Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I "Runed" the Cupcakes on Purpose

I was honored to contribute to the fourth anniversary celebration of a meta- physical bookstore in Oceanside, Kindred Journeys. I supplied two chocolate vegan, gluten free cakes, two low fat carrot cakes and 25 mini cupcakes with Rune symbols on them. I "runed" (pronounced like ruined) the cupcakes on purpose!

According to Wise Geek, "runes are letters in a family of ancient alphabets known as runic alphabets. Runes were used as a method of communication across Scandinavia and in other Germanic nations from around the 3rd century CE to around the 13th century, when they were displaced by the Roman alphabet. Thousands of runic inscriptions can be found in stones, coins, and artwork..." Now runes can be found on mini cupcakes.

Rune meanings are described in books such as Ralph H. Blum and Susan Loughan's The Healing Runes. Some people use runes to help them cue into things going on in their life. In this case, I think the rune mini cupcakes were cuing the Kindred Journeys patrons to have fun joining in the celebration.

You can celebrate with this awesome Vegan Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake from Recipe, interrupted and Dark Chocolate Ganache Frosting from Flying Apron's Gluten-Free & Vegan Baking Book.

Vegan and Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake (from Recipe, interrupted)
Makes one 8x8" sheet cake
Preparation time: 1 hour

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups gluten-free baking flour (Recipe, interrupted used Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened non-alkalized cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp xantham gun
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup grape seed oil (or other neutral vegetable oil)
1 T. white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 8x8 inch baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
2. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
3. Combine the wet ingredients, along with 1 cup of cold water. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until smooth.
4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, then remove from pan and allow the cake to cool completely on the rack while you make the icing.

Dark Chocolate Ganache Frosting (from Flying Apron's Gluten-Free & Vegan Baking Book, p. 96)
Enough Frosting For One 9-Inch Three Layer Cake

1 cup palm oil or coconut oil
4 cups (32 oz) dairy-free dark chocolate chips
1 cup water
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 T. plus 1 tsp. vanilla extract, or 2 T. cognac

1. In a double boiler, or with a metal mixing bowl placed over a pot of simmering water, melt the palm oil and chocolate, stirring frequently. When the mixture is melted completely, whisk in the water and salt by hand.
2. Let the frosting cool slightly in the mixing bowl, about 30 minutes, and whisk in the vanilla by hand. Set aside for 2 hours to allow the frosting to set. If the frosting becomes too hard to work with, remove a few scoops and melt again in a double boiler. Reincorporate the melted frosting into the solid frosting until you achieve a spreadable texture.
3. Use right away, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. When you are ready to use the frosting, warm it slightly in a double boiler, or with a metal mixing bowl placed over a pot of simmering water, and whip it again until it is fluffy.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Boosting My Brain with Cacao Nibs

My love affair with chocolate goes way back and I often find myself baking with dark, organic, Fair Trade chocolate. Interestingly, a new love has entered my life - cacao nibs.

Yes, these tiny little pieces of raw chocolate have won my heart and my brain. Cacao (pronounced ka-COW) nibs are pieces of cacao beans, 100% chocolate, all the good stuff that is often diminished when processing and creating chocolate products - great brain boosting, mood elevating, bliss-enhancing, and healthy for you-ness.

For maximum health benefits, buy organic, raw cacao nibs. They are naturally vegan and gluten-free. Cacao nibs have a little fat -monounsaturated fat - that is heart healthy (similar to olive oil).

Cacao nibs receive stellar attention from, as one of their top 5 brain health foods.

Here are some fun ways to boost your brain with cacao nibs:
1. Eat them plain to experience chocolate in a totally new way.
2. Eat them with a dab of honey, maple syrup or agave nectar.
3. Add them to anything - yogurt, your favorite smoothie, desserts (see photo), coffee.

I also found some great ideas on ways to use cacao beans and nibs from Live Super Foods. (Scroll down to "Using Cacao Beans and Nibs at Home.")

I never knew chocolate could be so much fun!

Monday, April 4, 2011

7 Minute Frosting and Cupcake Mountain

I recently visited my parents in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. I know they pointed out Cupcake Mountain in the distance several times but this time I really saw it. Here is the link for hiking the mountain. I have never hiked Cupcake Mountain but I am sure many have "risen" to the challenge.

It was my dad's birthday so I baked him one of his favorites - white angel food cake with 7 minute frosting. There is something incredible about watching an angel food cake rise in the oven and inverting it over a bottle at the end. Then there is the transformation of egg whites, cream of tartar, water, salt and sugar over a double boiler into frosting. (Recipe below.)

The real magic is sharing the birthday cake with people you love.

Seven- Minute Frosting
(from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 1976, p. 143)

2 unbeaten egg whites
1.5 cups granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/3 c. cold water
dash of salt
1 tsp. vanilla

Place all ingredients except vanilla in top of double boiler (don't place over boiling water); beat 1/2 minute at low speed on electric mixer to blend. Place over, not touching, boiling water. Cook, beating constantly, till frosting forms stiff peaks, about 7 minutes (don't overcook). Remove from boiling water. If desired, pour into mixing bowl. Add vanilla; beat till of spreading consistency, about 2 minutes.
(Variations for peppermint-stick, sea foam, chocolate, and tropical frostings using this recipe).

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