Making a Vegan Birthday Cake

On Friday Trey celebrated his 8th birthday.  It is true what they say: “The days are long, but the years are short”.  It seems a long time ago that he was a baby that required constant care, but those baby giggles seem like just yesterday.  For his birthday Trey requested a vegan birthday cake.  Specifically he wanted a vanilla cake, with vanilla frosting and chocolate drizzles.  Of course I was happy to honor this request!

Vegan Birthday CakeTo make the cake I grabbed one of my favorite vegan baking cookbooks – Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  My copy has been thrashed from overuse through the years.  This book is truly a must have for anyone who wants to impress vegans and non vegans alike with tasty desserts.  Every recipe I have made from the book has been a crowd pleaser.   It is very helpful for parents who have children with egg and dairy allergies as well.

VCTOTWFor Trey’s cake I made the Vanilla Cupcake recipe from the book, but poured it into 2 6-inch cake pans.  These 6-inch cake pans are awesome for small families.  This was my first time using them and they resulted in a perfect sized cake for 3 people.  Since the cakes are larger than individual cupcakes I increased the baking time to 30 minutes.

While the cake was cooling I made the Basic Vanilla Buttercream from VCTOW.   One recipe was perfect for this 2 layer, 6-inch cake.  I then followed these instruction for creating a crumb coat to the cake.  I have wanted to try this technique for awhile, but have never taken the time to learn how.  A crumb coat is basically a thin coating of icing over the cake that seals in the crumbs.  It is supposed to give the cake a cleaner, more polished look.  You refrigerate the cake for a bit after applying the crumb coat and then proceed with the final coating of buttercream.

Crumb CoatThis crumb coat method worked really well for me.  The instructions were easy to follow and the finished product looked a lot more professional than cakes I have made in the past.  My husband commented on how different the cake looked.  Probably because it wasn’t tilting over to one side like many of my cakes seem to do!  I melted a cup of chocolate chips with a teaspoon of coconut oil to create the chocolate drizzle.  I drizzled the chocolate over the cake with a spatula.  Then I put the cake in the frig to let the chocolate harden up.

CakeTrey was thrilled when he got home from school and saw the cake.  We went out to dinner where he had pasta and french fries (it was his birthday)!  After dinner we had cake at home.  I surprised him by making the inside of the cake a bit orange, his favorite color.  I added about a 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric to the batter recipe to create the color.  I wouldn’t really recommend this step unless your child loves orange as well.  The coloring didn’t distribute totally evenly so the cake looked a little strange..slightly ombre (see below)?  Fortunately it tasted delicious and the birthday boy was thrilled with his vegan birthday cake.

Slice of vegan birthday cake

Kale Caesar Salad aka “Awesome Salad”

“Mom, This salad is awesome!”  That magical sentence was uttered by my 7 year old, Trey, as he ate the Kale Caesar salad I made with dinner earlier this week.  I made the salad following this delicious recipe from the lovely Oh She Glows blog.  This Kale Caesar has a nice vinegary dressing with crunchy garbanzo beans croutons.  The “parm” topping rounds out the salad with a nice bit of savory saltiness.

Kale Caesar CollageI made the salad in a few parts as Trey wanted to go to the park and play baseball after he finished his homework.  Before we left I roasted the garbanzo beans in one of my favorite kitchen appliances – my convection toaster oven (similar to this model).  I love using this oven for quick, smaller jobs.  The oven heats up quickly and doesn’t heat up your whole kitchen in the process.

Garbanzo Croutons

After I roasted the chickpeas I started chopping the romaine and peeling the stems off the kale.  My dogs, Zeus and Lana, are completely obsessed with kale stems.  They love to eat the stems like little bones.  As soon as I peel the leaf off the stem they come running.  In this case they heard me from the backyard (eagle ears) and ran to find the screen door closed.  I had to take a picture of their sad “Please give us some kale” faces before they got to have their treat.  What faces!!

Kale Please

Once we got back from the park I put together the dressing.  I altered the dressing just a bit from Angela’s original recipe.  I used almonds instead of cashews because that is what I had on hand.  Having made this recipe before I think the cashews definitely work better…they make a creamier dressing than the almonds. However if you only have almonds on hand I wouldn’t hesitate to use them.  The other change I made was to add 1 TB of balsamic vinegar to the dressing.  I saw an episode of Pioneer Woman (a show I really enjoy despite it not being vegan friendly in any way!) where she made a caesar salad and added balsamic to make the dressing a bit “richer”.  I tried it here and I loved the flavor.

I had some walnut/nutritional yeast “parm” that I made previously in the refrigerator.  To make my “parm” topping I add 1 cup of walnuts, 1/3 cup of nutritional yeast, and 1/4 tsp of salt to my food processor.  I pulse the ingredients until they are a fine crumble.  I store the topping in the refrigerator in a glass container. I’m sure the topping recipe included in Angela’s recipe is also delicious.  The topping brings the whole recipe together so be sure to add it if you can.

Kale Caesar

Once I tossed everything together I served it with dinner.  It was music to my ears to hear Trey declare “This salad is awesome” about a kale caesar salad!  Hope you have equally rave reviews if you make this for your family.

