BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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A Frozen Fourth of July

Our Independence Day, the most patriotic of national holidays here in the US, typically fails to stir up much enthusiasm from me. The backyard barbecues are a welcome excuse to grill some easy entrees and catch up with old friends, but that could happen on any summer day, too. Plus, that red, white, and blue color scheme is a bit uninspiring… Most of the time. Inexplicably and without warning, it just hit me the right way this time around. Without plans or any party to attend, I still couldn’t resist the bait- I went all out to make a festive fourth of July dessert. In fact, now I want to throw my own little fete because of this impromptu project…

This cake is the key to turning the holiday into a real celebration. Fluffy billows of snow-white whipped coconut creme obscure a sweet surprise within. Though plainly ordinary from the outside, just remove a slice and watch guests’ faces light up…

To cool off a sweltering summer day in the sun, ice cream cake is just what the doctor ordered. Trust me on this one, it’s the only prescription suitable to combat exhaustion, hunger, heat, and dessert cravings all at once. Red velvet cake, one of my unexpectedly most popular recipes, has been given new life as the base of this icy layered treat. Revised and tweaked to perfection, it now practically glows with a crimson-red hue, all from a little can of cooked beets. For anyone who complained about an overtly lemon flavor, that issue is now a thing of the past. All you can taste is cake, sweet, moist, lightly cocoa-flavored cake.

Blue Moon Ice Cream lends a subtly fruity, mysterious yet comfortingly familiar flavor to the assembly. The real inspiration for this whole frozen dessert, it’s rare to find such a bright blue food, and so I seized the opportunity as soon as I could. Never mind dusty blue corn chips or purplish-blue potatoes- This ice cream is really blue!

If you didn’t plan ahead and pre-order a copy of Vegan a la Mode, then you’re in luck- Sarah of The Sweet Life is generously hosting a giveaway, which she put together without any prompting and paid for out of her own pocket. There’s still time to get in on the action and see this recipe for yourself, so don’t delay and enter the contest now!

Putting together this ice cream cake is much easier than it looks. Simply prepare the red velvet cake according to the instructions, but transfer the batter into a 9-inch round springform pan lined with a round of parchment paper on the bottom and lightly greased. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center pulls out clean, with perhaps a few moist crumbs clinging to it (but absolutely no wet batter.) Let cool completely, and chill before proceeding. Meanwhile, prepare the Blue Moon Ice Cream from Vegan a la Mode (page 8) according to those directions, and after churning, transfer the still soft ice cream to the same springform pan, smoothing it over the baked cake evenly, leveling out the top with a spatula. Let the whole thing harden in the freezer overnight before attempting to unmold.

Once firmly frozen, remove the sides from the pan, peel the parchment off the bottom of the cake, and transfer the two layers to a serving platter, cake plate, or cake stand (remember that you’ll have to fit it back into the freezer though, so double-check that there will be enough space to accommodate your dish!) Frost with coconut whipped creme, and top with edible star glitter, if desired. Store in the freezer until ready to serve, and then…

Celebrate!

Have a Happy Fourth of July!


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The Ultimate Ice-Breaker

You may not yet find the VegNews July/August 2012 issue on newsstands or in your mailbox, but because advance issues are now available online, I see that as free rein to start talking about it. Honestly, I can’t help myself- The summer edition is always a joy to work on, now that fresh fruits and vegetables are flooding back into stores, and every recipe sounds equally compelling. Best of all, it means I can bust out the frozen and chilled treats like there’s no tomorrow, better suited to tempering the summer sun than any blast of artificial air conditioning. Returning triumphantly with my thrice annual column, this sweet idea is one grand finale that will beat the pants off of picnic fruit salads and watery popsicles.

Key Lime Icebox Cake, complete with dozens of crunchy macadamia-flecked cookies and a tropical coconut and citrus creme. A single towering cake feeds a crowd with ease, and is best after sitting in the chill chest for at least a day, so advance prep makes it an ideal party guest. It’s the dessert that friends and family will be talking about long after the crowds go home and the summer sun goes back into hibernation. Yes, it’s that good.

