Chocolate Cake and Dog Cake

chocolate cake

Last week I was faced with the task of deciding what to do with an extra chocolate sheet cake. I know, such a difficult position to be in. I wasn’t interested in making another basic frosted cake, so I grabbed some cookie cutters and started cutting out shapes. The cake was too thick for the cookie cutters to slice through, so I had to finish the job with a knife.

Yet another task arose: what to do with the cake triangles? With some leftover buttercream to work with, the obvious choice was cake sandwiches, with some peaches for good measure. Insta-dessert. Done up with a chocolate drizzle and garnish, an elegant dessert at that.

If you’d like your own cake problem, here is the basic chocolate cake recipe I used. It’s a sturdy cake, so it’ll hold up just peachy (I tried to stop myself from including the pun, but it was quite persuasive) when you take a knife to it. Also, are you sick of overly sweet cake? Me too! The flavor of this cake is more chocolatey than sweet. Enjoy the dark chocolate flavor, or add a few more tablespoons of sugar if you’d like. If you eat it with buttercream, that takes care of the sweetness quite well.

Chocolate cake

Chocolate Cake

Makes 1 9×13-inch sheet cake

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup non-dairy milk plus 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Sift together the flour and cocoa powder in a large bowl. Stir in the sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt.
Mix together the milk and apple cider vinegar and let sit for 3-4 minutes. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the milk and vinegar mixture, agave nectar, canola oil, and vanilla. Whisk together all the ingredients until combined. The batter should be thick, much like muffin batter.

Pour into a 9×13-inch pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 28-30 mins until the cake is very firm, and springs back when touched, rather than smushing down. Let cool before cutting.

Assembly: Everything was all rather improvised! I cut the cake into triangles (saving the scraps for another dessert!), then sliced each triangle in the center to make a frosting sandwich. I chopped up a peach, mixed it into a bowl of buttercream, and spread a spoonful of frosting in each triangle. Finally, I garnished each cake sandwich with a buttercream swirl and a peach slice. This made about 1 dozen sandwiches.

Chocolate cake

So why did I have all this extra cake? I don’t know about you, but sometimes I like to do things like sculpting and painting a giant cake that looks like my dog. My grandma and cousin came for a visit, so that was some incentive as well, but sometimes it’s just fun to break out my cake supplies and make something crazy.

Sculpted dog cake

Drake totally loved it, I swear.

Fluffy dog

This supply of cake is pretty much never ending, so stay tuned for cake pops made with the scraps and leftover buttercream!

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Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade vanilla extract is incredibly easy to make, much cheaper than tiny store-bought bottles, and it makes a great gift. All you need are vanilla beans, liquor, and a little patience. The vanilla beans steep in the liquor of your choice for several months, resulting in syrupy, flavorful vanilla extract that beats the diluted store-bought version any day. Since there’s no cooking involved and the majority of the solution is 70-80 proof alcohol, there’s pretty much no chance of anything spoiling or turning out wrong. I made my first batch last year and just finished it up, so it was about time I created a new, much more plentiful supply.

What you’ll need:

Vanilla Beans

Vanilla beans are expensive, and those beans will add up, especially if you’re making large quantities of extract. Forget about the grocery store and specialty spice stores and order your beans online. In the store, you might pay upwards of $3 per vanilla bean. I was able to find 1/4 lb vanilla beans (which turned out to be around 30 beans) on Amazon for less than $15, and I still have beans to spare.

Vanilla beans

Alcohol

Unless you’re a teenager doing shots of vanilla extract shoplifted from the gas station, you probably won’t be drinking this vanilla, so don’t use high-quality liquor. Just buy whatever is available and reasonably-priced. I used vodka this time around, but you can experiment with bourbon, rum, whiskey, or another liquor. The vodka lets the flavor of the vanilla shine, but a more flavorful base would delightfully complement the flavor of the vanilla.

Vodka and vanilla beans

Bottles

As long as it’s clean, made of glass, and airtight, you can use any kind of bottle: glass bottles from the craft store, canning jars, recycled juice bottles, or the leftover bottle of vodka. If you’re giving away your vanilla extract as gifts, you may even want to tie little ribbons around them and slap on a decorative label. If you steep your extract in a few different bottles, you can reuse the beans and refill the first bottle you finish with vodka, starting a rotation. Much better than using one big bottle and running out completely!

