Let them eat Crockpot Cake!

Okay, so maybe Marie Antoinette didn’t say it exactly like that but if she had a Crockpot, I bet she would have!  I’ve heard rumors that you can back a cake in the crockpot but you know me, I have to find out for myself.  Now let me say that I wasn’t going to go crazy with a super-duper-completely-from-scratch recipe only to discover that you can’t actually bake a cake in a crockpot.  So I used a boxed cake.  Devil’s Food to be exact.  And I have to say… it came out tasty, moist and just like a regular over-baked cake.  OK, not exactly like an oven-baked cake because it was the shape of my semi oval crockpot and didn’t look very pretty (but I wasn’t going for aesthetics this time).  It was an experiment and now that I know, I can expand upon this.  Here’s my notes on baking a cake in the slow cooker:

Needs:

  • Boxed cake mix – including any requirements from the back of the box such as eggs, oil and water
  • Parchment paper OR Baker’s Joy (I do NOT use Baker’s Joy personally but have heard that it is the best product for this type of baking)
  • NOTE: You can use cupcake foils if they are stiff enough to stand on their own with the batter in them.
  • Crockpot/slow cooker

Directions:

  1. Mix batter as instructed on the back of the cake mix box.
  2. Line crockpot with parchment paper (I measure out the bottom of the pan and make neat folds for more aesthetically pleasing cake) or use Baker’s Joy.
  3. Pour batter into crockpot.
  4. Cover the top of the crockpot with paper towels (to absorb the moisture and allow the cake to actually bake).
  5. Put lid over the paper towels, pulling the towels taunt across so they don’t droop into the rising cake.
  6. Set your cooker on high for an hour.
  7. Check your cake after an hour with a toothpick.  Poke the cake in the center with the toothpick as far down as it will go and pull it back.  If it has batter on it, the cake is not done; cover with paper towels & lid and continue to bake for another half hour.  If it comes back clean, it’s done.
  8. Once done, immediately remove the cake by lifting the parchment paper and placing it on a cooling rack.  If you didn’t use a liner, allow the cake to cool enough to be able to handle it and remove from crockpot.
  9. Allow cake to completely cool before frosting/icing.

Let me know how yours comes out or feel free to post any questions/comments below!  Thanks!

Vegan Ice Cream (aka: Single Ingredient Ice Cream)

Riding on the tailcoats of my mango sorbet, I stumbled across a recipe for single ingredient ice cream.  Yup, you read that right.  One ingredient can make ice cream.  I didn’t believe it either.  And when I read the recipe I thought there must be some sort of flaw to it because it seems too forehead-smacking simple.  But it is.  And it tastes amazing!  I have no pictures for this batch but rest assured, there are more experiments to come and I’ll take pictures as I go (mind you, my darling wife was so nice to suggest that I do an entire new batch just to take pictures… more like she’s hankering for some more and is using that as an excuse but she’s cute so I’m more than willing to accommodate her).  So let’s get to the basics and then delve into the possibilities!

Ingredients:

  • Bananas
  • Options: (see below)

Directions:

  1. Slice bananas into 1/2 pieces into a freezable bowl.
  2. Freeze bananas (takes about an hour or so depending on how many bananas you cut up).
  3. Once frozen, drop in a food processor and chop until creamy (takes a while and looks like gravel for a while before creaming).  Make sure to push down sides and cream it thoroughly.
  4. Add options if desired (though plain, it’s pretty good too!)

That’s it!  When you’re done, you have a very thick, very banana-y, very creamy substance that resembles ice cream and tastes… well… like bananas.  But don’t stop there!  Here’s some great options you might want to try WHILE THE FOOD PROCESSOR IS STILL ON:

  • Drizzle almond milk into the mix to make it a bit less dense and add a bit more ice cream-like taste (vanilla almond milk would be perfect here).
  • Add other fruits such as strawberries, cherries, blueberries, etc.  The possibilities are endless!
  • Chocolate syrup, cocoa powder (sweetened), or even your favorite chocolate bars (Snickers, anyone?) would be an amazing addition.
  • Think banana split!
  • Non-vegan option: honey and almond milk in this would make for a pretty amazing and creamy taste.

As you can imagine, there’s a lot more options that you can choose from but the above is a good start.  If you use just the bananas, it becomes the consistency of pudding, if that’s too thick, add almond, soy or coconut milk slowly.  For the next batch, I’m going to try it without freezing the bananas first.  I’m sure creaming them will be the same so I’m curious if freezing before is a must or if you can cream then freeze.  Results (and pictures) will be posted.