It shouldn’t be long now before the issue officially lands, so you may as well start clearing space for this cake in your fridge right now!


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Jubilant Jubilee

Scurrying about the airport with the urgency of a mouse in a maze, darting in between shelves teaming with overpriced knickknacks, there were mere minutes to gather last minute rations before our seven hour flight was due to depart. After hoarding every last piece of fresh fruit in the terminal, only a few pounds and pence still rattled heavily in my pocket and there was still the matter of entertainment to attend to. A diversion, anything to take my weary mind off the mountains of work accumulating at home, was essential to surviving the last leg of this trip. Glancing skyward at the towering stacks of magazines, at the top of the heap lay the answer to my prayers: Vegetarian Living Magazine. No time to double-check the content, it was one last dash to the register and back to the gate before plopping into a rigid, non-reclining, barely-padded seat. I steeled myself for a long ride.

That impulse buy of a magazine turned out to be a boon, both to passing the time and getting my creative wheels spinning. Incredibly, it was there that I found the most fascinating cultural differences, and not just in a few exchanged words and alternate spellings. Jubilee was practically the feature of the entire issue, and yet somehow this event was not one I had ever heard of before. Was it really such a big deal?

Well, when you’re the queen of England for a whole 60 years, yeah, it’s kind of a big deal. The Diamond Jubilee is not exactly an event that comes around every year… Or every century, for that matter. Though I may have been a bit late to get clued in, now I wouldn’t have missed this holiday for anything!

Is there anything more English than the iconic Battenberg cake? Other than fish and chips, perhaps, this elegant tea cake has graced many a plate since its invention back in the late 1800’s for Queen Victoria. Traditionally only four checkered squares of pink and yellow make up the interior design, but I wanted to go all out for this party. Expanding my cake to accommodate a Neapolitan palate, strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla cake meet in a blanket of sweet marzipan, and the whole assemblage is glued together with seedless strawberry jam.

Admittedly, the recipe is not quite ready for prime time, but it certainly was an ideal accompaniment to a spot of English tea. The good news is that it looks far more complicated than it really was to bake, thanks to the aid of a handy checkerboard cake set. After a few more tweaks to achieve fluffier, fuller layers, I’d say that this could be a creation fit for a queen. Hopefully it won’t take me until the next Diamond Jubilee to figure it out!


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Rah, Rah, Rhubarb!

If rhubarb were playing on a team, would anyone actually cheer for it? A sad, unloved vegetable with an identity crisis, rhubarb is always paired up with the show-stealing strawberry, smothered by sweetness, and thrown into the game more as an afterthought than a star. You’d think that after years of strawberry-rhubarb pies and strawberry-rhubarb crumbles, more bakers would take a chance on letting the red stalks stand alone for once, but no, perish the thought! Rhubarb is bitter, unpalatable, and unable to carry a proper dessert without help from something more flavorful. In fact, this silent player is hardly even a staple for standard grocery stores. Upon asking a produce department worker if they had any early season rhubarb yet, I was looked at as if I had requested a vegan angel food cake. Forget about having never heard of it, this person (who specializes in fresh fruits and vegetables, mind you) couldn’t even decipher what I was saying. Rubbage? Rubar? Well, I’ll take that as a “no,” then.

But rhubarb isn’t some awful ingredient to be either avoided or covered up, like an embarrassing pet stain on the living room carpet. When treated with respect, it makes for perfectly delicious desserts, as is evidenced by these bright, springy cupcakes. Luck would have it that I eventually found a bag of frozen rhubarb, of all things, and so I set right to work redeeming this misunderstood plant.

Topped off with a simple vanilla bean frosting so as not to take over and cover that delicate rhubarb flavor, these little numbers are further beautified by candied violets. Incredibly hard to find and even harder to transport intact, I had been saving up these precious edibles for quite some time now, so it’s a good thing they’re well-preserved by sugar. Such an ornate garnish is far from necessary though- The rhubarb really does sell these treats all by itself.

