Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting

There have been a lot of changes in my life lately.  Sadly, that includes a few of my great work friends moving to far off places.  This week, my fellow dietitians and I bid farewell to one of them.  (Hey Katherine! We will miss you bunches.)

And just like we always do, we said goodbye with a lunch potluck at work.  Why? Because dietitians love food.  And when we have potlucks, there is great food to share.  Katherine is vegan, so we had lots of yummy vegan-friendly dishes.  Including…ta-da!!….vegan cupcakes!! (That are also Gluten Free!)

And what are cupcakes without frosting, really?  But regular vegan “butter”cream has been done in my kitchen before.  I needed something new.  As I searched the aisles of Central Market for some inspiration, I stumbled upon Tofutti.

I’d never tried this before.  I know of some vegan cheesecake recipes that call for Tofutti, but never really knew what it would taste like or how else it could be used.  The package said “better than cream cheese”, to which I thought “good, because cream cheese is yucky.”  (Unless in cheesecake form.) And I’ll admit I was a bit turned off by the taste of Tofutti, too.

But I gave it a whirl in my mixer. The creation was a hit!

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes or frost an 8″ cake

  • 8oz Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, softened
  • 2/3 cup vegetable shortening, coconut oil, or softened vegan buttery sticks
  • 5 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Directions:

  1. With an electric mixer, cream together Tofutti and shortening (or other fat of choice). I use my stand mixer for this process.
  2. Slowly add sugar, one cup at a time. Scrape sides of the bowl often.
  3. Beat in almond extract.
  4. Frost your favorite vegan cupcakes! I used my vegan chocolate cupcakes for this batch.

 

And because Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, here’s a V-day dressed version. 🙂

The Perfect White Cake Search

Everyone knows about it, and everyone’s had it before….white cake. The staple.  The safe bet, because most people are picky about their cake flavors.

It being such a classic, you would think that every self-respecting cake decorator would have their favorite white/vanilla cake recipe.

But that’s so not true.  And, surprisingly, white/vanilla cake is possibly THE most difficult cake to make.  Why? Because there isn’t a flavor to cover up the cake’s imperfections.  It has to be sweet enough, but not too sweet.  Vanilla tasting, but still mild flavor. And the perfect crumb because, let’s be honest, it’s much easier to make a moist cake if you’re adding some other flavors to the thing.

It’s cake, but without all of the bells and whistles.  Unless you make it look like this….

Sweet 16 at Tiffany's

But even after you look past the pretty decorations, it’s still just white cake, and it has to be good.  Because everyone knows what it should taste like, and people are critical with their childhood favorites.

Lately, I’ve still been searching for the perfect white/vanilla cake recipe.  I don’t normally share the recipes that I use for Little Bit Sweet, the baking business. (Yes, I’m keeping secrets from you…sorry)  But now that I’ve discovered a better version of my old white cake recipe, I’ll share a couple of the old ones for you to try.  These were good, but just not what I was looking for.

Here’s the one I’ve been using for the past year or so:  Simple White Cake

Analysis:  It’s really good!  But it’s much more dense than I’d like.  And I often decreased the amount of sugar because it forms a bit of a sugary crust on the cake itself when it bakes.  Not a bad thing, but it makes it more difficult to carve into shapes like this:

And the latest recipe tried: Veganbaking.net

Analysis:  It’s good. And it’s vegan, which is a plus for my needs as I have vegan friends and clients.  Nice crumb/texture.  But just wasn’t….right.  A little “flour-y” tasting for me.  Not a ton of vanilla flavor to it. Like I said before: it was good, just not the quintessential white cake I was wanting.

So, alas, I go back to the drawing board again.  I like the white cake recipe I’m now using, but it could always be better.  I want the white cake that brings everyone back to their childhood.  Meaning their grandma’s recipe or mom’s recipe….not the white cake you’d get at the grocery store for your birthday cakes 😉  Not that there is anything wrong with those!! I love them.  They’re just not the perfect white cake…

Gluten-free, Vegan, and soooo Delicious!!

I know what some of you may be thinking.  “Gluten free?  AND vegan?? ….does it taste good?”

But keep an open mind because I promise that these are good!  And you don’t have to make them gluten free OR vegan, but this is to give an option to those that may have to have a GF option. Those that follow a GF diet can attest to the fact that it can be very difficult to find tasty baked goods that are still GF.  But I promise it’s possible.

