Goddess of Cake


A Day as a Princess
June 30, 2010, 23:02
Filed under: Baking, Cakes | Tags: , , ,

As a mature feminist I should probably think that princesses are a remnant of patriarchal society that should by now be thrown away with other rubbish. Well, in a way I do. But still, when there is an actual, real, royal – blooded, beautiful princess getting married in the neighbouring country, I must admit that  something in me is evoked. We  Finnish people are so sensible and not at all prone to unnecessary, costly silliness like a royal family, so I guess we can be a little bit delighted for what happens next door, in Sweden?

Recently, I have been very brave and done lots of things that have felt immensely difficult. So I decided to reward myself and bake a cake! And spend a couple of days only doing only silly things with my girlfriends. So we watched Princess Victoria’s and Daniel’s wedding and drank strawberry – sparkling wine, eating a cake that in Finland is called a princess cake.  Partly because in honor of the actual princess and partly to remind myself of some princess – like virtues. A Real Princess, the mythical, archetypal creature of fairytales, is never angry, never mean to other people, and always in possession of her power and her beauty. And there is always the happy ever – after to her story. In real life, the princesses get eating disorders and have unfaithful boyfriends, and I guess the only true happy end awaiting us all is the peaceful grave. But still, there is always enough reason to spent a day dreaming princess dreams, with a piece of cake, and congratulate yourself for a work well done.

Vegan Princess Cake

A princess cake is usually a quite an ordinary sponge cake, filled with vanilla custard, raspberries and covered with a layer of green marzipan. Mine was a little different, because I used strawberries and pink marzipan for the ultimate princess – effect. The custard or pudding I made of oat milk and starch.

The Cake

4,5 dl all – purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

0,5 tsp baking soda

a good dash of vanilla

2 dl brown sugar

1 tbsp apple vinegar

0,5 dl canola oil

4 lingonberry cider

Mix first the dry ingredients and then add the vinegar, oil and the cider. Mix quickly with a spoon, until the batter is fairly even, and pour into a round cake tin, 24 cm in diameter. Bake in 175 °C  30 – 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Lingonberry cider gives the cake a lovely reddish hue, but you can as well use another kind of cider. Let the cake cool down before filling it. Meanwhile, make the custard:

The Custard

3,5 + 0,5  dl oat milk

a good dash of vanilla powder

1 tsp sugar

2 tbsp potato starch

First, mix the vanilla powder and sugar with 3,5 dl of oat milk, and bring the it to the  boil in a small cooking pot. Mix the potato starch with the remaining 0,5 dl oat milk, remove the pot from the heat and pour in the starch – liquid, carefully whisking. Then bring the oat milk to boil again, without mixing. Don’t cook, but remove the pot from the heat right when you see the first bubble.

Filling and Decorating

2 dl whippable oat cream

150 g pink marzipan

1 dl oat milk for moistening

2 dl strawberries, mashed

Whip up the oat cream, and blend it together with the custard. Cut the cake into to halves, and moisten it with oat milk. Fill the cake with mashed strawberries and half of the custard, and finally cover the whole cake with a layer of remaining custard mixture.  Roll the marzipan into a flat round layer, bigger than the cake,  with a rolling pin. Using a sheet of baking parchment under the marzipan might help, as well as sprinkling the sheet with powdered sugar.  Lift the marzipan – layer carefully on top of  the cake, and cut off the extra at the “hem” of the cake.  Decorate with real roses and sprinkled powdered sugar.



A Plant’s Soul
May 9, 2010, 21:08
Filed under: Baking, Cakes | Tags: , , , , ,

Even more than sunny spring days, I enjoy those overcast days with a slowly drizzling spring rain. Does it mean that I have a plants’ soul?

The Finnish year – cycle is structured between the two inactive seasons:  the winter and the summer. After the long, dark lull of the winter the spring is a rushed burst of energy: in just a few short weeks the nature is turned from bare potential to a full blooming fertile beauty.  Each week you hear a new migrant bird, and the amount of light increases day by day, until the darkness is just a memory, easily forgotten. And then you reach summer, the lovely, lazy season of free time, when nothing much happens,  and the greatest newsline is a trout – bitten toe.