Rhubarb Cupcakes

2 Cups Chopped Rhubarb, Fresh or Frozen and Thawed
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Cup Orange Juice
1/3 Cup Canola Oil
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Bean Frosting:

1 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
4 Cups Confectioner’s Sugar
1 – 2 Tablespoons Plain Non-Dairy Milk
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Paste or Extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line 14 cupcake tins with decorative papers. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over moderate heat, combine the rhubarb, sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Let stew, stirring periodically, for about 10 – 15 minutes, until the rhubarb becomes so tender that it pretty much falls apart. If necessary, mash it lightly with your spatula to help it break down. Allow the rhubarb to cool for 15 minute before proceeding.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda. Stir the orange juice, oil, and vanilla into the rhubarb mixture, and then add all of those liquids into the bowl of flour. Stir with a wide spatula just until the batter comes together smoothly; a few small lumps remaining are no reason for alarm. Just be sure not to over-mix, or you’ll create a tough cake.

Dole out the batter equally between your prepared cupcake tins, and slide them into the oven. Bake for 18 minutes, until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean. Let cool completely before applying the frosting.

For the frosting, throw room temperature margarine into your mixer, and beat thoroughly until softened. Add in the confectioner’s sugar and start mixing on a low speed to prevent the dry goods from flying out of the work bowl. Add in the vanilla paste or extract, and slowly drizzle in the non-dairy milk, until the frosting reaches a smooth but still firm consistency. Whip on high speed for about 5 minutes until fluffy. Pipe or spread on cupcakes as desired.

Makes 14 Cupcakes

Printable Recipe


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Twenty-Three

In the most minimal fashion, much like the twenty-second year preceding it, my twenty third birthday came and went. There was ice skating with my dad, a shared lunch, a black and white movie at home, and cake; no party, and no candles. Not so much a day of celebration as a day of rest, which sounds just about right to me.

Birthdays of mine have been historically bad days in the past, taking into consideration both apocalyptic winter weather and borderline psychotic meltdowns, so this quieter, uneventful rendition was a merciful change of pace. Less a marker of having arrived at some milestone, I found the date reassuring, a small checkpoint within the greater journey. I’m still here, twenty three years later, and it’s beginning to look like I may just be here in another twenty three as well. Imagine that.

Corresponding with my laid back non-celebration, the cake at hand was simple, unfussy- Homely by some estimations. All I wanted was a dark, moist, spicy gingerbread cake, one that reminded me of The One That Got Away. Ten years ago, scouting out a location for my Bat Mitzvah, I chose the final restaurant based solely on the gingerbread cake served for dessert. Dripping with caramel and finished with a fluffy halo towering over the plate, it’s now all I remember about that meal. In my youth and excitement, it never occurred to me that the event would be catered, and I would never see that beauty of a cake again. In fact, the restaurant has since gone out of business, just to close that book entirely.

So I made it for myself, ten years later. (Ten years. 10. It bears repeating because it seems wildly impossible that so much time could have passed.) Even if there were no candles and no fanfare, it was the perfect ending to my non-celebration.

Gingerbread Blackout Cake

2 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
3 Tablespoons Black Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
6 – 7 Teaspoons (2 Heaping Tablespoons) Ground Ginger
2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1 Cup Brewed and Cooled Coffee
3/4 Cup Molasses
3/4 Cup No Sugar Added Pumpkin Butter or Apple Butter
1 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar
3/4 Cup Canola Oil

Vegan Butterscotch Sauce (From Vegan À La Mode, coming soon!) or Caramel Sauce, and Whipped Creme

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9 x 9-inch square baking pan; Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and soda, and spices. Whisk well to distribute all of the dry goods throughout, and double-check that there are no clumps.

