Cake It Naked

In the age-old debate between chocolate and vanilla, few can claim complete neutrality. Even if a strong preference emerges, it would be near impossible to deny the other. Who would want to imagine a life without rich chocolate lava cakes, dark chocolate fudge, or chewy brownies, or on the other hand, vanilla bean ice cream, crisp meringue cookies, or New York cheesecake. Luckily, we don’t need to pick sides in this battle. In fact, we can even have both at the same time.

Stripped down to the bare essentials, Naked Shake delivers pure plant-based protein with clean, well-rounded chocolate and vanilla flavors. Each is a treat served up as solo sips, blending instantly into a smooth, creamy treat that could give a classic milkshake a run for its money even when using plain water. That’s because MCT oil adds a certain richness that makes it far more satisfying than the average mix, giving you everything you want, and nothing you don’t.

When these two forces are combined, however, real magic starts to happen.

Endless layers of chocolate and vanilla paint this simple snacking cake in bold stripes, creating a crave-worthy contrast of flavors in every bite. Named for this pattern that looks similar to a zebra’s unique patterning, it’s more like a lazy marble cake that does all the work for you.

Stay naked and resist the urge to add icing; there’s no need for that extra sweetness that would only cover up such brilliant flavors. There’s nothing to hide when you start with quality ingredients and just don’t mess them up. GMO-free, soy-free, vegan and certified gluten-free, Naked Shake offers something that everyone can enjoy. In keeping with that spirit, my zebra cake is also gluten-free, and could be made low-sugar if you wanted to substitute erythritol or a monk fruit baking blend.

You don’t even need to rationalize slicing off a big chunk to enjoy for snack or breakfast. It’s a genuinely healthy choice; no cheating necessary! In fact, you could even bake off the batter as muffins for better portion control and portability, if you’re into those things.

Earn your stripes by shortening the divide between chocolate and vanilla. There’s room for both flavors and so much more, without making any compromises.

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Icing on the Birthday Cake

Birthdays were so simple as a kid; you had a party, got cake, played with all your friends, and opened presents. What’s not to love? Fast forward a few years and those same joyous rituals began to feel trite. Maybe you were too “cool” for all the fuss or had more complicated relationships. As time wore on, getting older didn’t seem like a thing to celebrate at all, for the daily slog of adulthood and the aches to come with it. Birthdays transformed from the best day of the year to the absolute worst.

Here I am now, observing the 33rd anniversary of my creation, and I think I’ve entered into the next part of the cycle. Finally breaking through the gloom, I realize how lucky I am to have such a “problem” of getting older. Yes, it’s difficult and so much of it is a pain, literally and figuratively, but it sure beats the alternative. It’s a day that I can use to treat myself to all the things I love, for no particular reason. Why not take the excuse to indulge?

That’s why I’m throwing a little virtual party right here, right now, with all things cake and cake-inspired. If it’s got sprinkles and sweetness, I’m all about it, whether it’s a cookie, a candy, or something else entirely. Here are just a few of my favorite treats that are worthy of any celebration, no matter what stage of birthday appreciation you find yourself in.

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What’s Old is New Again

Welcome, 2022! New Year, New You?

No thanks. Same you, but make it better than ever.

Veganuary is upon us once again. Millions have already taken part in this month-long initiative to make more compassionate choices by switching to plant-based foods, and no effort is too small. Ideally, the results will be so compelling that participants will go vegan for good, but even one week of abstaining from animal cruelty makes a difference. Need I remind you, even if you don’t care about animal welfare, even if you don’t care about the environmental impact, you should care about your own happiness.

The benefits of a plant-based diet are thoroughly documented. My biggest concern isn’t with health, though. Veganism isn’t a diet, and as such, I feel duty-bound to remind you that there are greater advantages to dumping dairy, eggs, and meat…

Like these cupcakes. Beginning life in 2006 as one of my first recipes ever, my Classic Chocolate Cupcakes have been a runaway hit since day one, and still endure as one of my most popular posts. It’s really a shame, considering the terrible photos and poorly written instructions. Now, almost 15 years later, it’s time to right those wrongs.