The original recipe for these cookies can be found on AllRecipes.com.  Click here to see it.

I then modified the recipe with egg replacer and GF flour to make it a GF & Vegan recipe.  These cookies were tested by my coworkers and got great reviews! Both from omnivores, vegans, gluten free-ers, and gluten eaters. Besides, they’re fudgy chocolate cookies…talk about a crowd pleaser!

GF Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Adapted from recipe on AllRecipes.com

Makes ~3 dozen cookies

  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp Ener G Egg Replacer
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups Bob’s Red Mill GF all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp Xanthan gum
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar (be sure it is gluten free! No wheat starch in the ingredient list)

In a medium bowl, beat together cocoa powder, sugar, and oil.

In a small ramekin, whisk together egg replacer and water.  Add to sugar mixture and mix until combined.  Add vanilla and beat well.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt.  Slowly add to wet mixture, mixing just until combined.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for a few hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop about 1 tsp dough and roll into a ball. Roll each ball in confectioners’ sugar and place on baking sheet.  Flatten each ball a little bit.  The cookies don’t spread, but do rise.  So flatten them to about the size you’d like to see in your cookie.

Bake 10-12min, immediately moving them to a cooling rack after removing from the oven.

Estimated nutrition information (per cookie):  86 Calories, 1.7g Fat, 0.6g Saturated fat, 71.8mg Sodium, 38mg Potassium, 20g Carbohydrates, 1.5g Fiber, 13.2g Sugar, 1.1g Protein

These cookies are small but very delicious.  Keep them soft by placing a slice of bread in the container with the cookies. Strange, but it works!

Vegan Baking Tips, and Life Updates

There’s been a BIG response to my gluten free baking tips. So how about some tips for vegan baking??

Ok, so there are a couple of reasons for this “tips” post instead of another recipe. Truth is, life has been so busy lately that I’ve been severely slacking on making up recipes. Or even trying new recipes.

Hopefully, this will change soon and I’ll be back with lots of new things for all of you to try. Here’s what’s been happening in my life lately:

  • I turned another year older!! July 13th was my birthday, and even though I greatly dislike getting older, I love birthdays!! Funny thing? I totally didn’t have a birthday cake. My mom, sister, and oldest niece came to visit and bought a small cookie cake for us to share. Plus birthday gelato. I was so busy with cake orders and the TMNT cake you’ve seen that I didn’t have patience time to make another one.

    Birthday gelato! Yummmm

  • Little Bit Sweet, the business, is growing!! I’ve been very blessed to have more orders lately, and I’m starting to learn the ins and outs of organizing a small business. Holy cow it’s difficult! Especially when you have a science, not financial, mind. But I’m loving the learning experience for sure.
  • Work!!! As many of you know, I’m also a pediatric dietitian. And I’ve gotten pretty lazy respectful of my time at night. It’s a lot of work coming up with recipes and writing….and I’ve been slacking. Telling myself that it happens to the best of us. 🙂
  • Concerts, visiting family, seeing old friends. All fun things. Especially the concerts! I saw John Mayer & Phillip Phillips on my birthday, and will see Train, Maroon 5, and Kelly Clarkson in the coming months. Yay!!

    John Mayer mania. Look at all of the people!! And this was just the lawn seating.

Now that you’ve caught a glimpse at what’s been happening on the home front, how about we get into today’s post?

GF Vegan Cupcakes

Vegan baking is something I totally got into by chance. A few of my dear friends are vegan, and wanted to include them in celebrations. So I worked to make recipes vegan-friendly. Then, I got the order for gluten-free & vegan rainbow cupcakes. I HAD to learn at that point.

There have been opportunities to learn from failure….like the time I set the oven aflame.

But I learned a few things along the way. Vegan or have vegan friends? Here are a few tips for you:

  1. Use an egg replacer…a good one.
    One that will not cause the batter to explode and start an oven fire. Meaning, do NOT use baking powder and water to make an “egg” if you already have another leavening agent in the recipe.
    My favorite egg replacer is Ener-G Egg Replacer. You mix the powder with some water and use it just like a regular egg. I’ve also tried making a flax egg (1 Tbsp flax seed + 3 Tbsp water), but it will cause your baked product to have flecks of flax in it….leading people to ask “what’s in this?” If you’re making a muffin or bread of some sort, a flax egg works perfectly because there’s already flecks of stuff in the batter. As a general rule, though, I use Ener-G “eggs.”
    **Note: these replacers don’t work for custards and will also not replace egg whites for meringue…still working on figuring out replacements for those**
  2. You’ll need a milk substitute, of course.
    I tend to always use soy milk. Works like a charm, usually. And for baked goods such as cakes or muffins, I like using light vanilla soymilk for that little bit of vanilla flavor. Coconut milk, almond milk, and others are also said to work as well. I just haven’t tried them.
  3. Recipe call for butter? No problem.
    Use a vegan-friendly “butter.” My friend Rachael directed me toward Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks and I haven’t turned back. (Seriously, I’ve learned what I know about vegan baking from her.) The buttery sticks work just like butter or margarine. You can also replace most or all of the butter with a fruit puree like unsweetened applesauce or mashed banana, but it will yield a different texture for the final product.
    Another tip: if the recipe calls for softened butter, substituting oil will also yield a different final texture. Butter (or “butter” in this case) when still cold and incorporated throughout the baked good, makes little air bubbles in the final product as it bakes and melts. So using oil instead of “butter” makes things a bit more dense…because these tiny bubbles won’t form in the batter.
  4. Chocolate chips can be dairy free.
    Look for it on the package. My favorite is the Enjoy Life brand.

    Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Try using vegan buttery sticks & non-dairy chocolate chips in this awesome recipe.

  5. If your recipe calls for buttermilk:
    Place 1 Tbsp vinegar in a measuring cup and add enough soymilk to make 1 cup total. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes. It will curdle and look disgusting. Fear not. Mixes in just fine and is a perfect replacement for buttermilk.

And there you have it! You’re a vegan baking pro.

Well, not just yet probably….there’s a lot more to it than these 5 simple tips. But at least this will get you started.

Now back to my hectic schedule. Today, I’m baking my dad and grandpa a birthday cake. Fun!

Have a great day!!

Baking Blunders

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

VERY true in the world of baking.  I’ve definitely had some baking tragedies in my day.  Some fixable…some, well not so much.

Now I’m going to share some with you!  No worries, I’ll save the best for last 😉

1.  The time with the gluten-free, vegan, rainbow cupcake challenge.

I rarely back down from a challenge. So when a client calls and says “can you do…” I always say yes and then figure it out later.  So far, so good.  But an order for rainbow cupcakes almost got the best of me.

Rainbow cupcakes, fine.  I could figure out how to do that.  But they also needed to be gluten-free AND vegan.  My first recipe test never baked in the middle.  The second test I used too much baking soda (YUCK!).  And the third was very, very gritty.

I finally got it right, but it took a lot of wasted cupcakes……Somewhere over the....

2. The time meringue was made with Splenda.

Umm, this one is pretty self explanatory.  Didn’t work.  Period.  It was meringue soup.

3.  The time I used avocado instead of butter.

So, I heard online (so of course, it was true) that you can use avocado instead of butter at a 1:1 ratio in recipes.  I tried it.  This happened:

Pretty huh??  I haven’t tried it again, but apparently it works IF you only replace HALF of the butter with avocado.  You’ve been warned.

4.  The time the wedding cake melted.

There always seems to be some form of stress with wedding cakes….usually when it’s time to deliver them.  This time, it was the groom’s cake for one of my best friend’s weddings. Remember my UFC cake?

UFC Groom's Cake

UFC Groom’s Cake

Turned out great, right?  But it wasn’t without it’s stresses.  I got the bright idea to make the cage out of chocolate….in Texas….for a summer wedding.  I was holding it in the passenger’s seat of a car for delivery and the sun shining through the windshield melted one side of the cage.  Instant panic!!!

Luckily, my mom came to the rescue and made a mesh out of fondant while I got ready for the wedding.  She saved the day! And no one ever knew the drama.

5.  The time the oven caught fire.

I promised I would save the best for last.  Yes, this happened.  At the time, it wasn’t funny.  Now it happens to be the favorite “Lauren’s baking” story to tell.

What had happened was…. I was making vegan cupcakes.  But I didn’t have egg substitute.  Well, I read online (notice how that gets me into trouble???) that you could use baking powder and water instead of an egg.  So I did.

But this recipe had 4 eggs in it.  That meant a LOT of baking powder.  Guess what happened?

