Vegan Carrot Cake Cupcakes and a birthday dedication

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I’m a planner. If I could pencil in where I’m going to be this afternoon, tomorrow, the day after that, 5 years from now, I would probably do it. I live my life by setting goals and accomplishing them, sometimes at the expense of neglecting to see opportunities that are staring me right in the face, or realizing that the path I’ve set out on isn’t even what I want. Over time I’ve gotten better at adapting to the unknowns that life throws at you, but “going with the flow” is still something I will always have to work on. It’s an ongoing process but I’ve figured out how to balance my “J” qualities with a little bit of “P”, such that I can survive when things don’t work out quite as planned.

After all, sometimes the best things in life are the ones that happen to be the most unexpected. Like reconnecting with someone you haven’t seen in a long time who also happens to reside a world away. Someone who was the most important person in my life for the better part of a year and then gone. Having disappeared as quickly as it fell into my lap, I spent awhile trying to reconcile the fact that maybe fate put him there for a reason, in that place, at that time, but that was all it was ever going to be. It was a reality I tried to accept, and for the most part, succeeded in doing so. But every now and then I would have a random dream, thought, intuition that there was more. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that if your gut is telling you something, it’s probably right. And thankfully, it was.

I’m still as much of a planner as ever, but when life hands you beautiful brown eyes and a smile belonging to someone who is smart, witty, caring, and a continuation of adjectives that will never do the real person justice, you embrace the welcome detour that takes you from Point A, to B, to C, rather than the original journey from Point A to C, and never look back. And when cette individual’s favourite cake is carrot cake, and it just so happens to be his birthday, you dedicate your carrot cake recipe to him. Because what else would you do?

J, whatever serendipitous stroke of luck, fate, or kismet brought you back into the centre of my universe, I thank it every day. You challenge me and make me want to be a better person day in and day out, for you, for me, and for us. You’re right, there’s no earthly way of knowing which direction we are going, but there are 360 degrees of possibility from whatever angle I look at it. I couldn’t have planned it better even if I tried. Happy birthday.

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Vegan Carrot Cake Cupcakes
 
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 2¼ cups flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tbsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¾ cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 bar Green & Black's Organic Ginger Chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups grated carrots
Instructions
  1. Line 12 muffin cups with muffin liners and heat your oven to 325F.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients, from the flour to the chocolate.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, whisking or stirring to blend.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just incorporated.
  5. Portion the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake at 325F for 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  6. Cool and top with the frosting of your choice (or just eat as-is).

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Blackberry Sour Cream Cake – A Guest Post from gotta get baked

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I figured since I’m off gallivanting in Europe for a few weeks, it would be a good time to feature some guest bloggers here on Because I Like Chocolate. I’ve got three amazing ladies lined up to share some delicious eats with you, kicking things off with Nancy from gotta get baked. I have never met Nancy in person but I can say without question that she is one of the most honest, blunt, tell-it-like-it-is people on the face of the planet. She’s a realist, that’s for sure, and she never fails to make me laugh – in that really unattractive, “oh my god I just snorted, I am so sorry” kind of way. Seriously, you have to check out one (or all) of her random crap posts, stat. If she doesn’t succeed as a blogger, Nancy could definitely make it as a comedian. Now over to Nancy!

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Hi everyone! I’m Nancy of gotta get baked. I live on the West coast of Canada (born ‘n raised) and I blog mainly about desserts ‘n sweets ‘n anything made with copious amounts of butter and sugar. In other words, it’s a (mental) health blog.

I don’t know when Mal and I started following each other’s blogs, commenting and becoming friends, but I’m glad we did. The girl’s blog is called Because I Like Chocolate. It’s like our relationship was meant to be!

To say I’m a chocoholic is a huuuuuuuuge understatement. I crave it, need it, want it all the time. I eat so much it’s probably running in my veins instead of blood. When my 9th grade English teacher had us write a report on any subject we wanted, I researched the history of chocolate and wrote 20 pages about it. During the process, I found out that there’s a Hershey chocolate town and it was my dream to go there (and live there). Some of my favourite books as a kid featured chocolate prominently (The Chocolate Touch and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Delicious classics!).

That’s why it’s super odd that I’m guest posting for Mallory two times this month but neither of my recipes feature chocolate. What’s wrong with me, right?! Well, because it’s summer, I wanted to make something fresh and seasonal, thus the blackberry sour cream cake featured in today’s post. The cake is super moist and lightly spiced, studded with sweet local B.C. blackberries. Perfect for breakfast or an any-time-snack.

