The Blooming Platter of Vegan Recipes

Recipes for 'Vegan Chocolate Desserts'

Peeps in Nest with Wooden EggsYield: 8 Peeps

These “Peeps” that I created–which I think look more like Toucans!–were inspired by “Ugly Ducklings” sold at a local Mediterranean restaurant called Azar’s.

I wanted to take the store-bought ones to an Easter dinner on Sunday, but the restaurant was closed and I could find no recipe, so I decided to “wing it,” so to speak.  Fortunately, the ingredients are few.

I’m so glad I did, as they are super simple and so unique!  I apologize for not having them ready to share with you in advance of Easter, but they are nice for spring in general, and certainly next year!

Resting in decorative cupcake liners and tucked, along with softly colored wooden eggs,  into their straw nest, they looked peepin’ adorable and were also a rave in the taste department!

They seem especially appropriate for spring, but the ingredients are pretty season-less, so enjoy all year when a festive presentation and a little decadent bite is in order.

 

Approximately 1/2 cup (or slightly less) almond paste (I purchase it in a can on the baking aisle of the grocery store)

16 pitted dates, opened out (be sure to use fairly moist ones)

1-9 or 10 ounce package vegan chocolate chips

8 whole roasted and lightly salted cashews

 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.  Using your fingers, mold a scant tablespoon of almond paste into an egg shape.  Moisten your fingers if your paste seems dry.  Then press into one of the dates, pressing another date over the top to encase the almond paste inside, forming an egg or bird body shape.  Continue with all remaining dates and almond paste.  Cover and refrigerate them for about a half hour.  Melt chocolate in microwave in a narrow deep bowl for ease of dipping.  (For 9 to 10 ounces, I have found that 1 minute on full power, a slight stir, and then 20 to 30 seconds at full power, followed by a good whisking works in my microwave.)  Pierce each date-almond paste ball with a toothpick.  One at a time, dip them into the chocolate, covering completely, and place on prepared baking sheet.  Remove toothpicks and “patch” hole with a dab of melted chocolate if need be.  Then, one at a time, dip half of each cashew into the chocolate and attach it to the top of each “body,” slightly toward one end, with the cashew “beak” curving into the body and touching at each tip–chocolate toward the center–so that it is secure.  Refrigerate for a half hour or until chocolate is hardened.  Arrange as desired and serve.

Note: you will have some chocolate left over, but when it gets low, it is difficult to coat the date-almond paste balls.

Close-Up

 

Just-Dipped Peeps

Just-Dipped Peeps

 

Nest Ready for Peeps

Nest Ready for Peeps

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011Yield: 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.

Ingredients

Cake:
    • 1 cup natural sugar
    • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (I like white whole wheat)
    • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/4 cup dairy-free margarine (such as Earth Balance)
    • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or grapeseed oil
    • 1/2 cup Coca-Cola, root beer (not diet) or a natural cola/root beer brand
    • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons dairy-free buttermilk (5 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons non-dairy milk, e.g. So Delicious Dairy Free Original Coconut Milk Beverage + 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar whisked together to curdle)
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Frosting:
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar (plus extra, if needed, to yield the consistency you desire, but more sugar makes it lighter in color and less fudgey)
  • 1/4 cup dairy-free margarine
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons Coca-Cola, root beer (not diet) or a natural cola/root beer brand
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans + more for garnish, optional (omit for nut-free)

