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Book cover: Cheers to Vegan Sweets!

I’ve been posting dessert photos and alluding to this book for quite a while, and now I have tangible internet proof and a cover image to post! Published by Fair Winds Press, Cheers to Vegan Sweets!: Drink-Inspired Vegan Desserts: From the Cafe to the Cocktail Lounge, Turn Your Sweet Sips Into Even Better Bites! will be hitting the shelves November 2013. The book contains 105 recipes and 45 full-color photos for desserts based on drinks like Apple Cider Donuts, Mexican Coffee Truffles, Margarita Ice Cream, and Shirley Temple Cupcakes. It’s divided into chapters like “The Café”, “The Lemonade Stand”, and “The Cocktail Lounge”, so there’s something for everyone’s tastes, whether you’re looking for treats for a kid’s party, or a boozy dessert. The book is clearly so awesome that it got an exclamation point in the title and two subtitles, and the designers at Fair Winds did an amazing job making the book really beautiful, so I’m really excited for you all to see the final product!

In the meantime, the book is available for pre-order on Amazon and many online retailers through the publisher’s website. Just as I did with The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, I’ll be selling signed copies on the blog and perhaps setting up a book signing in your city, so you can buy books packaged with love directly from me! Get updates on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Instagram, and follow Fair Winds Press on Facebook and Twitter! Feel free to email me with any inquiries! Thank you so much to everyone involved in this project! I’m looking forward to the release date and all the awesome people and opportunities that will come along with it!

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Flavors of summer

I just took a bike ride in a hoodie, the AC has been off for two days, and the leaves are starting to look crunchy (and not just the ones on the plants in my windowsill that I can’t keep alive for the life of me). School has been busy for the past few weeks and I brought out the bunny slippers this afternoon. All signs are pointing to fall! Between the colors, sunshine that doesn’t melt you, and the cool breezes that call for just a light jacket, it’s my favorite season. However, the transition is not yet complete, especially in my kitchen! While pumpkin bread, hearty stews, and apple pie sound delightful, I’m still clinging on to summer flavors for a little while longer.

Here are a few new summer recipes from the test kitchen:

Watermelon Fresca Sorbet
Fresh mint, watermelon, and lime juice are whirled through the ice cream maker, creating a cool, refreshing treat.

Rosewater Lemonade
Airy lemon rose cupcakes topped with a fluffy rose buttercream makes for a light, but decadent dessert.

Cherry Bourbon Fried Pies
Cherries and bourbon wrapped up in a deep fried Southern indulgence!

The start of fall desserts will be here soon enough! What kinds of sweets have you been enjoying this summer?

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Piña Colada Tres Leches Cake

It’s, like, a heatwave. Burning in my heart.

I’m staying near Chicago most of the summer for an internship in the city during the week, and access to a full kitchen and people to eat lots and lots of dessert the rest of the time. The temperature has been hovering around 105°F for the past week, and it’s deliciously humid, so this weather is perfect for basking on the couch in a house with central air, watching TV, and making summery treats. A few steps outside is more than enough to reverse any showering attempts. It’s a tropical paradise.

So, I’ve decided to live vicariously through cake. Piña Colada Tres Leches Cake, a sturdy vanilla coconut cake drenched in “tres leches” cream syrup, and topped with chopped pineapple and whipped coconut cream.

This “beach” may just be a slightly overexposed crispy yellow lawn with an over-saturated blue-tinted bike path in the distance, and I may have burned my bare feet on the deck while sweating all over my camera during this photoshoot in my pajamas. But I’m going to pretend I took this photo at a fabulous beach party in a temperate climate while lounging out eating cake and fruit salad. Then splashing around in the ocean, because that’s way more fun than laying out in the sun, anyway. Life’s a beach.

Lastly, I made a Pinterest! If you like food, art, photography, food styling, and internet comics, follow me. Let’s be friends!

Follow Me on Pinterest

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I got an ice cream maker!

And it’s quite possibly the best kitchen toy ever, especially in the summer.