Blackberry Sour Cream Cake
 
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Ingredients
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temp
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temp
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • 2 cups of fresh blackberries
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 inch cake pan with parchment paper and butter the sides of the pan.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer or a large bowl with an electric hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, sour cream, vanilla and lemon zest.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground ginger and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture and mix until combined. Scrape the batter into the cake pan. The batter will be thick.
  4. Top the batter with the blackberries. You can sprinkle the top of the cake with sugar if you want – that’s totally optional.
  5. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Depending on your oven, you may want to start checking the cake around the 30 or 35 minute mark. I left my cake in the oven a bit longer than necessary (such a rookie mistake!) and it was a bit darker than I wanted. Thankfully it didn’t negatively affect the texture too much.
  6. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the side of the pan to loosen the cake, then move it onto a cooling rack to continue cooling. Enjoy as is or with ice cream or whipping cream. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for two days. Any longer and I’d put it in the fridge.

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Stay tuned for another post from Nancy in the coming weeks. I won’t give it away completely but let’s just say it involves peanut butter. Cannot go wrong with that, can you?

Green and Black’s Flourless Chocolate Torte

Green and Black’s Flourless Chocolate Torte

Everyone has different motivations for cooking, baking or whatever other kitchen-related activities they choose to participate in. I would say that a large portion of the population simply makes food because they have to eat it to survive. In many cases convenience is the number one priority, meaning that eating out is preferred to eating in. You also have the people who really like to cook – but simply because they really like to consume the final product that they make (hey if it tastes good, there’s nothing wrong with that, assuming you leave some room for moderation). Then you have people like me. Yes we like to cook and bake, and no, we do not completely abstain from eating our creations. But for the most part, we are perfectly content baking up a storm for hours on end, and then feeding the majority of our efforts to those around us. It’s almost like the introvert/extravert distinction, but in the kitchen. Intro-bakers keep things to themselves. Extra-bakers give it away.

I get questioned about this all of the time. People cannot wrap their heads around the fact that you would make something and hardly eat any of it. “What’s the point?” seems to be the common concern. I was feeling especially contemplative yesterday and thought about it as I kneaded a batch of bread that I had no intentions of eating (the buns turned out like pathetic little pancakes so maybe it was karma). I concluded that for me at least, it comes down to motivation; intrinsic vs. extrinsic. Whereas intrinsic motivators come from within, extrinsic motivators are those that are present in the environment around us. It does get a bit complicated because some might argue that baking to eat is an intrinsically motivated process. I disagree with that. I will argue instead that you are baking to serve an extrinsic motivator, that being hunger, taste or what have you. See true intrinsic motivation doesn’t require anything else to validate it. I bake because I enjoy it for what it is. The entire process puts me in my happy place. If you know what I am talking about, I am sure you can relate. Otherwise, you think I am crazy, I know. I get that a lot. That’s not to say that extrinsic motivation doesn’t play a role though. Giving food to other people and seeing the enjoyment they get from it definitely serves as extrinsic motivation. No matter how intrinsically motivated you are to cook or bake, if you continually experienced rejection from those you tried to share it with, I don’t doubt that you would lose the extrinsic motivation to keep doing it.

See it’s a careful balance between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation – in all aspects of life. Ultimately, you want to strive for extrinsic motivation, yes. But you cannot discount the importance of extrinsic motivators either. Would you go to work every day if you did not get paid for it? And would you work for free if you never got any recognition for the job you were doing? If your answer to either of those questions is “yes”, you are a better person than I will ever be. Hey, maybe I could work for free, but realistically I could only do it if I was extrinsically motivated by chocolate.

Now about this torte. My love for Green and Black’s Organic Chocolate runs deep. Although they have some amazing flavours like Burnt Toffee (used here) and white chocolate, studded with little flecks of vanilla bean (used here), sometimes you just have to go for the classic, 70% stuff. Make no mistake, this flourless chocolate torte is the perfect, rich application to show it off for all it is worth. If you like light, fluffy desserts, this torte probably should not be your go-to. But for all you other intrinsically or extrinsically motivated chocolate lovers out there, this torte is for you!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Green and Black's Flourless Chocolate Torte
 
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Green and Black's Flourless Chocolate Torte
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 3 100g bars of Green and Black's Organic dark chocolate (I used a combination of 70% and 85% bars)
  • ¾ cup (6 oz.) butter
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1¼ cup (8 oz.) brown sugar
  • 1 mandarin orange, juice and zest
  • ⅔ cup ground almonds (ground hazelnuts also work)
Instructions
  1. Melt together the dark chocolate and butter, either over a double boiler or just in the microwave. Let it cool slightly at room temperature.
  2. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, orange juice, zest and almonds.
  3. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and mix until well incorporated.
  4. Pour the batter into an 8 inch spring form pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350F until it doesn't jiggle anymore, about 40 minutes.
  5. Allow the torte to cool to room temperature before refrigerating. Chill for at least 2 hours prior to slicing and serving.

