caramelized sugar & spice cake, vegan

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It’s Daring Bakers time!! This month brings us another fabulous cake.

A big thank you to this month’s DB host Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity and co-hosts Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo), and Jenny of Foray into Food . Also, a shout out to Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go who assisted with instructions for those who need to bake gluten-free.

For this month’s DB challenge I am presenting my veganized version of a recipe for Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting, by Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater, as published on Bay Area Bites. You can find Shuna’s original recipe here.

We were presented with the optional challenge of making Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels (recipe from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich). Sounds divine doesn’t it? Well, due to my slight kink with the frosting and resulting time constraints (and much to my husband’s extreme disappointment), I stuck with making the cake exclusively – the candy recipes do look very appealing though and I plan on revisiting them sometime soon. I really do want to make some homemade caramels sometime.

Since the caramel syrup is needed for both the cake and the frosting, I set about making it first.

This was my smoothest attempt ever at making any kind of syrup – it took a while to get there (I am not known for my patience), but when it did it was the perfect colour. The syrup tasted awesome and the scent in the house was amazing. I felt like I was in a candy factory – it was great.

Caramel Syrup

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for “stopping” the caramelization process)

In a small stainless steel saucepan (with tall sides) mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly and dark amber in colour.

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When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. We were warned that the caramel would jump and sputter about and did it ever! I made sure to be wearing long sleeves, wore an oven mitt on the hand that poured the water, and was prepared to step back (jump back was more like it). Whisk over medium heat until mixture has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. Let it cool some on a spoon before touching it. If you’re not near a sink, have a bowl of cold water nearby just in case you get hot caramel on your hands – it will burn. Set syrup aside to come to room temperature before continuing on to the cake.

I thought I was going to lose my mind with impatience waiting for this stuff to cool down. I did get to take my new set of s.s. dry measure cups for a spin. They have silicone grips – so comfy. And I got them on sale – so satisfying.

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When the syrup has sufficiently cooled, the next step is the cake.

Apart from the mandatory challenge aspects of making the cake and frosting, we were given leeway to come up with variations in flavouring if we so desired. I’ve been deep into the Fall/Harvest/Holiday spirit of late and was in the mood to incorporate some spice into the cake. While no adjustments were necessary for the caramel syrup, I did need to make some changes to the cake and frosting recipes in order to veganize them. Earth Balance (vegan butter) replaces the butter in the recipe, flax meal and water replace the eggs, and the salt and baking powder amounts were adjusted accordingly. The baking powder was increased by 1/2 tsp to compensate for the potential leavening action of the missing eggs. The salt was halved to compensate for the salt present in the Earth Balance.

My veganized version of the cake follows.

When baking is involved, helpers invariably appear. Today’s helpers:

Batzy

Batzy

Tigger

Tigger

Loki

Loki

…and what was everyone looking at so intently, or should I say…who?

Mr. Squirrely

Mr. Squirrely

~

Caramelized Sugar & Spice Cake, Vegan

Caramel Sugar & Spice Cake:

10 Tbsp Earth Balance at room temperature (or other vegan butter)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe above)
2 Tbsp flax meal
6 Tbsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup plain soy milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease and flour one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

Alas, I do no own a stand mixer, that sexy beast. I used a hand-held electric beater instead.

In a small bowl, whisk flax meal and water and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream Earth Balance until smooth. Add sugar and salt, and cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed of mixer. Add flax mixture and vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform. Can someone enlighten me as to how much a ‘splash’ of vanilla is exactly? I did my best with the Google, but found a lot of contradictory info. I opted to go with a 1/2 tsp which seemed reasonable enough.

Sift flour, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice in a separate bowl.

Turn electric beater to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the soy milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the soy milk and finish with the dry ingredients (the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method – often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter).

Put the electric beater aside and fold the last of the dry ingredients in by hand, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. We were instructed to set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes, however I did not rotate mine. I figured that, since I had already altered the ingredients of my cake, the delicate science surrounding these very specific baking instructions didn’t necessarily apply. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it. Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator. I covered mine in plastic wrap for an overnight rest and embarked on the frosting the following day.

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Late in the frosty afternoon of the next day I started the frosting. This recipe also needed to be veganized – my changes follow. Now, the original recipe calls for browning butter. While I had in the past successfully browned albeit smaller amounts of EB, no such luck this time around. I’m pretty sure it scorched without really browning. The smell was awful. I should have taken a hint but stubbornly, not wanting to waste so much EB, proceeded with incorporating it into the frosting (effectively wasting the rest of the ingredients too).

You live, you learn. That burn smell made itself known no matter how much extra syrup, vanilla and pumpkin spice I dumped in. Stupid, stupid me.

So I had to do a complete frosting redo – which I saved for day 3. This time, all I did was melt the Earth Balance and proceeded from there. The results were wonderful – this frosting is a winner. I see this in many a cupcake’s future.