Instructions

For the Cake:
    1. Preheat oven to 350ºF and grease and lightly flour an 8 x 8-inch baking pan.
    2. In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder and baking powder.
    3. In a 1-quart saucepan, combine the margarine and oil. Bring just to a boil and pour over dry ingredients.
    4. Add the cola to the batter, and whisk well to combine.
    5. Dissolve the baking soda in the vegan buttermilk and add it to the batter along with the vanilla extract. Whisk just until combined. The batter will seem a bit thin.
    6. Pour the batter into your prepared ban and bake 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean; avoid overbaking.
    7. Remove from the oven to a wire rack and frost immediately.
For the Frosting:
  1. While the cake bakes, place the confectioner’s sugar in a medium bowl.
  2. In a 2-quart saucepan, combine the dairy-free margarine, cocoa powder and Coca-Cola; bring just to a boil.
  3. Pour the liquid over the sugar, and whisk to combine until smooth.  Whisk in more confectioner’s sugar if necessary.
  4. Add the vanilla extract and pecans (if using), and stir to distribute.
  5. Spread frosting over warm cake. Garnish with pecans if desired.  When cool, cut into squares and serve.  Store, covered, in refrigerator.

 

DSCN0758This is the previous version…see the difference?!

 

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor 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.

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DSCN1677Yield: 4 servings (easily doubles)

Honestly?  You absolutely can’t believe how delicious the marriage of chocolate and the deep, fruity flavor of plums is in this quick and easy four-ingredient mousse (which can be served as a tart by spooning it into a pre-baked shell).

This is a four-seasons treat since it is made with plum butter instead of fresh plums.  (Incidentally, fruit butters are misnomers, as they contain no dairy.)  But, since it is mid-summer, you might garnish it with fresh plum slices along with the mint, whipped topping, and hazelnuts.

That is, if you don’t consume it all before it makes it into the glasses!

10 ounces vegan dark chocolate, melted (I used chocolate chips and melted them in two 1-minute increments in the microwave, whisking after each)

1/4 box extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry

1/2 cup vegan soy creamer (I used French Vanilla)

1/2 cup plum butter (I used Bauman’s  brand–which may be ordered online–made in small batches in Pennsylvania Dutch country from only plums, sugar or white grape juice, lemons, oranges and cinnamon)

Optional garnish: your favorite vegan whipped topping and/or chopped nuts (I like hazelnuts for this dessert) + mint sprigs

In a food processor, combine all ingredients, processing until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  After about a minute, the mousse will be light and fluffy.  After about another minute it will become somewhat denser and darker, yet still silken and fluffy.  Choose our preference.  Divide the mixture among 4 stemmed glasses or small ramekins and enjoy immediately or chill until serving time.

Note:  For individual baked crustless tarts, divide mixture among 4 ramekins coated lightly with non-stick spray and bake in the center of oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until set, but still glossy.  Check after 15 minutes, as tops should not be dry and starting to crack.  Allow to cool before serving, or cover and place in refrigerator until serving time.  Serve chilled.  Garnish if desired.

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Brownikins--Microwave Brownie in a MugYield: 1 serving

Okay, don’t even try to convince me that every once in a while you aren’t dying for a tiny taste of something sinful, and wish you could make a miniature little confection that is quick, easy, and not a killer in the calorie department.

Well, now you can!

NPR was where I first heard about these microwaved brownies-in-a-mug, so I certainly didn’t invent them.  But I do think I have perfected a recipe that needed a little somethin’-somethin’.  I heard the program weeks ago, but I was having a powerful craving last night, so I did a little internet research and gave it a whirl.

I inadvertently overcooked my brownie a little–it keeps cooking for a bit even after you remove it from the microwave–so go easy.  But, even so, I wasn’t 100% sold, despite the fact that the recipe I tried had something like 5,000 “likes.”

I sent the recipe to my sister, Ginny, and she made one for our brownie-loving Papa, but he thought it was a little too rich in the chocolate department.  So, back to my kitchen I went this evening, this time armed with some ideas for how to improve the brownie’s taste and texture, along with some So Delicious Almond Milk Ice Cream (vegan) and a fresh strawberry to perch on top.

YUM!  A winner!  All I needed was a name.  My dear friend Sonya Harmon calls our “little” Great Dane (she’s smaller than her mate, Huff!) “Minnikins,” and I think that is the cutest name for our little gal.  So, since these “mini” brownies are almost as cute, I thought they should be called “Brownikins.”  Thank you, Sonya-kins!

Whatever you call them, you will love them!

