My view last Wednesday…

… included these. A member of our care group (who’s nuts about Lego) was celebrating an important 4th birthday and it was my turn to bring something sweet to celebrate the milestone. I admit- it’s not the best icing job in the world but I think it was still a success.

And my view yesterday? More care group baking! Another fine member of our care group turned 3 this week. As the son of an avid fisherman, I thought fish cupcakes were in order.

The care group that eats dessert together, sticks together. That’s just how it works. 

Coconut Goodness

We share a simple soup and bread supper once a week with the other families in our care group. It’s one of my favourite points of the week, and many really great conversations (with 2 year olds and 30-something year olds) have been shared around the table. It’s so good to have a place to belong, contribute and grow.

When there is a birthday, we venture away from our group value of simplicity and have cake. We really like cake. A few weeks ago I made pineapple chick cupcakes to celebrate the birthday of one of our youngest members and they were very excitedly received by the birthday boy. When another young member’s birthday was ready for celebration just after Easter, I decided to try out a recipe sent to me by my dear friend P (the same P I wrote about yesterday). Armed with this recipe, I  went to Google images for inspiration and came up with these.

They were a great hit, not just with the 2 year old birthday boy, but with everyone in our group. My search for dairy-free frosting options (that do not involve copious amounts of Cool Whip) has been a challenge and this is just delicious.

Dairy-Free Coconut Cupcakes
adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moscowitz
yield: 2 dozen cupcakes

1 can full fat coconut milk
soy or almond milk
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 F. Shake the can of coconut milk well; open and remove 1/4 cup. Set this aside for the frosting. Pour the remaining coconut milk into a 4 cup glass measure and add soy or almond milk to measure 2 cups. Mix in the oil and vanilla and stir well to combine.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until smooth. Fold in the unsweetened coconut. Fill muffin cups about two-thirds full and bake for 20 to 30 mins; the cupcakes should be slightly browned around the edges and spring back when touched. Cool completely before frosting. At this point, cupcakes can be frozen (and they freeze very well).

Coconut Frosting

1/4 cup nonhydrogenated margarine at room temperature
1/4 cup reserved coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 cup unsweetened coconut (optional)

Cream the margarine until light and fluffy. Add the coconut milk and vanilla and mix well. Add the sifted confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth. Add unsweetened coconut if you wish (I usually do not because we prefer smooth frosting) and refrigerate until ready to use.

Pineapple Cupcakes

As promised, here is the recipe for pineapple cupcakes I made last week. I guess with the coconut, they were actually piña colada cupcakes (minus the rum).

Pineapple Cupcakes
yield: 2 dozen

2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups crushed pineapple (drained slightly- reserve juice for icing)

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs and sugar until slightly thickened and a light cream color (about 2 minutes). Reduce to low speed and add apple sauce, oil and vanilla until blended. Add in the pineapple and sour cream and mix until fully incorporated. Then add the flour mixture and blend until just combined and smooth. Line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners and fill about 2/3 full. Bake cupcakes at 350*F oven for about 22 minutes.

Ice with your favourite icing. Because we live dairy free, I used this recipe and used the reserved pineapple juice instead of milk (soy in our case – and I cut the cool whip in half). With a few drops of coconut flavouring and yellow food gel, it was down right tropical.

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A junior member of our small group had a birthday, and I made these pineapple cupcakes to celebrate at our weekly dinner last night. They were a hit- I’ll share the recipe next week. 

Key Lime Goodness

Thanks to an amazingly super-cheap Air Canada seat sale, Jeff and I are headed south for some sunshine and R&R in a few weeks. It has been a long year with us each facing a relentless pace at school/work and things have (unfortunately) intensified a lot over the past 2 months… so vacation is most welcome. Jeff has always wanted to drive down the Florida Keys so that is exactly what we are going to do! To tackle some much needed planning for this trip, we enjoyed som home made coconut ice cream (our new #1 choice for dairy-free ice cream) while huddled in front of my computer as we sorted out accommodations for our trip and made plans to swim with dolphins, snorkel, visit civil war forts and eat conch fritters and Key Lime Pie.
I love just about anything made with lemons or limes and thoughts of Key Lime Pie were still on my brain yesterday. It was my week to make dinner for our small group and since one of our members was celebrating his very important 2nd birthday, cake was needed as well! I made Key Lime mini-cupcakes and they were so yummy that Jeff said I had to share the recipe. Here goes.

Key Lime Cupcakes
adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine, Sep 2008
Yield: 12-14 cupcakes (I made 24 minis and 6 regular)

1 3/4 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
2 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon of lime zest
a few drops of green food colouring
3/4 cup buttermilk (I substitute soy milk)

Preheat over to 350*F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners and coat with cooking spray. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Set aside. Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter/margarine on low until it is softened a little. Add the sugar and increase speed to medium. Beat until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lime juice, lime zest and food colouring and beat until mixed. The mixture will look curdled- do not worry! Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Mix on low until just combined. Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full. Bake 20-25 minutes or until cakes test done. Cool completely and frost with lime cream cheese icing.

Lime Cream Cheese Icing
1/2 cup butter or margarine at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese room temperature, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups sifted icing sugar
1 tablespoon lime zest

Beat the butter at low speed until it is soft. Increase speed to medium and add cream cheese, one piece at a time. Reduce to low speed and add vanilla and powdered sugar. Mix until icing is smooth. Stir in lime zest and enjoy!

The first time I made these, I prettied up the icing and garnished with a nibble of lime.

Groovy Birthday

Jeff and I hosted a family birthday dinner last weekend and I was challenged with the task of creating a cake that worked for both an elegant 40-something year old woman and an 11 year old skater boy. It took the elimination of a few brainstorms before I came up with a plan that worked. I have to credit my very colourful niece with the original idea. Thanks R!!

I wanted to make a fat free cake so started with 2 white cake mixes and 2 cans of diet Ginger Ale. That’s it! I added these 4 items together and mixed until smooth.

 

I wanted something a little more exciting than plain white cake, so divided the batter into 6 bowls and added gel colouring to colour each bowl of batter a different colour. I used gel because it gives much more intense colour than liquid colour and does not water down the batter. It’s readily available at craft stores and I have even noticed it at a few grocery stores as well.

NOTE- because I’m cheap, I didn’t spring for the 8 colour gel pack ( at a whopping $16) and just bought red, yellow and blue and mixed colours from there.

Now for assembly: I stated by adding 3 large dollops of different coloured batter to the pan and continued with a second layer of batter dollops, added on top of the first. The batter spread out with each layer of batter and it seemed that the more imperfect the circles were, the better they looked.

I started out with three ‘towers’ of batter in each pan- next time I’ll just go with four.

 I layered the leftover batter into muffin cups. In the interest of being pretty, I didn’t fill them very full.

 Next time, I’ll probably skip the cupcakes all together and fill up the cake pans to the brim- this cake collapses quite a bit when it cools (and all those ginger ale bubbles disappear).

Bake as directed and voila! I cut each layer in half and made a quadruple layer birthday cake with a light pudding and cool whip frosting. It really was psychedelically, groovy-good. And it looked pretty cool when we cut into it as well. I should have caught photos of the inside finished product but we ate it all up.