Midnight Cake

Midnight Cake

After you have been cooking or baking for awhile, there are certain pieces of information – tips and tricks, so to speak – that become pretty much second nature. It is easy to take for granted that other people should know the ratio of water to rice when cooking it, or the basics of how to cut an onion.

This story is related to such cooking “instincts” and it goes to show that sometimes there is no such thing as too much information when writing a recipe.

Rewind the clock back to Valentine’s Day 2013. I awoke to a text from my mom saying, “look what I made”, a picture of chocolate cupcakes attached. Being the nice daughter I am, I noticed the somewhat sunken tops and replied, “they look kind of under-baked.” Needless to say, that was not exactly the response she was looking for. Oh and for the record, they were not under-baked.

Anyways, later that day they were iced and then consumed for dessert. Considering the infrequency of my mom’s baking adventures, they were pretty good. The texture was a bit off, slightly gritty perhaps? But they were not dry, usually my #1 complaint with poorly baked cakes.

Then we started talking about the recipe itself. My dad had just received some coffee from a work colleague in Colombia and my mom was excited to use it in the cake.

“The recipe called for 1 cup of coffee so I thought it would be great to use the Colombian coffee your dad got at work. I ground it all fresh this morning,” she said.

“Wait, you used 1 cup of ground coffee?” I asked.

“Of course, that’s what the recipe said.”

“Umm, I’m pretty sure it meant 1 cup of brewed coffee.”

“Well it didn’t say that.”

We went back and forth for a bit until she showed me the recipe. It read exactly, “1 cup coffee”, no mention of “brewed”, “ground” or the like. Having seen chocolate cake recipes like it before, I did a quick Google search to clarify that it was indeed “brewed” coffee that was required. At that point, she really did not have a choice but to admit defeat. In her defence, the cupcakes could have turned out a lot worse for what had happened. Sure they were a tad gritty, but they definitely were not inedible. Needless to say, it is something we laugh about now. Who am I to judge anyways? I put egg shells in cake and thought I could get away with it.

This past Valentine’s she redeemed herself and made the cake again with coffee, in its brewed form. You would have been hard pressed to say it was the same recipe it was so much better. It definitely goes to show that you should never assume something to be “common sense”, especially when writing recipes!

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Midnight Cake
 
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Makes 1 8 inch square or round cake
Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup brewed black coffee
Instructions
  1. Sift together all of the dry ingredients (the first 6 ingredients in the list).
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together all of the wet ingredients (the milk to the coffee).
  3. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir until well combined. The batter will be thin so don't panic. Mind you, it ends up being quite a bit thicker when you use ground coffee instead...
  4. Pour the batter into a greased and lined cake pan and bake at 350F for 35-45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  5. Cool completely before removing the cake from the pan and topping it with the icing of your choice. My mom made a basic chocolate icing with butter, cocoa powder, icing sugar and milk but you could do a coffee buttercream or even cream cheese frosting if you like. Slice and enjoy!

Midnight Cake

Sweet and Salty Chocolate Cake

 

Sweet and salty chocolate cake

I don’t have the best track record making cakes, specifically this sweet and salty chocolate cake. For the most part I would say it has to do with my lack of patience. Plus when you don’t do something very often, you tend not to be all that great at it. I would say most people are not huge fans of things that they struggle with. Or at least I can say that for myself. When it comes to this sweet and salty cake, both of those principles apply.

However, it was my sister’s birthday yesterday so I had to pull out all of the stops. I really like the taste of this cake too, despite some of my disastrous attempts at putting it together. How can you go wrong with 3 layers of chocolate cake and salted caramel cream cheese frosting? More about the cake itself; I was introduced to it when I worked at the Brickhouse in Charlottetown. It was one of the most popular items on our dessert menu and for good reason. Who doesn’t like sweet and salty paired together?