Made with basic pantry staples, I always have everything on hand to make a batch at a moment’s notice. In 30 minutes or less, start to finish, you’ve got a party starter ready to celebrate. The results taste so much richer than their humble origins would suggest; moist, tender crumbs with a deep chocolate flavor shine beneath slightly crisped edges.

Can you turn this into a large format layer cake? Absolutely! Just double the ingredients and divide the batter equally between two lightly greased 8-inch round pans. Bake for 20 – 24 minutes, and you’re well on your way to a majestic, towering stack of chocolate decadence. Same goes for a triple layer cake, if you really want to reach for the stars.

What about gluten-free options? You’ve got it! I’ve tested this recipe with Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten-free baking flour with excellent results. Go ahead and use your flavor alternative blend if you prefer something else. Everyone’s invited here!

Everyone needs a tried-and-true, foolproof chocolate cake recipe in their arsenal, and this one’s mine. I hope it can be yours, too. Even if you’ve never tried your hand at baking, even if you’re new to the plant-based world, this is one solid formula that will always do you right. Veganism is the sweetest reward!

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Buckle Up

A relic of a bygone era, buckles appear in books mostly as footnotes, a passing mention as an antiquated dessert with a funny name. For all the cobblers, crumbles, crisps, and pies out there, hardly anyone stops to consider making a slump, grunt, brown Betty, or our hero of the day, a buckle.

While everyone was staying home and stress-baking banana bread during the pandemic, it would have made much more sense to see a resurgence of fruit buckles. The dessert gets its name from its appearance, dimpled with fruit and streusel topping, like the wrinkled surface of a bridge about to give way. Given the way the world itself felt warped out of shape, distorted and liable to collapse any moment, the humble fruit buckle seems well suited to that unstable energy.

Thankfully, this construction is much more structurally sound than it may look. Though there’s a high ratio of fruit to batter, it holds up admirably under pressure, including transportation, advanced prep, and indelicate slicing. In fact, it’s much more stable than our beloved pumpkin pie.

This holiday season, I’m bringing the buckle back. Dressed in a spicy cloak of ginger and warm brown sugar, winter’s finest crimson cranberries sparkle from within, dusted with a heavy snow of confectioner’s sugar over sweet cinnamon crumbs. Blueberry buckles may be the best known of the bunch, but there’s no reason why we can’t switch gears with the seasons here. Emblematic of the fleeting nature of the holidays, cranberries will be gone before you know it, so you had better get your fill of these tart little jewels while they’re still around.

Plan ahead and toss a bag or two of fresh cranberries in the freezer to extend the joy. You can toss them right into the batter without thawing to speed right through to the good part: eating. Enjoy warm, at room temperature, or even chilled. My favorite approach is to enjoy it lightly toasted in the oven or air fryer, individually crisped slices with extra crunchy edges, and a big scoop of ice cream slowly melting on top.

Just because it buckles doesn’t mean it will break. It’s stronger than it looks, just like all of us.

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Ice Cream Season

To anyone who decries ice cream solely as a summertime food, buckle up and put on a sweater. I’ve got numerous wintry treats in Super Vegan Scoops! tailor-made for the season that will change your mind.

Apple Pie Sundae

First gradually, and then suddenly, the seasons shift once more. Progressively cooler breezes blow in every night until thick, knit blankets reemerge from storage, unfurling upon beds like the triumphant victory flags of fall. Golden leaves tumble from their branches, crunching and snapping underfoot, dusting every pathway like freshly fallen snow. Tastes adjust as well, directing cravings towards the comfort of warmer, richer foods. When it comes to dessert, no dish better represents this transitory period than the classic apple crisp. A fool-proof formula for success, the combination of tender apples, bubbling away in their own cinnamon- and nutmeg-spiked juices holds universal appeal.

Bearing all the best characteristics of the classic pastry but in with a considerably cooler core, a rich scoop of apple butter-rippled ice cream perches atop warm, fork-tender apples, gently poached and delicately cradled by a single-serve flaky crust. Incorporating the faintly woodsy flavor of burnt sugar, these treats don’t just welcome autumn’s return, but celebrate it with gusto.

