Friday, January 29, 2010

Oh, Canada

Bet you didn’t see this post coming, eh? (Ouch sorry). It’s my somewhat triumphant return to the world of Daring Bakers and it’s with a deliciously simple Nanaimo Bar recipe from the land of maple trees, snow, and hockey (which incidentally sounds exactly like Cornell). It comes highly recommended by all who ate it (namely everyone in my studio). It was so good and so “architecturally inspirational” that my studio professor took one bit and then ordered us all to sketch the now-mangled Canadian dessert. Don’t expect any posts of my less than spectacular art skills, but you should expect plenty of happy faces for whoever you make them for.

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and

Now upon reading my recipe, you may notice that there is no gluten-free component. That is on purpose. It’s not that I’m hating on anyone who can’t eat gluten, it’s really because of a major time and money crunch that doing the graham cracker thing would have delayed this post to the point of extinction. That, and one of my dear friends was recently diagnosed with a nasty allergy to gluten and everything else tasty so I’ve already tried my hand at gluten-alternative flours with dense results. That’s potentially for another post, once I’ve figured out the logistics. Someday. Please visit lots of other Daring Bakers for their gluten-free-graham adventures, yay!

This recipe is easy. No baking involved, actually. I managed to pull it off with a hot pot, a bowl, a spatula, and one 8x8 baking pan. And it was delightful.

Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer
½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
¼ cup sugar
5 tbsp cocoa powder (I used dark cocoa with delicious results)
1 egg, beaten
1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs (use the gluten free graham cracker recipe here if you’d like)
½ cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup coconut

Combine the butter, sugar and cocoa powder in a double boiler and heat until melted. Slowly drizzle the hot mixture into the beaten egg, whisking constantly until thickened. This is important as other recipes may suggest that you add the beaten egg to the mixture – I prefer this way to make doubly sure that my egg doesn’t cook. Chocolate scrambled eggs do not a good Nanaimo bar make. Stir in the graham cracker crumbs, almonds, and coconut. Press the mixture firmly into an ungreased 8″ x 8″ baking pan. It will make a lovely “architectural composite material” when cut according to my professor so really press the heck out of that sucker, it packs down pretty well.

Middle Layer

½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3 tbsp whipping cream
2 tbsp vanilla pudding powder
2 cups icing sugar
Cream together the butter, cream, vanilla pudding powder and icing sugar until light. Spread over bottom layer.
Top Layer
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler over low heat. Once it’s melted take it off the heat and just let it chill on the counter while you do dishes and steal bits of the delicious pudding-buttercream middle layer, the cooling took a while for me. Once cool but still liquid, pour over middle layer and chill in refrigerator until set, about an hour.
Cut into squares using a knife dipped in hot water. I just cut it with a knife and it turned out fine, but a suggestion I saw for easier (and neater) pieces was to dip the pan very briefly in hot water and then turn out onto a plate. Flip over using a second plate and cut into squares.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Cupcake War: Vegan Edition

Aaaand I’m back to blogging, with a somewhat triumphant return! Before I get any further into my recent baking exploits, I have to apologize to those of you who have visited rite of cake over the past few (many) months and have been greeted with a stagnating apology post from a million years ago. It was never my intention to let RoC fester for so long and I’m sorry that this blog and any of its readers have been treated like abandoned children while I was caught up in real life drama that I wish never happened. Suffice to say, last semester was stressful beyond all belief both in the complete lack of sleep and plenty of issues that were very hurtful and still confusing to this day, so forgive me in not wanting to spread the personal parts any more than I have to. In short, I’m sorry and I have plenty of recipes lined up and ready to go – thank you for your support (especially Jill, who is such a sweetheart, yay!).

And on to the fun part, the part that I’ve been missing all of these months! The story behind the “Cupcake War” actually ties into my job as a Resident Adviser, in which I’m responsible for 50 freshman girls and creating programs/activities for a dormitory of 400+ girls. This is one of those activities – a sort of coke/pepsi challenge, cupcake style.

Basically I made a batch of 100 mini vegan chocolate cupcakes and 100 regular (Martha Stewart) chocolate cupcakes (both with the standard already vegan Wilton buttercream frosting) and challenged people see if a) they could tell the difference and b) which cupcake they liked best. They had to vote on which cupcake was better without knowing which was the vegan cupcake and then once they decided I would tell them which was which and tally their vote on a giant poster. This was accompanied by informational posters about the pros/cons of veganism and all that jazz to provide an educational activity (aka doing my job).

Fun stuff, right? What was interesting was that most people actually preferred the vegan cupcakes to the regular cupcakes and many people said that they liked both cupcakes evenly. It was a neat experiment and all the girls who participated loved it, so expect some more variations on the Cupcake War and enjoy the recipe below. I’ve only posted the frosting recipe and the vegan cupcake recipe, if you’re interested in some non-vegan cupcakes then go to Martha’s recipe here. Ps sorry about no process pictures, I was baking at night and completely forgot about my camera... Oh well.

Basic (Vegan) Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

Makes: 12 cupcakes, or a lot of mini ones

From: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero


-1 cup soy milk (I suggest chocolate soy milk)
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (I used regular vinegar with success)
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, chocolate extract, or more vanilla extract (I went with more vanilla)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-processed or regular (I used dark chocolate, though I think I would have preferred regular cocoa powder so that the cupcakes were a little less dense)
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt


1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
2. Whisk together the soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle.
3. Add the sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and other extract, if using, to the soy milk mixture and beat until foamy.
4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are OK, it will look weird. I was worried, but really you don’t have to be, these are delightful).
5. Pour into liners, filling 3/4 of the way. Bake 18 to 20 minutes (closer to 10 minutes if making mini-cupcakes), until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting (but feel free to eat them warm without frosting because they’re super tasty then too). It’s not enough to convince me to become vegan (I love dairy and sushi far too much), but it’s always good to have a cupcake to appease almost any crowd.

Buttercream Icing

Source: Wilton
•1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
•1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or (vegan) margarine softened
•1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
•4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
•2 tablespoons (soy) milk
Makes: About 3 cups of icing.

(Medium Consistency)
In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.
For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.


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