And, by the way, you can certainly bake them in a mug as intended, but this recipe doesn’t begin to fill the mug, and I don’t like the brownie batter smeared on the sides after whisking the ingredients together.  So, I whisk it up in a small cup and then transfer into a mini-ramekin (about 1/3 cup) for the cutest presentation ever with a melon ball size scoop of ice cream and baby strawberry.  What’s one more mug to wash?

1 tablespoon canola oil or vegan butter melted

2 tablespoons water

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)

2 tablespoons natural sugar

2 teaspoons cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon or less sea salt (I love that little crunch of salt with the sugar.  You won’t need much if you use salted vegan butter, but don’t omit, as it is needed for flavor.)

Accompaniments: vegan ice cream, a fresh strawberry, plus optional vegan chocolate sauce and vegan whipped topping

In a small cup (microwave safe if you plan to cook the brownie in the cup), whisk together melted butter or oil, water, and vanilla.  Then whisk in all remaining dry ingredients.  Whisk until smooth.  If desired, transfer to a ceramic mini-ramekin and cook in a microwave oven on full power for 45 seconds or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or ever-so-slightly moist.  Let sit for a couple of minutes before garnishing and serving.

Photo Note:  Sorry about the quality of the photo.  I was so excited with my creation, that I just snapped it with my phone sitting on the kitchen counter at 8 p.m.: no waiting for optimum lighting conditions!

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Slice of CakeYield:  one 8- or 9- inch layer cake

“Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake???” you may be thinking.  “Ick!,” right?
Wrong!  Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake is a long-standing classic for a reason.   But this is one time when I felt that an old standby needed a little boost.  Hence, my Vegan Chocolate Nayo Cake was born.  Click on the link to go straight to my recipe on the Nasoya website, or keep reading for the backstory.
Very generously, Nasoya recently sent me a jar each of their newly reformulated Nayonaise and NayoWhipped sandwich spreads to review.  So, since I had three jars of mayo in my fridge (those two plus my jar of Vegenaise), I decided I should make something that called for a lot of it to use some of it up before it spoiled.
I remembered a very “old-skool” recipe called “Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake,” so I Googled it and got busy with some research.  Many of the recipes I found call for a couple of eggs along with the mayonnaise, but I found one that was naturally vegan except for the mayo, so I started there, substituting NayoWhipped, as it is the sweeter of the two varieties that I was sent.
But I wasn’t completely sold on the cake.  Since vegan mayo contains no eggs, I felt the cake needed more lift.  But more than that, it need more flavor!  I had scanned through the comments on the recipe before I made it and the responses were 180 degrees apart: from the best cake folks had ever eaten to are-you-kidding-I’ll-never-make-this-again.   And, I can see how different palates would interpret the flavor so differently.  It needed work.

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.

So, since, unfortunately, our epileptic Great Dane, Minnie, had a seizure in the wee hours of the morning a little while back—time to up her phenobarbital!—I was WIDE awake and decided to hit the kitchen, creating my own version of Vegan Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake that I had been working out in my mind for the couple of days since my first test.
One of the people who commented on that first recipe I found recommended making it with coffee, so that was one of my substitutions, which dramatically helped in the flavor department.  But I punched up the flavor even more with Creme de Cacao (it’s vegan!). I just happened to have some on-hand after creating a Vegan Grasshopper Pie for St. Patty’s Day and, boy, am I glad I did!
Besides the coffee and Creme de Cacao, what really did the trick was some additional natural sugar and some apple cider vinegar, which is not as astringent as white vinegar, and adds very subtle complexity.  I upped the amount of baking soda from 1 1/2 teaspoons to 2, whisking it into the vinegar for some serious fizzing action.  This seems to give a little extra “oomph” to the leavening power of the baking soda.  But I also added just a teaspoon of baking powder for good measure.
The finishing touches were a layer of spiked Chocolate Ganache and spiked Vegan Sour Cream Fudge Frosting.
I am so happy with the end result and just as happy to share it with you and other visitors to the Nasoya website (if you haven’t tried their tofu, I recommend it too!)!