Margarita Ice Cream
A creamy orange lime tequila ice cream served in a salt-rimmed glass.

Rosy Peach Green Tea Ice Cream
Matcha infused ice cream with peach puree and rosewater.

Tequila Sunrise Ice Cream
Orange tequila pomegranate ice cream with tequila grenadine syrup.

Bananas Foster a la Mode
A simple vegan version of this classic flaming dessert with brown sugar butter rum sauce.

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Summer test kitchen

Now that the drab spectrum of winter is behind us, the weather is warm and a variety of produce is in season, baking with fresh flavors and lots of color is an effortless decision. I’ve been cranking out cookies, cupcakes, cakes, candies, ice creams, puddings, breads, donuts, and whoopie pies nearly every day for the past few weeks at work on new book recipes, effectively creating a surplus of sweets around the house. You’d think making desserts every day would be a fantastic way to happily replace two meals of the day with cake, but it’s actually a strange way to instill portion control. I really enjoy the inventive process and baking sweets, but at the end of the day my sweet teeth crave something hearty like falafel! And maybe a little cake. Here are a few of the decidedly summery treats that have made their way through my kitchen recently.

Blackberry Cosmopolitan Mini Cake

I almost always prefer mini cakes over traditional eight inch double layer cakes. You don’t have to whip out a gigantic batch of buttercream, tiny cakes are easy to transport, and mini cakes are the perfect amount of cake for a small group. This cake is two layers of vanilla orange blossom orange zest lime cake with blackberry swirls, blackberry jam filling, lime triple sec buttercream, and fresh blackberry garnish. I think orange blossom water tastes like sunblock, but a small amount is a perfect floral accent. A taste tester (my mom) described this cake as having a “wedding cake texture” and lots of fresh, citrus flavor.

Strawberry Basil Balsamic Cupcakes

I had leftover basil syrup from the Cucumber Basil Sorbet (or maybe it was the other way around, we’ll never know. The tofu chicken or the egg replacer?) and combined the iconic pairings of strawberry/basil and strawberry/balsamic in an eccentric cupcake. I’m not sure if the phrase “eccentric cupcake” is ever usable again in this context since Cupcake Wars presented contestants with hot dogs, head cheese, and bone marrow.

Okay, I made those up. Was I right?? Anyway, this cupcake is a very vanilla (see what I did there, using an alternate meaning of vanilla? Hilarious! …I’m sorry) chocolate cake infused with basil and the addition of balsamic vinegar and strawberries. It’s filled with basil buttercream and topped with balsamic chocolate ganache and a strawberry garnish.

Strawberry Kool-Aid Cookies

I’d say “keeping with the strawberry theme…”, but I’m not sure strawberry Kool-Aid has ever met a real strawberry. It’s its own neon pink animal. Kool-Aid is actually pretty fun to bake with because it makes your batter the brightest of bright colors, replaces flavor extract (who’s laughing now, $6 bottle of strawberry extract?), and the acid in the package reacts with baking soda, so you don’t have to worry about lemon juice or vinegar for leavening. Sure, it’s completely artificial and chemical, but the concept of using natural food coloring in a dessert, full of sugar and fat by nature, is lost on me. I like to believe most people don’t make dessert multiple times per day, so when they do, it won’t hurt to load it up with neon sugar once in a while! These cookies would be great at a lemonade/Kool-Aid stand in the summer.

Cranberry Lime Gin and Tonic

Here’s a cookie to take Play-Doh cookies a notch down. This moderately sweet cookie teeming with tart lime and gin-soaked cranberries is a great finish to a low key dinner party.

Tropical Banana Smoothie Pudding

This coconut-based pudding (people like coconut-based things, right? I’ve been putting coconut milk in EVERYTHING lately) has every element of a tropical smoothie: banana, pineapple, orange, cherry, and a cocktail umbrella. Well, this bowl of pudding doesn’t have one, but it could! Plain chocolate pudding is nice, but a yummy banana pineapple pudding done up like a cocktail is a great summer treat.

That concludes this round-up! Stay tuned for more dessert blogs and updates.

