cooking class: date night!

There were no flowers or chocolates for this week’s date night! But we did have cake, scones, and homemade energy bars during our weekly cooking class.

I love using juicy, caramel-y Medjool dates as a snack or in raw food goodies. This week’s cooking class used these fruit gems in three different recipes, all of which are super easy, delicious, and full of vegan love. The Date Cake was new to me. I found this intriguing recipe on Aayi’s Recipes, and thought that the 600+ commenters could not be wrong!  I did have to make some changes, as the original came out gooey and undercooked (turns out the commenters were wrong, hmmm).  The adapted version, found below, yields a moist and super flavorful cake, cooked all the way through.  The bake time is long, but this is a very wet batter, so trust the timing and let it cool properly. The second recipe is a hearty Banana- Date Scones, adopted from Veganomicon. They are really filling and a bit ‘healthy’ tasting, but great fresh out of the oven. Thirdly, we made some easy raw Maca Energy Bites.  Super simple and healthy, and superfood-infused with the addition of maca, a great energy booster and adaptogen (helps your body work through stress!).

Date Cake with Molasses Pecan Glaze

Super sweet medjool dates make a soft and light cake. The Molasses-Pecan glaze is strongly flavored, but it makes the cake just a bit fancier!.

fresh from the oven, without the glaze + nuts. still sooo pretty and delicious

18 medjool dates, soaked and pitted
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
¾ cup non-dairy milk + 3 tbsp, divided
1 tsp cider vinegar
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup coconut oil
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch sea salt
1 Tbsp molasses
¾ cup powdered sugar

  1. Soak pitted dates in water for two hours. Drain and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line an 8- 9 inch cake pan (round or square) with parchment paper. While the oven is preheating, toast pecans in a separate pan until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Grind pecans in the processor when cool.
  3. Mix together ¾ cup milk and vinegar; let stand one minute. Add dates, milk + vinegar, brown sugar, and oil to processor and blend until smooth.
  4. In a large bowl mix flours, baking soda, and salt. Add the liquids into the dry and stir until just combined.  Pour into prepared baking pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  5. To make the glaze, whisk together molasses and powdered sugar. Add 1 tbsp ‘milk’ as necessary to thin. Drizzle glaze on cooled cake just before serving, and sprinkle with crushed pecans.

Date Energy Bars 

Dates are great sources of natural sugars, perfect for after a workout (or just a long day at work!).  If you are not interested in maca, substitute cacao/cocoa, or just leave it out entirely; nutty cinnamon date balls will still be delish.

similar to store-bought Larabars; but infinitely better!


½ cup almonds
½ cup walnuts
pinch salt
3 Tbsp maca powder
1 tsp cinnamon
¾ cup Medjool dates, pitted
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp water (more for texture if necessary)

  1. Add nuts and salt into food processor.  Blend until very fine- much like the texture of sand.
  2. Add in the remaining ingredients. Blend again, until mixture begins to thicken and stick together inside the processor.
  3. Check the texture by pinching a bit between your fingers; if it is slightly sticky and keeps its shape, it is ready! Add 1 Tbsp more liquid if mixture is too dry.
  4. Pour into a bowl and then shape with your hands into balls (or press into a pan to flatten). Place 1 almond in the center, and store in the fridge.

Yield: About 15, one inch energy balls

Banana Date Scones

This recipe is adapted from Veganomicon, one of my favorite vegan cookbooks. These scones are best fresh from the oven, with some butter or Earth Balance. 

Chunky dates + bananas + whole wheat flour = healthy breakfast snacks. This photo was doctored in iPhoto. The lighting in our demonstration kitchen is so yellow!


1 cup Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1 cup + 2 tsp all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp ground flaxseeds
1/3 cup non-dairy milk
1 cup mashed (very ripe) banana
1/3 cup coconut oil
¼ cup agave nectar
¾ cup chopped walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl mix 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour with chopped dates and toss to coat.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium sized bowl mix together flours, baking powder, spices, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl whisk flaxseeds with milk; let stand for one minute. Add in mashed banana, oil, and agave and whisk well.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring until just combined. Batter will be very thick. Gently fold in dates and nuts.
  6. Scoop out 1/3 cup of batter and pat down onto the baking sheet.  Bake for 20-23 minutes, until nicely browned and firm to the touch.