And as always, please add your comments below if you try this and let me know what you added!

Mango & Honey Sorbet

I can’t say I have much of a sweet tooth… unless it comes to ice cream or sorbets.  BUT before the Dictionary Thumpers start correcting me about the difference, Sorbets and sherbets are very similar dishes using fruits, a sweetener and either dairy (sherbet) or alcohol (sorbet).  Sherbets were originally termed “dairy sorbets” and I use the term interchangeably for this specific reason.  Most Americans do the same because appearance wise, there is very little difference.  Besides, I have this whole “it’s MY blog” attitude that will render any arguments futile.

Back to the discussion at hand… as I was saying, I LOVE ice cream or sorbets (dairy and otherwise) and was thinking yesterday how it’s been ages since I’ve had sorbet.  I asked Bre if she liked sorbet or sherbet and she stated that she LOVED sherbet!  GREAT!  Off to the freezer I went to grab her favorite flavor… mango.  I also grabbed some frozen black cherries.  I pulled out the almond milk (which is a wonderful flavor alternative for vegans or those lactose intolerant) and honey (you can use a sugar/water solution which is common for sorbets but as you all know, we don’t use sugar in our home).

And then… the food processor did a death rattle… or should I say… attempted to die a silent death because when I pressed the button, nothing happened.  My handy, dandy, fix-it-girl, loves-to-take-things-apart, wife came to the rescue.  She operated on said processor, discovered the issue, corrected it and put her back together, good as almost-new (let’s face it, I use the food processor a LOT).  The patient made a full recovery and we enjoyed the “fruits” of Bre’s labor (yes, she actually made that joke as we were eating the sorbet).  She also stated emphatically that she liked it far more than ice cream!  I have to agree with her, it was scrumptious!   So here’s how I do it (get ready for no measurements because this is a purely taste specific thing for most people).

Ingredients:

  • Your favorite frozen fruit (single flavors work better than multiple flavors unless both are distinctly sharp/strong)
  • Almond milk (I suggest coconut only it if compliments the flavor of fruit you are using.  Soy works well too.)
  • Honey, agave or sugar-water solution (sugar-water is a 1:1 cup ratio of sugar dissolved into boiling water and let cool, you can make this sweeter if so desired)

Directions:

  1. Add frozen fruit to your food processor and puree it on high until a either it’s a shaved ice looking consistency (the more frozen the better for this).
  2. Continue to puree the fruit while slowly adding almond milk to the mixture until it becomes a creamy consistency (this generally depends on the amount and type of fruit you use, I used four cups of cubed mangos and used about 1/2 a cup of almond milk but the cherries were a little over a cup).
  3. Taste test the mixture.  Slowly add a tablespoon of your sweetener at a time, fully incorporating it before tasting again, until it’s the desired sweetness.  Again, different fruits use less/more sweetener so it really is a personal preference.
  4. When finished, pour into individual serving size, freezable cups and put in freezer for four hours or until thoroughly set.
Other Options
  • Green tea sorbet: When making the sugar (or honey) water solution, use water infused with green tea leaves!
  • Chai sorbet: Same as above only with a chai tea bag.
  • Google it!  There are so many tasty and amazing suggestions out there that make this one of the easiest and most versatile desserts you will ever make.

Notes:

  • Alcohol instead of milk: I love to use wine coolers, fruity wines, and champagnes for sorbets.  But they will not cream the fruit so you will have to add according to taste and I strongly suggest doing so BEFORE adding the sweetener as that drastically changes the taste as well.  As for using heavier wines such as merlots or cabernets, this as wonderful to try but can sometimes wash out the taste of the fruit and very little is used.
  • What fruits to pick: Though this depends primarily on taste, the type of fruit you use will change the consistency of your sorbet.  Creamier fruits such as those in the melon family, mangos, cantaloupes, strawberries, etc. will have a more creamy appearance.  More watery fruits such as watermelon, lemons, oranges, etc. will have a more shaved ice appearance.  Don’t fret, they will still taste amazing.

No Bake Pumpkin Topping

Hello there Dear Reader!  I bet you thought I had given up on this blog.  I’m happy to report, that isn’t true.  I took a small vacation to do some work, get married, revamp my art career and revise some eating habits.  As you know, I’ve been eliminating soy from my diet and that has left me working on some pretty basic recipes while we adjust.  But we’re now coming into the colder weather and that means more cooking!