Whole Cake

 

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Grasshopper Pie--Bird's Eye ViewVegan Grasshopper Pies are a varied lot.  Refrigerated, frozen, made from mint ice cream…made from spinach(!), they cover the gamut.

My brand new recipe created in celebration of St. Pat’s Day is as much like the traditional icebox pie as I could make it, complete we Creme de Menthe and Creme de Cacao (don’t worry: both are vegan!).

Click over to One Green Planet–how appropriate!–right HERE for the delicious recipe!

Happy St. Pat’s Day!

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DSCN0758This Coca-Cola Cake with Fudgy Frosting is yet more evidence that I have been having powerful winter cravings for Southern comfort foods!

How fun that these obsessions have led to quite a few brand new vegan recipes that I am delighted to share with you.

But, if you are thinking, “Ick.  I would NEVER drink a Coca-Cola,” wait!  There are a number of organic brands with deeply spicy notes and complex flavor that would be a perfect upgrade to this southern staple.

Enjoy the latest, this addicting cake, complete with back story and organic cola recommendations, on the Go Dairy Free website, the definitive site for all things non-dairy.  Thanks to creator, Alisa Fleming!

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Recipes for fudge abound.  But today’s cooks seem to opt for foolproof methods that either call for marshmallow cream or condensed milk (both non-vegan ingredients) to prevent that unappetizing and very disappointing sugar crystallization.

Though the area where I live has come a long way in terms of vegan grocery accessibility, we still don’t have vegan condensed milk that I know of.  I’m sure I could order it online, but when I get ready to make fudge, it isn’t with much advance warning.  No, it’s a response to an intense and irrepressible craving!

A couple of years ago, Jonesin’ for 7-layer Bars and racking my brain for a condensed milk substitute, it suddenly occurred to me that Cream of Coconut was about the same consistency and sweetness.  So, I substituted it, and it worked beautifully!  This year, craving some post-holiday holiday fudge–because I never got around to it before Christmas–I wondered if Cream of Coconut could be substituted for condensed milk in a simple fudge recipe.

Indeed it can!  And, though I love the taste of coconut, it is undetectable.  The fudge just tastes like deep, dense,-yet-silky chocolate with nuances of sea salt and vanilla.

For my fudge redux, I modified a recipe that I found online in a number of ways.  In addition to the Cream of Coconut substitution, I also used vegan butter and vegan chocolate: a no-brainer.  But then I also added 1/3 cup of cocoa for greater depth and density, a pinch of coarse sea salt because I love the way sugar and salt play together, and, though most fudge recipes don’t call for it, I added a spot of vanilla extract for a little bit of complexity.  And  I wouldn’t change a thing!

Because vegan chocolate is rather “dear,” I opted for 9 ounces (the size bag that I can purchase here)  instead of a pound of chocolate chips/chunks as the original recipe called for.  But, certainly, if you don’t mind spending about 10 bucks on the chocolate alone, use a pound or 18 ounces (2-9 ounce bags of chips) and the full can of Cream of Coconut, doubling the other ingredients as well.

Recipes calling for a pound of chocolate are typically made in an 8-inch square pan for a nice thick slab.  But, even though I only made about half of a typical recipe, I still used an 8-inch square pan and felt that, especially with a generous coating of crushed peppermint, the slab was plenty thick.  This candy is very rich!  But if depth is important to you for appearance, just use a 4 x 8″ or 5 x 9″ loaf pan.

Regardless, I think the results are fabulous and hope you agree!

