Yield: 3-6 x 3.5 loafs
To say this is the best fruitcake I have ever eaten would not be saying much…you’ve heard the joke about there being only one fruitcake in the world and it is just passed around year after year?
However, this indescribably moist cake may be one of the Top 5 cakes I have ever eaten, period. Okay, maybe 10 ’cause there are a lot of delectable cakes out there. But this one is like no other.
My dear friend, Sharon Tanner, an excellent cook, and her brother, with professional cooking experience, decided one year that, surely, there had to be a way to make a fruitcake that people would actually wanted to eat. I mean, come on, why should fruit, nuts, flour, sugar, etc. not taste delicious in combination? So they began experimenting and arrived at a recipe so intensely delicious–it packs a wallop as she says–that they even considered selling them at one time. I, for one, would line up to purchase.
Instead, though, she generously shared her recipe with me and gave me permission to share with you. Originally, the cake was not vegan, but she asked me how I would veganize it so that she could make me and a couple of other friends mini-loaves. I recommended that, for every egg, she substitute 1/4 cup moisture of some kind, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. She did, using her homemade apple butter (apple butter contains no “butter”) as the moisture, though it is readily available in grocery stores. Butter was never an issue because, according to Sharon, “eliminating butter makes the cakes better, denser and they hold their shape and slice much better.” When all is said and done, there is no way the non-vegan version could be any better than this vegan one.
What’s the secret? There are a few. One is that this cake contains NO candied or crystalized fruit nor maraschino cherries. Nada. But it is chock full of dried fruits, which points to another secret: a combination of various dried fruits for subtle flavor notes. And the second is the amount of nuts and, again, the variety of types. Sharon recommends “Cherries, cranberries, raisins, dates, prunes, pineapple, blueberries, apricots in any combination. I think it’s best heavy on the cherries and should include pineapple. Mixed nuts can be heavy on walnuts, but can include pecans, almonds and Brazil nuts.”
So, with no further ado…ta-da, a fruitcake that will have ’em beggin’ for more!
Yield: a Baker’s Half Dozen (7) Mini-Heart Cakes
I’m not sure how or why I dreamed up these particular concoctions of rich chocolate, espresso, hazelnuts and dried apricots, but I’m so glad I did! I went through a number of iterations in my mind, but these are what emerged. As delicious as they are exquisite, they are also stupid-easy. They just looks ultra-special.
As a dress rehearsal for Valentine’s Day, I created the recipe and whipped up a trial batch for Principals’ Appreciation Week a couple of weeks ago, giving the 7th one to my Pilates/Barre instructor. An A+!
Though these mini-cakes would be beautiful for a dinner party (and certainly don’t have to be heart-shaped), for my presentation needs, I simply packaged them in patterned cardboard boxes with clear peek-a-boo lids from the craft store, placing each one on an opened-out cupcake liner before carefully setting it inside the box. To transport them, I just lined up the boxes on a jelly roll pan. The generous size and low sides of the pan were perfect for moving them from home to school.
Wherever you serve yours, they are sure to be loved!
Chocolate Heart Cakes
1 cup soymilk (or your favorite non-dairy milk)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup vegan butter
1 1/2 cups demerara sugar (or any granulated sugar)
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use white whole wheat for virtually everything)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 10 x 15″ sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line with parchment paper, pressing into corners and edges, and spray again. In a small bowl, whisk vinegar into soymilk and set aside to curdle, whisking again before using. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter. Add sugar and continue creaming for about 3 minutes. (When using a natural sugar like demerara, it will not fully dissolve, so expect some pleasant grittiness, but will melt during cooking.) Beat in cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Then, with mixer on low, beat in flour in three batches, alternating with soymilk mixture. Beat only enough to combine ingredients, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Transfer batter into prepared pan, distributing batter into corners and gently smoothing the top. Bake for 18-20 minute or until top of cake springs back when lightly pressed and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a metal rack. Then cut out 14 heart shapes using a 2 1/2-inch cookie cutter. Mash cake scraps together to make cake balls (dip in chocolate and serve with vegan ice cream) or reserve them in a zip-lock bag or other airtight container in freezer to make crumbs for another use.