Yield: 12 scones

happy birthday cooking class!

I feel like an official grown-up, having to work on my birthday and all… but the super delicious cakes in tonight’s cooking class totally make up for that fact! When I found that my cooking class night fell on my birthday, I decided to build the whole schedule around making cakes for tonight’s class! Next week we are back to savory foods, but tonight it was all about the dessert!

I made my favorite Chocolate Pumpkin Cake with Whipped Ganache and an Apple Spice Cake with Carob-Caramel Frosting. The Apple Spice cake is a recipe I got from have cake, will travel, one of my favorite vegan bloggers.  Celine always posts incredible goodies, and this is no exception.  I made a few changes (as seen in the recipe below), and her original can be found here. The frosting was adapted from Veganomicon by Isa Chanda Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.  I swapped the soymilk powder for some carob and was *stunned* with this creative and fun frosting. The Chocolate Pumpkin Cake I wrote about last week, but seeing as how it was part of the cooking class and the insane deliciousness of it all, I will post it again here.  I don’t have any photos now, but there were people with cameras, so perhaps some will arrive soon.  I might have been wearing a birthday hat… and a fake flower lei; we will see if the evidence shows up … enjoy the cakes!

Apple Spice Cake with Carob-Caramel Frosting

1 ¾ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon allspice
1 cup + 2 tbsp organic powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon Ener-g egg replacer powder
1 cup applesauce
1/3 cup safflower oil
1/4 cup apple juice

1.   Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat an 8-inch baking pan with a thin layer of oil.
2.   Sift the flour, salt, spices, sugar, baking powder and egg replacer powder in a large bowl.
3.   In another bowl, whisk applesauce, oil, and apple juice until combined.  Stir wet ingredients into dry, stirring gently until just combined. Do not overmix.
4.   Place into prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
5.   Transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely before topping with Carob-Caramel frosting.

Carob-Caramel Frosting

This frosting recipe is based on the penuche frosting from Veganomicon, but adapted to add more brown sugar goodness and a touch of carob to round it out.

½ cup brown sugar
1 tbsp molasses
1/3 cup soy milk (plus 2 tbsp to taste)
2 tbsp carob powder
pinch salt
3 tbsp Earth Balance vegan margarine
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1.   Whisk together the sugar, molasses, 1/3 cup soy milk, carob powder and salt in a small bowl.  Add to a saucepan with the Earth Balance and warm over medium heat.  Stir and bring to a boil.  Allow the mixture to boil and foam for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
2.   When the mixture has mostly cooled, sift in half the powdered sugar, and beat with a fork until blended well.  Slowly beat in the rest of the sugar until a thick, smooth, fudge-like frosting forms. If necessary, add additional soymilk 1 tbsp at a time to create a smooth and creamy consistency.

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake with Ganache Frosting

This is a decadent, amazingly flavorful cake… Perhaps the best chocolate cake ever, originally found at The Conscious Kitchen, which is sadly not online anymore. It can be made in a square 8×8 pan or a 9” round cake pan.

1 3.2 oz bar dark chocolate, chopped
¾ cup pumpkin puree
½ cup coffee
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
¼ cup liquid coconut oil + 1 tbsp for pan
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp each: nutmeg, allspice, cloves
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

1.    Preheat oven to 350°.  Prepare your cake pan with parchment paper on the bottom and lightly oil the sides.
2.    Break chocolate into small pieces into a glass bowl, and place over a saucepan of boiling water to melt.  Stir the chocolate constantly and remove the bowl from atop the pan when just melted. Set aside.
3.    In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, coffee, vinegar, sugar, vanilla, oil, sea salt and spices.
4.    In another large bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda and baking powder.
5.    Pour liquid into dry mixture while whisking until combined in a smooth batter. Pour in melted chocolate and whisk well to combine. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
6.    Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove cake from pan and continue cooling on cooling racks.  Let cool completely before frosting.