But it’s not quite cold yet so despite having a hankering for some pumpkin pie, I decided to create something a lot quicker and easier that wouldn’t warm the house up to roasting.  After scanning the web for a bit and not finding exactly what I wanted, I began experimenting and the below is the results!  This topping is amazing over pound cake, carrot cake, banana bread, used as a gingerbread or graham cracker dip, put in a shortbread mini pie crust and topped with whipped cream for individual services or even smeared over a brownie!  YUM!  There are tons of ways to enjoy this topping so have fun and be creative!

Deven’s No Bake Pumpkin Topping

  • 12 oz. cream cheese
  • 29 oz. can of pumkpin
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla flavoring
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon nutmeg
  • Options: For sweeter topping, added honey/agave to taste
Directions:
  1. Add all ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Stir thoroughly first with a spoon/spatula.
  3. Beat until fully incorporated and no lumps are present (will need to scrape sides often).
  4. Add to bread, cake, pie, etc. as suggested above or create your own masterpiece.
Yup!  That’s it!  How awesome is that?!  Enjoy!

Chamomile Cake with Orange Chocolate Ganache

Have been a chef known for making amazing desserts, I simply could not go with the standard wedding cake for my own ceremony.  I wanted something different, something with that was unique.  I also wanted something that had a more Pagan feel to it as that is the nature of our ceremony.  So… after a lot of experimenting and tasty sampling, I’ve come up with what you just read in the title.  Yes.  A chamomile flavored cake.  Its warm, sort of gingery and has a hint of “earthiness” to it without tasting bitter.  The orange chocolate ganache is rich, sweet with warm tones and a subtle orange flavor.

A few hints on this cake before I give you the recipe…

  1. I’m working on a vegan version of this cake so if don’t worry if this sounded good and you were disappointed to find out it’s not vegan.  I should be making a test cake shortly on that and will post it’s results.
  2. I worked with chamomile powder.  You can do try processing the herbs in a food processor but it’s not quite the same.  I suggest finding actual chamomile powder or using a mortar and pestle to grind it into a fine dust.
  3. If you wish to tweak this recipe, please try to keep the dry/wet ingredients ratio as close as possible as this is a simple recipe to mess up.
  4. The ganache is thicker than normal ganache but still quite thin when warm.  It’s best to keep the cake in the fridge or in very cool temperatures.
  5. I am not adding the recipe for the cream cheese frosting I will be using on the final ceremony cake because honestly… it’s cream cheese, honey and food coloring.  If you need a recipe for that at this point, I think you have the wrong blog.
  6. I don’t grease my pans, especially if I am making a cake to be decorated.  Instead, I use parchment paper as it allows for a nice flat surface on the bottom of the pan and doesn’t break the cake.  This cake likes to cling to the pan so if you grease it, use something suitable.  No “winging it” with this recipe.  I’ll post more on using parchment paper in another entry.

Chamomile Cake

  • 1 cup of unsalted butter at room temperature (I use Earth Balance’s soy free buttery spread)
  • 1 cup of honey
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • ½ cup of chamomile powder(ground in mortar and pestle)
  • 1 & ¼ cups of unbleached all purpose flour (or 1 & ¼ self rising flour or cake flour with no baking powder)
  • 1 & ½ teaspoons baking powder (omitted if using self rising/cake flour)
  • 1 cup of milk (1 & ½ cup if using sugar instead of honey)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda (omit if using sugar instead of honey)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (350 degrees if using sugar instead of honey).
  2. Line your pan with parchment paper, folding the corners into pleats.
  3. Cream the butter and honey until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients.
  6. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients and milk a little at a time, alternating the two. (To keep dry ingredients from creating plumbs of powder, fold into batter before turning your mixer on again.)
  7. Pour mixture into lined pan.
  8. Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Tips & Hints:

  • You can use sugar instead of honey by adjusting the milk to 1 cup, omitting the baking soda entirely and increasing the baking temperature to 350 degrees.
  • If using self-rising or cake flour, omit the baking powder.

Chocolate Orange Ganache

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • ½ cup half and half
  • ½ Tbsp honey
  • 1 Orange zest
  • 2 tsp arrowroot

Directions:

  1. Add zest, butter and half & half to a simmer in a small saucepan.
  2. Remove from heat.
  3. Add honey, arrowroot and salt to mixture.  Stir thoroughly.
  4. Add chocolate chips to mixture allowing it to melt the chocolate (can semi-melt chocolate if desired).
  5. Wisk until lumps are gone and mixture is no longer separating.  Should appear glossy. (Remember you have zest in the mixture so tiny grains will be evident.)
  6. Pour over cake to coat.

