Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lemon Blueberry Porch cake

Ever since the cupcake contest, my life has been a whirlwind of activity.  Fortunately for me, that means I've been doing a lot of baking.  I put together a cupcake tasting for a couple who is getting married, whipped up a German chocolate birthday cake for a friend's sister, and finally I put together this scrumptious little number for a dinner party yesterday:

whipped lemon coconut cream, vegan cake, summer cake, picnic bakery

It should have been a relatively simple thing to throw together.

This cake behaved like a sneaky seven year old child.  It had a little temper-tantrum; but, I handled it with the gentle grace of a good cake-mother.  

What happened was, I loved the tanginess of the lemon coconut whipped cream so much that I initially tried to put it between the cake layers.  It seemed to be working.  I turned my back on it for a moment and turned back around just in time to catch the top layer in my open hands as it attempted to escape by slithering right off the bottom layer in a slip-n-slide of lemon coconut fluff.  

A little bit stunned by the very sudden appearance of foam-coated cake in my hands, I just stood there, in the middle of the kitchen, dripping whipped frosting on the floor.  It was awkward.  Luckily, there was a parchment paper sitting on the counter and I was able to wiggle the cake onto it.  Using a spatula, I scraped the cake clean and started over again, this time filling the layers with better-behaved blueberry filling.  After that little incident, all was right in Emily's little world of cake.  I can't be the only person things like this happen to in the kitchen, can I?  Anyone?

With the help of toothpicks, plastic wrap, and a blast of car air conditioning, I managed to safely arrive at the party with an intact cake.  The dinner was a lot of fun and happened to be in the most beautiful kitchen I've seen in a long time.  It was full of functional vintage equipment and was painted such lovely colors:

whipped lemon coconut cream, vegan cake, summer cake, picnic bakery

The hostess sells blueberries at local farmer's markets (in fact, my cake featured her berries).  Most of the guests were friends of hers from other market booths, including a woman named Emmy who makes pickles and preserves.  I got to try some of her beets, and they were reeeeeally good.  You can find her little jars of goodness, including her award-winning pickled cauliflower at Buyer's Best Friend on Haight Street at Cole.  

After a delicious home cooked farmer's market dinner eaten on the rustic front porch stoop of a beautiful Berkeley home; and, after a few glasses of wine and a couple of bad jokes, it was time for cake.  

whipped lemon coconut cream, vegan cake, summer cake, picnic bakery

I live for cake time.  Also, if kitchens were detachable, I would've stolen this one.  Then I would've felt very bad and given it back.  Except for the refrigerator.

whipped lemon coconut cream, vegan cake, summer cake, picnic bakery

Lemon Blueberry Porch Cake
Original recipe by Emily Haydel of Picnic Bakery

This cake features sweet lemon cake and blueberry filling offset by a cool and tangy lemon-coconut whipped cream frosting.  It makes a perfect summertime treat as it tastes best slightly chilled.

Blueberry Filling Ingredients:
4 cups fresh blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 Tbs cornstarch
1/2 tsp xanthan gum

Whipped Lemon Coconut Cream Ingredients:
3 cans full fat coconut milk (refrigerated over night, solid part only)
8 oz vegan cream cheese (room temp)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 Tbs lemon zest
Lemon Curd (see below)

Lemon Curd Ingredients:
2/3 cup sugar
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, pulp removed
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
2 Tbs earth balance

Lemon Cake Ingredients:
2 cups almond milk
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
4 Tbs cornstarch
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange extract
1 1/2 Tbs lemon zest

1.  Blueberry Filling Instructions:
In a medium sauce pan, mash 3 cups of blueberries with a potato masher.  Stir in sugar, xanthan gum, cornstarch, and lemon juice and heat over medium-high heat stirring vigorously to incorporate.  Once mixture begins to bubble, reduce heat to a simmer and cook an additional 2 minutes, continuing to stir.  There will be white lumps from the xanthan gum.  Try to press them out with the spoon, but don't worry if they are small, they will break down after the mixture cools and is stirred again.  Stir in the remaining whole blueberries.  Cool and then cover and refrigerate until you're ready to assemble the cake.

