This week is a cake I made for a young boy celebrating his 8th birthday. The initial brief was for a replica of the cake on the cover of Marshmello’s Light It Up single. As we discussed it, though, their’s son’s love for Minecraft came up and I was asked to incorporate the TNT, and then some other Minecraft elements. It evolved into the original cake pixelated into the Minecraft style.
To compliment the cake I 3D modelled and printed a Minecraft cake topper. I’ve since made them available to purchase on my Etsy store. So if you need one customised for yourself or a loved one, pick it up here.
Inside the cake was a little different. It needed to be not only a rainbow banana cake, but dairy free and low sugar. It’s a request I get often enough when catering for young birthday parties due to an idea that all the sugary foods send the kids a little hyper. [A little science trivia for you: it’s the excitement of the event that sends the little ones so loopy. Both sugar and food colouring have no effect on hyperactive behaviour!] It’s also steeped in concern for maintaining a healthier diet at a young age, too.
The issue when it comes to baking is that sugar is an important part of the leavening process in dry flour mixes. Simply cutting out the sugar can make for one flat cake! Combining that with dairy-free is a challenge, but one I’m used to. So for this one I adjusted my favourite vegan cake recipe to get the right results.
This is a little recipe I turn to often when I’m looking for a dessert everyone can eat. I’ve shared a similar mousse before that I used in this Easter Cake, but this is a little version without the setting agent you can whip up in a hurry. Especially if you are serving this to someone who is vegetarian and don’t have the time to be trying to find agar-agar.
Now, while this recipe is great for handling dietary requirements, its also a great recipe if you’re looking for a healthier alternative. It is texturally different from standard chocolate mousse; without the whipped egg whites its going to be denser. But avocado does a wonderful job of bringing that light, creamy texture to the mousse. And no, it doesn’t taste like avocado!
This was a cake I made when I needed an alternate vegan option alongside my very not vegan birthday cake some time ago. I wanted something that didn’t feel like the vegan option, just something that’s accidentally vegan. Substituting most ingredients in a cake is usually fine, but there’s two I sometimes struggle with: eggs and butter. I deal with the first one by avoiding any cake recipe that relies on eggs for its structure. But butter can be harder. Non dairy spreads are hit or miss sometimes, and I sometimes feel like they give an odd flavour to the cake. It just kinda tastes fake. But one awesome way of substituting butter (or even non-dairy fats) is with a fruit or vegetable puree.
Veggie purees can be used in most cakes to substitute out half the fat content (or all if you’re trying to be super health conscious). Once I’d made the decision to go the veggie puree route, the choice was immediate: pumpkin cake.
Winter is coming. And with it comfort food. Lots and lots of comfort food. Cooking during winter is just so much better for so many reasons, but the best one of all being how wonderful it can make you feel on a cold night. One thing that features a lot in my household is vegetable soups. They’re so quick and easy to prepare, and are something we all enjoy. Even my vegetable-hating sister will sit down to a veggie soup.
Something else that features in my kitchen a lot is coriander, or cilantro as some of my international readers will know it as. My local fruit shop typically sells massive bunches of them as a three for $2.50 deal. It’s so extremely cheap in comparison to any supermarket that I can’t help but bring the trio home with me every time I go shopping. It can make it difficult to use it all before it spoils, so this recipe is one of a few I turn to when I have a lot to use. It has all the ease of a standard vegetable soup made special with the addition of fresh coriander and a handful of Moroccan spices.
I hope you all had a wonderful Easter holiday. I spent mine with my partner and his family, eating way too much food and trying not to eat all the chocolate too. His brother and sister-in-law hosted us all on Good Friday, and on Easter Sunday his parents did. Both his mother and sister-in-law put on an amazing spread of food that we all ate too much of, and that was before we even thought about dessert.
I bought along a couple of baked goods for the occasion, baking most of it vegan so everyone could eat some. I made a batch of hot cross buns to bring because they’re lots of fun to make, but also because it’s next to impossible to find any here that don’t contain palm oil, especially not vegan ones. And then there was this Easter-themed cake.
Making chocolate cake vegan is so easy. There’s so many recipes that are already incidentally vegan or an easy substitute away from it. This time I decided to spice things up a little with a Mexican chocolate cake.