Assembling the cake hints:

  • To use the ganache between cake layers, allow it to cool slightly to thicken.  Pour over the bottom layer of cake, spreading it with a knife.  Allow it to cool until it stiffens slightly (a few minutes in the fridge is fine for this) then add the top layer.
  • The ganache is NOT a good “frosting” as it will slide when warm and not always cling to the sides.  It’s best poured over individual cupcakes, pieces, as a fruit dip, extra.  It will become fudge-like when cold.

Strawberry Shortbot

Yesterday, Bre brought home some strawberries and angel food cake!  So naturally, strawberry shortcake came to mind but we had no whip cream (and honestly, I don’t particularly care for the store bought stuff) so off we went to the store to get some sour cream and heavy whipping cream.  Now the reason we picked up the sour cream is because you can make a thicker, sweeter and healthier yogurt-type cream for your desserts with sour cream (recipe forthcoming) and I don’t know if Bre liked actual whipped cream.

Real whipped cream doesn’t taste like CoolWhip which is really just a small amount of cream with a lot of corn syrup and water that has been pumped full of air.  I’ll add another entry for that as well.

Instead, I want to talk about the strawberry shortbots.  What is a strawberry shortbot?  Why it’s a… well… er… oh, here’s a picture:

Don't eat me!!!

That adorable and extremely tasty cutie is angel food cake slathered in homemade whipped cream and topped with strawberries with a drizzling of strawberry syrup (chocolate syrup does well too!).   Now THAT says love!

Vegan Coconut Rice Pudding

I love days when I’m in such a cooking mood that the Madame Zen* smells completely edible!  This week Bre picked up a carton of store bought coconut milk to try and I have to say, I was greatly disappointed.  The coconut milk I’m accustomed to is much thicker and has a much more distinct coconut flavor.  Albeit, what I’m use to is primarily only used for cooking and therefore has had a great deal of water removed.  It wasn’t bad mind you but not what I was expecting.  So I decided to make some rice pudding with it.

If you’ve ever made rice pudding from scratch you know it’s generally time consuming and usually tricky to get right.  Now I’ll let you in on a secret… I’m a cheater!  I like to make things quick, easy and tasty.  I have perfected that in my coconut rice pudding finally!  Naturally I have to share it with all of you, so here it is…

Ingredients

  • 2-4 cups Coconut milk (See “Tips & Hints”)
  • 1 cup Jasmine rice (See “Tips & Hints”)
  • 1/3 cup Agave, honey, maple syrup and/or brown sugar to taste (See “Tips & Hints”)
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder or tapioca starch (See “Tips & Hints”)
  • 1/2 cup Coconut flakes
  • Cold water

Directions

  1. In a sauce pan over medium heat, bring the coconut milk to a gentle boil.
  2. Add rice and coconut flakes to the milk.
  3. Continue to simmer adding more coconut milk if needed, until thoroughly cooked.
  4. Once the rice is soft, add your sweetener to taste.
  5. Continue to cook until almost all of the milk has been absorbed or thickens slightly.
  6. While the mixture is still warm, pour into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth (you can get it pretty creamy this way if left in long enough).
  7. While that blends, mix equal parts cold water and arrowroot in a small bowl.
  8. Pour arrowroot liquid in the mix and continue till satisfactory creaminess is achieved (will set further in the fridge).
  9. Put pudding in fridge to set till cools completely (a few hours generally).

Tips & Hints

  • You can use almond milk instead of coconut milk but it usually is much thinner.
  • I keep extra coconut milk around to keep adding to the rice in case I need it while cooking.  For some reason I have had coconut milk reduce at different rates and its difficult to be certain of an exact amount you’ll need.
  • To get the texture most people like, you pretty much need to overcook your rice so you can start out with leftover white rice of any variety or cook your rice, allow it to cool overnight in the fridge and continue the recipe.  I use Jasmine rice because it cooks quickly and we like the taste.
  • I use honey and 1-2 tablespoons of brown sugar for this recipe.
  • I use arrowroot powder as my thickener for almost all my puddings as I like how it looks.  Very little goes a long way but if you like very thick pudding, add a bit more.
  • If you use tapioca starch and find that it causes lumps while mixing, try dissolving it before adding it to the mix (step 7 if using arrowroot).

*For those of you who don’t know, I am not the Madame Zen.  The Madame Zen is a 34 ft mobile home that I live in with my partner Bre and Tonkinese cat named Charlie.  Our home is named the Madame Zen because of her Asian interior design and the very Zen effect she has on us and others.