Yep, the cupcakes had a little extra…umm…volume. They overflowed onto the bottom of the oven, bypassing the baking sheet I’d placed underneath to catch drips.  Just as soon as I told my mom “I’m afraid it will catch fire or something”, sure enough, flames.  And I’m not talking about a tiny flame.  It grew.

Thankfully, the fire will put itself out if you leave the oven closed (good call, mom).  But this was not before my dad got a phone call with me saying “Umm hi dad.  If there is a fire in the oven, will it put itself out?”

His reaction was, of course, “WHAT??”

No worries.  The house didn’t burn down.  But the cupcakes…may they rest in peace….sad day.

 

What’s your biggest baking blunder?

Wake Up!: PB&Banana Smoothie

I’m back with a BIG winner!  Both in the taste and the nutrition department.

 

Recently, I was talking to someone who has a classic case of “I don’t have time for breakfast” but is very active and often turns to protein shakes for his morning meal.  Now, yes there are some protein shakes that are good, but many of them are high in fat and/or sugar.  So I was determined to come up with a healthy alternative that would fit the bill for a nutritious breakfast.
Mission accomplished!  This smoothie is super fast, super simple, and SO delicious.  If you like peanut butter and banana sandwiches, you’ll like this.

What’s great about it?  This packs a punch with fiber, protein, and calcium.  It also has carbohydrate from the soy milk and banana, without added carbs from sugar.  This all adds up to an ample breakfast that will fill you up and give you a great, nutritious start to your day.  And if you’re a meat-free person (veggie or vegan), you’ll love this smoothie too!!

This recipe DOES use a not-so-common ingredient:  Powdered peanut butter.  What is it?  Basically, peanuts that have had all oils pressed out of them to form a powder.  It can be reconstituted with water, milk, or any other liquid to make peanut butter.

I love it for a couple of reasons.  1) I will eat peanut butter straight from the jar if it’s in my apartment.  This keeps me from doing that.  and 2) It’s MUCH lower in calories but keeps the same protein content.

I have only tried PB2 brand peanut butter.  Find it here  OR you can buy it from Amazon.com.

PB & Banana Smoothie

Makes 1 serving

  • 2 Tbsp quick-cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 small banana (about 6″)
  • 3 Tbsp powdered peanut butter (I use PB2 brand)
  • 1/2 cup light vanilla soymilk (or skim milk if you prefer)
  • 4-6 ice cubes
  • Sweetener, if desired

Mix oats and water in a small ramekin or bowl.  Microwave on high for about 30 seconds. Allow to cool for a minute or two.

Place all ingredients in a blender.  Blend on high until well combined with all ice incorporated.

Enjoy!

Estimated Nutrition Info (using Silk light soymilk, PB2 peanut butter, and no sweetener):  263 Calories, 4.6 g Fat, 47 g Carbs, 8 g Fiber, 16 g Sugar, 14.1 g Protein, 27% DV Calcium

 

Let me know what you think!  Oh and no, you don’t have to put it in a fancy wine glass… but I got fancy for the pictures 🙂

 

 

Chocolate (Vegan) Cake

Happy Friday everyone!! I know what you’re thinking “Yes! The weekend is almost here.  Time to celebrate with chocolate cupcakes!”      ….What?  That’s not what you’re thinking.  Hmm, guess I’m not psychic.
Either way, this post is all about a wonderful recipe find for homemade chocolate cake that isn’t dry as a bone and is 100% vegan.  I, myself, am an omnivore.  But I do have veggie and vegan friends that I like to accommodate as well. 🙂

Now all of you omnivores out there, keep an open mind here.  Vegan does NOT mean “gross” or “tasteless” or …believe it or not… “healthy”.  There is still sugar, cocoa powder, and all of the other favorite things you love in a cupcake.  It just means that if you’re out of eggs or milk, you’re in luck here. (I happen to always be out of milk and/or eggs when I go to make a new recipe…Murphy’s Law)

This is the best chocolate cake recipe I’ve found, by far.  Usually home baked chocolate cake turns out very dry.  This is the wonderful exception, and will be my go-to chocolate cake recipe from now on.

Since it’s not my recipe, and I only changed a few things on it, I’m just posting the link instead of typing it all out here.  Here’s the link:  http://www.food.com/
Now here is what I changed:

  1. I used canola oil in place of vegetable oil.
  2. I didn’t make this frosting recipe, so I can’t vouch for that.  I used buttercream.  Click here for my buttercream recipe.

Now let’s get baking!  Hope everyone has a great weekend!