Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Lifetime of Homely Cakes

Each November, my husband insists he wants nothing for his birthday—no party, no presents, no balloons or noisemakers or special sparkly hats. He will permit cake, but only if it's eaten in secret, and only if it's carrot.

So that I could eat it, too, I set out to find a vegan recipe that would work gluten-free. People seem to love the Ginger Macadamia Coconut Carrot Cake from Vegan with a Vengeance, so I made a few tweaks to the recipe (more warm and cozy, less Caribbean), and used a mix of gluten-free flours, flax seed, and xanthan gum. I worried when the pudding-thick batter clung to itself in the middle of the cake pans. I became alarmed when the batter never gained loft and browned after only 30 minutes. I was prepared to pull out my back-up all-purpose flour and start again on a cake at least one of us would be able to eat.

As the layers cooled, a few pokes indicated they were in fact fluffy in the middle. I decided to frost them. I was excited to find non-hydrogenated Tofutti cream cheese at my natural foods store, but it didn't hold up well in frosting. No matter how much powdered sugar I added, the whole concoction was gloopy. I threw on shredded coconut and some walnuts to disguise its resemblance to Elmer's glue.

We ate the cake, and it wasn't bad. A little dense, but I'd make it again with some vinegar and baking soda. It wasn't the ostentatious, gleaming white display of frosting ruffles and marzipan carrots I'd imagined but it tasted good, and believe me, I've made uglier birthday cakes.

Four years ago there was this lop-sided spice cake with melted wax vanilla frosting. Our oven wasn't level, so the layers were like wedges. I couldn't be bothered to to frost the sides, or to wait for the cake to cool before assembling it. I'm just not a details person.

Even better is the chocolate cake I made my husband in the kitchen of our dorm when we were first dating. It says "Happy BDAY." Squeezing frosting through the cut-off corner of a ziploc bag did not allow for the elegant script I'd envisioned.

Next year, my husband says he wants something non-traditional, like grilled birthday pineapple. I can definitely make that look good.

14 comments:

  1. HAHAHAHA! Classic! I requested a medley of fruit for my b-day this year, too. It's either that or a gluten free, dairy free ice cream cake. I'm thinking my chances of getting the fruit are better than getting the ice cream cake!

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  2. Although a grilled birthday pineapple might *look* good, I doubt it'd taste as good as your "homely" cake (which looks darling and rustic, if you ask me!)

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  3. At least you could eat it. My husband made me a cake that looked too good to be true — because it was. We could barely saw through it, and the taste and texture, to be as kind as possible, were frightening. It was what I'd imagine chocolate soap would be like. And it wasn't even gluten-free! We did have a good laugh though.

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  4. i think your cake is very pretty indeed! you made those most of the situation, and i'm sure he wouldn't want to eat bday cake without you anyways!

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  5. Haha! Nice. My frosting jobs always go awry. The Ginger cake looks great though.

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  6. Well done! I'm gonna try this one. Thanks for the inspiration. And really, it's the taste that matters. :)

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  7. Your cake looks adorable and it sounds so yummy, thank you for the link to the recipe. Now you've inspired me to make birthday cakes for my husband (I always buy them = shame on me).

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  8. Awww....your cakes look beautiful to me! It's the taste (and the thought) that counts, anyway. Lucky hubby!

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  9. Haaaaa, I love birthday cake-wrecks! It's the love inside that really matters.

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  10. This is such a good idea! I love it!

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  11. I think your cakes are sweet, literally and figuratively, and clearly made with love. In fact, I think they're adorable, and bet you could probably start a successful business making custom vegan "Homely Cakes" ("Frosting styles include 'Elmer's Glue' or 'Melted Wax!' Order today!") This post tickled me, and made me feel a little less self-conscious about my hideous Frankenbread loaf. So, thank you. :-)

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  12. No matter what it looked like, I am sure your cake was great and that your husband appreciated it! It's super sweet of you to make him something. I've had a few cake wrecks over the years too. I had one split right down the middle once after I frosted it. I kinda just glued it back together with more frosting, haha.

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  13. Sometimes "ugly" desserts are the best, and by far the most comforting sweets. It just shows that they're homemade and definitely made with love. :)

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  14. I just found your blog, and I love it! I live in the "other" Portland, and am both vegan and gluten-free also. I recently discovered the Babycakes cookbook, and am now whipping out reasonable approximations of many baked goods I thought I would never have again. Some of the recipes require corrections and practice, but the cupcakes are unbeatable.

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