2.  Lemon Curd Instructions:
Whisk together the sugar, flour, and xanthan gum in a small sauce pan.  Turn on the heat to medium-high and whisk in the lemon juice.  Continue to whisk until mixture begins to warm.  Add the earth balance and continue to whisk the mixture as it melts.  Keep whisking until mixture begins to bubble and then whisk for another minute more.  Pour into a heat safe bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

3.  Whipped Coconut Cream Instructions:
With an electric mixer, mix the vegan cream cheese on low until light and fluffy.  Add the coconut milk solids and mix on medium until fluffy.  Add powdered sugar, xanthan gum, and lemon zest and mix on high until very fluffy and stiff peaks form.  Fold in the chilled lemon curd.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

4.  Lemon Cake instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two 9 inch cake rounds with parchment and spray with oil.  In a large bowl, combine the almond milk and vinegar and whisk together.  Let sit for five minutes to curdle.  In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cornstarch.   Whisk the sugar, lemon zest, oil, and extracts into the milk/vinegar mixture.  Slowly stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no large lumps remain (some small lumps are okay).  Evenly distribute the batter into the two cake pans.  Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until toothpick in center comes out clean.  Cool for five minutes in pan, then dump out on parchment lined counter and lift (on parchment) to wire cooling rack.

5.  Assembly:
Once the cake layers have cooled completely, place one layer bottom-side-up on your cake plate.  Cover with a layer of blueberry mixture and then spread with a very thin layer of lemon coconut frosting.  Place second layer bottom side up on top and push down gently to make sure it is firmly situated.  Pipe some of the whipped frosting around the edges.  Make it thick enough and high enough to hold the blueberry filling in.  (I piped three rows around the outside edge).  Fill the center hole with the remaining blueberry filling and push carefully up to the edges of the piped frosting.  If they touch and get messy, just pipe another ring of frosting over top.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

6. Enjoy
Gather some friends, pop open a chilled bottle of rose, make your way to the nearest front porch, and eat cake!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Picnic Bakery Enters a Cupcake Contest

Last Saturday I entered a vegan cupcake contest hosted by Rock Paper Scissors Collective.

Poppy gives the best pep-talks!

The night before the contest, I couldn't sleep.  I was completely anxiety-ridden and haunted by images of a huge warehouse full of pretentious vegan bakers, neon lighting, and sabotage.  The morning of the contest, I couldn't eat breakfast or even drink coffee because my stomach was full of butterflies.  (This may also be because I ate cupcake batter for dinner the night before).  During the ride to the venue, I kept trying to think of reasons not to go and half-hoped we might get stuck in all-day traffic.

But we didn't.  And I'm really glad because every detail of the day was the opposite of the dreaded images I had conjured.  Upon our arrival, we were greeted by some of the collective members and we began to set up tables.  

I brought Samoa cupcakes.  Chocolate/vanilla marble cake, chewy caramel glaze, crunchy coconut topping, chocolate drizzle.  I know.  They were inspired by the girl scout cookies; so, I also made a Samoa cake in the shape of the cookie for display purposes:

I shared a table with a girl who made coconut cupcakes with chocolate frosting.  We managed to be friends in spite of our similar cupcake flavors.  At least we didn't wear the same dress!

Across the room, there was some more friendly cupcake competition.  A group with purple hair arrived to set up their display for Fluffer Nutter cupcakes:

Next to them, was a cute couple who brought a very inspired Thaikiki cupcake.  It was a peanut and coconut cupcake with avocado lime frosting.  The flavors were delicate and the presentation was adorable with little wooden crates and jars of sliced limes:

I love his cupcake vs. cupcake t-shirt

By the time we were all set up, a line had formed outside.  It wrapped around the block.

The next two and a half hours were a blur.  We were bombarded by hungry cupcake eaters.  The line moved consistently past the cupcake tables without break.  I served cupcake quarter, after cupcake quarter, after cupcake quarter.  My hands were totally covered in chocolate and caramel (as it turns out, that's not such a terrible situation to be in).

When I ran out of cupcakes, I was talked into cutting the Samoa cake.  It was gone within three minutes.

Then people started eating coconut crumbs off the demolished cupcake platter.  

We estimated that over 200 people turned out to judge cupcakes.  They did some serious damage.

Meanwhile, Poppy was busy making friends outside:

Finally, the tallies were in and the winners were announced by a couple of the Rock Paper Scissors ladies.

This is the girl who took home 1st place prizes and was voted "Best Vegan Cupcake In The Bay Area":

I deserved it.  If nothing else, for keeping those shoes on my feet the whole day!

I'm already looking for the next contest.  I think I might be addicted to winning.

For more pictures from the event, click here.