For a delicate mind spring can be depressing too, since it sets you face to face with the inevitability of all life: whether you catch the big rolling wheel or not, life will go on, with or without you.  Spring is usually rich with deadlines, whether at work or full moons for planting things or enjoying the newly reborn nature. The elder will  bloom only a day (did you collect the flowers for a juice? ) and the sprouting wild vegetables will turn bitter in couple of weeks (did you make the pesto?). The spring rolls on, and meanwhile you might struggle with a pollen allergy, unfixed bike and the continuous daylight that doesn’t let you sleep, and as the only thought have the idea of the summer holiday somewhere ahead, if you just manage a little bit longer.

Green Sandwich Cake

Springtime is also time of festivities of all sorts, and the Finnish traditional delicacy for a graduation party or other family festivity is a sandwich cake, which is a savoury cake made of a bread loaf (!). My friends insisted on having one at their house – warming party.

What happened was that on the Eve of First of May, which is a night of great many parties in Finland, I emptied my handbag on my doorstep at 3 am and figured that I’d left my keys inside. The cake was supposed to be ready the following day.  I ended up spending the night elsewhere, and in  the morning found a big kitchen full of jamming, singing and guitar – playing people. And even if the brunch was rather meagre, only one third of a shop bought pound cake, the music was such soul food that I just couldn’t leave the soaring voices and harmonies of the morning of First of May. So in the end  the sandwich cake was assembled of things that I found in my cupboard, in a haste.  But everyone loved it.

Ingredients:

a loaf of bread, and 5 dl oat milk.

Green Pea Paste – for Icing

250 frozen green peas

1 tl grated horse radish

1 dl canola oil

1,5 dl sunflower seeds

3 tbsp lime juice

salt to taste

I threw the peas quickly to boiling water, strained them and blended everything with a hand held blender.

Pesto Rosso – for Filling

2 dl sun dried tomatoes in oil + the oil

1/2 dl sunflower seeds

1 garlic clove

I blended everything to a paste with a blender.

Lemongrass Mayo Paste – for Filling

1/2 dl lemongrass mayo (Plamil)

1/2  dl vegetable margarine

1 apple

salt to taste

I blended everything to a paste.

For a sandwich cake you need a tin – baked loaf of bread, and it should not be fresh, but dried out a bit.  Cut off all the crusts, and slice the bread diagonally into three layers. My loaf was too long to fit in my cake container, so a cut into half and made a square – shaped cake by putting the halves next to each other. Then I filled the cake, and moistened it using oat milk. I used about 5 dl of oat milk for moistening. It is good to start a day before, and let the cake stay in the fridge overnight.  The following day put on the icing and the other decorations.  My “icing” was a paste made of peas, and it turned out very well, sticky and not runny at all (must be the proteins in peas).

I decorated the cake with lime slices, very thin slices of radish, red peppercorns and pinches of black vegan caviar.

Sea – Buckthorn Chocolate Bites

This is another one of those let’s just bake something with whatever ingredients there happen to be at hand – kind of thing.  The sea –  buckthorns grow quite close to where I’m living and were a result of urban foraging last autumn (me and my Australian guest, in almost total darkness).  Sea – buckthorn is extremely rich in vitamin C, and a very challenging berry to pick because of the nasty thorns in the bushes.  It is also very, very sauer, almost bitter in taste, and does need a bit of sugar to be truly delicious.

4,5 dl flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tl bourbon vanilla powder

1 dl cocoa powder

2 dl sugar

100 g dark chocolate, chopped

0,5 dl oil

4 dl oat milk

1 tl vinegar

Mix the dry ingredients and then add the oat milk, oil and vinegar. Pour the batter into a greased and floured oven pan, size 20 cm x 15 cm. Bake in 200 °C about 4o minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool, and decorate with

Sea Buckthorn Icing

2 dl powdered sugar

1 dl frozen, thawed sea – buckthorn berries

Grind the berries through a sieve, to get rid of the seeds, and then mix the remaining paste with powdered sugar.  Sprinkle on top of the chocolate cake. I also used some silver cake pearls for a finishing touch.