Anyways, the first time I ever assembled one of them, it was laughable at best. The whole idea is to bake 1 cake and slice it into 3 layers. If you make the first one even the slightest bit too thick, it makes for an interesting top 2 layers to say the least. Sometimes it was more like 1 layer plus some random cake crumbles. Thankfully there is icing to patch everything back up right?

I am probably even more notorious for the egg shell incident. Frankly, I am not sure why I would share this with anyone as you will realize that I am an idiot, but for the sake of humour, what the heck. So I was making the batter for this sweet and salty chocolate cake one day at work, one of the many things on my to-do list for the day. I was in a rush so I cracked the eggs right into the mixing bowl, as the KitchenAid was whirling away full speed. Not surprisingly, half of a shell whipped out of my hands and was instantaneously shattered into millions of little pieces. Apparently I had zero judgment that day and decided that if I whipped the batter furiously for a bit, the egg shells would surely dissolve right into it. No fault in that logic at all. Instead of chucking the creamed butter, sugar and eggs (and egg shells) into the garbage, I kept on going as if nothing had ever happened. I thought I had gotten away with it too. When I pulled the cakes out of the oven they looked perfectly fine to me. I set them aside to cool and be iced another day.

A couple days later I came in for my shift and the sous chef told me that he had something to show me. I actually had no idea what it could be. Then he and the pastry chef pulled out the cake. They opened it up, revealing a plethora of little white speckles. It wasn’t something where I could be like, “oh I accidentally got a little piece of shell in there” when it was actually half an egg. So I told them what happened, apologized and from that day on was known as the girl who thought she could get away putting egg shells in a cake. When I moved back to Calgary they even sent me egg shells in the mail. Moral of the story, egg shells do not dissolve into cake and this is especially apparent when you make a dark, chocolate cake. Live and learn right? Thankfully this time my sweet and salty chocolate cake turned out about as perfect as I possibly could have hoped for. Good thing too because I don’t think I would have had it in me to make another one.

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Sweet and Salty Chocolate Cake                                                                                                         
Makes 1 8″ or 9″ round cake 

Ingredients

Cake

1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. hot water
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 medium eggs
1/2 tbsp. vanilla extract

Caramel Sauce

2 cups white sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp. fine salt

Icing

2 packages (16 ounces or 1 pound) light cream cheese, softened
1 to 1 1/2 cups prepared caramel sauce

Instructions

To make the cake, heat your oven to 325F and line a springform pan with parchment paper. Mix together the cocoa, sour cream and hot water. Whisk until smooth and set aside to cool slightly. Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in another bowl and set it aside as well. In a separate bowl, cream the butter, white sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy (use an electric or stand mixer to do this). Add the vanilla and then the eggs, beating until smooth. Then alternately add the cocoa/sour cream mixture and dry ingredients into the creamed butter and eggs. Basically you want to add a little bit of the wet and beat. Then you add a little bit of the dry and beat again until it is all incorporated. Do this in 2 or 3 additions, ending with the dry ingredients. Once the batter is made, pour it into your prepared springform pan. Drop it on the counter a couple of times to knock out any potential air bubbles. Bake at 325F for 30-35 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the centre comes out clean. The cake should also spring back when touched lightly. Using a cooling rack, bring the cake to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours before icing.

To make the caramel, combine the sugar with a splash of water in a large saucepan. Cook over high heat, swirling occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and eventually turns a rich, golden brown colour. Remove the pan from the heat and add in the cream and salt. Whisk until smooth, returning the caramel to medium heat to fully dissolve the sugar into the cream. Pour the caramel into a heat proof bowl and set it aside to cool slightly.

To make the icing, use a mixer to blend the cream cheese until smooth and lump free. Mix in about a cup of your prepared caramel sauce. It’s ok if it is a bit warm still but you don’t want it to be scalding hot. Taste the icing. If it is not sweet enough for your liking, add more caramel as needed, up to 1 1/2 cups of it total. Use immediately or refrigerate until needed.

To assemble the cake, use a serrated knife to cut it into layers. Depending on how confident you are in your ability to do this, you can go for either 3 layers or 2. Just keep in mind that it will be 3 relatively thin layers. If you don’t trust yourself at all, leave the cake as is and just ice the top and sides of it. Depending on which option you go for, the end goal is to ice each layer, as well as the entire exterior (top and sides). In terms of design, you can leave it rustic, make it completely smooth, or create lines, which is what I opted to do (simply by lightly running the tip of my spatula across the cake and up the sides). Refrigerate this sweet and salty chocolate cake for a couple of hours before slicing and serving for any special occasion!