Whipped Ganache Frosting

This recipe makes enough to frost two layers of cake; you can either double the cake recipe or just use the extra chocolate frosting on something else!

8 oz good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
¾ cup soymilk
½ cup Earth Balance margarine, room temperature
2 tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla

1.   Place chopped chocolate in the bowl.
2.    In a small saucepan, heat milk until just boiling. Pour over the chocolate and let stand 1 minute, then begin to whisk slowly. When beginning to smooth out, add in the Earth Balance, agave and vanilla. Beat until smooth and thick, but still glossy and light.
3.    Let cool until the ganache thickens.  Spread a thin layer on the cake to just cover, then add a thicker layer to top the cake- using as much ganache as you like.
4.    Save the extra for nibbling straight out of the fridge!

vegan carrot cake!

More specifically, Coconut Ginger Macadamia Nut Carrot Cake as the happy birthday cake for the farmer!

Happy Birthday to my old man!

This is a recipe that I tried years ago from Vegan with a Vengeance; I didn’t love it then, but when I was thinking about which cake to make for his birthday this one popped into my head. Despite moldy all-purpose flour (which I chucked, of course), despite breaking the cake into three pieces as I was putting it on the cooling racks,  and despite being a wee bit overcooked, it still turned out quite well. Of course I want to share it here, because the end result was beautiful and tasty!

Coconut Ginger Macadamia Nut Carrot Cake with Maple Ginger Frosting

(adapted from VwaV by Isa Chandra Moskowitz; makes one 8×8 cake; a note: check out this quick post if you are going to make this cake! These are some pointers! )

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (see note below)
1/2 cup white spelt flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup liquid coconut oil
6 tbsp turbinado sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup ground macadamia nuts
1 cup shredded carrots (about 3 carrots, grated on a cheese grater)
2 tsp grated fresh ginger

  1. Preheat the oven to 350degrees. Line a square or round cake pan with parchment paper, and grease the sides with coconut oil.
  2. In a large bowl mix the flours, b. powder, b. soda, salt, spices, and coconut. Stir to combine.
  3. In another larger bowl mix the juice, oil, sugar, maple syrup, and extract. If your apple juice and/or maple syrup are in the fridge, you will have to warm this liquid mixture to keep the coconut oil from solidifying. I simply put my pyrex bowl (oven safe!) in the preheating oven until all the coconut oil was melted and the mixture was blendable).
  4. Pour the dry ingredients into wet, mix for a few strokes, and then add the nuts, carrots, and ginger. Combine gently until just mixed (no dry spots). Pour into your prepared pan and smooth the top.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.  Cool on racks (try to not break it!).

don't break the birthday cake!

A note on the flours: As I was making this recipe I realized that my all-purpose flour was a bit sticky and off (which explains why my cookies didn’t turn out well yesterday!).  I made a quick substitution with whole wheat pastry flour, which is always a good substitute for at least half the flour in a recipe.  But I wanted to make sure the cake retained the lightness of the AP flour, so I used a white spelt flour, which is significantly lighter than whole spelt flour; I also just learned that in order to substitute with spelt you should add some extra flour, which is included in the above measurements.  If you opt to use all-purpose, or a combination of AP and WWPF, keep the flour measurements to 1 cup + 3 tbsp only.

