familiar with chocolate sprinkles? I’m not talking about the chocolate sprinkles sold in North America for baking, but the real Dutch chocolate ‘hail’ (chocolade hagel) that generations of Dutch children have grown up eating with bread and butter. Sound too decadent to give to a child? Well, I remember my grade school teacher talking about how her mom would give her a slice of bread with a chunk of chocolate, before the era of Nutella. And if parents will feed Nutella to their kids, well, chocolate ‘hail’ is the same! Except way more fun because you get to sprinkle the ‘hail’ on your buttered bread yourself. And as a child, that’s so. much. fun! And the deliciousness of bread buttered with chocolate sprinkles has to be tasted to be believed.

I decided to try and recipe that deliciousness in cupcake form. I used a chocolate cupcake instead of a slice of bread, and buttercream instead of butter, but the chocolate ‘hail’? No substitutions for that — it was imported straight from Holland!

Have I teased you enough by describing the lusciousness of this cupcake? Shall we get to baking? (And more importantly, to eating?) Yes? I concur!

EASY DUTCH CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES W/ CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM & CHOCOLATE SPRINKLES

You’ll need

  • 1 batch chocolate cupcake batter (my hands-down-best-ever recipe is Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake recipe. Only recipe I ever use.)
  • 1 batch chocolate buttercream (see recipe below)
  • 1 c. chocolate sprinkles

Bake cupcakes in liners in a muffin tray in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly tapped. Let cool.

Ice with chocolate buttercream. There at two ways to do this: you can use a Wilton 1M tip (my favourite way to ice) or, if like me, you’ve misplaced your 1M tip, just use a knife to spread the buttercream roughly on the top of the muffin.

If you’ve piped your icing on, sprinkle your chocolate hail on top of the icing in a random and pretty design. And you’re done!

If you’ve spread your icing on, like me, take the iced cupcake, turn it upside down, and roll the top in a bowl of chocolate hail. Simple, elegant, and oh, so yummy to eat! If you make this recipe, let me know in the comments which technique you used!

How to ice a chocolate hailstorm cupcake! Spread, dip, roll…and eat!

CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM

  • Take one batch of my The Only Buttercream Recipe You’ll Ever Need, and add 1/2 c. cocoa powder. Are you a super-duper chocolate lover? Add 1 c. cocoa powder. Are you a chocolate fiend? Add 1 1/2 c. cocoa powder. Not chocolatey enough? Forget buttercream and just use straight ganache, my friend!

I’ve mentioned often enough that I’m the Queen of Substitutions, and here is a case in point! I ran out of icing sugar, but needed one more cup to finish this recipe. What to do? It’s time for a…

Kitchen Hack

Take 1 c. regular white sugar, and blend it in a blender for 5 minutes, shaking occasionally, until as finely ground as you can get it. This won’t be exactly like icing sugar, but definitely more like icing sugar than regular sugar, so it’s a good hack to use in a pinch.

Wasn’t using regular sugar and turning it into icing sugar, a clever way to finish the recipe? I mean, one can’t stop baking in the middle of a baking storm! Cooking creativity cannot be stifled!

Want more easy substitutions? Subscribe to my blog and receive a copy of my e-book, This for That: Easy Kitchen Swaps and Hacks via email! How to sign up? Enter your email addy in the orangey-red bar at the top of the blog, or look at the right top of the blog and sign up there. Free kitchen tips: who doesn’t want that?

Next Post: I’ve been working on a Extra-Chocolatey Nanaimo Bar recipe, in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday this year, and it’s just about done! So stay tuned for a Nanaimo Bar recipe that’ll knock your socks off! They’re so addictive, btw. So, so, very deliciously addictive! 

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday! And at Happiness is Homemade!