7 ounces Cream of Coconut (not coconut cream, milk, etc.; Coco Lopez is a common brand)

9 ounces vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips/chunks

1/4 cup vegan butter

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/8th teaspoon coarse sea salt

Optional: 3 to 5 ounces soft peppermint sticks, crushed

Oil an 8-inch square pan with non-stick spray or vegan butter and set aside.  In the microwave or in a double boiler, melt together vegan butter and chocolate chips/chunks.  Remove the bowl or pan from the heat and whisk in Cream of Coconut, followed by cocoa powder, vanilla extract and coarse sea salt.  Pour fudge mixture into the prepared pan, lightly smoothing the top.  Let cool to room temperature and then either cover and refrigerate until cold and very firm, several hours or over night or, first, sprinkle the top with optional crushed peppermint, pressing lightly with your palm to adhere it to the surface, and then chill.  Slice into squares and serve immediately, refrigerating any leftovers.

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Okay, I didn’t call my Flourless Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream the best.  Someone else did…

The Praise

When my new long-distance friend and fellow (amazing) Vegan Heritage Press cookbook author, Bryanna Clark Grogan (World Vegan Feast and others), was helping me test the recipes for this dessert, she served it to friends, one of whom said, “This is the best ——- cake I’ve ever eaten!”  That’s good enough for me!  And I trust it will be for you too.

The Back Story

Back in my pre-vegan years in Nashville, I did some moonlighting as a catering assistant for my dear friend Monica Holmes at her award winning Clean Plate Club.  She made what can only be described as a transcendent Flourless Chocolate Cake.  Since this type of cake contains no flour, the batter relies on eggs for structure and lift.

I knew there had to be a way to veganize it, but the recipes I’d researched, including from people I respect in the field, looked and sounded like vegan chocolate cheesecakes made with tofu or they contained beans and appeared a bit dry with a crackly top, or they actually included some flour.  I’m sure all are delicious, but they aren’t what I wanted.

The Cake

I wanted something as dense, moist, silky and rich as the original.  And that’s what I got, but not until I had baked the cake about 5 times (and made the cream about 7)!  At least. The first try was an unmitigated disaster.  But it had potential, and that just spurred me on to redouble my efforts.  Meanwhile, the generous Bryanna, in British Columbia, was doing the same with the recipe revisions I’d send her, and we were comparing notes.  Bry, I love you for many reasons, including your help with this feat o’ chocolate and cream!

My version of the cake is, indeed, based on tofu, but it has some “secret” ingredients responsible for its fabulousness which you are sure not to confuse with cheesecake.  It’s its own brand of wonderful.

The Revolutionary Whipped Cream

And the cream, well, it is truly revolutionary.  At least, I could find no similar recipes online.  As you can see in the photo, it is a beautiful thing to behold. Plus, it is fat-free, cholesterol-free, soy-free, gluten-free (if your extracts are gluten-free), and low calorie!  Not only that, but it is delicious and a breeze to make.

For a very long time, I had been thinking that there had to be a way to make homemade vegan whipped cream from one of the vegan creamers.  I love both savory and sweet cashew cream, but it is a little heavy and thick, calorie laden, and distinctively flavored.  Ditto coconut cream aerated in one of those n2o cartridge-powered whippers. 

My cream is delicious with a creamy-fluffy, even billowy texture, and a more neutral flavor (but by neutral, I don’t mean bland!).  You will love it on all of your desserts that call for a whipped topping. The base is coconut milk creamer.  But can you guess the secret ingredient that makes the magic happen?  Funny story about the coconut milk creamer: I purchased it, disappointed that my grocery store was out of soymilk creamer.  But what a happy accident!  It turns out that the recipe ONLY works with the coconut milk creamer.  With soymilk creamer, you get something akin to pastry cream instead.

The Recipe and Thanks to VegNews

Many thanks to the brilliantly talented and generous food editors et al at VegNews for publishing these recipes in “What’s Cooking” online.  Please click right HERE to be taken directly to their site for both.  And while you’re there, if you haven’t already, enjoy all the good things VegNews offers its readers on a daily basis.

Happy Thanksgiving

I’m posting this recipe now just in case you, like me, are offering chocolate for the first time for Thanksgiving.  But, personally, I think the winter holidays are the dessert’s time to shine, dressed up with a little pomegranate seed bling, as in the photo, or a bit of crushed peppermint.  In the summer, it has to be raspberries.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

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