Another note: be sure to use parchment and grease the pan. Let it cool completely before removing from the pan, and do so very gently! Also, so choose the turbinado sugar; I tried using coconut sugar for another batch and it did not work out as nicely as the photo!

pretty..... delicious

Maple Ginger Frosting

1/2 cup toasted coconut
1/4 cup toasted shredded carrot
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup earth balance, room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp maple extract
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp dried ground ginger

  1. While your oven is preheating for the cake, toast the carrot and coconut.  Simply add to a pan and put in the oven for about 10 minutes, until you can smell the coconut toasting.  Be careful to not let it burn- when it comes out of the oven it will still cook.  Toss with the cinnamon, and let cool on the side.
  2. Whip the EB with a whisk until smooth.  Sift in the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time (very important to sift, or you get clumpy frosting!).  Add in the extracts and ginger, and whip until well combined.  Add a splash of soymilk if the frosting is too dry; alternatively, add more powdered sugar if it is too saucy.
  3. When your cake is cool, frost with a thin layer, then add a thicker layer and spread evenly across the top.  Sprinkle the toasted carrots & coconut on top.  Enjoy!

getting serious…

it’s official- bakery manis is getting serious!  i finally purchased some very important baking accessories that i’ve coveted for a long time.

first on the list: a hand mixer! all the baking i do is done with a spoon or a spatula- which suits me just fine, because most recipes that call for blenders and/or mixers can be done by hand anyway.  however, i stared at the pretty piped frostings in vegan cupcakes take over the world for a year now, and i just got this other little cupcake book (was supposed to be a gift, but the recipes are so very tempting…)- so i decided the time was right to get some proper frosting tools.  the second purchase: a pastry bag with six tips! both are both kinda the ‘beginner version-‘ inexpensive and simple in function and design, but i think that it is a good place for me to start-  maybe next year i will graduate to one of those beautiful kitchen-aid stand mixers…  i also got a silicone pastry brush, for all those scones i am supposed to brush with oil, plus a ball jar and cute vintage pyrex bowl at the thrift store…. but those don’t really have anything to do with frosting. These are recipes i have been practicing piping art with….

vanilla bean frosting

vanilla bean buttercream frosting

(from vegan cupcakes)
i suppose vanilla might seem boring, bland even, to some.  but to me, vanilla is truly yummy.  this simple blending of  ingredients creates brings a sweet and classic adornment to cakes, cupcakes, and cookies.  i tried two ways: with chocolate-coconut cupcakes and peanut butter cupcakes- both from vegan cupcakes take over the world.

1/2 cup vegan shortening (i used spectrum brand)
1/2 cup vegan margarine (i used earth balance)
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp ground vanilla
1/4 soy milk or soy creamer (i used soymilk)

blend shortening and margarine until fluffy, then add sugar and beat for three more minutes; add vanillas and soy cream and beat 5-7 more minutes until fluffy! this can also be done with a whisk and some muscle.  spread, pipe, or swirl on your creations with a joyful flourish (then have kale and rice for dinner to make up for all the sugar and oil!)

this cupcake recipe is the star from vegan cupcakes; i have tried others that were very tasty, but were not as pretty or sturdy.  these toasted coconut cupcakes steal the show: perfectly formed, nice rounded crackly tops, and make with healthy coconut oil instead of canola.  a winner all around- tasty naked or with pretty frosting!

style and substance: these picture-perfect cupcakes tasted good too!

1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tsp total extract (vanilla, coconut, coffee, etc)
1/2 cup shredded coconut

prep your pan with muffin liners and preheat your oven to 350. sift together your dry ingredients. mix your coconut milk, sugar and extracts and then add in your *liquid* coconut oil; add the dry ingredients in two parts and stir until smooth. add in the shredded coconut. fill the liners about 2/3 full and shake the pan to settle the batter, and bake for 25 minutes. when they are absolutely, totally cool then you can decorate them with frosting!

pretty chocolate mousse

there is recipe similar to the one in vegan cupcakes, although this is my own version that i’ve been making for years.  this is the best omnivore dinner party dessert: no one knows it’s tofu, and it has impressed even serious tofu-haters like my mama.  all that and it’s wicked easy…. i wanted to make it again to practice with the pastry bag and make a pretty piped dessert.