How to make vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Use 3 vanilla beans per 1 cup liquor. Scale the quantities up or down as much as you’d like (I made 1 1/2 quarts!).
  2. Slice each vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape the insides a bit to loosen the good stuff, and chop the beans into 1-2 inch pieces. No need to be precise.
  3. Combine the measured liquor and vanilla beans in the bottle(s) of your choice.
  4. Done! Let sit in a dark, cool place for 2-3 months before using. Shake the bottles every few days.
  5. When the vanilla is ready, it will be dark brown in color. Use as directed in any recipe.

Vanilla beans

Notes

  • Label your bottles with the date you made them.
  • Steeping the vanilla beans longer will, of course, make the vanilla more flavorful. Keep some (or all of the) vanilla beans in the bottle, even after the vanilla is ready.
  • Leave a vanilla bean or two in each bottle if portioning out the extract into small bottles.
  • Vanilla beans can be reused! When your first bottle is gone, refill it. Add a few extra beans to make up for lost flavor.
  • Homemade vanilla extract will (safely) last for years, so don’t worry about making too much.
  • If you don’t want to bother measuring: use 10 beans for an entire 750 ml bottle of alcohol.
  • Concerned about using alcohol if you don’t drink, or have kids? Unless you specifically purchase alcohol-free vanilla extract in the store, store-bought vanilla extract always contains alcohol. A few teaspoons (1 tsp vanilla=1/9th of a shot) in a recipe is fine, and the alcohol content is no different than store-bought vanilla.

My vanilla is already darker in color just after 4 days. The simplicity of this recipe got me thinking of other liquor infusions to experiment with: cucumbers, fruit, edible flowers, spices, hot peppers…! Perhaps I will use the rest of the vodka for something of that nature and report back.

Homemade vanilla extract

So there you have it. Now is a great time to start a batch of vanilla–it’ll be ready in time for fall and winter baking! What type of liquor will you use?

Cherry Canary Melon Sherbet

Cherry Melon Sherbet

In search of a summer treat, ice cream and other frozen desserts certainly come to mind. So far, Chicago’s summer has been a mix of thunderstorms, and sunny, beautiful weather, sometimes over the course of a day. A darker tableau bursting with brightly-colored fruit seemed a fitting photo. I set up these modern vanitas-inspired photos on a cloudy day, springing into action whenever the sun came out for a few minutes.

Sweet canary melon paired with dark red cherries makes for a beautiful contrast of color and flavor, jazzed up with lime juice and zest. The canary melon boasts a bright yellow color and the fruit is much like honeydew, but paler in color and a little tangier. Lighter than ice cream, but more substantial than sorbet, sherbet best describes this coconut and fruit-based dessert. In fact, I may have just Googled “sorbet vs sherbet” to confirm. While sorbet typically contains no milk, the “dairy” base in the form of coconut milk makes this recipe a qualified candidate for the sherbet category.

Cherry Melon Sherbet

Cherry Canary Melon Sherbet

To make lime simple syrup:

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon lime zest

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves, about 4 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice and zest. Let cool and transfer to a jar or airtight container. Chill for a half hour.
Strain out the lime zest before using, especially if you plan to make drinks with the remainder.

Cherry Melon Sherbet

To make sherbet:

3 cups chopped canary melon (honeydew is a fine substitution)
1 cup cherries, pitted
1/2 cup lime simple syrup
1/2 cup coconut milk

After making the simple syrup, the rest is quite simple. Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Taste, then adjust the flavors, if necessary. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and serve right away, or move to the freezer to firm up, if necessary.

Cherry Melon Sherbet

There you have it! Ice cream, sorbet, and sherbet are quite simple to make and a great pastime during the summer. Please send a photo if you end up making this recipe!

Also, I still have some leftover syrup…what to make? The obvious choice is margaritas, and a good one at that. Any other ideas for lime simple syrup?

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Maple Bacon PBR Cupcakes

Maple bacon cupcake

Here we have maple bacon PBR cupcakes. If that doesn’t sound like food to you, you may revel in the grossness or exit your browser in pursuit of greener pastures or cat videos (come back next week for regularly-scheduled programming!). The omnis have been making bacon desserts for years, so I decided to abandon my dignity in a chocolate bacon cupcake batter.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, I decided to start writing a vegan bacon zine. I don’t even like bacon that much. It started as an April Fool’s Day joke of bacon-laden desserts, then became a summer project. Since it doesn’t seem like the populace is ever going to accept that the bacon trend has worn out its welcome, why don’t we jump on the bandwagon and ride it out (OR INTO THE GROUND)? Bask in the sheer ridiculousness of bacon or let your vegan bacon freak flag fly and enjoy some cupcakes.

