Friday, March 30, 2012

Vegan Baking Failure

I knew it was a disaster long before Rich began making Jabba the Hut noises as the frosting fell languorously on itself like a melting snowman. But his blubbering sealed the deal. So sad. At least the frosting tasted good, which is more than I can say for the cake.

"Don't worry, hon! It's light as a feather," Rich said. "A feather wrapped in a brick."

I am coming to the conclusion that I am not a baker. Last night I tried to make a vegan white cake with vegan frosting. My purpose was twofold. First, Rich--the man behind many of the wonderful photographs on this blog--just signed an agreement to be an exclusive photographer with iStock photo. (See his portfolio here) We celebrated with a bottle of champagne and...  well, cake.

Second, I'm hosting a baby shower in one month. I'm going all in. They're having a girl, so I'm giving full vent to an obsession with pink. The invitations are in pink envelopes, with handmade pink paper, an excessive, pink, script font, even tulle. I'm planning to hang paper lanterns and make those tissue-paper poufs to hang from the ceiling of my conservatory. The menu will feature a mini garden patch display of vegetables, crackers with cherry-jalepeno preserves and cream cheese, pink lemonade and a seven-layer pink ombre cake. I know, I'm getting a little carried away.

I got to thinking, perhaps I could get away with serving a vegan, gluten-free cake at the shower without anyone noticing. That should have been my warning right there. I imagined my smug satisfaction. A gorgeous cake. Secretly vegan. With varying shades of raspberry-hued frosting. A stunning victory.

For all of these to take place, I knew I needed practice. I've never baked a vegan cake before. Sure, I make a great vegan apple-cinnamon swirl bread, from the cookbook Babycakes, but it's not the same as white cake.

I made the cake with coconut oil, a gluten-free flour blend, apple sauce, agave and plenty of leavening. I had hoped to create an ombre effect in the actual layers of the cake, but without the use of artificial colors, that was challenging. Pomegranate juice creates more of a grayish hue than pink when baked. As for the frosting, I used icing sugar, coconut oil, almond milk, a pinch of salt and raspberry puree to color it.

I've never thought so highly of dough conditioners as I do now. All of the franken-science and engineering and marketing that goes into boxed cake mixes make them fluffy and light and everything wonderful you expect in a cake. Oh yeah, and I'm sure eggs don't hurt either.

Most of the cake ended up in the bin. So also did my ambition to pass off a vegan cake at the baby shower. Furthermore, Brad just walked into the living room and said, "I thought you were going to save me a piece of cake, but I didn't see any on the counter, so I tasted it out of the garbage." Nice. I'm sure I'll try again sometime, but for now, I'm going to run right out to the store and pick up some BHT-laced cake mix and red-dye-#3-colored frosting. 

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