Mulling-Spice Cake

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I don’t often make cake on a whim, but when I spotted this recipe in the New York Times Sunday magazine, I was thrilled to realize I had all the ingredients on hand and could veganize it in a pinch. Because sometimes, you need to bake a cake for no reason at all.

Ingredients:

  • 2 and 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Earth Balance butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1 jar non-dairy vanilla frosting
  • Sprinkles for garnish (optional)
  1. Combine the flour, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, ginger, and salt in bowl; set aside.
  2. Beat the Earth Balance butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. Add the Ener-G eggs and beat until blended.
  3. Pour the molasses into a liquid measuring cup and add the baking soda. Meanwhile, bring the apple cider just to a boil over medium heat. Add the cider to the molasses mixture and whisk together (the mixture will be foamy).
  4. Alternate adding the flour mixture and molasses mixture to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
  5. Coat two (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Divide the batter evenly among the pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes in the pans, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
  6. Once cool, spread the frosting evenly over the layers and place one atop the other. Add sprinkles for garnish, if desired!

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Happy Birthday Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Everyone will love this carrot cake: Parents will love that all the sweetness comes from pineapples and maple syrup; birthday boys and girls will love that it tastes great! It’s perfect for toddler parties, in sum.

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, divided
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup canned crushed pineapple
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup grated carrot

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 1 cup non-dairy cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup canned crushed pineapple
  • 2 tablespoons apple juice
  1. To prepare the cake, combine the flour, oat flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 teaspoon baking powder with 1 cup crushed pineapple. Add the Earth Balance butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract, stirring until combined.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring until wet. Mix in the grated carrots.
  4. Spoon the batter into a lightly-oiled round cake pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
  5. To prepare the frosting, combine the cream cheese, 1/2 cup pineapple and apple juice in a stand mixer; beat until combined.
  6. Spread the frosting evenly over the cooled cake.

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The birthday girl loved watching this bake in the oven.

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The best kind of anticipation!

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Chocolate Beet Bundt Cake

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You’ll sneak a full two cups of vegetables into this cake but your kids will never notice – unless they help bake it of course! This cake is a dream: it requires only two mixing bowls, bakes up perfectly light and airy, and comes out in a fun circle shape that kids will love. (“How did you make a hole in the center?” my son asked).

For ease of preparation, I recommend making your beet puree the night before. Place 6 beets in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then continue to cook for 30 minutes, until very tender. Drain and let cool until cool enough to handle. Rub off the skins and transfer to a blender; process until very smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups beet puree
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a second bowl, whisk together the beet puree, water, applesauce, canola oil, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring just until combined.
  3. Spoon the batter into a 10-inch Bundt pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 50 minutes. Let cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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Swirly Pound Cake

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This cake is true to its name, with a full cup (pound) of vegan butter, but it’s well worth the indulgence. Consider this your family’s social distancing reward of the week!

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/3 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Earth Balance butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 3/4 cup sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  1. To prepare the batter, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Add the Ener-G eggs and beat until combined.
  3. Add the flour and condensed milk, beating just until combined.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water. Spoon 1 cup batter into a clean bowl and add the cocoa mixture, whisking until combined.
  5. Alternate adding the vanilla and chocolate batters to a greased 9×5-inch loaf pan, beginning and ending with the vanilla. Use the tip of a knife to swirl through a few times for a marbled effect.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 60 minutes; a wooden pick inserted in the center should come out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

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Little Passports: Australia

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Strangely, I feel as though Travis’s packages from Little Passports are arriving closer together than one month apart… but during home school, we’re not complaining! Travis couldn’t wait to read “Sam and Sofia’s” letter and do all the usual activities: a sticker for his passport, a pin on his map, a coin for his chart, and a tag on his suitcase.

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The booklet had a fun coloring activity about a coral reef, color-coded in such a way that my kindergartner could easily follow along.

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The word find, on the other hand, was tough even for this mama! Online featured great extras; Travis particularly enjoyed the photos and clips of Australian music. Australian phrases like “rug up” and “ankle biter” got quite a laugh.

Souvenir:

No sooner was the envelope open than Travis was testing out the scratch art kit. The idea is to introduce kids to Aboriginal dreamtime symbols, and Travis loved the rainbow colors that appeared.