Hazelnut-Dried Apricot Ganache Filling
1 cup vegan chocolate chips (I like a darker chocolate, but use your preference)
1 tablespoon vegan butter
1/4 cup vegan sour cream
7 dried apricots, finely chopped (be sure they are moist and plump)
3/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts (I toast them over medium-high in a dry skillet for about 4 minutes, until fragrant; watch closely as they will burn quickly)
Melt chocolate, dip apricots for garnish (see below), and then whisk in sour cream, dried finely chopped apricots, and toasted hazelnuts.
Espresso Cream Cheese Frosting
1/4 cup vegan butter
1/4 cup vegan cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon espresso powder (or instant coffee, ground to a powder in a spice grinder)
3 1/2-3 3/4 cups powdered sugar (adjust to create desired consistency)
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in extracts and espresso powder, followed by powdered sugar in half-cup increments. Be sure to start the mixer on low and gradually increase it so that you aren’t dusted with powdered sugar!
Chocolate Dipped Apricots with Sea Salt
7 dried apricots (moist and plump ones, but not too large)
Melted vegan chocolate (from filling recipe)
Maldon or other large flaky sea salt
Before adding sour cream to melted chocolate, dip each apricot, halfway up and set on a plate covered with parchment or waxed paper to dry. After chocolate is cool, but not completely set, sprinkle liberally with Maldon sea salt. Refrigerate until needed.
I don’t know about you, but I am still in gift-giving mode; just didn’t get it all done before the holidays due, in large part, to the passing of our dearly beloved Great Dane, Huff.
In fact, some of the important people who were still on my list were the docs and staff at Independence Veterinary Hospital. So, I woke up this morning and made this luscious Lemon Spice Bundt Cake whose batter is almost as delectable as the baked cake.
No sugar? No problem. I make this cake with molasses, maple syrup, and cola (choose an organic brand) for extra moisture and depth of flavor. Love the caramely-y hnotes of the cola.
If you don’t keep pumpkin pie spice on hand, which I do, as I think it’s balance of spices is hard to beat, just combine ground cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg to equal the amount of spice called for in the recipe, using more cinnamon and ginger than the other two.
My husband, who is not much of a sweet eater, thought it smelled heavenly lying in bed.
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I actually use white whole wheat)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice (that sounds like alot, but this is a deeply spiced cake)
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon Five Spice Powder (for a hint more complexity of flavor)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup vegetable oil (a nuetrual flavored one, like canola)
1 cup maple syrup
2/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup soymilk
1/2 cup cola (organic)
Zest of 1 large lemon
Preheat oven to 350. Oil a bundt pan. (I use a non-stick bundt pan sprayed with nonstick spray and no flour. But if you are a “greased and floured” kind of baker, go right ahead. The ridges in my heart-shaped bundt pan make flouring a chore and it works fine without.) Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine. make a well in the center and add all wet ingredients plus lemon zest. Whisk just until smooth. Transfer batter into prepared pan, gently smooth top, and bake in the center of oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert onto rack and cool completely or serve slightly warm. Wrap well to store.
Birth, death, illness, divorce, and distance–the stuff of life–altered the guest list from year to year, but essentially our culinary tradition remained intact, alternating between traditional-with-a-twist and very non-traditional thematic feasts: Cajun, Thai, American Diner, and more.
Finally, though, my parents have gotten to the age (81 and 86) where neither the drive nor the flight from MS is comfortably manageable, though my father still works part-time as an engineer and just drove them to and from Texas where my mother’s siblings live.
Last November, Mama took a spill in a Cracker Barrel parking lot in North Carolina on their way home–I told them that place was dangerous!–and they ended up in the local hospital. She was fine, if shaken, but the writing was on the wall.
