Dairy-free

GF Honey Layer Cake inspired by Once Upon a Mattress

Layers of downy gluten-free cake with fruit-laden creams

“I come from the land of the foggy, foggy dew ooh-ooh-ooh!
Ooh-ooh-ooh! Ooh-ooh-ooh!
Where walking through the meadow in the morning is like walking through glue!
The swamps of home are brushed with green and gold at break of day.
The swaps of home are lovely to behold from far away.”

So sings Winnifred, the heroine of Once Upon a Mattress, the musical based on the fairy-tale The Princess and the Pea.  I first discovered Sarah Jessica Parker’s recording when in high school, and fell for the slapstick comedy and crazy belting of the tiny star.  Then I heard Carol Burnett tackle it in the original recording.  For any gal who grew up reading princess fairy tales, this one kicks butt; a story of a princess so genuine all fall in love with her for her crass attitude, humble upbringing, huge heart, and ability to drink and dance them under the table.

This recipe was inspired by Kelly at IngestedRead, a submission for her September Fairytale Challenge of The Princess and the Pea. She originally inspired me to utilize whatever I was reading into a recipe (and so created my smoky, sexy American noir Big Sleep Cupcakes) as she does on her blog across the pond.  In turn I evidently inspired her to open a page up to her readers and blogging friends.  Please check her out – what’s better than books and sweet things?

So in daydreaming about this recipe I obviously thought of layering a gluten-free cake with, well, something.  And while I wasn’t about to use real peas or kill my blood-sugar by making little ones out of fondant, I figured I could incorporate pea-like ingredients.

Pomegranate seeds.  Yes.

And blueberries.

Oh, and I have some dried cranberries and ground walnuts on my shelf.  Perfect.

So I whipped up this moist, slightly-sweet honey cake with a blend of rice flours and starches, using the basic method that I used when making my Little Red Velvet Cupcakes.  A few days before I had made some Pomegranate Lime Coconut Milk Ice Cream – completely dairy free, it’s smooth, creamy and delicately citrusy – one of my new favorite ice creams on its own, adding just the amount of cold-creamy-sweetness I wanted for this dessert.  I also whipped up some coconut milk whipped cream, and layered them all together in a trifle glass with some fresh blueberries and pomegranate seeds.

Result?  Let’s just say I’m one happy allergy-ridden gal.  It’s extremely rare that I get a more complex dessert that I can eat all of.  Cookies and cupcakes are great and all, but this has everything I love about dessert: ice cream, fruit and whipped cream (one of my favorite things on the planet are those Italian tarts with custard and glazed fruit, which I miss horribly), and a not-too-sweet cake.  Put them all together and it feels special.  Not the fanciest combinations of desserts in the world, but one that makes me extremely happy.

View from my window

Oh, and the princess of the swamp was definitely channeled today as I took these pictures: I took the ice cream out to defrost, took the dog on a quick walk and returned to a black sky and pouring rain, making it impossible to take exciting photos.  I was miffed.

But it didn’t stop me from enjoying the crap outta the subject matter after.

 

Mmmmm... cake...

Check out my post on Pomegranate Lime Ice Cream for that recipe and how to make coconut milk whipped cream.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups gluten-free cake flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup palm sugar, white sugar or sucanat
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cup safflower oil
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 rounded tablespoons Tofutti “sour cream”
  • almond or soy milk (directions below)
  • 1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp distilled white vinegar, separated
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda.

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350º
  • Butter / spray your desired cake pan of choice
  • Add Tofutti cream cheese to a liquid measuring cup and fill to just shy of one cup with almond or soy milk.  Whisk thoroughly with a fork until smooth.  Add 1 Tbsp white vinegar and continue mixing.
  • In a small bowl, whisk flour and salt thoroughly.
  • In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix sugar, honey and oil thoroughly on medium speed.
  • Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well between additions.
  • Add vanilla.
  • Turn speed down to low.  Add the flour in three additions, alternating with 1/2 of the milk.  Make sure to mix thoroughly between additions.
  • Mix baking soda and remaining 2 tsps vinegar until foamy.  Add and beat for 10 seconds or until incorporated.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes, rotating pan halfway through, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Cool in pan for at least 15 minutes before removing to cool on a rack, or cool completely in pans.
  • To assemble, use a round cookie cutter (fitted to whatever serving glass you’re going to be serving in) to cut the cake out in circles.  Half the cake length-wise (or in thirds depending on the thickness of your cake – you want thin layers).  Place one layer of cake in the glass, then top with whipped cream and few fresh blueberries.  Add another layer of cake and then some ice cream.  Then a final layer of cake with a jot of whipped cream and some fresh pomegranate seeds.
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Pomegranate Lime Ice Cream – Dairy free!