Caramelized ‘Butter’ Frosting:

12 tablespoons Earth Balance (or other vegan butter)
3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
4 Tbsp soy sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsp caramel syrup (see recipe above)

Melt Earth Balance and pour into a mixing bowl. Add pumpkin pie spice and whisk in. Using an electric beater, add confectioner’s sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too dry to take any more, add a bit of soy sour cream and caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner’s sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste, if desired. I did not add salt as the Earth Balance already contains some. According to the original recipe, caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month. If you’ve refrigerated it, allow it to come to room temperature and whip it up with the electric beater again before using.

This recipe makes a rather large batch of frosting – seemingly enough to frost a two-layer cake. I didn’t want to split my cake in half so I kept it at a single-layer and had a lot of extra frosting. I would probably half this frosting recipe in future if I were making the same cake again. As it stands, it’s probably enough to frost 24 cupcakes (or 12, really generously).

The verdict? Yummy – and I really like my spicy variation. The cake is beautifully moist and flavourful. The frosting turned out amazing (the second time around!) and I love the flavour the soy sour cream adds to it (reminiscent of how cream cheese tastes in a frosting). After frosting my cake I ended up pouring what was left of the caramel syrup on top. In retrospect this was probably a bit of sweet overload – I have two words for you: sugar shock.

Next time, I’ll hold the extra syrup or just drizzle a bit on top or on the side. Despite the colossal hit of sweetness, the cake was enjoyable nonetheless. I especially love a slice heated a bit – it intensifies the flavours and textures and is awesomely indulgent. Hubby likes it a whole lot, a small victory as he is not one to mince words when it comes to food. My one regret is that I forgot to incorporate the candied ginger I had on hand into the mix. Next time.

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I sprinkled some toasted coconut on a slice, just for the hell of it. Hey, it works. Tomorrow I’ll try a slice withe some finely chopped candied ginger sprinkled on top. Note how the cake started to soak up all that extra caramel syrup. Once the cake was sliced, all the syrup poured down the cut sides onto the plate, where the cake re-absorbed it from the bottom up. There are worse things.

Be sure to visit the Daring Bakers Blogroll for an unwieldy amount of culinary inspiration – and thanks for the visit.

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weddings and pumpkins.

The main reason I blogged so little over the summer was that I became rather distracted with my little sister’s wedding. I hardly cooked or baked at all and so, quite stupidly, thought that I didn’t have anything much to blog about.

Well silly me – I should have, at the very least, posted a photo here and there. I’d previously taken a long absence from picture taking and had been wanting to get back to it for ages. I was very lucky to get a new DSLR (!) in time for the wedding and I thought I’d share a photo from the happy event in that spirit.

Note the red nail polish.

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I’m off to roast a pumpkin for the first time, so wish me luck – I’m hoping for pumpkin cookies, cake, pie and, given enough puree, some pumpkin butter!

chocolate chip cookies, look mom – no margarine!

I am an unabashed cookie monster, hands down. I can’t resist all those Christmas cookie magazines that come out every year. Since I became vegan, those recipes are all about conversions and substitutions – a challenge that I genuinely enjoy. That said, it’s awesome when you come across a great recipe where the work has been done for you. Imagine my glee when I cozied up on the chaise (slowly going blind while insisting I can surf the net on an iPod Touch) and settled on the PPK blog. There I spied a new recipe posted by Isa for basic chocolate chip cookies.

Now I’ve tried several basic chocolate chip cookie recipes of the vegan variety with varing degrees of disappointment. This recipe looked simple enough. I had all the ingredients on hand. I invariably want cookies. Thus the perfect storm of cookie making was set in motion. It was a no-brainer that I’d get going on taking this recipe for a test spin. Like right that second.

Well, there is a reason that it’s easier to follow in the footsteps of giants. Isa, bless her, is one gifted woman. I have complete faith in her culinary prowess. It’s no accident that Veganomicon is the most consistently reliable tome in my kitchen. I am counting the days until her Vegan Brunch book comes out in Spring. Counting the days. But don’t get me started talking about breakfast foods or I’ll never stop.

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Back to the cookies. Easy as pie to make. Why do people say ‘easy as pie’ by the way? I find pie to be quite complicated. These cookies, however, are easy peasy lemon squeezy. I had to bake mine for a minute more than suggested in order to get the edges to start to brown. I also used plain rice milk in lieu of Isa’s preferred unsweetened almond milk. I prefer almond milk in baking too, but I wanted to finish off some rice milk that I had on hand. There’s also a distinct possibility that I may have erroneously used half the oil called for (I just can’t remember if I refilled that measuring cup…?). My stupidity aside, these cookies turned out really great. Oh how I wish I wasn’t too lazy to make ice cream to go with it.

But I digress. Back to the cookies…just as Isa promised, they are crisp on the bottom, soft on the inside, and crinkly on the top. When warm, they remind me of a gourmet cookie company that used to set up shop in my neighborhood. Hey, who needs them, now I can make my own. You can too if you get the recipe here.

Now go forth and eat cookies.

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