Saturday, August 9, 2008

Okay! NOW You Can Look on my Works, Ye Mighty. Then Despair.

I had meant to post these pictures in the last blog, but in combination with the baby waking up and the fact that my mouse was choosing not to swing to the right I just got frustrated and hit "post". So here you go. The baby is sleeping and I'm waiting for my chocolate-espresso agave mini-cupcakes to cool so that I can then apply the ganache. It's my Dad's birthday! (I just thought that I'd add that in there. He may or may not read this blog.)

This is a close-up of the cookies and cream cupcake from last post.


These are just plain white cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting, tinted pink. I only made these because I was having one of those moments where I was starting to feel smothered by the fact that I have three male children, one male partner, and a male Dupree living in our garage. There was too much maleness around and I needed to look at something frilly and pink. Henceforth, the pink cupcakes, which the males had no trouble wolfing down unceremoniously. They didn't even care what colour they were, or that I had been doing crazy things with the piping bag.


Now this was an experiment. I made some vegan chocolate cupcakes, cut the tops off of them in a circular shape, then I filled them with a homemade raspberry jam-like substance and vanilla buttercream icing. Then I replaced the tops I'd removed, piped on some more vanilla buttercream and drizzled over a bittersweet chocolate ganache. They were good (of course), but very messy. You wouldn't be able to eat one while driving to work, for instance. Neat freaks might need a plate and a spoon. Or fork. I prefer a fork but some people are just spoon people.

I actually put the cupcake right on the book to take the picture because the table had kid fingerprints all over it.


These next ones are mini-cupcakes that I made for Liam's party to celebrate the end of school. I had a vision of chocolate cake topped with swirls of lavender coloured vanilla buttercream with a simple dragée on the top of each one, but the boy had other ideas. So we just put either chocolate or vanilla icing on them and he dumped a bunch of assorted and brightly coloured sprinkles on them. Also, we used black papers with big, white eyeballs on them. Boys!


Speaking of boys... Liam wanted me to make my own birthday cake this year and I didn't really need anyone to twist my arm. I used the recipe from Nigella Lawson's "Nigella Bites", and I agree with her that it's the kind of cake that you'd want to eat entirely on your own after a bad break-up. You can see what I mean about boys and their idea of decorations. Liam asked if he could decorate it in private and then surprise me with the results. I was very surprised.


Now. As I was saying, "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!" Also, admire how much my mad html skillz have improved ever so slightly.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Vegan Cupcakes Are Taking Over My World!!!

I recently bought the book "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero and my world has completely changed. I am not a vegan. I am not even a vegetarian! I was actually just judging a book by its cover and was pulled in by the catchy title. That, and who can resist cupcakes? No one! As it even says in this book, "If you don't make someone a cupcake, you don't really love them". Plus, my seven year old is allergic to the chemical additives that they put into dairy products so I'm always trying to find new things to feed him that don't include those.

Trust me when I say this, you have not lived until you've tried a vegan cupcake. The vast majority of the recipes in this book don't even contain weird, hippie ingredients. Just stuff you'd be able to find even in this podunk village in which I live. I am a total convert now. Eggs and dairy just aren't necessary in cupcake form, and let's face it: don't eggs kind of gross you out?

Eggs gross me out. Probably because as a teenager I washed dishes in a restaurant which specialised in breakfast. That and I've been on the South Beach Diet, which actually really works for me. The only problem I have with it is that by the middle of the first week I am trying to force down my egg breakfast before it starts coming back up. I'm happy that since buying this book we hardly ever have to bring the little embryos into the house, much to my relief. You ought to see the place where we go to buy them! The chicken! The chicken! My eyes! My eyes!

Not only does this book contain some great recipes that help you to save the planet one cupcake at a time, but it's also entertaining and funny. On page 24 it talks about baking powder and how you should preferably use one that hasn't been in the family for generations. Then it says that while we're out buying new baking powder, we should also drop off our acid washed jeans at the Goodwill. I laughed so hard that I spit tea out onto the book and now I always have to pry those pages apart every time I need to re-read them.

My mother always had the worst baking powder. Whenever we baked something we'd have to scrape some off from the big hardened chunk it had become over the years. When I went to university I was so happy to get to purchase my own brand new container of Magic Baking Powder which was so fresh and new that I felt like gloating every time I used it. (And no, I wasn't exactly a Domestic Diva back then). And! My mother once got mad at me for purging the house and getting rid of a pair of green acid washed jeans that she wanted to keep just because they were really small and she once fit into them, so I can totally relate to that snippet in the book.

We've made a great number of the recipes from "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World", one of our favourites being the "Cookies and Cream" variety. They consist of chopped Oreos (Canadian Oreos are vegan, apparently the American ones are not and you'd have to use the Paul Neuman Os) in a chocolate cupcake, topped with crushed Oreos in white buttercream icing. I've also made white cupcakes with Golden Oreos in them but I wasn't as excited with the results, mainly because I hate Golden Oreos and partly because I forgot to put the baking powder in them and they turned out quite heavy. But I learn more from my mistakes than I do from perfection.

Another one of our recent favourites is the "Simple Vanilla and Agave Nectar" cupcakes, which is supposed to be good for people with "sugar sensitivities". I made these for my sister's boyfriend who has diabetes, and he liked them but I haven't heard back yet as to whether or not it spiked his sugar. Apparently with agave nectar there are good points and bad points and it doesn't work for every diabetic person. It's also referred to in the book as "The natural sweetener of millionaires" because it's quite dear, although so worth it.

There are also recipes for low-fat cupcakes (which quite frankly just seem like no fun at all!), and also gluten-free. There is an entire chapter devoted to "fancy cupcakes" which have slightly more "uppity" ingredients like Matcha tea powder, rosewater and dulce leche which I have yet to try. What I really want to try next is the "Crimson Velveteen Cupcakes with Old-Fashioned Velvet Icing". I've always had an inkling to try red velvet cake since the first time I ever watched "Steel Magnolias" and saw that groom's cake in the shape of an armadillo. I still laugh so hard every time Weezer chops off the armadillo's ass and hands it to the father of the bride. But I digress...

You simply must have this book. You will not be sorry. Your clothes might be, but cupcakes are worth stepping up the cardio for. And since I'm not going to regurgitate some of their recipes here (because apparently that's plagiarism), you'll just have to look at some of the pictures of the things we've made.


There's Harrison, wanting to dive into his Cookies and Cream cupcakes that I made for his first birthday. His face says it all.

Here's Oran, enjoying the icing like any three year old would:


And why are there no pictures of Liam? I'll throw this one in just to make it even, although there are no cupcakes in sight, just residue on his face, from a different occasion.


Look on my works, ye mighty! And despair!