A Rite of Passage
December 21, 2009, 00:50
Filed under: Baking, Cakes | Tags: , , , , ,

Isn’t change always worth a celebration? For better or worse, change is the attribute of all life: matter evolves by the laws of entropy, towards more chaos, and the living things are constantly on their way towards death. No moment is static, transformation is inevitable. A rite of passage is something that prepares us for the change, makes it easier to accept, since we tend to cling to the past with a fierce devotion.

We celebrated the bachelorette party of my friend who was getting married. Marriage is one rite of passage to adulthood, though not as important as it used to be. The Finnish folk poetry describes in vivid detail the sadness of the bride, when she has to leave her sisters and brothers, the safety of her childhood home and most important of all, her dear mother, as sweet as honey or berries in the forest. Waterfalls of tears were shed when the young bride left her home to never return, to be owned by the family of her husband, and be as the daughter – in – law the lowest in the hierarchy of a household.

The ways of marriage have luckily changed quite a bit, and these days marriage is a sign of  mutual love and commitment, not a grim undertaking made in order to keep the human race existing. On this occasion it was indeed the bridegroom who left his sunny country to come to the cold and unhospitable Finland.

That weekend, we didn’t cry (except for me, a little bit), but drank pink sparkling wine, had a lush breakfast with beautiful live music at the cafe Villi Puutarha (” The Wild Garden”, which is one of the few places with vegan things to eat in Helsinki), acquired a pair of pink handcuffs at an adult shop, tried out pole dancing and sung  at the top of our voices in a karaoke taxi. Finally we adorned ourselves with corsettes, beads, plenty of sparkle and make – up and headed for a burlesque party. Our beautiful, not so shy bride won the tassel twirling competition (don’t know what that means? Well find out, I won’t tell you), and the gorgeous bridegroom impressed everyone by an improvised Brazilian street – capoeira – dance show.

The night was ours. We partied and danced with the intensity of people taking part in a transition rite, submerged in a brazilian – burlesque fantasy world. But what does a frilly, mask – wearing, tasseled, lace – and gold – adorned foxy lady or gentleman eat before she or he hits the party? Of course a rosewater – strawberry – chocolate mousse cake, decorated with fresh cherries, figs  and pitahaya..

Rosewater – Strawberry – Chocolate Mousse Cake

Crust:

150 g gluten free vegan cookies ( I used a spanish brand called gullòn)

75 g vegetable margarine

Mousse:

200 g soy cream cheese

6 dl whippable soy cream

500 g soy yogurt

5 tbsp rose water

1 jar Sonnentor Rose Jam

3 dl frozen strawberries

1,5 dl powdered sugar (icing sugar)

2 tsp bourbon vanilla powder

2 dl agar – agar

3 dl water

Chocolate Ganache

100 g dark chocolate

1 dl soy milk or other non – dairy milk

I started the day before by draining the soy yogurt in a sieve that was lined with coffee filters.

The following day I made the crust: I crumbled up the cookies, and melted the margarine. Then I mixed both and patted the mixture at the bottom of a springform pan (diameter 26 cm), which was covered with a piece of baking parchment.

Then I made the chocolate ganache. I heated up the milk in and added the chocolate, mixing until it was melted. I spread this evenly on the crust.

Then I made the mousse. First I blended the strawberries, the vanilla, the icing sugar, the soy cream cheese, the drained yogurt,the rose jam and the soy cream with a handheld blender until it was nice and fluffy. Then I heated up the water and the rose water in a pan, and added the agar – agar. I boiled the mixture, mixing it constantly for a few minutes, until the agar – agar was diluted. Then I hastily poured it into the mousse – mixture, through a sieve and mixing carefully with the blender. Then I poured the mousse onto the crust, and put the cake in the fridge.

