Monday, November 19, 2007

Baby Cakes

Autumn is a season of birthdays in my family, including my very own next weekend! Two weeks ago, my nephew, Dylan, had his first birthday. My sister, not wanting to introduce him to processed sweets and junk, asked me to make a cake for him. She wanted, specifically, a cake that looked like Elmo (that was the theme, you see). That's easy enough. But here's the rub- Dylan is allergic to soy. Whenever his mum would eat it and then proceed to breast feed him, his face would break out in red rashes. So I was asked to make a birthday cake without soy product. Eeek! How can you ask a vegan to do such things? Every time I thought of ingredients I could use, I kept coming back to 'Oh, but that has soy in it TOO!'

Not to fear! I then remembered an 'allergy bible' a friend from a previous job passed along to me. This is a collection of typed up recipes that are wheat free, gluten free, egg free, dairy free and yes, soy free. She had used it when her kids were little because they were pretty much allergic to everything.

I fingered through it and found a simple recipe for chocolate cake. Sugar, flour, cocoa, veggie shortening, vanilla extract, white vinegar, salt and baking powder. Let me tell you, it was an extemely yummy chocolate cake and incredibly quick and easy to make.

Now, the frosting! I couldn't use a glaze because my sister wanted it to look like Elmo. That meant thick, colored frosting. After searching online for a non-soy butter based icing, I came up with one idea. Veggie shortening- 100% palm oil. I wasn't sure how it would taste in place of butter. I was a little wary.

So I tried it and guess what? It tastes almost exactly the same! I will admit, it's not as creamy as butter, but it has a very thick and smooth texture that worked just fine.

Now, for the dye. I am against using any chemicals in my food. Luckily, Wholefoods has a brand of food dye in stock that uses plant-based ingredients for color called India Tree. It's a whopping $20! Perhaps that's my most extravagant spend, not the coconut cups. I bought it because I really wanted to make my nephew's first birthday special.

Working with the dye is frustrating. Because the colors come from plants, it's difficult to get the exact shade you want. I used the entire red bottle because the frosting kept looking pink and then almost purple. Eventually I got a maroon-ish color. It took a while to get the yellow and red to come out orange too. The yellow tastes like cumin if you use too much. Not a flavour I want on my cake. The red (derived from beet juice) actually offers a hint of a juicy flavour. The blue, however, has no flavour.

I had Mike, quite the artist, help me design the face. Using a steak knife, he made outlines of the eyes, nose and mouth. We then proceeded to carefully frost and before we knew it, Elmo was staring back at us!

To add a little more to the fun, I baked strawberry cupcakes (using fresh strawberries) and painted them with the yellow and red frostings. Wallah!



Needless to say, Dylan love it! It was his first bite of cake- or anything sweet for that matter, save fruit! He stopped crying and seemed mesmorized by each bite!


The party was cute and fun.

The layout and my cutie nephew, Kenny:


I think I was the most excited about these hats (red eyes kept due to the devilish horn hats):


Oh, by the way, Mike keeps nagging me to point out just who, exactly, he is. Mike is my closest friend and guitarist of Acrasjia and artist man and wonderful person who hangs out at my house all the time and helps me do stuff. I just love him!

Mike: mikeyclown

For my other newphew's first birthday, just yesterday, it was requested of me to make a Cookie Monster cake. I used the same recipe but this time made the buttercream frosting with soy butter. Again, Mike 'carved' the face and we frosted him together. The blue dye looked a little silver until the oxygen hit it for a while. Then it became a dark blue.

Mike also had the idea of hanging a cookie out of the mouth. So using the delicious recipe from 'The Joy of Vegan Baking', I made up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. A slot was cut into Cookie Monster's mouth where the cookie fit nice and snug. The rest of the batch decorated the frame of his head.

Luckily, I was able to redeem myself from the last cookie disaster. Everyone, kids and adults alike, snatched the cookies and they were gone in the first hour. My oldest nephew, Kenny (who is 3), was the first to grab one. He loves his cookies!


Joey ate the cake up with absolute delite. :)


Here is the close-up of this moist cocoa cake (this one's for you, Kevin):


After having a left over batch of frosting and a couple of cookies that weren't as pretty as the rest, there was only one thing to do with them:


This is a kid's meal by far. Sugar on top of sugar. That was the best breakfast I've had in a long time!

My family, though supportive of my ethics and lifestyle, never really know what to offer me at parties, so they've given up trying to make dishes. That's okay. It gives me another excuse to cook!

I made an apple kugel- green apples, yams (though sweet potatoes would have been better), walnuts, cinnamon, matzo meal and apple juice baked in a casserole dish.


It's very reminiscent of apple pie, but a little on the dry side. I think next time I'll put apple sauce in the mix. Or maybe ice cream. ;)


Mike said...

Sure, point me out in the worst picture ever.

I'll admit, your devil hat picture is much cooler than mine.