Pomegranate Lime Ice Cream with Coconut Milk Whipped Cream

This morning I had to face a personal demon and reason some things out: what do I do if the project I’m currently working on fails?  Since I lost my creative partner on the project a few months ago I’ve had to fully invest in moving it along myself.  And many times I’ve cursed the former partner’s name because it all would have just been so much easier if we were still working on it together.  I’ve equally been thankful that we’re not – the project is coming along well and I don’t know if the same fire would have been lit under me if he had taken the reins.

Without saying too much, just know that it involves food.  And it could lead to me eventually not having to leave the city to perform so much or spending so much time in audition rooms.  I love performing.  I love love love playwrights, directors, producers, other actors, the live audience, the thrill of a really good piece of work.  And I love work in general, so much so that I completely overdid it and had a relapse of Lyme several years ago.  And since that last bout I’ve realized I need something with a bit more of a direct path that doesn’t require such dramatic energy.  Yes, food work is obviously exhausting.  Which is why I could never spend as much time in a kitchen as is needed to be a chef.  But I have food to thank for making me well enough that I can work again at all.

Which brings me back to the whole failure thing.  I came to one awesome conclusion that has cleared a lot: I want to push this project forward so badly because I simply love performing and food and want to share with a community of people.  For 18 years I’ve gone back and forth between sickness and relative health.  I’ve had to watch what I put in my body meticulously.  When I go over the edge, it gets messy: a tiny bit of dairy can make me ill for days, alcohol can be temperamental depending on my sugar levels and if I don’t eat in proper rotation my body freaks out.

I love food for those very reasons.  It is a powerful thing.  It is my medicine, my magic.  It is a form of art that I highly respect when I see it in others and want to nourish in myself.

So if this project “fails”, I’ll still have learned how to make an exponentially yummy list of treats anyway. 

Like this one.  Two years ago I had no clue how to make coconut milk taste so good.  Let me share it with you.

Creamy, frosty, tangy goodness

A few years ago, one of my dearest friends (hi Ruark!) gave me an ice cream maker for my birthday.  Actually, he was more than a dearest friend – we had been dating for about 7 years at that point.  It was the perfect present – given to me in the dead heat of summer, while I was pulling out of that nasty Lyme flare and just able to eat food again.  That summer I made a lot of sorbet, and he made full-fatted, full-dairied ice cream for our friends and loved ones.

I was psyched to welcome the machine back into my life this summer.

With it I made a Coffee Ice Cream Pie for a Burwell Recipe Swap and Honeybun Ice Cream for my FoodBuzz 24×24 Scarborough Fair Supper Party. All dairy-free, of course.

Unfortunately Ruark wasn’t around to taste either of these creations.  We broke up a bit after that birthday but miraculously have remained good friends, supporting each other in work and new relationships with a familial kind of love.  So when we decided on a little dinner reunion tomorrow night, ice cream went right on the menu.   Along with another dear friend of ours, we shall feast in my tiny Washington Heights kitchen.  And, as per usual, I always plan my desserts first.

This ice cream is completely dairy free and uses honey as sweetener – the half cup of honey made it a bit too sweet for me, but I have a feeling others may find it just right.  If you’re diabetic or hypoglycemic, a warning: about five bites and I was shaking like a leave in the cooling autumn wind (it’s coming, NYC, sooner or later).

I upped the egg yolk content a bit to add some extra creaminess – I found this made an incredibly decadent texture, spot on to the original that I remember those many moons ago.

I knew I wanted to add something to the mixture in order to compliment the pomegranates, and found lime to work perfectly.  Using the zest of two limes and the juice of one gave it an awesome current of citrus that wasn’t overpowering, nor overpowered by the sweetness of the ice cream.  The fresh pomegranate seeds at just a touch of tang and crunch.

I’m a huge fan of this recipe  Huge.

A note on pomegranates: Yes, you can buy containers of pomegranate seeds from the store, and that was my plan.  But they were out.  And so I grabbed two ripe pomegranates to seed myself, and am so glad I did! In doing so I was reminded at how beautiful a fruit they are, and how intricately constructed.  They sort of remind me of lapas, one of my favorite seafoods when I visit the island my family’s from in Portugal.  You use a tiny fork to get at the luscious meat hidden within the barnacle.  I have a feeling Salvador Dali would have like them.  And pomegranates.  And if you’re curious at the connection email me.  I’m a nerd for the surrealists.

Pomegranate!