Separately, mix the coffee, molasses, pumpkin butter, sugar, and oil until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry, and stir with a wide spatula to bring the two together. Being careful not to over-mix, stir just until the batter is smooth and not a second longer. Transfer the batter into your prepared baking pan, smooth out the top, and pop it in the oven. Immediately turn down the heat to 325 degrees, even before you close the oven door.

Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean- Perhaps with a few moist crumbs sticking to it but certainly not wet. Let cool completely before slicing and serving with butterscotch sauce and whipped creme.

If time allows, this cake does get better with age, so try to make it a day or two in advance for the flavor profile to become more nuanced and balanced.

Makes 16 – 20 Servings

Printable Recipe


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Moving Right Along

…Is it safe to come out now? Has the Thanksgiving madness come and gone for another year? Thank goodness, it passed without too much fuss or duress around here, and for that, I am truly thankful.

Now that we’re over that hurdle, there’s nothing standing between us and full-blown winter holiday immersion. Decorations and wrapping may have been pushed to a prominent place in stores since Halloween, but now we can finally stop ignoring them- There’s no longer any shame in diving head-first into that sea of iridescent tinsel. It’s my favorite time to cook and bake, when diets don’t even factor in and everyone eats with abandon, simply enjoying the festive foods on offer. Desserts can be desserts, not healthy desserts or breakfast-like desserts (although they may very well be on the menu first thing in the morning, too) and extravagant ingredients can be just par for the course.

If ever there was an easy show-stopper of a treat for the holidays, for me, it would have to be a rum cake. Doused with spirits and emboldened with light spices, I have fond memories of picking moist crumbs off of empty serving plates as I carried them back to the kitchen. Under the guise of being a helpful child, I was really after those leftover scraps.

This year, I gave the traditional bundt a cloak of chocolate, transforming it into a downright fudgy mountain of gently boozy cake. Dotted with sizable chunks of candied ginger, every bite is a little bit different.

Sorry to be a tease, but my Chocolate Rum Bundt recipe can be found in the new November/December issue of Joy of Kosher. Keep an eye on the website though, because they often generously share the recipes after a certain time of having the magazine on the news stands.

I’m certainly in the holiday spirit now! How about you?


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Cheering for the Underdog

Cupcakes have fallen from grace this past year, going from star of the show to loathsome backup singer. It’s an unfair change in the program, and although they may have been overplayed a bit, cupcakes still deserve a spot on the dessert hierarchy. Maybe not at the top, or near the top, but they should make a good showing somewhere. For now, at least, I’m happy to place them squarely in my mouth.

Quick and easy to make, cute as a button, and only a small caloric investment in comparison to a full slice of cake, their winning features strike me as an ideal reason to keep the cupcake craze going strong, especially for Thanksgiving. Pie is of course traditional and required as well, but consider keeping an arsenal of bite-sized mini cupcakes on the side. Perfect to cap off a belly-busting meal with just a little morsel of sweetness, or tide over ravenous guests when the full feast is taking longer to cook than expected, these tiny desserts make up for their diminutive size in versatility. Almost any flavor can be paired with the epic Thanksgiving dinner, from the classic chocolate or vanilla to more experimental combinations, but it seems a shame to ignore all of the seasonal produce that his event is meant to celebrate.

Pomegranate and cranberry share some of the same tart, astringent qualities, which makes them a match made in the oven if you ask me. Neither of these ingredients tend to get fair play in my family’s menu, so I felt it necessary to give them a fair shake at Thanksgiving greatness this year. Plus, small batch means a minimal investment in both time and money, two elements typically stretched to their limits around this time. With just a pinch more patience, you could effortlessly convert the recipe into full sized cupcakes too- Simply double the recipe, and divide the batter between 12 – 14 standard muffin tins lined with cupcake papers. Bake for closer to 16 – 22 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

The cupcake certainly doesn’t need to be the star of Thanksgiving, but I think it should still be invited to the party!