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He learned a few symbols (“I get it, because a kangaroo jumps up!” he noted, spotting that one), and then designed his own, which had us veering off in a Star Wars direction.

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Further Activities:

First up was a Didgeridoo Kazoo. Both kids enjoyed decorating an empty paper towel tube with markers.

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A lot of it was their own inventive scribbles, but we worked in some dreamtime symbols, too.

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As they colored, I read about how the didgeridoo dates back thousands of years. Place a square of wax paper over one end of the tube, and secure with a rubber band.

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Hum down into it for a deep, warbling sound. We put on some didgeridoo music to play along too!

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Next up was Animal Art. This project aimed to show the way indigenous Australian art shares stories about animals and nature. First, we cut out the provided animal templates and glued these onto thicker art paper. Travis chose the lizard.

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I encouraged him to use paints and markers to make a landscape for his animal. First he just painted water, and declared it done, but then he got more into the idea of adding traditional symbols (swirls, dots, stripes), and filling in the background.

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You can use cotton swabs for the dots for extra fun!

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Little sister wanted in on this project too, although her kangaroo was soon a bit of a mess!

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The add-on with this package was to grow a coral reef, similar in science to a crystal tree we made around the holidays. We read about coral reefs and what makes them so important as an ecosystem, and then Travis helped set up the provided absorbent paper in the stands.

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Mix the provided powder into warm water, then pour into the bottom of each tray. Whoops! One of corals collapsed right away, although perhaps this was a perfect illustration of how delicate these ecosystems are. Within an hour, we saw the first little crystals forming.

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By morning, they were a riotous display of crystal! We almost thought they looked like cauliflower.

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As the final touch, Travis colored in the Australian flag and we added it to the growing collection above his world map.

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Recipe:

To finish our journey, we baked a popular Australian dessert called Lamingtons, a cake coated in chocolate and coconut. I should note that Little Passport’s recipes aren’t as easy to follow as, say, those from Raddish Kids. As a result, a lot of them become mommy projects after a little help from my sous-chef.

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Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plain almond milk

For the frosting:

  • 2 tablespoons melted Earth Balance butter
  • 1/2 cup plain almond milk
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups shredded coconut
  1. To prepare the cake, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl; set aside.
  2. Beat 1/2 cup butter and the sugar in a stand mixer until creamy. Add the Ener-G eggs and vanilla. Alternate adding the flour mixture and 1/2 cup almond milk, beating until combined.
  3. Pour the batter into a 9×13-inch baking dish lined with foil. Bake at 350 degrees F for 28 minutes; a wooden pick inserted into the center should come out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then lift out the foil and cool the cake completely on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge.
  4. Once the cake is chilled, make the frosting: whisk together the melted butter and 1/2 cup almond milk in a large bowl. Whisk in the cocoa powder. Add the powdered sugar, stirring until smooth.
  5. Cut the cake into 2-inch squares. Working with one square at a time, dip in the chocolate frosting, then immediately coat in the coconut. Transfer to a wire rack or pan to set.

Because the frosting was thick and the cake was very delicate, I found it easier to work by hand instead of dipping pieces in on a fork. This got messy, but sure was yummy!

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Little Passports: France

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I’ve never been so glad to have a Little Passports subscription as I am now, perfect during this era of home schooling. Travis’s latest package took him to France. The booklet felt a little too advanced this time, reminding me that Travis is on the youngest end of the age spectrum for World Edition. The maze was hard (even for mommy!) and activities like being an art critic and following a landmark hunt involved lots of reading that was too advanced.

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Still, he enjoyed the extras on the web like seeing vibrant pictures of monuments and landscapes in France, learning a few French words, and selecting his favorite French dessert. And he proudly added the flag to his passport and the “push pin” to his map.

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Souvenir:

The mini easel and watercolor palette, complete with two tiny canvases, was a huge hit!

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Travis was immediately making masterpieces after we looked at a few examples from Monet and Matisse for inspiration. He even corrected me, pointing out that one of his canvases was meant to be viewed horizontally and the other vertically.

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Activities:

We opened this package on April 1 which turned out to be perfect because one activity was to color in a fish for the “poisson d’avril“.

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This French variation on April Fool’s Day is to tape the fish to the back of a friend or family member and declare that person the “Fish of April!” Travis got a big kick out of doing this to daddy.