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Compassionate Cake Easter goodies

Jess of Compassionate Cake consistently amazes Milwaukee as she bakes up beautiful, delicious desserts for every holiday and every day in between. She definitely went all out for Easter and so sweetly brought little baskets of chocolate to our last dinner meetup with friends!

A white chocolate bunny:

Giant, decadent peanut butter egg:

Crispy jelly bean chocolate nest:

Thanks, Jess! ❤

For Easter day, I visited my grandma (and followed my holiday dinner rules for the most part!) and made a coconut curry Pad Thai-like noodle dish and a simple batch of cupcakes. I’d post a picture of the entree, but I didn’t photograph the complete, plated product. Showing you guys a photo of noodles in a wok would be like it just got out of the shower and is still hanging around the house in a towel. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s just not photogenic. So, here’s some Coconut White Russian Cupcakes, a coconut coffee Kahlua-infused cake batter with a Kahlua buttercream.

The weather was pretty nice in Illinois on Easter day, but it has cooled off dramatically since. It was 30°F out a couple mornings ago in Milwaukee! Today I saw these flower buds forming on the vines on my windows, so hopefully spring will be here soon (again)!

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Ramekin Cupcakes

Sometimes I have really good ideas that the internet hasn’t already thought of five thousand times before. Hopefully ramekin cupcakes are one of them. Okay, so people have totally baked cake batter in ramekins before, but piping on frosting and treating the ramekin as a cupcake “wrapper” isn’t all over food blogs…yet.
I had some time to kill last week and ended up perusing the baking section at a store where I found a bunch of blue ramekins on sale for 88 cents. I immediately envisioned a cupcake baked into the ramekin topped with swirls of frosting, sprinkles, and a cherry on top. I put every one on the shelf into my basket and headed to checkout.

I filled each ramekin (thoroughly lubed up with Earth Balance or vegetable oil) halfway with root beer oatmeal stout cupcake batter. Four inch ramekins took 24-25 minutes to bake, while the slightly larger five inch ramekins took about 28 minutes. Depending on your cupcake batter, your baking times should be similar. I got three “cupcakes”: one four inch ramekin and two five inch.
After the ramekins have cool off, top with whipped cream or buttercream frosting. If you pipe out half the pastry bag onto one cupcake, your cake is going to be drowning in frosting and end up way too sugary. Instead, think about height rather than mass of frosting when you start piping, and supplement the cupcakes with other garnishes and decoration. Here, I used a thin layer of buttercream, a swirl of coconut whipped cream, root beer syrup, a chocolate dipped strawberry, straws, and a chocolate decoration.

Chocolate drizzle decorations are a great way to add height and a posh look to your desserts. Make the chocolate by melting chocolate chips in a glass bowl (maybe with a teensy bit of vegetable shortening if it won’t smooth out) and pouring the melted chocolate into a ziploc bag. Cut off a bit of one of the corners and drizzle out your design on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Let the chocolate harden at room temperature. If you stick it in the freezer right away, your chocolate will not temper and end up going into shock and melt when you remove it from the freezer and attempt to peel it off the baking sheet. Or end up melting after you stick it into your cupcake. Once the chocolate hardens, remove it from the sheet and stick it into your cupcake as decoration. I brushed my chocolate drizzles with gold luster dust to add shine and color right before carefully peeling them off the sheet.

These ramekin cupcakes would be great for gift-giving, or an alternative to a birthday cake . Buy a few cheap ramekins, bake them into cupcakes, tie a ribbon around the ramekin, and gift them to a lucky recipient! That person is bound to feel special because cupcakes imply single serving, even if they are giant. After single-handedly finishing off the cupcake in one sitting, they get to keep the ramekin and think about what a nice thoughtful person you are every time they use it from then on.

Perhaps the single-serving quality of cupcakes is a curse and a blessing in this application because the amount of batter each ramekin holds is the equivalent of 3-4 cupcakes. Share with a friend if you must, but of course there is nothing shameful in downing multiple cupcakes in one go!