And all of that food was awesome. Someone has to give these fine people a first-hand account of your cooking/baking prowess. You're the best cookstress ever.


Ashasarala said...

Aww, thank you, Mikey Moo. :-* It sounds like I paid you to write that. Haha

VeggieGirl said...

oh my goodness how incredibly brilliant and amazing are those cakes?!?!?! and how fortunate that Dylan was able to enjoy a SOY-FREE cake for his birthday!! yay!!

that kugel looks quite festive for autumn - sorry it was dry though! I'm sure that the applesauce (or even better, the ice 'cream,' haha) will make it much moister next time :0)

wishing you an early happy birthday!

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Oh wow oh wow!!!! I don't know what the cutest thing on this post is-- the elmo cake? Your adorable nephews? You in the two hats?

No, it's gotta be the cookie monster cake! My family always called me "Cookie Monster" when I was little, but I was never lucky enough to get such a beautiful cake like your nephew!

Vegan_Noodle said...

I want some nephews to bake for!!! Those are too adorable. And what an amazing effort you put into them with worrying about the allergies and using natural dyes (yay!). I have to say my fave is the cookie monster...I loved him growing up. And what a great idea to stick a cookie in his mouth...way to go Mike!

Now what kind of cake will you have for your birthday?

Ashasarala said...

Veggie Girl- Thank you so much! I'm sure I'll be bloggin all about my birthday bash. =)

Chocolate Covered Vegan- Thank you! The Cookie Monster cake was a little more fun to make only because I'm in love with chocolate chip cookies. How cute, that was your nickname! I'd send you a cookie monster cake on your next birthday, but it'd probably be ruined in transit. LoL

Vegan_Noodle- I'm not sure what cake they have in store for me. I was tempted to make a decadent white chocolate cake for myself (how sad! haha), but little did I know, there were already plans in the works. So I must step back and let others cook for ME for once! I'll definitely update with pictures and such. :)

urban vegan said...

ADorable newphew and adorable muppet cakes. I know the natural food coloring is $$ but at least you know what's going in your body. You and your family are worth it. Plus--food coloring lsts forever.

Kang Doy's Bloggy Blog Blog Blog said...
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Kang Doy's Bloggy Blog Blog Blog said...



I swear I was going to start eating my computer monitor after looking at that close up picture.

Wow, I can't believe how amazing both of your cakes came out! They look so perfect! And adding the cupcakes and cookies just made the perfect finishing touch. Such a phenomenal job you and Mike did! know my birthday is coming up and having a special cake would give me a smile big enough for the whole world to see!

Rural Vegan said...

How sweet you are to make those cakes for your nephews! I would love to have that Cookie Monster cake for my birthday!


you are extremely prolific with recipes and pictures. what a delicious blog!

Mihl said...

If I pretend to be three years old, will you come to my house and bake such an adorable cake for me as well? I promise to have the proper music around!

aTxVegn said...

You are a terrific aunt! The cakes are amazing and everyone looks adorable.

Emilie said...

I just died from the cute. Completely died. They're brilliant! What an awesome job!! You're the best aunt ever, obviously.

One potential tip on the red frostings if you ever need it again is to use beet powder or anatto powder. You can get them in bulk from Harvest or from Christina's Spice Shop in Inman Square (I love that place!!!) Anatto is really bright and will give you lots of color. I think it tastes a little like nutmeg, but it's not too strong and it's much less expensive than India Tree goods.

Ashasarala said...

Thanks so much, Emilie! That's great information. I never would have thought to use spices as dye. I'm not always a very logical person. haha

I'm definitely gonna check out that Spice Shop. I've got lots of fun frosting projects in mind. ::tapping fingers together sinisterly::

Veganista said...

Ahhhh! Divine cuteness! That cookie monster cake, with cookies in his mouth no less, is genius! (Great idea Mike.) You're surely the best aunt ever. I love all the photos. Esp impressive that you managed to make such a beautiful elmo cake with natural and low-allergen ingredients!

Hannah said...

Wow, great cakes! Everything looks incredible and wonderfully sugary! :)

b36Kitchen said...

you are officially the coolest aunt ever! what great cakes!

vegetalion said...

I am SO JEALOUS of your nephews! that's awesome. Eveyrthing looks delicious... and strawberry cupcakes?! you should post a recipe!

bazu said...

Awesome! What a fantastic baking/decorating job you did! Those little kids will be ruined for run-of-the-mill cakes forever. How cute!

textual bulldog said...

holy wow! what beautiful cakes!!! lovingly baked and perfectly decorated and with all-natural food coloring to boot. what lucky nephews to have such an awesome and talented aunt! :)

Theresa said...

Hot damn, those cakes are cool! You are by far the coolest aunty a kid could ask for. Vegan, metal, and able to carve muppets out of healthy/tasty choc cakes! Are you looking to adopt a 23 year old? Just let me know...

Rage And Love said...

Wowzers all that food has got me drooling (ewww!)! I think I'm going to go make something now


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