Whenever we’re having a gathering with Cam’s family, I always try to bring along a treat everyone can eat. With some of his family members being vegan, this means cutting out all the animal content. So far I’ve been turning to recipes that already have next to no animal products in them. But I wanted to try making desserts that are not far off what I would usually make.
I’ve tried a number of veganised recipes along the way with varying success. For this dessert I tried two different vegan pastry recipes and had them fail before I decided to do things my own way. The best way out of it was sticking with recipes I knew and just substituting the ingredients where necessary. The more I play with vegan recipes, the more I’m getting the hang of what substitutes work where. It’s really not as intimidating as it seemed at first. The substitutions come pretty easily once you familiarise yourself with the alternatives available.
Last week I blogged all about the footy and mentioned that it was finals time. Last Saturday was the biggest event on Melbourne’s calendar (in most of our potentially biased books): the AFL Grand Final. On the Friday I had to travel through the city to get to work and walked past the massive crowds of brown, gold and purple buzzing with excitement during all the pre-final celebrations. It’s one of those moments that make me swell with pride and want to just hug Melbourne in general. I love our game and I love everyone who loves our game. Whether my team has made it or not, I just love footy finals fever.
Despite my attempts to persuade him otherwise, my partner is not a Carlton supporter. While he’s now a Carlton member and is gradually falling in love with my team, and while I keep telling him he really should switch teams, there’s no luring him away from his. Melbournians, and loyal footy fans elsewhere across Australia, are more likely to part with a limb than their life-long team, and so it is with Cameron. He comes from a family of almost all Hawthorn supporters, a family that had a lot to celebrate this year as their team made the grand final. Getting tickets to the AFL grand final also usually requires losing a few limbs. He, his uncle and brother are all Hawks members but still missed out, so we all headed to his place to watch it on telly together.
Cam asked me if I was going to make something for our gathering, and if I’d make him something Hawthorn. I always said I’d never bring myself to make anything opposition-team themed until I’d at least first made something Carlton. With the Carlton cupcakes made for our last final a few weeks ago, I had to oblige. Coming up with the what was effortless once I factored in everyone’s likes and requirements. Cam’s brother and sister-in-law are vegan, so I wanted to make it accessible for everyone. Which, honestly, didn’t require many adjustments at all.
One of the very first things I ever made for Cameron was a peanut butter slice. It was mostly born of a couple of chocolate failures in my early baking days. The chocolate I was working with seized and I didn’t want to waste it, so I whipped it up into some sort of icing. I raided the cupboards for whatever else I had on hand and made a peanut butter slice to go beneath the icing. I thought it was a bit rubbish, but he loved it and regularly nags me for another.
This weekend just gone was Father’s Day in Australia, and we’d planned a gathering with Cam’s immediate family. We had a gorgeous lunch at an Indian restaurant and went to his brother’s place for dessert and chatter. All the ladies usually bring some dessert or munchies along. I was making a mudcake for his dad and figured I should also bring something vegan so his brother and sister-in-law could eat it too. Veganising a basic peanut butter slice seemed an easy way to finally give Cameron the slice he wanted while creating something everyone could enjoy.
It's no secret I love me any excuse to make a cake, so a gathering with Cameron's family at Easter was the perfect excuse. I always make something nest-themed at Easter so I knew it just had to have some nest component. I'd already done the fondant and the spun sugar thing, so it had to be different. I sat down and did a little brain-storming and eventually came up with this beast.
But this cake has a little hidden secret: it's completely vegan.
Each year for our festive feast, I like to do something different with the place markers. Some years they're edible, some years they're not. Gingerbread makes for a great option as it allows so many creative possibilities. A couple of years ago I made chocolate gingerbread boxes and filled them with treats, the lids of which had everyone's names on it. This year, I opted for gingerbread gift tags.
Since the last time I made edible place settings, my partner's brother has opted for a vegan diet and his wife is vegetarian. My sister eats less types of fruit and vegetables than I have fingers on my hands, and my dad won't try anything he imagines he won't like (which encompasses anything that isn't roast meat or a casserole-type dish). Creating a menu that could suit everyone was definitely a challenge, but a welcome one.
The challenge for the gingerbread tags was finding a recipe that could suit a vegan dietary requirement, whilst still tasting appealing enough for the non-vegans.