So, though it made all of us a bit sad–as my mother said, “You think things will always be the same”–I suggested that we meet in New Orleans, an easy 2 1/2 hour drive from their home and a not-too-terrible flight from here. Grateful and enthusiastic, my folks booked us into the Chateau LeMoyne, a family favorite, and I made Thanksgiving dinner reservations at Broussard’s, another family favorite since childhood. Joe is game–he thinks it’s the right thing to do– if a little skeptical, as it’s not “his” city in the way that it is ours; my sister and I were weaned on The Big Easy. And, though the decision was made too late for them to be with us this year, Joe’s sisters and our niece are hoping to join us every other Thanksgiving if our NOLA tradition continues.
Wherever you will be, whoever you will be with, and for whatever reason, my sincere hope is that you will find yourself deeply grateful for life’s gifts, even if, like us, they represent a “new normal.”
As a gesture of gratitude, over the next three weeks, I will serve up three new recipes–one per week–for a perfect, if slightly non-traditional, vegan feast. And I’m starting with dessert! Enjoy this moist, richly autumnal, and complexly flavored cake. It was a hit for a friend’s recent birthday and I’ve made it again for a small dinner tomorrow night for two girlfriends. Were we going to be at home, it would certainly be on our Thanksgiving menu.
Yield: 1 10-inch bundt cake
1 cup unsweetened or plain soymilk
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)
1 3/4 cup turbinado sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or 1 teaspoon cinnamon + 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)
1/2 cup maple syrup (or agave nectar)
1-15.5 ounce can pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 tablespoon vanilla
Spiced Espresso Ganach (recipe follows)
Garnish: chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 10-inch bundt pan with nonstick spray and set aside. In a small cup, whisk together soymilk and vinegar and allow to curdle and thicken. Place all dry ingredients in a very large mixing bowl in the order given, and whisk to combine. Add remaining wet ingredients including soymilk mixture and whisk 50 strokes or until lumps disappear. Avoid overbeating. Transfer into prepared bundt pan and bake 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (65 minutes is perfect in my oven.) Allow to cool completely in pan, loosen around edges, top with serving plate, and and invert. Spoon ganache around the top of the cake, allowing some to drip down the inside and outside edges and sprinkle with walnuts.
*Spiced Espresso Ganache
1/2 cup plain non-dairy creamer (soy or coconut)
6 ounces chocolate chips
1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee or espresso powder
1/48to 1/4 teaspoong round cinnamon (adjust to suit taste)
Heat creamer to barely bubbling. Add chocoate chips. Allow to sit a couple of minutes and then whisk together until smooth and completely combined. Whisk in instant coffee or espresso powder and cinnamon. Allow to cool until a thick pourable consistency.
*I like to double the recipe, using the whole bag of chips, and save half for another decadent purpose!
A recipe from Rick Bayless–the iconic American chef steeped in traditional Mexican cuisine which he serves up, with a modern twist, at his Frontera Grill restaurants in Chicago and cooks up on his PBS series–inspired my vegan version (which I submitted to the Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck!).
I spotted the recipe in “Chefs’ Weeknight Dinners” in the July 2014 issue of Food and Wine while on an airplane and knew it would be one of the first new recipes I created once I got back home.
I followed his recipe and method except for the eggs and the chocolate. For the 3 eggs, I substituted 1/2 cup mashed banana, 1/4 cup unsweetened soymilk, and an additional 3/4 teaspoon baking powder. I chose banana as I’m not a powdered egg replacement fan and the banana seemed both Mexican and compatible with chocoalte. (I think pureed pumpkin would also be a nice substitute.) And for the Mexcian chocolate, finely chopped, I simply subbed vegan mini chocolate chips. I also added a teaspoon of vanilla and a smidge more confectioners’ sugar for dusting.
The recipe is a cinch to make and very earthy due to the large amount of pumpkin seeds. It calls for just over a cup of sugar, but the pumpkin seeds are roasted and salted, so this unfrosted cak is not too sweet.