The first step involves frying vegan bacon in ungodly amounts of margarine to create a double threat of crispy bacon for garnish, and bacon-infused butter for the batter and frosting.

I originally shuddered at the thought of putting PBR in cupcakes, but it really acts a leavening agent to make the cupcakes light and fluffy. And the least offensive ingredients, chocolate and maple, hold down the fort.

So what are you waiting for? Make some cupcakes for the tragically hip people in your life. Or take my word for it.

Maple Bacon PBR Cupcakes

Makes 1 dozen cupcakes

To make bacon-infused browned butter:

6 tablespoons vegan margarine
5 strips uncooked veggie bacon

To make cupcakes:

¾ cup PBR or other light beer
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
¾ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons bacon-infused browned butter
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons canola oil
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder, Dutch-processed or regular
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

To make topping:

3 tablespoons bacon-infused browned butter, solid
3 tablespoons margarine
½ cup vegetable shortening
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons non-dairy milk
3 cups powdered sugar

Heat the margarine over medium-high heat. Sauté the bacon until crispy, about three minutes on each side. Allow the butter to get foamy and start to brown. Transfer bacon to a plate to cool, letting excess margarine drip off. Set aside. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the bacon-infused browned butter for the batter, then pour the rest into an airtight container and refrigerate to solidify.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Fill a cupcake pan with liners.

Pour the beer and vinegar in a stand mixer or regular mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar, 3 tablespoons reserved browned butter, maple syrup, canola oil, and vanilla extract.

Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix until just combined. The batter should be thick, but pourable.

Using a cupcake scoop or measuring cup, fill each liner ⅔ full. Bake for 18 minutes, or until the tops are firm and a toothpick comes out clean. Let sit in the pan on the stove for 3-4 minutes, then move to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Cream together the bacon-infused browned butter, margarine, and shortening in a stand mixer or with handheld beaters. Add the maple syrup and milk. Gradually mix in the powdered sugar and beat the frosting until light and fluffy, 6-8 minutes.

Pipe or spread the frosting on the cupcakes. Slice cooked and cooled bacon into 1-inch pieces for garnish.

Welcome to the new SBYM!

A divinely imaginative vegan food and photography blog, recipe collection, and book and zine store.

It’s always somewhat nerve-wrecking to release a brand new project into the wild, and I’m eager to start posting content, so I’ll keep this short and sweet:

My name is Kelly Peloza and I’m a vegan cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. If you want to learn more and see pics of cute animals, check out my about page. I began writing a vegan cookie cookbook and an accompanying blog in 2007, and I’ve been blogging at The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur ever since. Until now (check your speakers).

In May 2013, I graduated from college and attended Vida Vegan Con. The former made my general enthusiasm for daily life go from here (I’m pointing at the ground) to here (I’m reaching above my head), and both of these events got me incredibly inspired for new projects. With the time constraints of student life no longer an issue, and the subject matter limitations of a blog called The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, I wanted to put consistent time and energy into something brand new. And here we are! The cookie blog archives will still be available and I’ll post details if and when they relocate. But no worries, here you’ll find every feature of The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, and more.

Features:

Recipes

The recipe section is a little sparse at the moment, but as I add more posts, the recipe drop-down on the menu bar will magically gain more categories. Dessert, cookies, entrees, appetizers, drinks, etc!

Books and Zines

As of now, I’ve published two vegan cookbooks: The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur and Cheers to Vegan Sweets. I also write zines sometimes! And I may or may not be working on a vegan bacon zine as we speak. You can purchase cookbooks and zines in my online bookstore. I’ll write you a nice little message in your order and ship it to you myself!

Social Media

You’ll find links to all my social media pages on the sidebar. Follow/friend request for blog updates, food photography, animal pics, and recipes! Also, you can add Seitan Beats Your Meat to your Feedly or other non-Google reader with the RSS feed.

Links

Check out some of my favorite blogs, vegan-related resources, and non-profits on the links page.

Feedback

I think that covers all the bases for now. I’m really excited to start blogging again and eager to hear feedback!

What do you like? What do you want to see? What do you hate (please be kind, I’m ultra-sensitive)? Please feel free to contact me via email or social media!

Gnocchi the bunny