Some tips about agar:

– agar is a better gelling agent for mousses than gelatin, even if most people don’t know this. The mousse produced by agar is always fluffy, and never dry like the gelatin mousses sometimes are. And yes, it will set, but you’ll have to use enough agar!

– when diluting the agar it is often easier to start with a bit more liquid and let it evaporate by boiling the mixture a little bit longer, than to start with a tiny amount of liquid, like often is instructed.

– you can dilute agar to other liquids than water, but something like  cream is already too thick for this purpose.

– the agar starts to set right away when you remove the pan from heat, so you have to be fast. Allow it to cool maximum a minute!

– use a sieve when you pour the agar – agar liquid into the mixture you want to make a gelee of. There are anyway always  some lumps in it.

– You will see right away, if there is enough agar in your mousse, because it will start to set immediately. The following day, if there appears some liquid around the cake that probably means that something went wrong, and the mousse has not set.

– This cake that you can see in this picture that was taken in great hurry, hasn’t got enough agar, but the recipe should be allright. I was thinking about other things…



Mushroom Hunting

Two weeks or so ago I went to the countryside in search of some local food with a couple of friends. In the woods we did find lots and lots of funnel chanterelles (Cantharellus tubaeformis) and lingonberries. Picking these mushrooms is very rewarding: first you don’t see them, but then you spot one and suddenly realise they are simply everywhere… Picking lingonberries can be meditative, or boring in other words, but anyway it’s nice to stumble on branches and get your gumboots sucked inside wet moss in the wet forest, in  slowly drizzling rain. We also dug up the last root vegetables from the garden and used them and the results of our foraging for a gorgeous meal.

carrots

mushrooms

In the woods we encountered a guy carrying a gun, who was in a moose hunting party. It did occur to me that eating a wild moose might be so much more locavorean*  than buying some vegan soy products that might have destroyed half a rainforest. I’m generally not against killing, since in my opinion dying is part of the natural world, and an essential part of how the ecosystem works. At least the animals in the wild have had an opportunity to a dignified life, which can of course not be said about those poor creatures who only exist to serve our needs for animal products.

country tripping

On our way home we also met a woman from a neighboring house, who had a few cows, a horse and a herd of sixty sheep. She told us that when she shears all those sheep and sends the wool to a spinnery, she will either get 120 euros for it, or 4 kg of ready-made wool yarn, which really is nothing at all. So keeping all those animals is just a hobby for her. She was a really shining person, you could see the happiness those animals were giving her, and they way she treated them was loving and respectful. But it is still sad that in order to make any other kind of profit than just happiness she’d have to do her farming in a much more unsustainable way. What could be the solution to this? My dream is that our food could be provided in the ways we experienced on our weekend trip:  with foraging, hunting and  small-scale farming. What I don’t know is whether this would be effective enough to feed us all on this planet. Probably not, but I still wish it could be possible.

At home we made the all time favourite: oven roasted veggies and funnel chanterelle sauce, with lingonberry mush. I know everyone knows how to make roasted veggies, but it’s such a nice winter time dish that I’ll write about it, just in case you had forgotten the whole idea in this raw food craze that seems to prevail these days. I originally learned the concept of oven roasted vegetables from a cook book by Saara Törmä, called Keittokomero ja huone, which is a great source of simple, affordable, yet delicious recipes. It’s totally out of print these days, sadly, and of course only available in Finnish.

Oven Roasted Vegetables

3 carrots

1 parsnip

2 beetroots

2 onions

2 potatoes

a piece of root celery

a piece of swede

6 garlic cloves

The Dressing

3 tbsp oil

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp honey

black pepper

1 tbsp dried herbs: thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary, choose your favourite ones

Chop the veggies roughly. There is no need to peel the potatoes, just clean them well. Peel the garlic cloves, and pour everything onto an oven plate. Mix the ingredients for the dressing, and drizzle over the veggies. Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes in 200 ºC.

mushroom sauce and oven grated veggies

There was also a cake for Vappu’s birthday the following day. The cake was a vegan chocolate cake, filled with grated apple, lingonberries and frosted with soy cream. It was decorated with lingonberries found in the forest and ancient liquorice found in the cupboard. Very simple, suitable for a country trip.

