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)!


Vegan MoFo #1: Kitchen Tour

I’m suppose I’m fashionably late to starting MoFo on this blog, but here we are!
My theme this year is documenting the cookbook writing process from my 375 square foot apartment (not sure how big the kitchen is, but less than half of that!). I’ll go over recipe writing, recipe failures, photoshoots, organizing recipes, testing, some blurbs on the actual publishing process, and staying sane throughout it all while going to school full time, doing MoFo on my other blog as well, making progress on the book, and having something like a social life. Writing this book is going to be a little trickier. When I wrote the cookie book, I was living with my parents, a dishwasher, and lots of ingredients, and high school is EASY. Now, I obviously don’t have a lot of space or a car, and photography school is difficult and time consuming. When winter rolls around, the last thing I want to do is go on grocery store runs (bus rides) in the freezing cold. There will be lots of yelling of expletives when I realize I don’t have any powdered sugar, or spill something because I put it too close to an edge, which happens all the time! Luckily, I find myself spending the majority of my food money on flour, sugar, Earth Balance, or crazy baking supplies I want to try out. I don’t have the fanciest dinners most of the time because I HATE doing dishes, but I always do them because it would be gross if I didn’t. I don’t mind doing dishes when it’s cleaning up after baking because cake batter washes off bowls and utensils easily, but with food, that shit gets crusted onto pans and takes a lot of scrubbing to not smell like whatever was cooking. Lately, I’m a big fan of roasting vegetables on a sheet of foil (no cleanup!). But I digress.

The theme for the book this time is baked goods inspired by drinks, so when I have extra time at the grocery store, I’ll look through the soda and tea and coffee aisles at all the different drinks and think about how they would translate into a baked good. I’ve been doing the same thing at coffee shops and with drink menus at restaurants. When it comes to the baked goods based on alcohol drinks, sometimes including liquor in the baked good isn’t necessary, but when it is, planning out those recipes is going to be a whole lot easier now since I turned 21 last week. No more asking people to buy me a bottle of wine and then having to think about how to ration it for a batch of cupcakes so I don’t run out and have to wait until the next time I can get a bottle. And I always feel really bad whenever I have to ask people for favors! So what I’m saying is, the tequila can be free flowing during a baking session because I can just go buy more! Actually, not really. I screw up measurements when I’m not drunk so I don’t like to add fuel to the flame. And I’m not huge on drinking. One of the most exciting things about my birthday was “OMG, I could eat vegan bar food on a regular basis now!”

So for this series of MoFo, I thought I’d start out with a tour of my kitchen and baking supplies. I have two cabinets in my Barbie Dream Kitchen devoted to baking and cake decorating. I lucked out with this apartment since most studio apartments don’t have full kitchens, but mine has a kitchen area and dining space, which is important.

This is my kitchen table. Normally, I don’t sit at it for meals (that dining space was super important, huh?), in favor of the couch by my computer. But I do like to change up the table settings a lot because it’s really fun for me to find new plates, teapots, antiques, and stuff like that, then create a display. I’m also dealing with still life in the domestic space for my art photography work (which never sees the light of the internet) right now, so I’ve been creating new spaces and set ups in my kitchen a lot.

This is the kitchen area. The apartment building was built in the 1930s and it hasn’t changed since then. I even have an functioning icebox which I don’t use because I, uh, have a refrigerator. The icebox is the cabinet below the sink and to the right. It’s used to store bags of flour right now. The glass cabinets in the pillars are used to store my spice collection, mugs/cups/plates (which regrettably have the essence of curry now from being under the spice drawer. Looking to change that set up), teas, and cake decorating stuff in the other glass cabinet.

Microwave, Rishi Teas (local!): Chocolate Chai, Black Tea, Blueberry Rooibos.

Sugar and flour, coffee maker, more tea (and in the cabinet below), basil/cardamom/orange ginger/vanilla bean infused sugars made by my friend Stephanie, Emergen-C from earlier this month when I got strep twice, and wine and chocolate because I’m a fancy gal.

Cake decorating cabinet. L-R, then top-bottom: India Tree sprinkles, Wilton Sugar Pearls (no confectioner’s glaze!), lustre dust, Wilton Food Coloring, a paintbrush, cupcake liners, cookie sticks and cocktail umbrellas, pastry bags, candles, apple cake toppers, Satin Ice fondant, balloons, cookie icing, gummy stars (yummy candy from Whole Foods, but I’ve used them on top of cupcakes), pepper mill (don’t ask), licorice scotty dogs from Trader Joe’s, squeeze bottle, pre-cut 8″ circle cake parchment, mostly broken food processor, mini cake pans, cake bottom things, and dinosaur cake/cookie boxes. I have a really random, kinda small collection and always looking for more stuff.

My oven. That tape measure reads 19 inches across.

KitchenAid, which I just got a couple months ago as a generous gift from my friend Jess who had an extra one!

I present you with the grossest sink ever. I clean it everyday but it still looks gross no matter what.

This is my recipe bulletin board. All the recipes written on the paper slips are color coded by type of dessert with the thumbtacks. There’s an “ideas” section, “recipes in testing” section, and completed recipes are denoted by the side of the paper the thumbtack is on. And a Vegan Milwaukee sticker on the weird circle-y thing on the wall.

I used to have a bunch of zines lined up on that ledge, but they kept falling onto the stove and that was not good because the pilot light is REALLY hot all the time. The last zine standing is Don’t Eat Off The Sidewalk, issue 2.

