It's true. I'll never win. Not the least of which is because I'm not British. Although, I did live in Nottingham (yes, Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood, oo-da-lolly...) for a glorious year. AND I'm so very very close because I am actually a (proud) distant relation of a VERY famous British author (remember, the OK comes from my married surname).
But. Alas. It's not because of any of those things really. I love to bake. But I'm not a very good baker. I'm just OK. (Pun intended.)
Everything tends to taste pretty good. I'm just not very scientific about it. I make my kiddo pancakes a lot, but I don't have a pancake recipe. I just throw things in a bowl and add almond milk. Truly. And my finished products are funny and probably could frequently go on Pinterest Fails. So I'll share with you my most recent one because it was celebratory, and it makes me laugh that all my friends are so big hearted that they praised me for it anyway!
I'm not a very good baker. I'm just OK. (Pun intended.)
It was my baby's 3rd birthday yesterday. I wanted to make him a special cake. In hindsight, I think it cost more to make it myself than if I'd ordered one from the incredible gluten free vegan bakery nearby...oh please Stef, please remember to do that next time...please...
My favorite mommy friend had sent me a link in the summer for to how to make number inspired cakes and therefore the seed was planted to create a number 3, Very Hungry Caterpillar Cake. And I got the little guy so excited for it too. I was talking up the caterpillar cake for days, weeks even! We read the book everyday the whole week of his birthday. I wanted him to be as excited as I was! I could so clearly see it in my head... but I should have researched ahead of time how those British bakers get such vibrant colors when they bake! My caterpillar was pastel, and I even added almost an entire bottle of green Watkins natural food coloring. Plus no matter how many cakes I make, in between, I always forget that I'm really sloppy at frosting a cake. Always.
Here's the original idea for the cake: How to cut it on the left. What it should look like in the middle. MY cake on the right...
Meh. That's how I feel about it. Meh.
I guess I can see why my friends were so nice about it. It's kinda cute. If you don't hold it right next to the book, you can get a sense of what it is while forgetting how bright the colors are supposed to be. It's a valiant effort.
But, of course, don't forget that if I put that caterpillar cake in front of Paul Hollywood, he would look at the cake, and then at me, and then at the cake, and then back at me...with a glare and an imperceptible head shake.
But it tastes great! And it's so sweet that I need to make dentist appointments for the whole family to get cavities filled (not really). Everyone loved it, so I should just let that be my truth, right?
Here's the recipe in its full sugar, plant-based glory.
Chocolate "Buttermilk" Cake with "Buttercream" Frosting
Preheat oven to 360 degrees
Grease 2 round cake pans (with or without holes in center) - put parchment paper in the bottom if you have it!
3 cups flour (I mixed half whole wheat with half all purpose flour)
1 cup cocoa powder
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups cane sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups vegan butter (Earth Balance sticks)
4 "eggs" - I used Bobs Red Mill Egg Replacer, but I usually make flax "eggs" for baking
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup almond milk
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1 cut hot water
For my frosting I tossed together:
2 bags of powdered sugar
3 sticks of Earth Balance butter, room temperature
1/4 to 1/2 cup of almond milk (depends how thick you like your frosting)
The first two steps are to prep your egg replacers and buttermilk substitute. I used Bob's Red Mill for this cake, which is 4 Tablespoons plus 8 Tablespoons of water. Whisk it and let it sit while you prepare the remaining ingredients. I usually use ground flax for "eggs" and I am sure that it would have worked just as well in this case if you prefer. Pour one cup of almond milk (or other plant based milk) into a bowl or measuring cup and add a Tablespoon of white vinegar. Mix well and let it sit.
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, cocoa powder, sugars, baking powder, and baking soda. "Sift" this by using a whisk to mix all the ingredients together.
Boil a kettle of water, and remove from heat once it whistles.
In a separate bowl, melt the vegan "butter" sticks. Once melted add egg substitute and vanilla and beat. Then slowly, pour in the almond milk/vinegar combo and beat while you pour. (It could curdle if you do it too fast and the milk is much colder than the melted "butter").
Add wet mixture to the dry ingredients and fold in by hand. Don't over mix. You want to keep it light and fluffy because the vinegar will react with the baking soda to create bubbles. Once it's mostly mixed, add the hot water, measuring it from the boiled kettle. This will make it a very wet batter and will help you mix in the rest of the dry ingredients. Again, stir enough so it's well mixed, but don't overdo it.
Pour half of the batter into each of the two round pans, greased and parchment paper in the bottom. (I didn't have parchment paper and they came out ok greased with shortening.)
Bake in the oven 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from oven and put on racks to cool. If you used normal round pans, you'll need to use a serrated knife to cut holes in the center of each cake. Then use this pattern:
Make sure it's cooled and frost it however you choose!!!
It's so sweet. But really the frosting is the only part the 3 year old likes... and who can blame him? I once had a girlfriend make me an entire birthday cake of frosting...no cake. Just frosting. It was epic. Amazing. Ahhhh to be in my early-twenties again...!
I used a pastry bag and tools to frost it, but if I hadn't been trying to segment the caterpillar, I would have just spread it on with a knife.
The most important thing, is that the birthday boy thought it was fabulous. He loved it. He loved how it looked, he loved what it was, he loved it all, and after we sang to him and he blew out his candles, he said, "Please cut it in half mom."