The result is deliciously different without being odd. The cake has a consistency somewhat similar to a blondie with chocoalte chips. But its flavor–with the banana virtually undetectable–is all its own, so I think you’ll love adding it to your repertoire.
1 3/4 cup roasted and salted pumpkin seeds
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (any granulated sugar will work)
1/2 cup mashed banana
1/4 cup unsweetened soymilk
Optional: 1 tablespoon tequila
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup softened butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour (unbleached all-purpose flour would also be fine)
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 ounces vegan mini-chocolate chip (or chocolate/chocolate chips finely chopped)
2 tablespoons confecitoners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch baking pan with non-stick spray. Trace around the bottom of the pan on a piece of parchment paper and cut out just inside the line. Place paper in greased pan and spray again. Sprinkle bottom with 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds and 2 tablespooons of turbinado sugar. In a food processor, pulse the remaining 1 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds with the remaining 1 cup of turbinado sugar until the mixture resembles wet sand. Add the banana, soymilk, optional tequila, vanilla, and butter, and process until smooth. Add the flour and baking powder and pulse just until incoproated. Add the chocolate and pulse until well distributed. Transfer the batter into the prepared pan, gently smoothing to make an even layer over the pumpkin seeds. Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes or until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean and edges are golden brown. Rotate the pan halfway though baking. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert it onto a plate and carefully peel off the parchment paper. Dust the cake with the confectioners’ sugar and serve warm or at room temperature.
Yield: 1-8 inch square sheet cake (a 9 inch pan will make a cake that is too thin)
To make a 9 x 13 inch cake, double recipe and add a few minutes onto cooking time if necessary; avoid overbaking.)
I was introduced to the original version (vegetarian) of this cake at an Oscar’s party when I lived in Nashville. It is a winner for sure, to be enjoyed in moderation for the occasional splurge…of course.
My first attempt at veganizing the recipe was quite tasty. But the new and improved version is even more so: moister and fudgier.
When this year’s Oscar’s rolled around, I found myself craving this old-school favorite. Remembering that I had decided my recipe could use a good tweak, I looked up photos of the non-vegan original online and compared them to the photo of my first iteration. Yep, just based on appearance alone, I knew I needed to do better…and I did. I’m pretty sure this one can’t be improved upon!
Note: while you are welcome to use Coca-Cola or your favorite brand of traditional root beer, you might enjoy one of the natural brands.
This is the previous version…see the difference?!
With a lone bottle of root beer in the fridge from I-don’t-know-when (I rarely if ever drink a soda, even organic) and the mention of gingerbread in Donna Tartt’s latest novel, The Goldfinch (which I highly recommend), I woke up today dead-set on making a gingerbread bundt cake with that root beer. However, it seemed to need something else, as I have a delicious recipe for one with ginger and cola on The Blooming Platter and I was wanting to create something new.
I browsed around in the grocery store for just the right thing for my spicy cake, tucking an orange into my basket for some nice winter citrus notes, but I still wasn’t satisfied, as the other cake also includes orange. Putting away my few groceries, I noticed that I had both Calmyra and mission dried figs plus almond paste in the pantry. Perfect! My bundt cake would have a fig, pecan, almond paste, and orange zest tunnel of love.
Only the tunnel part didn’t quite work out. The filling dispersed itself into the batter creating a deeply complex, spicy and ultra-moist, rich mahogany brown cake. Heavenly. Is it worth creating the filling even if it doesn’t create a visual contrast through the middle of the cake? You bet it is! In fact, this cake is such a “winner” that I decided to enter it in the So Delicious 3-Course Recipe Contest because I use three of the delicious and nutritious So Delicious products in this one recipe!