My baking cabinet. There’s lots of random stuff in there such as three kinds of rosewater, lavender buds, matcha, cacao nibs, cola extract, ice cream extract (I can’t get that bottle open!), agar, pomegranate molasses, pink salt…

Grains, spices (maybe I’ll move the rest of my spices into here!), sauces, nooch

Beans, canned goods, breakfast-y food, snacks

Refrigerator exterior, complete with a card signed from my landlady’s cats

Ted Leo ticket stub and magnetic letters

Top of the fridge. Glasses, plates, some zines (the rest fell off)

Inside of the fridge. You caught me on a day far away from my last grocery shopping trip. And I don’t normally have a giant box with a white chocolate biscoff cheesecake in my fridge made by Jess, but a girl can dream.

Veggie bin, chocolate bin including truffles from Canary Confectionery

Milks, grape soda from when I made grape soda cupcakes (which will be in one of these upcoming posts!). I also bought root beer and cream soda that day for cakes, which will also be a MoFo post.

Pots n pans

So, I hope you enjoyed this look into my kitchen. It’s nothing fancy by any means, but it’s where I’ve been baking and photographing for the past year almost. I even made deep fried yeasted donuts in here. Kitchen space shouldn’t be a limitation!


Mad City Vegan Fest!

The long overdue Mad City Vegan Fest post!
On June 19th, the very first vegan fest in Madison, WI witnessed an amazing turnout of over 1,300 people for a day of delicious food, cooking demos, vendors, and community. I was so happy to be a part of the demo line-up, all the details of which can be found on the Mad City Vegan Fest website! Thank you so much to the organizers, Hannah West and Courtney Mayhew, and all the volunteers who worked so hard to create such a successful inspiring event!
I did a brief write-up of the event over on Vegansaurus so check it out here for the who/what/where/when and even more puffy heart vegan fest love.

The day was absolutely insane! There was so much going on in every corner and so many people-both familiar faces and new friends. Add in preparing for my demo, and by the time I got to sit down with a bite to eat, the day was starting to wrap up! I started setting up in the kitchen when I first arrived to the Goodman Community Center, then headed over to the exhibitor hall, got some food samples, and ran into lots of amazing people until it was time to prepare for the demo.
Laviyah Ayanna of the Ste Martaen Chicago vegan food truck was one of the food vendors. I was smart and forgot to bring cash to vegan fest, so later in the day when I was able to get mac n cheese, I was too late…oops! Luckily the vegan food truck comes up to Milwaukee pretty regularly on Saturdays, so the mac n cheese-shaped hole in my heart can be filled soon.

Photo courtesy of Sandi Swiss

Nicole working some Upton’s seitan magic.
Pssssst, if you’re near Chicago this upcoming Saturday, July 23rd, there will be a Vegan Chef Showdown by Upton’s Naturals to benefit Mercy for Animals. Check out all the info on the Facebook page. I will be there! And competing! 🙂

Photo courtesy of Sandi Swiss

Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan of Our Hen House gave a speech about baketivism called Let the Donut Do the Talking.

Photo courtesy of Sandi Swiss

I met Jasmin and Mariann for the first time in Madison and we instantly became BFFs like vegans do, and I visited them in NYC a few days later where we did an interview for Our Hen House. It appears on Episode 78, which you can listen to here or through iTunes. Episode 76 is all about Mad City Vegan Fest and includes interviews with Terry Romero and Courtney Mayhew, so listen to that one too! And all the other episodes because Jasmin and Mariann are fantastic and their podcast is informative, inspiring, and witty!

I demo-ed a brand new recipe, Shirley Temple Cookies, a light shortbread-like lemon orange cookie topped with cherry grenadine frosting, a candy straw, paper umbrella, and maraschino cherry.

I chose to demo these cookies because the decorations are elaborate, but fun and easy to do. I called up two volunteers to help decorate the cookies-the first hands that went up belong to Sandi of Canary Confectionery and Ayame. They helped pipe the frosting and top the cookies with all the garnishes to be ready for everyone that came up for a sample. Even with two rounds of Shirley Temple Cookies and a huge sample platter of chocolate peppermint cream bars, the cookies were gone in two seconds flat. Demo success!

Demo photos by Katie Young



My second batch of Shirley Temple Cookies:

Up later was Terry Romero’s demo. Terry being awesome in the kitchen:

Terry did a cooking demo on Chipotle Seitan and Potato Tacos from Viva Vegan!

There was an after-party at High Noon Saloon in Madison after the event with a donation-based cover. Pizza was delivered-my slices had Daiya cheese, pineapple, onions, and jalepenos. But the real star of the show was the cupcakes!

Jessica Weisnicht of Compassionate Cake donated 180 gorgeously decorated cupcakes for the after party.

The cupcakes were all decorated with buttercream, intricate white chocolate shapes, and handmade fondant sculptures. Flavors include soy milk and cookies, almond vanilla sponge cake, and Merlot…

…coffee and donuts, rosewater, Earl Grey agave…

…orange flower water agave honeybees, death by chocolate, chile chocolate, and those butterflies are edible!

…margarita, chocolate ganache, maple bacon, and cherry cheesecake!

Jessica truly went above and beyond with the full table of desserts. Jessica is not new to veganism, but she is to the community and it’s so great to have such an amazing addition to our vegan world (I was debating what word to use here. Circle? Scene? Those all sound so cult-ish…ahem, you know what I mean)! I am continually astounded by the kindness and talent in the vegan community and so happy to know so many wonderful people over the past several years. I’m excited to see what else delicious and cruelty-free is going to happen in the future!