Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Happy 14 Prescott!

Last weekend we celebrated the 14th birthday of our wonderful nephew, Prescott. Such a nice 14 year old boy you haven't met, let me tell you!

It was a very fun family and close friend party -- all the guests hand-picked by Prescott, himself. He chose well. It was a very relaxing, filling, tasty and fun-filled afternoon.

Happy birthday Prescott!!

Of course there's a food angle for this blog, right?

I made the Chinese Chicken Salad recipe from Simply Recipes. That salad, while time consuming to make, has become my favorite in the couple of months since I first tried it. Apparently others also loved it at the party, as several folks asked for the recipe. So folks, there it is -- enjoy!

I also took this opportunity to try out a vegan cake recipe. Davey is still quite allergic to eggs and dairy and as his first birthday approaches, I'm anxiously trying to determine what kind of cake I can make for the big day. I surfed the web. I scoured my cookbooks. I asked for advice from David Lebovitz, who kindly replied and suggested using soy products and (ick) margarine, but that he'd avoided such things so didn't have any experience to share. Then the idea hit me... I asked Dad to pose the question for a good recipe to his compatriots in the Cooking Conference on The Well. That was a great idea as several members posted some suggestions!

Vegan creme-filled devil's food cupcake

The one I ended up going with was the vegan creme filled devil's food cupcake. While it's not what I'd choose for my own cake and I thought perhaps it was a little dense for my taste, it was quite good for vegan and Davey seemed to like the half I gave him with lunch on Sunday.

Vegan creme-filled devil's food cupcake

I didn't do the top decorations (i.e. squiggles) for this dry-run, but I'll go nuts when it comes time for the real birthday cupcakes. Also, note that the recipe for the creme filling made entirely too much and it was quite thick and difficult to pipe. I think I might figure out how to halve the recipe (if my 6qt mixer will let me) and make it a little thinner. It was pretty difficult to pipe because of its density. I think it might be nice to add a little flavoring such as orange, cherry, or peppermint, too.

Until then, here's the recipe:

Devil's Food Cupcakes With Fluffy White Filling and Chocolate Icing

Adapted from "Vegan With a Vengeance," by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (Marlowe, 2005)

Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
3 tablespoons black cocoa powder (see note) or more Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain soy milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup nonhydrogenated margarine, such as Earthbalance
1/3 cup nonhydrogenated shortening
2-1/2 to 3 cups confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the chocolate icing:
1/3 cup plain soy milk
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or confectioners' sugar

For the royal icing:
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons plain soy milk.

1. For the cupcakes: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-muffin pan with paper liners, and spray lightly with nonstick spray. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and
salt. In a mixer, combine the soy milk, oil, syrup, sugar, vinegar and vanilla. Mix at medium speed for 2 minutes. Add half the dry ingredients and mix to blend. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix for 1 minute.

2. Use a standard ice cream scoop to fill cupcake liners 3/4 full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Turn out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

3. For the filling: In a mixer, beat margarine and shortening until combined. Add 2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar and beat until very fluffy, about 10 minutes. Taste for sweetness and add remaining 1/2 cup sugar if
desired. Add vanilla and beat for 1 minute more.

4. For the chocolate icing: In a small skillet, bring soy milk to a simmer. Reduce heat to very low and stir in the chocolate and maple syrup, stirring until just melted. Turn off heat.

5. For the royal icing: Using an electric mixer or by hand, sift sugar into a bowl and add 1 tablespoon soy milk. Mix, adding up to 1 more tablespoon soy milk until consistency is like stiff toothpaste.

6. To assemble: Prepare two pastry bags, one fitted with a large plain tip, and one with a small writing tip. Fill large-tipped bag with filling, and the small-tipped bag with royal icing. (Instead of pastry bags, thick resealable plastic bags may be used. For filling, cut off one corner of bag so the opening measures a scant 1/2 inch across. For icing, opening should be just large enough to pipe a thin line.)

7. Using your pinkie, poke a hole in center of each cupcake top about an inch deep. Push tip of pastry bag with filling into each hole, firmly squeezing in filling and slowly drawing tip up and out. When all cakes
have been filled, wipe off any excess that sticks out from holes; tops of cupcakes should be flat.

8. Place cupcakes on a baking sheet or tray that fits in refrigerator. Rewarm pan of chocolate icing over low heat if necessary, stirring constantly. Dip top of each cupcake into icing, swirling to coat completely. When all cupcakes are dipped, refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes to set. When set, use royal icing to make squiggles across center of each cupcake. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve, up to 1 day.

Yield: 12 cupcakes.

Note: Black cocoa, which gives the cake its characteristic dark color and bittersweet flavor, is available from King Arthur Flour, (800) 827-6836

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