Pom-Berry Mini Cupcakes

1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
Pinch Salt
2 Tablespoons Dried Pomegranate Arils
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Cranberry Juice, or 100% Pomegranate Cranberry Juice
3 Tablespoons Canola Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1/2 Batch Fluffy Vegan Vanilla Buttercream
Fresh Cranberries and Mint Leaves for Garnish (Optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line about 12 mini cupcake tins with paper liners. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder and soda, spices, and salt until well distributed. Add in the dried pomegranate arils, and toss to coat with the dry goods, to prevent them from sinking to the bottoms of the cupcakes.

Separately, combine the juice, oil, vinegar, and vanilla before pouring the wet mixture into the dry. Stir just until the batter comes together and is mostly smooth; A few lumps are just fine.

Scoop about 2 – 3 teaspoons of batter into each mini cupcake paper, or enough to fill them up about 2/3 of the way to the top of the liner. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean. Allow the baked cupcakes to rest in the pans for at least 5 – 10 more minutes before transferring them to a wire rack. Let cool completely before frosting and decorating as desired.

Makes About 12 Mini Cupcakes

Printable Recipe


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Unlikely Inspiration

The empire of food-based television has been slowly crumbling, rotting from the inside out like last week’s Chinese take out, for years. Rapidly expanding into something larger than the Food Network itself, now every channel has their own foodie tour guide, cooking competition, or pour-and-stir cookalong. Quantity over quality, 99% of these daytime abominations aren’t watchable for even a full five minutes, and yet every new series somehow find a way to up the ante and churn out “entertainment” even more stomach-turning. You know this, I know this, and we can all agree that television programing has all but devolved into the same dozen clips of pornographic food shots and “celebrity” catch phrases over and over, 24 hours a day.

And yet, I watch so much of this crap, even I can’t explain it. Just 30 minutes, maybe an hour, to let my mind unspool and stop thinking. Despite the lack of decent programing, I just need that down time, and maybe an opportunity to spew my venom at all those misguided cooks and bakers making brownies out of pork and beans. Top Chef is hands-down my favorite option of all, typically featuring slightly less loathsome personalities, and providing at least occasional inspiration. That particular hour of programing, I devour like junk food. It’s my guilty indulgence, once a week, every week.

No, the combination of canned meat products and desserts didn’t quite set my world on fire in the last episode, but the quickfire did capture my imagination. Presented with root vegetables to incorporate into a sweet recipe, I immediately knew this was my sort of challenge. Carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes- Bring them on! Yet there were so many other promising tubers I hadn’t even known I was ignoring.

Celeriac, how could I not have thought of it before? Mild, almost sweet and nutty to begin with, I already adore the ugly, gnarled root in soups and salads, so why couldn’t it make the transition into the final course? Celery and peanut butter was an easy entryway into the concept, a combination already proven to work, and not just a passing food fad. After school snacks for decades have included some form of “ants on a log,” peanut butter-smeared celery sticks with a line of raisin “ants” marching along the top. It was so obvious, after making that connection from that unlikely source of inspiration, I couldn’t push it out of my mind.

So I made cupcakes. If you can have carrot cakes and zucchini cakes, why the hell not celeriac cakes? If you hate celery, okay, I can’t help you; You’ll probably hate these. But for everyone else, the sweet peanut butter frosting smoothed out the sharper edges of celery flavor nicely, while still allowing the pairing to be easily tasted. Currants take the place of raisins simply for more even distribution within the cakes, but you could always switch back to the latter.

Especially as fresh fruits dwindle along with summer’s bounty, these cupcakes provide a fun, nostalgic interpretation of more hearty fall and winter produce. Plus, you can painlessly squeeze in another serving of vegetables into dessert!

Ants on a Log Cupcakes (Celeriac-Currant Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting)

Celeriac Cupcakes:

1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
2 1/2 Cups Shredded Celeriac (Celery Root)
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
1/3 Cup Dried Currants
1/2 Cup Canola Oil
3/4 Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
2 Tablespoons Water
1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Peanut Butter Frosting:

1/2 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
1 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
2 Cups Confectioner’s Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Pinch Salt
1 – 2 Tablespoons Plain Non-Dairy Milk

Extra Currants, for Decoration (Optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line 12 standard muffin tins with cupcake papers.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and soda, spices, and salt so that all of the dry goods are evenly distributed.

