Birthday Cake

My birthdays measure my age, but also stand as a marker for the length of time I’ve spent as a vegetarian and vegan. As of today I am 25 years old and I have spent the last 20 years not eating meat, and the most recent two consuming no animal products of any kind- and what better way of illustrating that than a pie chart on top of a cake.

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One of the most exciting things about aging will be watching that small sliver of vegan cake grow. Although now it is the smallest slice, it has been the most fulfilling and flavorful. And who doesn’t want larger pieces of vegan cake?

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I love having a Spring birthday, because I get to celebrate with flowers!

What I wanted to share here today was not a recipe but rather the successes and failures I have had making vegan ice-cream cake. My boyfriend’s birthday is around a week before mine, so I made an ice cream cake for his birthday. I had so much fun doing it, I made another for my birthday and he kindly did the huge pile of dishes I left behind.

Here is my quick disclaimer- I had never made an ice cream cake before this. I never looked up any actual instructions, so the process I’m describing might be entirely incorrect- but it sure works well!

I started by getting a relatively inexpensive spring form pan from Target. I used the same general technique for both cakes-bake a layer of something, add an entire quart of vegan ice cream, put another baked layer and place it on top of the ice cream. Finally cover with frosting right before serving.

The first cake I made might have been the more successful attempt. I made a very basic yellow cake with a hint of almond for both the top and bottom and filled it with Trader Joe’s Soy Creamy Vanilla ice cream. Trader Joe’s has the best ice cream for these types of things- it’s pretty basic, but it also comes in large quantities and is really cheap. I made a coconut caramel sauce and drizzled it between the layers. Coconut caramel is one of my favorite treats- the coconut flavor in the caramel sauce elevates it to a higher level and adds interest compared to regular, non-vegan caramel. I used an aquafaba-based frosting flavored with cinnamon and topped it off with delicately laid candied pecans.  The frosting worked surprisingly well- sometimes my ancient, museum-worthy mixer (circa 1950) has trouble getting to the speeds newer blenders can reach, but by putting the mixer on high and walking away for 20 minutes I managed to achieve the high peaks. It had no problem sticking to the ice cream, and had a lighter taste than the frosting choice on my next cake.

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In the end, we had a beautiful layered cake. The only part that didn’t work as well as I would like was the coconut caramel, which saturated the cake and made a harder edge. If I used it again, I would try mixing it into the ice cream.

My next cake used a black bean brownie base, a Soy Creamy Cherry Chocolate Chip ice cream center and a giant chocolate chip cookie top. I frosted it with a simple butter and sugar, peanut butter flavored icing. The biggest disappointment about this cake was the brownie base. Although it was delicious, chocolate and rich it became hard as a rock once it entered the freezer- lesson here? Black bean brownies are not meant to be frozen. The cookie on the other hand maintained a nice crumbly texture, and while the peanut butter icing had more trouble sticking to the frozen edge of the ice cream, it was also softer, richer and more luxurious.

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To summarize the lessons learned-

  • Use cake and cookies (but not brownies) in ice cream cakes
  • Mix caramel into the ice cream
  • Use Trader Joe’s for cheaper vegan ice cream
  • Both aquafaba and butter based frostings are great
  • Eat lots of cake!

Maybe by 26 I’ll have learned even more about the art of vegan ice cream cake making.

 

 

 

 

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