Frosty Pumpkin Roulade

The cult of pumpkin spice is unstoppable, growing in tenor and ferocity with every passing season. Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice candles, pumpkin spice cough drops, pumpkin spice lip gloss, and pumpkin spice scratch-and-sniff bandages; they’re all real! If it can be infused with the flavor (or scent) that dominates all of fall, it absolutely will be. Pumpkin pie is at the very top of the Thanksgiving dessert hierarchy of course, as the purest, original manifestation of the flavor sensation.

In light of the newfound fervor for pumpkin spice, I feel a revolution is upon us. Coming from another venerable line of traditional baked goods, ready to unseat the longstanding overlord, is the spectacular pumpkin roulade. Typically filled with airy mounds of vanilla-spiked whipped cream, each spiral of aromatic pumpkin crumb gains even greater appeal with buttery pecan ice cream instead. Wrapping up two desserts into one, pumpkin spice fanatics will have a fresh focus for their seasonal obsession, and fair-weather fans will be mightily pleased, too.

Mulled Wine Sorbet

Drawn to the kitchen by the heady aroma of citrus and spice, the soothing scent of mulled wine evokes memories of the holidays, as warm and cozy as a thick knit sweater. Though typically enjoyed steaming hot, to fortify against a cold winter’s night, it’s also quite delightful served over ice, which is where this much cooler rendition got its inspiration. Pull on your mittens and scarves to embrace this spirited yuletide treat!

Peppermint Bark Roulade

Regardless of holiday party plans, as host or attendee, no matter how long or short wish lists may be, I have two words for you: Peppermint Bark. All it takes is chocolate and crushed candy canes, yet it can elicit the same level of enthusiasm as a laborious multi-tier Christmas cake. You’d think the stuff was sprinkled with pure gold judging by the way some people clamor to snap up piece after piece.

Something about the combination of creamy chocolate slabs, festooned with crunchy red and white striped mint confections seems to strike a chord with everyone, young, old, jolly, and curmudgeonly alike. It’s all about the ratio and quality of ingredients that hits the sweet spot.

Plain peppermint stick ice cream is a wondrous limited edition treat, but without a chocolate crunch, something seems to be missing. Enter, the glorious peppermint bark roulade, complete with creamy candy cane ice cream, topped with crisp chunks of chopped chocolate, all wrapped up in a fudgy, tender chocolate cake. As if that wasn’t enough, the whole thing is smothered in another layer of snappy dark chocolate magic shell, and finished with a flurry of crushed peppermint candy. It’s a bite of holiday joy that’s far better than anything you could wrap up with a bow.

Santa’s Secret Stash Sundae

When he’s on his epic Christmas Eve odyssey, Stanta is powered by the laughter of children, reindeer magic, and the holiday spirit itself, but we all know he needs to stop and refuel on something more substantial every so often. If I were going to treat Mr. Klaus, it would be with this magnificent collection of seasonal specialties. It all starts with a thick, chewy sugar cookie, because tradition does mandate the classic offering. Instead of a wane glass of milk, though, I’m topping it with a generous scoop of eggnog ice cream, melting into the warm skillet while rivulets of tart cranberry sauce burst through each nook and cranny. Lightly spiced nuts crunch through each layer, adding a refreshing textural contrast. Old Saint Nick never tasted a midnight snack quite like this.

Don’t forget about all the evergreen, all-purpose scoops that always hit the spot, any day of the year. There’s never a bad time to slice into a Brooklyn Blackout Ice Cream Cake, or lick a Cannoli Cone, for example. So get cozy, blast the heat, and break out the frozen treats! It’s still ice cream season, as far as I’m concerned.

20 Best Vegan Christmas Cookies

Cookies never go out of season, but the winter holidays are truly the best time to stay warm by the oven and indulge your sweet tooth. So much of the experience has to do with spending time with friends and family, creating memories that will long outlast those cherished treats.

The end results spread joy to all those gifted, and it’s easy to make enough to go around. If you’ve been waiting for a reason to bake cookies, this is your prime opportunity.

Guided by tradition, certain morsels show up to the party year after year. However, there’s always room on the cookie platter for something new.

Whether you’re looking for a twist on a classic or an entirely different way to shake up the dessert course, I’ve got you covered. These are some of my favorite holiday cookie recipes that are guaranteed to keep your celebration sweet.

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