After shredding your celeriac, immediately toss it with lemon juice to prevent browning. Add the shredded celeriac and currants to the bowl of dry ingredients, and toss to coat in flour.

Separately, whisk together the oil, non-dairy milk of choice, water, vinegar, and vanilla. Pour the whole mixture into your bowl of dry ingredients. Stir gently with a wide spatula, just until the batter comes together. A few lumps are just fine, as long as you don’t over-mix.

Evenly dose out the batter between your prepared muffin tins. Don’t be afraid to mound that batter up in the center, they should bake up nicely as long as the amount in each tin is equal. Bake for 23 – 26 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cupcake comes out dry. Let cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, beat together the non-dairy margarine and peanut butter in a stand mixer until completely smooth. Add in the confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, salt, and 1 tablespoon of the “milk.” Start mixing on low speed with the whisk attachment, and once there’s no longer a risk of powdered sugar flying out of the bowl, crank it up to high. Whip for about 5 minutes, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, until light and fluffy. Apply to cupcakes, and sprinkle with additional currants on top if desired.

Makes 12 Cupcakes

Printable Recipe


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Last Call for Blueberries

I’m usually not one for either making or hosting guest posts, but when the Beantown Baker invited me over to her blog to share a bit of my work, I could hardly refuse. So, for today’s recipe, go check it out over in the Friday Favorites section.  You don’t want to miss this one- Marbled Blueberry Bundt Cake to finish off the berry season! Here’s just a small taste…

Slim pickings. Literally, that’s what we found after embarking on our much-anticipated annual blueberry picking adventure. We’re spoiled with riches of wild raspberries all across our county, but blueberries? Those round, sweet gems are a bit harder to come by, and even the farms were sorely lacking this year. After being turned away due to poor picking conditions once already, we were determined not to go home empty handed yet again.

Arriving near the tail-end of their growing season, it’s reasonable to expect a less than bountiful harvest, but this was downright pitiful. Shriveled, grey berries remained where they once blossomed and were forgotten, while others had over-ripened to the point of bursting, like weak balloons filled with shaving cream. Regardless, with a bit of careful, diligent plucking, there were still enough berries to fill a small bucket, and satisfy the peckish picker, of course.


The effort, though more demanding than usual, was rewarded by modest heap of fresh, juicy blueberries, far more flavorful than anything store bought. After hungrily wolfing down about half of our plunder whole and plain, I was itching to make more of this seasonal treasure. Colorful filling to sandwich cookies started the wheels in motion, but I wanted more; something seriously blueberry-filled, rich and ripe.

Cake, the universal party centerpiece, fit the bill with ease. More of a simple tea cake or even breakfast treat, white whole wheat flour contributes a more hearty texture, without any overbearing wheat flavor. Touches of lemon brighten up the soft and tender bundt, although orange could also be a delightful accent instead. Though it may sound unremarkable on paper, trust me, the cut slices are anything but ordinary.

Marbled in striking blue and golden tones, this easy yet stunning dessert is like summer condensed into cake form. Now that the days have begun to cool off considerably, a warm oven is a welcome thing again, and there’s never been a better time to bake with blueberries. Handpicked berries or not, this is one recipe that’s sure to make repeat appearances in kitchen, many times over.

Marbled Blueberry Bundt Cake

3 Cups White Whole Wheat Flour
2 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar
2/3 Cup Olive Oil
1 Cup Plain, Unsweetened Vegan Yogurt
1 cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
2 Teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

1 1/2 Cups Blueberries, Divided
1 Teaspoon Fresh Lemon Juice

1 Teaspoon Lemon Zest

Lemon Syrup:

3 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Cup Granulated Sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease and flour a 10-cup capacity bundt pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and sugar. Separately, mix the olive oil, “yogurt,” non-dairy milk, vinegar, and vanilla to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry, and with a wide spatula, fold the two together just until you achieve a fairly smooth batter. A few lumps are just fine; be careful not to over-mix. Divide the batter equally into two parts, pouring half off into a separate bowl.

