I love to bake.
I love to bake so much that I included “vegan baking” in the Match.com profile that led my husband to me.
Baked desserts are one of the few things I can count on that will please my step-sons’ palates, because, you know, who doesn’t love desserts filled with fat and sugar, even if they are vegan!
Despite this, my birthday cakes and cupcakes usually get a “D” for Disaster. In the world of birthday baking, that “D” falls below an “F” for Fail. Well, well below.
The problem is that I procrastinate. I never leave enough time to do it right.
Just a few patharious* examples:
For my daughter’s fourth birthday, I mixed up a batch of my favorite, reliable, vegan, baking-soda-and-vinegar chocolate cake recipe. I poured the batter into the cute (but shallow) pony-shaped pan we’d gotten at Ikea. As the cake mix did its magical vinegar-and-baking-soda chemical reaction, it rose and rose and rose and rose and started bubbling over. The batter dripped in a perfect pony-shape all over the bottom of the oven:
And then it started burning. The three smoke detectors in our tiny condo sounded the alarm. “It’s a cake disaster! It’s a cake disaster!” we yelled and giggled.
Needless to say, we bought a cake from the store for her birthday.
I didn’t even attempt to bake a cake for her fifth birthday–that was the afternoon we were bringing the Little Guy home from the NICU. But we did “crash” one of those tunnel-and-slide places. We brought a store-bought cake and a plastic table-cloth, and blended right in with all the birthday tables that people had reserved. We bought pizza and nobody detected our renegade birthday shenanigans.
I just have a philosophical problem with extravagant, rent-a-room birthday parties. The kids don’t care about that stuff. They just want to play and eat cake. I don’t give out gift-bags either. Isn’t the party enough? And who needs more plastic trinkets around the house?
Her sixth birthday was a less successful example of crashing, though a slightly better example of baking. My daughter chose a recipe out of “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World,” a much-thumbed and drooled over cookbook we bought when she was two and a half. Her choice of cupcakes featured a swirl of chocolate frosting topped with a blackberry. As usual, I had procrastinated baking the cupcakes, so they were still warm and I couldn’t frost them before we had to leave. I brought the frosting with us to apply when we got there.
“There” was a different tunnel-and-slide place that had rooms for birthdays. We didn’t reserve a room. We had “planned” to meet people there and pay for families as they arrived. Our guests were quite confused at our unconventional approach.
The place had a strict policy about outside food and drink, so I left the cupcakes and frosting in the car. It was like a freezer out there (it was late November). After most of the guests had arrived, I slunk out to frost the cupcakes. I had purchased a pastry bag in the hopes of replicating that fancy swirl of frosting of which my daughter was so enamored. The frosting was hard, so hard! I quickly abandoned the pastry bag. As I desperately tried to get the cold-hardened frosting to spread, the clock ticked. I finally gave up on aesthetics and just put lumps of frosting on each cupcake, topped with a blackberry, and smuggled in the cupcakes under a bundle of coats in the Little Guy’s stroller. Back at the table, we formed a wall of grown-ups and told the kids to “eat quickly.” I felt rebellious and tacky at the same time. And a little self-righteous.
So… as you may have guessed, this post does have a point. And a recipe. I made cupcakes today for my step-son’s birthday. Turns out it was also my cousin’s birthday, so we joined forces and got our families together at a brew-pub. I would smuggle in the cupcakes to the brew-pub.
My cousin makes the best cakes. Cakes that look like legos. Perfect legos. Cakes that take a lot of planning and time. Cakes that I could never in a million years hope to make. No pressure there!
Last night, I asked my step-son to choose his top three recipes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I chose the one for which I had most of the ingredients on hand: S’mores!
I only lacked the graham crackers.
Somehow, I procrastinated half the day away. Around noon, I realized I still needed to shower, go to the store, buy graham crackers, and then pick up my daughter from school to join some friends for a play-date.
Somehow, I got it done!
And here is the result! NOT a Disaster! NOT a Fail!
And I only changed one thing. The recipe suggests three different choices of frosting, but I had vegan marshmallows on hand.
SO, I took the cupcakes out of the oven a minute early, added marshmallows and chocolate chips, put them back in the oven for a minute so they could melt into the tops.
Et voila! S’mores!
- 3/4 c brown sugar
- 1/2 c canola oil
- 2 tbsp molasses
- 1/4 c soy yogurt
- 11/4 c soy milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 c all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
- vegan chocolate chips
- vegan marshmallows
- Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners (I love my reusable silicone ones).
- Mix wet ingredients into your largest large bowl.
- Sift dry ingredients into another bowl.
- Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients (I did this in the reverse because I had used the larger bowl for the dry ingredients, but it was just fine).
- Fill cupcake liners (I transferred the batter to a large measuring cup with a spout and poured it in).
- Bake 22-24 minutes.
- My variation: Remove from oven. Place muffins tins on cooling rack. Decorate with marshmallows and chocolate chips. Put them back in the oven for a minute so everything can melt a little.
- Remove from oven and place on cooling racks.
- Leave the house. Pick up your kid. Have a fun play date in a park.
- Come back to a dozen lovely, perfect birthday cupcakes!
*patharious (adjective): 1) both pathetic and hilarious; 2) so sad you have to laugh; 3) so funny you have to cry