cake

Basic Vegan Chocolate Cake

4 dl wheat flour

1 dl cocoa powder

2  dl sugar

2 tsp baking powder

0,5 tsp baking soda

2 tsp egg replacer

1 tsp chocolate flavouring

3 dl oat milk or other non – dairy

1 tsp vinegar

2 dl canola oil

Vegan cakes are easy to make: mix the dry ingredients and the sugar. It is a good idea to use a sieve with the cocoa powder.  Then mix the vinegar with the milk and add to the batter. As the last ingredient add the oil. Avoid mixing too much! Then pour the batter to a springform pan, 24 cm in diameter, and bake in the oven in 180 °C about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool thoroughly before cutting the layers and filling it.  And remember: a cake should always be filled the day before  serving!

* a locavore is a person who tries to eat as much local food as possible



Blueberry Bliss Tart
July 29, 2009, 22:23
Filed under: Baking, Cakes, summer seasonal food | Tags: , , , , ,

The blueberries are ripening in the forests, and there seems to be a lot this year! Also the strawberry season is still going on. Sadly, I must tell you that if you have not tasted Finnish wild blueberries and cultivated strawberries, you have no idea how they are supposed to taste. It has something to do with the almost continuos daylight of the Finnish summer, it makes the sugar content of the berries really high.

I took a rowing boat over with a couple of friends to the secluded island of Vartiosaari, which lies right in front of one of the eastern suburbs of Helsinki. We fould plenty of huge blueberries, the first rasberries and even a rare treat: some wild strawberries. And in the forest, some lovely golden specimens of the looked after chanterelle! We also met a guy who was apparently a goat herd, since he had two goats with him. I petted the other one.  So all in all, a  profitable trip, I would call it.

I made this tarte of the blueberries, since I think some of the gorgeous flavour is lost if they are baked. I was not completely happy with the end result: I think a drop of lemon juice in the filling and some whole wheat flour in the crust would make it just perfect. And yes, I’m aware of the fact many people don’t consider honey a vegan ingredient, but I do. The honey that I’m using is freshly made and from a local organic farm, very nice!

blueberry tarte 1

Blueberry and Strawberry Tart

150 g vegetable margarine

3,5 dl wheat flour

1 dl honey

1,5 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bourbon vanilla powder

1 tbsp cold water

The Filling

500 g soy yogurt

3/4 dl honey

1/2 tsp bourbon vanilla powder

3 tbsp potato starch

About 2 dl fresh blueberries

some strawberries

The Glaze

2 dl water

1 dl sugar with added pectin

First I heated the oven to 200ºC and then started by making the crust: it was simply made by mixing the dry ingredients in a bowl and then adding the margarine, honey and finally the water. Then I greased a springform bake tin 24 cm in diameter, and coated it with some semolina (flour is fine too), and patted the dough into it with moistened fingers. Then I baked the crust in the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile the crust was baking, I made the filling by mixing the ingredients. After ten minutes I took the crust from the oven, and poured the filling onto it. Then I baked my tart for an additional 30 minutes or so, until the filling was set and the tart was a little bit brownish one the edges.

I let the tart cool down, and then added the strawberries and blueberries on top. Then I made the glazing by boiling the sugar with pectin with water until the sugar had diluted. Then I spooned the glazing carefully on top of the tart. The idea with glazing is that it keeps the berries stable on top of the tart, which looks really fancy. Me and my friend Pinja were so impatient that we didn’t allow the glazing to cool down, but ate half of the tart right away.

blueberry tarte



Pink Sandwich Cake
June 2, 2009, 12:40
Filed under: Cakes | Tags: , , ,

Well, a sandwich cake made out of a breadloaf is a must have in Finnish graduation party. Somehow wierdly I really like these cakes, even if they aren’t exactly the hottest trend in high cuisine..  For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, a sandwich cake is kind of giant sandwich, made out of a breadloaf, filled with different kind of spreads and mayos and moistened with milk. Wild decoration with roses made of rolled ham and flowers cut out of tomatoes are also quite common, with lots of piped cream cheese as icing.