Turning your attention now to the blueberries, toss 1 cup of them into your blender or food processor, along with the lemon juice. Thoroughly puree, until smooth but still with their naturally rough, slightly seedy texture intact. Add the blended berries into one of the bowls of batter, along with the remaining 1/2 cup of whole blueberries, and stir well to fully incorporate.

With a clean spatula, mix the lemon zest into the other bowl of batter until distributed throughout.

Lay down a thin layer of the blueberry batter in small dollops along the bottom of your prepared bundt pan. Top that with a ribbon of the lemon batter; it’s fine if it doesn’t entirely cover, but do your best to keep them neat and even. Repeat as many times as possible, until you run out of batter. Take a spatula and swirl it through the whole assemblage ONLY ONCE to create a neat but discernible swirl throughout the cake.

Move the whole bundt into the center of your oven, and bake for 60 – 70 minutes, until a wooden dowel inserted into the center of the cake pulls out clean. Let cool completely in the pan, and then turn out on a wire rack.

To finish the cake off, a thin glaze of lemon syrup is a nice touch to keep everything moist. Simply place both the lemon juice and sugar in a small sauce pan, and stir to combine. Heat over medium heat until the sugar has fully dissolved. Brush the syrup evenly over the whole bundt- Chances are you won’t need it all. (Save the extra for sweetening tea!) Slice and serve right away, or store it covered, in the fridge, for 4 – 5 days.

Serves 12 – 14

Printable Recipe


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No Surprises

Leaping to her feet instantly, arms outstretched and swinging wildly, happy exclamations filled the previously quiet room. Lipstick kisses imprinted our cheeks as the hubbub slowly died down, the birthday girl was genuinely delighted by her unexpected brunch guests and party in her honor. It may have been a surprise party for my grandma, but honestly, I was the most surprised; No one told me we weren’t expected!

No matter, even without the full details there’s no way I’d arrive at any celebration empty-handed. Far from it; The 3-layer, chocolate-smothered tower weighed quite a bit more than calculated, and I was relieved to have it out of my hands upon arriving. Knowing me, you might imagine that some wonderful, unexpected twists must be lurking inside. Some crazy flavor or bizarre ingredient, unusual preparation, funny shape, anything! But no, the surprises ended after our dramatic entry, as this is just a chocolate cake.

No, I take that back- It most certainly is not just a chocolate cake, but in fact the chocolate cake. The chocolate cake I’ve been searching for before I even knew what good chocolate cake was, when I would have been just as thrilled by a half-price grocery store cupcake as a fine French gateaux. All it took to get there was of coarse endless experimentation over the years, but also a bit of humbling. That’s because I had to enlist some help from an ingredient previously reviled and downright banned from this household… Mayonnaise.

Way back when I was 10 years old, from the time I took a bite of a croque monsieur at the Charles de Gaulle Airport on a tedious layover to Italy, I was convinced that mayo was nothing but evil in condiment form. Shocked to find this pasty, fatty white sludge lining the limp bread, it was everything wrong with airport food, and everything wrong with mayonnaise. It was the worst thing I had ever eaten in my young life, and may still hold that illustrious title today, if I cared to think of all those terrible meals past. Though that was our first chance meeting, I was done with mayonnaise forever, and very vocal about my passionate animosity. That’s why it was even harder to reach for the glass jar, and admit that this substance may actually have a place in my kitchen.

This is one accidental re-introduction that I’m blaming squarely on Dreena Burton. Yes, the wholesome sweetheart behind a string of fool-proof cookbooks. It was her fault that I needed a dab of mayo to photograph her rocking veggie burgers, her advice to get Vegenaise instead of the other gloppy stuff that’s almost worse than the original, and thus her fault that I had almost a full jar of the stuff to contend with afterwards.