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz egg yolks (that was about 8 large eggs for me)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 cups coconut milk (full fat, please)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp arrowroot powder / starch
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • zest from 2 limes
  • juice of 1 lime
  • seeds of one pomegranate (more or less if saving some for decoration)

Directions:

  • In a heatproof bowl whisk yolks and honey together until smooth and thick, about 1 minute.
  • In a large heatproof bowl, whisk vanilla into about 2 3/4 cup coconut milk, reserving the rest.
  • Set either in a double boiler or over low heat and bring the milk up to steaming.
  • Slowly warm the egg mixture by adding the warm coconut milk to it 1/4 cup at a time, whisking thoroughly, until about a half of the milk is whisked smoothly into the eggs.
  • Remove the heated milk mixture from heat.
  • Slowly whisk egg mixture into milk mixture, whisking continually while you work and whistling as well.  (It’s much more fun if you whistle.)
  • Dissolve the arrowroot in the remaining 1/4 cup coconut milk.  Slowly add to milk mixture and whisk in.
  • Add salt.
  • Return bowl to heat and whisk thoroughly for about 5 minutes, until the mixture starts to thicken. Now I don’t work with dairy a lot and it’s been forever since I’ve made a cow-milk-custard. But I have a feeling it thickens moreso than the coconut milk.  Please correct me if I’m wrong.  But I whisked (and whistled, literally) to the point where it just coasted the back of a spoon.  Because of the high content of egg yolks, it worked well.
  • Remove bowl from heat and stir in the lime zest.
  • Let cool a bit, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in fridge, either until cold or overnight.
  • When ready to churn (we don’t get to say “churn” enough nowadays), stir the juice of one lime into the mixture and pour into your ice cream maker.
  • Churn (he he) according to its instructions.
  • Meanwhile, remove pomegranate seeds from fruit.  When the ice cream is just starting to look icy and thick, pour in pomegranate seeds.
  • Remove to a sealed container and freeze until hard.

To make coconut milk whipped cream: Place two cans of coconut milk in the fridge and your whipping bowl / whisk in the freezer overnight.  When ready, pour both cans in and whip at medium speed for a few minutes, then at high speed until frothy and light.  Add honey, maple syrup or powdered sugar to your desired level of sweetness, and 1 tsp vanilla extract if desired.  It won’t get quite as light as regular whipped cream, but tastes great and is a nice touch to any dairy-free dessert!

Thanks to the humidity, melty and ready for eating.

Fluffy Vegan Frosting


“I’m the most delicious gluten-and-dairy-free Red Velvet cupcake you’ll ever eat.  And now that I’m topped with light and fluffy vegan frosting, that’s so spreadable and pipeable, you’ll never wanna stop making me.  Kisses.”

– Cupake

I swear the cupcake insisted that I write that – I was completely at its mercy.  Maybe because I ate several of his fellows before changing frosting tips to see if I could pipe letters, which I did with ease.

The cake in this cupcake is truly divine – both moist but light, full of cocoa flavor but not too chocolatey.  Several friends who have no gluten or dairy problems could not tell that they are both, one even suggesting I match it up with a gluten-full cake and blind taste test some people for the fun of it.

Please try it, and tell me what you think.  I dubbed it Little Red Velvet Riding Hood Cupcake.  But if you just wanna call it Mmmmm, that’s okay too.  Recently I’ve been calling it “Oh my Dog!”, while it’s still in my mouth.

Now, the only reason I’m reposing this cupcake is because of the frosting issue.  The first I tried was lovely – a sweet vegan “cream cheese” frosting – but it came out more like a glaze, and no amount of whipping or refrigerating gave it a stiff enough consistency for me to pipe or even pile high.

So I tried a Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero and BOY-OH was I happy!  Insanely easy and amazingly fluffy, the frosting stayed stiff enough to pipe with several different tips long after I had colored it and bagged it.  Because it’s made with vegan butter and shortening – which are obviously both vegetable-oil based – it whipped easily at any temperature and functioned well.

And the taste!  Like a classic butter-cream it tastes primarily like sugar and vanilla.  But unlike butter-cream it didn’t taste overpoweringly so.  The shortening gave it enough body so that the sugar content was slightly lower.  Don’t get me wrong – this is very sweet.  As someone who struggles with hypoglycemia, I did a decent job at staying away (after one cupcake of course!)  But it’s not going to overwhelm your taste buds nor distract from the cupcake you put it on.  And because of the light and fluffy consistency, it particularly matched the classy cake underneath it and would do as well with a rich chocolate – ooh, or banana!

Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting

The recipe is from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.  Click on the title above for their recipe.

This frosting is fluffy and easy to work with

This frosting is fluffy and easy to work with

Having fun with frosting

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