My friend Linda wanted to have a sandwich cake for her graduation party, in exchange of  fixing some handles  for my new kitchen.  I was in a hurry and made this cake very fast, without thinking too much. That’s why I don’t have any pictures that would make it clearer how it actually is made..  The cake got a good reception at this Finnish – Swedish party where I brought it, and disappeared in twenty minutes. No one complained for it not having any meat in it!

sandwich cake 1

Sandwich Cake with Avocado and Beetroot

Two loafs of bread

2,5 dl oat milk for moistening

Avocado spread

3 avocadoes

juice of one lemon

salt to taste

2 cloves of garlic

a pinch of black pepper

Beetroot Spread

600 g cooked beetroots

1 dl cooked chickpeas

1 dl coconut milk

1/2 dl olive oil

salt to taste

2 tblsp rasberry vinegar

a small handful of fresh basil

Icing

750 g soy cream cheese, natural

Cooking water that was lef from the beets, enough to dye the cheese pink (about a desiliter).

I started with the bread. It’s good to have a breadloaf that’s fairly firm, and of that type that has been baked in a tin.  I cut out all the crusts and sliced the bread diagonally in three layers, like with a cake.  The I made the  fillings, by blending the ingredients with a hand held mixer.

Then I assembled the cake. I moistened the layers readily with oat milk, since it’s important to moisten this type of cake enough.  I put the avocado spread between the first and the second layer, and the beetroot spread between the second and the third.  I had two loafs of bread, so I made the cake into a kind of cross shape, because this way it fitted in my cake container. You can see the picture. Then I put the cake in the fridge to wait for the following day. And I mean, you can not make a moistened cake the same day you are going to eat it, it won’t be any good.  Always start the previous day! This stands for the sweet cakes as well.

The next day I had about an hour to decorate the cake: so in fast forward mode I mixed the soy cream cheese with the beet cooking water, so that I got a nice colour and so that the mixture had a good consistency for piping. Then I made a piping device out of a plastic bag, and hastily piped the cheese on the cake.  I decorated the cake with stripes of cucumber cut with a cheese – slicer, some radishes cut to flowers and some spruce year growths and lemon.

sandwich cake 2



Beetroot Cake with Coconut
April 26, 2009, 15:05
Filed under: Baking, Cakes | Tags: , , , ,

Beetroot seems to be my favourite ingredient these days… I had an idea of combining the same ingredients as I would for a beetroot stew that I sometimes make, but to make a sweet cake out of it.

Beetroot Cake

4 dl finely grated beetroot

1 tbsp finely grated ginger

4 dl wheat flour

3 dl muscovado sugar

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

3 tsp Orgran egg replacer

1 dl grated coconut

150 g vegetable margarine, melted

1/2 dl lime juice (juice of one lime)

2 dl coconut milk

Topping:

25 g vegetable margarine

1 dl soy yogurt

1/2  dl powdered sugar

I made this cake simply by first mixing the dry ingredients, including sugar and the egg replacer, in a bowl. Then I added the grated ginger and then the beetroot, and mixed carefully. Then I added the coconut milk and limejuice, mixed, added the melted margarine and mixed still a little bit more. It’s important not to mix these kind of cakes too much, in order to not make them chewy.

I poured the dough into a cake tin, which was greased and coated with grated coconut. I baked the cake for about an hour in the oven, in 175°C.

beetroot-cake1-copy

Then I made the the topping for the cake, by melting the margarine and mixing with the other ingredients. It was quite runny and not that pretty, but it didn’t matter so much, since I wasn’t going to transport the cake anywhere.

For the taste of the cake… It tasted surprisingly much of beetroot, but it wasn’t unpleasant. The difference between this cake and a carrot cake was that somehow  beetroot was more distinguishable in the ready baked cake, than carrot in a carrot cake.  So all in all:  a strange, but nice cake.  I don’t actually know for what kind of crowd it would be best suited for, but at least it would surprise most people.