Sunday, 26 July 2009

Anatomy of an Engagement Cake

My lovely friend Jen (of the big variety, not of the small who was married in June) is engaged to Ryan, and on Saturday we all got together to celebrate this! Jen and Ryan asked me to make their engagement cake. I was honoured, and or course said yes. How fabulous to be able to make a vegan engagement cake! Hurrah! Here is what followed...

First up, one needs a flavour. I gave Jen a list of options, and I made some cupcakes for her top picks. This cupcake was the winner. It is a Chocolate Peanut Butter Heavencake from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. A chocolate cupcake with the middle pulled out to make a hole which is then filled with Peanut Buttercream and topped off with Ganache. Nom!

How big would the cake need to be? Apparently enough for around about 130 people. The biggest pan I had was a 9x13 inch, but it is more of a pan than a proper cake tin. Also, not big enough! I found this fabulous website, Simply Cake Tin Hire, a lady who lives near me and has a zillion types of cake tins that you can just hire. Hurrah! I was originally going to get the 12x18 inch pan, but alas I found out that my oven is only 17 inches wide! So I hired her 9x13 inch tin, which was much better than mine with its tall sides and super sharp and straight edges. And I decided I would have to put two together to make a giant 13x18 inch cake.

Ingredients! The concept for the cake was to be a two layered cake with Peanut Buttercream in between the layers and all over the top and sides, then smothered in Ganache. Nom! First step - making the cake. Or cakes. I would need to make 4. The recipe I decided to use for the cake was the Chocolate Cake recipe from The Joy Of Vegan Baking.

And here are the ingredients all mixed up and in their tin and about to go into the oven to become...

Cake! Wonderful cake! Cake that I then had to cut 1 inch off the edge of to make them 8x13 inch, otherwise they would be too big for the cake board. I got a 18x18 inch board to display my cake, the biggest I could. Sadly, this meant that the cake in its entirety on the cake board would be too big to fit into anyone's fridge. Meep. So I would have to create and store it in two halves until the day arrived.

I used the Peanut Buttercream Filling and Frosting recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. I made a triple batch, which was enough to fill and ice the cake with a bit left over for decorations. So, once one has put on the frosting, one must add...

The Ganache! The recipe is the one used in the Chocolate Raspberry Blackout Cake from Vegan With A Vengeance. I made one batch which just covered the cake for its first layer of ganache. I then popped them on some baking paper on a cookie sheet...

... and covered it with an upturned cupcake carrier, minus the cupcake carrying insert. A perfect fit and kept my cakes safe and sound on the journey of to Jen's. Where I would say goodbye to them until the following day.

Where I had to carefully assemble the two halves on the cakeboard. I was terrified that it would just all fall apart. Amazingly it did not! So we had one big cake!

Which I then proceeded to tart up with lots more Ganache and some piped on Peanut Buttercream frosting. It was not the absolute perfection that I was after, but it was reasonably impressive, if I do say so.

And here is the happy couple, about to massacre my life's work. Well, my work of the last three days. Hurrah for Jen and Ryan!

And a tasty slice of cake on a napkin. And may I say, it was NOM! What did other people think?

Well, I departed shortly after the cake and there was only this little bit left. Apparently people really liked it, and a few even wanted the recipe! No doubt many people there never knew that vegan could taste so good... and so naughty!

So, all in all it was an experience! The end result was pretty gratifying, though I don't know that I would be in a hurry to make a cake of this size too soon. Hee.

Happy engagement to Jen and Ryan!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Happy birthday to my Dad!

Earlier this month my dad celebrated his 65th birthday. Every time there is a birthday or other special day, the person at the centre of it gets to pick their own menu. Here is what my dad chose for his dinner. All these recipes except for the dessert came from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson.

For his starter he chose Indian-Spiced Lentil Soup, which an absolutely delicious soup! I had some of the leftovers for dinner last night and it freezes and keeps really well. Five stars!

He challenged me a bit with his choice of main - Crispy Triple Soy Roast with Double Mushroom Sauce. Firstly, for some unknown reason my first batch of seitan I made was a total fail. I have no idea what happened because I make seitan quite a lot, but the whole batch went in the bin. My second attempt was much fine, however after marinating it when I came to roll it out it became apparent that it would not make nearly enough for all the stuffing. It calls for a 1-pound piece of raw seitan, but I would probably double that. Even though it is tricky to roll flat, there was no way I would have been able to get this thin enough to be big enough for all the filling. Also, my bean curd or yuba sheets were a bit annoying. I found I had to soak them for ages to be soft enough, then press out the water with some paper towels. But they were all folded on each other it turned out and I couldn't separate them. I haven't used them before, so I need some more practice.

Because I had so much excess stuffing, I just baked it in a dish of its own. Apparently Americans like baked stuffing, according to my cookbooks! This is mushrooms, tofu, soy, bread, miso and parsley.

Here is the Double Mushroom Sauce, which was actually triple mushroom sauce because I made some mushroom stock for it as well. It was delicious!

The roast, stuffing and sauce all together. Not the most attractive thing to photograph! The stuffing and the sauce were both good, and the yuba indeed did go crispy! The texture of the seitan itself was a bit funny... kind of smooshy and spongy. I made a stuffed seitan roll for Christmas last year using a Vegan Dad recipe and that one steamed and then baked the seitan roll. This recipe just baked it, so I wonder if steaming it first would improve the texture.

And here it is with the side, Sautéed Green Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic . I have made this before and it is just a really simple, quick and fresh tasting vegetable dish that I highly recommend.

And dessert, which was Apple Berry Grunt from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan by Dreena Burton. This was fun because it was made on the stove top, which was a bit different! It was pretty tasty!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Here comes bride... again

I have been neglecting the blog land terribly the last several weeks, I am not sure what has been going on! Lots of work, as usual, and then... stuff? And more weddings! Four weeks after being a bridesmaid, I got to be a bridesmaid again, this time for the lovely Diana and Brendan.

Here is out beautiful bride, Diana, in the appartment before we headed off to the wedding itself in our fancy pants limo.

And here are the beautiful bridesmaids! Leish, Dana and myself.

I of course have no photos of the wedding itself, as I was in it. After the wedding we went off the have photos on the rocks at the beach - where I seriously froze to death! We were provided snacks including vegan spring rolls (a bit smooshy) and samosas (sensational). Then it was back to the reception for the party!

Here was my entree, and a pretty decent sized entree it was! It was just some penne pasta in a tomato and olive sauce, with whole cloves of roasted garlic. Fairly standard, but not bad at all. And hurrah for no salads!

The main course was a lentil daal with rice. It was pretty nice, again pretty standard. But a decent serving size! I wish I had some greens though. Scurvy! Scurvy!

Here is the (non-vegan) wedding cake. But wait... what is that on the cake? Is that a bride and groom...

Nope. It is a Dalek and a Cyberman! Whovians unite! Now would be the time to mention to those who don't know that we are all GIANT sci-fi geeks. Hee!

Beware of the zobie bridesmaids! THRILLER! Yeah. Thank goodness. Because MJ had passed away just the week before the only music playing on the TV when we were getting ready was various MJ countdowns. And the number one was apparently Man In The Mirror? What?!? I think not. At least the DJ obliged us!

Then it was back to the table for dessert. The vegan option was Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce. It was an appreciated effort and not too bad, but it had that slightly grainy slightly not right texture of amateur vegan cooking. Still, beats the heck out of a fruit salad on a cold winter night!

And here is our happy couple having a wonderful time!

And here is my favourite photo of all! The husband and wife, exhausted and happy back at the room after the wedding. Awwwww.....