Without the mayo, this cake couldn’t happen, so I’m trying to accept that painful reality. However, the cake itself isn’t hard to swallow; it practically melts in your mouth, despite its impressive density. So moist, in fact, that I could only think to name it the first thing that popped into my head, “Ultra-Moist Amazing Chocolate Layer Cake.” Not just under-baked or painfully gummy like so many other “moist” cakes, this one holds itself together with a nearly fluffy crumb, which dissolves into pure chocolate fudge in moments. Creamy bittersweet chocolate frosting is the luscious glue that holds together this tower of three tender cake rounds together, and though no further decoration is needed, a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar really seals the deal. Nothing short of a show-stopper, it may not be a surprise, but it’s sure not your average cocoa birthday cake.

Ultra-Moist Amazing Chocolate Layer Cake

Chocolate Fudge Frosting:

1 1/2 Cups Plain Non-Dairy Milk*
1 Pound Semi-Sweet chocolate, Finely Chopped
1 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
1 1/2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

*Chose a full-fat, richer variety for the best results; I prefer almond milk that’s slightly on the thicker side. Coconut milk would also be a good choice here.

Rich Chocolate Cake:

3 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1 Cup Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder, Sifted
2 Tablespoons Whole Flax Seeds, Ground
1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
2 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
2 1/4 Teaspoons Baking Soda
1 1/2 Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1 1/2 Cup Brewed and Cooled Coffee
2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Vegan Mayonnaise
3/4 Cup Canola Oil

Unlike most standard cake-making procedures, you’ll want to start by preparing the frosting first, since it takes some time to cool and set.

Place the non-dairy milk in a medium sauce pan, and bring just the the brink of boiling. You only want to scald it, so quickly take the pan off the heat, and add in the chopped chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes to melt, and then stir the mixture thoroughly until smooth. Cut the margarine into tablespoon-sized pieces, and add them into the melted chocolate, stirring until completely melted and mixed in. Incorporate the vanilla, and let sit at room temperature until cool. Transfer into the fridge to chill. It may take as long as 2 – 3 hours to fully cool, but bear in mind that it will not thicken to the point of being pipe-able; This is a very soft, silky frosting, more like ganache than buttercream. Once it’s merely spreadable, it’s ready to use.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease and flour 3 8-inch round cake pans. You can also do this successfully with just two pans, as long as you measure your batter carefully and have patience.

In the bowl of your stand mixer or just a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, ground flax seeds, salt, baking powder, and soda. Make sure that all of the dry goods are evenly distributed throughout.

In a separate bowl, combine the non-dairy milk, coffee, vinegar, and vanilla, and let sit undisturbed for about 5 minutes. At that point, add in the secret ingredient here, the vegan mayo, as well as the oil, and mix well.

Add the liquids into the bowl of dry ingredient, and slowly mix, just until the batter is mostly smooth and homogeneous. A few lumps are fine, as long as you don’t over-mix. That would cause your cake to come out very tough and chewy, which is not what we’re looking for! Don’t worry if the mixture seems excessively soupy- That is indeed the correct consistency.

Divide your batter evenly between your three prepared baking pans. [If you're only using two, measure out the full amount of batter, and divide by three. You should end up with somewhere around 2 1/2 of batter in each pan. Reserve the remaining third in your fridge while the first two cakes bake, and allow the cakes to cool completely before turning them out onto a large plate. Quickly rinse and dry one of the pans, re-grease and flour, and bake the final amount of batter in the same manner.]

Bake for 35 – 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out cleanly, with perhaps a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Let cool completely before assembling and frosting.

To achieve the decorative pattern on top of the cake as pictured above, first chill the frosted cake thoroughly so that chocolate frosting can set slightly. Take a large doily and gently place it on top, without pressing down, and sprinkle powdered sugar all over. Lift the doily straight up without shaking it, which will remove the excess and leave a lovely, lacy design in its place.

Serves 12 – 18

Printable Recipe

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