chocolate mousse with bittersweet chocolate shavings

1 box of silken tofu (firm is best, soft works too)(extra water drained)
2 tsp ground vanilla
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp coconut oil or coconut milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 oz of unsweetened chocolate (usually 1/3 of a baking bar)
ground chocolate, chopped nuts and/or mixed berries for decoration

blend the tofu, vanilla, syrup and oil/milk in the food processor.   melt the chocolate in a small saucepan or a double boiler until smooth and creamy, then add to the tofu mix and blend until combined.   let cool for at least three hours in the fridge before piping and decorating.

pineapple love

what does one do with thousands of acres of pineapple…?

miles of pineapples from the treeline to the highway... that is the island of lanai in the background

this may seem like a far-fetched question, but it is actually a reality here on the westside of maui.  for decades the mountainsidesof west maui were intensively monocropped pineapple fields- 200 acres of pineapple were planted each day for years! but the company is now out of business.  from what i understand, the workers came to work last december and were told that that the company was bankrupt and they were finished working. hundreds of people lost their jobs, massive equipment was left in the fields, and there are miles of pineapple fields rotting away on the mountain from Lahaina to Kapalua.  many the fields have since smooshed the pineapple to oblivion and there is no more stench, but also a lot of wasted pineapples.

all of the land is private property and thus residents cannot (legally) hike up the hills and harvest the leftovers.  apparently it is a felony to take the pineapples (i’ve heard the fine is $500 per stolen pineapple).  imagine how many people would love those pineapples…  crazy huh?

anyway, we have a lot of pineapple (obtained from perfectly legal means, i might add!).  we’ve dried pineapples, baked with pineapples, given away about nine million pineapples, cooked with pineapples, juiced pineapples, and fed pineapples to the bugs, chickens and to the compost pile.  though chopping a pineapple is rather labor intensive, my man scored this goofy but exceptionally handy pineapple slicing gadget.

here are some recipes that i’ve used with the heaps of pineapples:

pineapple macadamia nut scones (another version of the best scones ever)

2 cups spelt flour
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 ground macadamia nuts
1 tbsp baking powder
pinch o’ seasalt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup agave + 1/4 cup for drizzle
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped fresh or dried pineapple

mix all the dry ingredients, mix all the wet ingredients and mix well.  toss the in the pineapple and stir gently.  bake at 350 for 15 minutes, then drizzle with extra agave- you could even mix some cinnamon in with the agave to make it better!

pineapple sweetie muffins

multi-grain muffins packed with coconut and pineapple sweetness.  yum.  see the recipe here

sweet and sour tempeh

i have wanted to make this for a long time with pineapple (i have always made with orange juice), and i finally got to last week.  i used pureed pineapple in the original recipe, but i think just pineapple juice would be better- using the pureed pineapple made it really thick and too much pineapple flavor.  this is a strongly flavored tempeh, best served simply with rice/noodles and simple steamed vegetables.  if the sauce is too thin, mix 1 tbsp of arrowroot or kuzu into 2 tbsp of water,  then add the the simmering broth.

1 block of tempeh or tofu
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tbsp oil
3/4 cup pineapple juice with 1/4 cup pureed pineapple
2 tbsp water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar or sucanat

mix the pineapple, sugar, and liquid ingredients in a small bowl; mix well to dissolve the sugar- set aside. brown the tempeh or tofu in a skillet with the oil, then add the garlic and cook until soft. add the liquid ingredients and simmer for five minutes. add the starch if you want to thicken the sauce.

pineapple not-so-much cake

last week i also made a beautiful (traditional) pineapple upside down cake.  though it tasted great the next day i felt terrible from all that butter!  so, i’ve been experimenting in the kitchen trying to make a vegan pineapple upside down cake, and i just cannot seem to get it right.  i’ve used both earth balance and coconut oil as the topping, but the texture is all wrong: plastic-y and not yummy, and it batter doesn’t want to cook with all that liquid on the bottom- i think that without the eggs it does not rise as much, such that the resulting cake is cooked but the texture is not right.  the flavor is right on, but i still need to work on the composition.  i think i might have to resort to pineapple right-side-up cake.  once i score some more pineapple i will head back to the kitchen and post the results. 

any suggestions for what to do with more pineapple…?

i am open to all ideas!