8 Calmyra dried figs, stemmed and quartered
8 Mission dried figs, stemmed and quartered
3/4 cup organic root beer, heated
1 cup pecan pieces
Zest of 1 large navel orange
1/4 cup almond paste (I purchase it canned in the grocery store on the baking aisle)
1 tablespoon natural sugar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon brandy (bourbon or port would be lovely too)
Place figs in a small bowl and pour heated root beer over. Let sit for 30 minutes; drain, reserving root beer. In a food processor, pulse pecans a few times, add drained figs, pulse a few more times, then almond paste, and pulse again. Add remaining ingredients and pulse just until all ingredients are finally chopped, and coming together almost like a very textured cookie dough. Set aside while you prepare cake batter.
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup natural sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup canola oil
1 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup So Declicious Coconut Milk
1/2 cup So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer
1 cup root beer (1/4 cup from the drained figs + an additional 3/4 cup)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Vegan Orange-Almond Glaze
Optional garnish: pecans and orange zest
Optional accompaniment: So Delicious Cultured Coconut Milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a srandard (10-inch) bundt pan. Place all dry ingredients, except baking soda, in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in all wet ingredients, except root beer. Whisk together just to incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry. In a small bowl, add baking soda to root beer–it will fizz–and then whisk root beer into the cake batter just until incorporated. Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle filling evenly over the top sruface, and pour remaining batter evenly over filling to cover. Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, loosen around both outside and inside edges with a plastic knife, and invert onto serving platter. Let cool. *Drizzle with glaze. Garnish if desired. Serve thin slices with a spoonful of yogurt if you like. Note: if you want to achieve utter decadence, brush cake with a tablespoon or two more brandy (or bourbon or port) before glazing.
Vegan Orange-Almond Glaze:
Juice of 1/2 of the previously zested orange
1 tablespoon non-dairy creamer (soy or coconut milk)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup powdered sugar
Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.
For the next 12 days leading up to Christmas, it is my pleasure to share some of my most treasured vegan recipes, some old favorites and some brand new, perfect for this grand holiday.
I’m starting with dessert, as this recipe (from 2009) might take a little bit more preparation and planning than the others. However, when you present this beauty to your loved ones, the smiles on their faces and their oohs and ahs will make any extra little bit of effort entirely worth it.
Named after Southern Living Magazine’s annual cover cake for their December issue, “The Big White Cake” is a bit of a misnomer, for though the frosting is a luscious pillowy white, the cake is German chocolate. And between the rich layers is a festive–and lightly spiked–adaptation of traditional German chocolate cake filling with it’s nuts and coconut. Dried cranberries and citrus make it a true celebration of winter and gift of the season.
Sugared fruit guilds this delicious, impressive lily. And for all of its wow-power, “The Big White Cake” is really not difficult at all.
This week, I created a cupcake challenge for my Advanced and AP Art Students.
Entitled, “Hey Cupcake! What’s Up?,” it started on Thursday with them making beautiful sketches of 3 different kinds of vegan cupcakes: 2 from Whole Foods (an Oreo flavored and a peanut butter flavored), and 1 that I made: Red Velvet from the recipe for “Crimson Velvet” cupcakes in the fabulous cookbook: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa (who needs no last name, like Cher or Madonna…or Prince).
My students pronounced my cupcakes absolutely divine as opposed to Whole Foods’ pricey ones that had flavorless, dry cake and grainy frosting. They looked pretty but mine were delicious AND pretty…don’t you think?
So, I just want to put in a plug for the book. I have made and adapted SO many from that book and they never fail! Thanks Isa (Chandra Moskowitz)!
P.S. I’ll post images of my students’ finished artwork soon! But, in the meantime, here is a detail of my teacher sample entitled “She Wore Red Velvet.” Mine is about body image/eating disorder/food obsession. (Topics with which I am only too familiar from my teens/20s…and the residual.) Part of the piece is painted with coffee! I was up working on it after my husband and I went to dinner until 12:30 this morning. Did I earn an A? (Sorry about the image quality…it was taken this morning at 6:20 with my not-so-great ‘Droid camera phone on the kitchen counter!)
More searching turned up a vegan recipe, but it called for applesauce along with the mayo, and I don’t keep applesauce around. What I really wanted was a recipe that could be made from a standard baker’s pantry.