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Next up was making an Eiffel Tower out of Dandies marshmallows and dry spaghetti!

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This was STEM at its best: thinking spatially about how to engineer the tower; using shapes (rectangles, triangles); dividing spaghetti pieces into halves or quarters; and of course eating marshmallows along the way for sticky fingers and lots of laughs.

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Look how it turned out!

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I had also purchased the optional add-on, an Aquarellum Parisian Painting Kit. This included 9 watercolors and three scenes of Paris on absorbent paper. Travis loved that he could use the provided eye dropper to mix colors.

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The scenes turned out beautiful. My petite artiste!

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Finally, we colored in the French flag to add to our garland.

Recipe:

Of course we weren’t done until we’d taken our culinary voyage. This time we turned our kitchen into a French bakery, plus learned a little cultural background for the galette des rois (Kings Cake).

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We had to improvise a little, since the recipe called for puff pastry which is hard to find vegan. We used store-bought pie crusts instead, which means our cake didn’t puff up like a traditional version, but it sure still came out yummy!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 (9-inch) pie crusts
  • 1 tablespoon melted Earth Balance butter
  1. To prepare the filling, mix together the sugar, almonds, almond extract, and 1/2 cup butter.
  2. Whisk the flaxseed into the water to make 1 flax egg. Add to the sugar mixture and stir until mixed. Chill in the fridge.
  3. Meanwhile, turn one dough circle out onto a baking sheet lined with foil. Spread the chilled filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border.
  4. Top with the remaining dough circle, pressing the edges of the dough to seal. Brush with the melted butter. Bake at 450 degrees F for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake an additional 20 minutes.

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Note: If your kids want to, hide a dried bean inside in keeping with the French tradition of this cake around Epiphany.

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Whoever finds the bean or a toy figurine in their slice is the king for the day and gets good luck! Skip that step if you are worried about choking hazards.

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Happy Birthday Vanilla Cake with Cider Glaze

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This apple juice and maple syrup sweetened birthday cake is just right for a baby’s first dessert. Line up those cameras for the big smash cake moment, and enjoy!

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons baking powder, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup thawed apple juice concentrate
  • 1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 6 tablespoons Earth Balance butter, softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons boiled apple cider
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  1. To prepare the cake, combine the flour, oat flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Whisk together the applesauce and remaining 1/4 teaspoon baking powder in a large bowl. Add the apple juice concentrate, soy milk, canola oil, maple syrup, and vanilla, whisking until combined.
  3. Add the flour mixture to the applesauce mixture, stirring until combined. Spoon into a greased 9-inch round cake pan.
  4. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes; a wooden pick inserted in the center should come out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack before turning out onto a cake plate.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the frosting: Combine the butter, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and cider in a stand mixer; beat until combined.
  6. Add the powdered sugar gradually, beating well after each addition. Spoon onto the cake. Store loosely-covered in the fridge until ready to serve.

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Sprinkle-of-Love Cake

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Moment of truth: This cake didn’t turn out quite as intended, no thanks to a chocolate cake layer that didn’t set right in the pan! So what was originally intended as a two-layer cake with cut-out hearts turned into a single-layer cake with sprinkled hearts on top…But we loved it anyway! Any way you slice it, this is a sweet cake to bake for your Valentine’s this week.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (9-inch round) chocolate cake, cooled
  • 3/4 cup Earth Balance butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ounce freeze-dried raspberries
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk
  • Sprinkles
  1. Bake the cake ahead of time, whether it’s your favorite recipe from scratch or one made from a vegan mix (such as Cherrybrook Kitchen). Set aside.
  2. Place the butter in a stand mixer and beat until creamy. Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat at low speed until combined. Beat in the vanilla.
  3. Pulse the raspberries in a food processor until finely ground. Fold into the powdered sugar mixture, along with the milk.
  4. Place the cake layer on a plate, and frost with 1/2 cup frosting. Reserve the remaining frosting for another use.
  5. Place a heart-shaped cookie cutter on top of the cake, and gently tap in a layer of sprinkles. Pink or red ones would be ideal, but the organic sprinkles we had on hand were multicolored, which worked in a pinch. Repeat with as many hearts on top as you’d like to make.

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Serve with a spoonful of love!

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