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Vegan Brunch at Herbivore

Vegan Brunch can be fantastic.  I love a good tofu scramble, with hash browns and toast.  The problem with vegan brunch is that normally you are cooking it yourself!  Being vegan has been one of the best decisions of my life and I have not found the transition overly difficult.  I have figured out how I can eat out in most restaurants without any issues.  But when someone wants to go out for brunch I know a not very exciting meal is in my future.  Oatmeal made with hot water anyone?

Thankfully as veganism has become more popular there are more vegan brunch options.  Given that we have an almost 8 year old any brunch is now a very rare treat.  It is normally more like wolfing down breakfast smoothies on our way to Trey’s sporting events.  Last weekend though we went out for a great vegan brunch and I realized that we haven’t taken Trey out for brunch in a LONG time.

Trey at Brunch

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Breakfast for Dinner with Hash Brown Waffles

When I was a kid one of my favorite dinners was when we had “breakfast for dinner”.  In our house that meant we had waffles for dinner.  It only happened when my dad was traveling for work.  He did not find eating waffles drenched in syrup satisfying or healthy enough for dinner.  When my dad traveled and my mom was exhausted from taking care of 3 kids all day we got to have waffles for dinner.  It was a thrill…no salad, no vegetables, just waffles.

Now breakfast for dinner is one of Trey’s favorite meals.  At our house it involves tofu scramble, potatoes and either toast or waffles.  Tofu scramble is one of those dishes that took awhile to grow on Trey.  He used to just tolerate it, but now he loves it and always asks me to pack leftovers for his lunch.  I use the Tofu Scramble recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance (a favorite cookbook).  Here is a link to the recipe on the Post Punk Kitchen website.

Vegan Breakfast for Dinner

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Lemon Olive Oil Loaf

Dreena Burton’s Vive le Vegan was the first vegan cookbook I purchased that completely blew me away.  It was exactly what I needed as a new vegan.  The book was filled with recipes that I had been missing since becoming vegan: muffins, snacks, breakfasts, dips, and easy, satisfying main dishes.

Since purchasing Vive le Vegan I have purchased every book Dreena publishes.  She writes her recipes in a way that feels like she is in the kitchen with you.  Dreena is raising 3 vegan daughters so her recipes are always kid friendly or she offers kid friendly modifications.  Her books have been an invaluable resource as I raise Trey.

Her most recent book, Let The Eat Vegan, is another hit.   One of my favorite recipes is for Citrus-Scented Almond Muffins.  These muffins are made with olive oil which gives them a very unique, not too sweet flavor.  They also include almond meal which I love as a nutrient boost.

I made my last batch as a loaf rather than as muffins.  On a recent Starbucks trip Trey saw the lemon loaf they sell and asked what it was.  Once I explained it he asked if I could make a vegan version.  I have always let him know that almost everything we see can be made vegan, so he frequently makes this request when he sees food he is interested in trying.  Trey has had the olive oil muffins before and loved them so I decided to recreate them in a loaf form.

IMG_1424

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Farmers Market Trip

Every Saturday Trey and I head to the Farmers Market near our home.  The Farmers Market is a major component of my weekly shopping.  I find taking in all of the fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as freshly made breads and snacks, very inspiring for my week of making meals.

I am not someone who goes to the market and just buys what looks good.  If I did that I would come home with WAY too much food.  Everything looks good to me at the market!  I make a weekly meal plan keeping in mind what’s available at the Farmers Market.  My meal plan usually includes 4 specific dinners and basic ideas for lunches and breakfasts.  I then shop at Whole Foods, the Farmers Market and Trader Joes to buy all of my food for the week.

Danville Farmers Market

Trey comes with me on most Saturdays and it is a great way to inspire him to eat more fruits and vegetables. He loves trying samples at the different stands.  Fruits are always a favorite, but he finds vegetables that he likes as well.  I like that he has an understanding of food in its “raw” form, before preparation.  He also has an understanding that all food is not available all the time.  He knows that there is a strawberry season, a grape season etc.

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Vegan Chocolate, Coconut & Oatmeal Cookies

One of the first things I did when I decided to become vegan was to try and “veganize” recipes I already loved to make.  Baking has always been my favorite activity in the kitchen. Given my love of baking, the first recipes I worked to veganize were baked goods.  These chocolate, coconut and oatmeal vegan cookies were one of my early successes.

I found a cookie recipe a few years before I became vegan that became by “go to” cookie.  I loved to make this cookie to take along when I was asked to bring something to a party or event.  These cookies have a delicious combination of coconut, oatmeal, nuts and chocolate that people love.  The combination of chocolate and coconut reminds me of my favorite Girl Scout cookies, Samoas.

Fortunately this delicious cookie recipe was fairly easy to veganize.  The original recipe calls for dairy and eggs which I have replaced.  For the butter I now use Earth Balance and I make “chia eggs” to replace the eggs.  I have also used flax eggs and the packaged “Ener-G” egg substitute successfully in this recipe.

Cookie Mix

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Everyday Breakfast Smoothie

For my first post I thought it was appropriate to share something that I make everyday for my son, Trey.

Trey is 7 (almost 8) and is a lifelong vegan.  He is very active and I like to give him something filling before his long day of school.  Since his school doesn’t allow nuts, a major source of healthy vegan fat, I like to include nut butter in his breakfast.

I started making this smoothie for him about 2 years ago and he has it almost every morning.  It is made with 1/2 to 1/3 of a banana, 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder (I use SunWarrior), 1.5 TB of peanut butter and 1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk (from Trader Joe’s).

Smoothie Ingredients

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