Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Keeping Up with the Times

Happy Earth Day, everyone! Hopefully everyone is finding something "eco-friendly" to fill their time with today (you know, when you don't have things like work or school... yeah, remember those?). Our household was kind of thrown into a forced water-conservation movement this morning, awaking to find out that our kitchen faucet was, to quote my Grandpa (who came over to try fixing it), "peeing sideways". Leaky didn't even begin to cover it - when we turned on the tap, we got a geyser! So now our kitchen is back to the Pilgrim times, sans running water. How fun it is to do dishes by lugging bowlfuls upon bowlfuls of hot water from the laundry room (the only faucet that runs hot enough in this house!). It's like camping, but without the convenience of a spigot (or the bugs, come to think of it...). At least our oven and fridge still work! I tell you, if those two ever died (God forbid at ONCE!) we'd be out to lunch... and dinner... and breakfast.

Well, the lack of water didn't dissuade me from embracing Spring, and I even did my part to use up stuff lingering in my pantry and fridge before it went south (except for a single red onion... though that story must wait for another post). This week's English class was not only the last one before exams (yay!) but was also the date I was slated to perform a demonstration / instruction presentation for everyone. When the project was announced originally, I got it stuck in my head that I would do something food-ish. And sweet. "Ah," the brain began to say, "why not decorate cupcakes? You can bake them and frost them before and all that's left is assembly!". Now if my head was screwed on right at the time I would have been able to see well in advance the sheer amount of planning and work that would go into that 10 minute time slot. But no, all I could think of was "Cake! Frosting! Pretty things!", and I was sunk.

Luckily, I have the world of blogging at my fingertips - having decided on a "Springy" lemon-flavoured cake base with a poured fondant icing (gross, I know, but easy... and I used a mix) I knew I would have to find a recipe that was vegan in case there were any allergies in the room. I found one heck of a winner with Bryanna's wedding cake recipe, though tweaked it to (obviously) reduce the volume it made and make the prep method seem a bit more "usual" to me (though if anyone can tell me why her's is made that way and if it works, let me know!).

The cake prep was super easy, and I was rewarded with exactly what I was looking for: light, spongy, perfectly tangy and just slightly sweet (I didn't want the blend to be cloying with the fondant). It sliced wonderfully (Andrew happily took the bits) and turned out to be a great base for the glaze. So, thanks Bryanna!

The fondant is (obviously) where I began to struggle. I had never done anything with that kind of poured or rolled frosting before, and have limited success with royal icing and even simple sugar glaze, erring on the side of too much liquid. I was extra-careful this time and got it to a good consistency, but the issues began when it came to the whole coating process. The cake wasn't completely level, apparently, and the cupcake I did for the demo pictures was even less so but I failed to notice in time. So, sliding fondant and subsequent re-covers filled up a good portion of my Friday morning!

After all that was sorted out and the cakes were dry, I got down to the business of decorating. I had made the pretty pretzels earlier in the week (melted candy coating and storebought twists!) so it was mostly assembly. Andrew was a complete doll by helping me dole out chocolate frosting (for the body, antennae and "glue") into Ziplocs for the class to use, too! Smarties provided the heads and in all I think they turned out pretty nicely. They don't visually live up to their inspiration though, but who can when you're dealing with The Martha? According to my mom, my demo cupcake was perfectly delicious, and my classmates didn't complain either! Of course, getting everything into the classroom in one piece and one trip was a production in itself - if anyone was in the GTA this past Monday you can attest to the deluge that beset us that day!

Vegan Lemon Sheet Cake
Serves 12
10 oz sugar
4 oz margarine
2 tbsp lemon juice
grated zest of 2 lemons
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp lemon extract
12.3 oz flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup water
1 cup (soy or rice) milk - I used soy
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease a 9x13 pan.
  2. Cream together sugar and margarine. Add lemon juice, zest, vanilla and lemon extracts and beat well.
  3. Whis together dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
  4. Mix the water and soy milk in a measuring cup or small dish.
  5. Add dry ingredients alternately with the liquids, beating well after each addition.
  6. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until cake tests done.
  7. Cool completely in the pan before turning out.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 272.3
Total Fat: 8.3 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 100.7 mg
Total Carbs: 47.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.1 g
Protein: 4.0 g

Ironically, and sort-of-but-not-really on topic, I also picked today of all days to do a mass of baking. Including bagels, which as we know require boiling, which requires water. I never thought that our tub's faucet would get such a workout! I did a deliciously odiferous bread too, and this cake again, but you'll find out all about those later. Fingers crossed our faucet feels better soon!