The highlight of Maddie’s birthday planning fun was coming up with her Lord of the Rings vegan funfetti cake. To make the Shire look as real as possible, I needed a little Gandalf and a tiny Frodo to go atop the grassy rolling hills and stand in front of Hobbiton. Printer-less as we are, the best way to make my tiny figures was to draw them myself. Here’s how I did it–it’s so simple that you too can make your own tiny toppers for cakes and cupcakes alike. This is a great activity for kids as they prepare for their own or family members’ birthdays!
white drawing paper (thin enough that light passes through it)
tape (clear packing tape works best, scotch tape will do too)
black ink pen (the thin sharpies work well, but I like the extra thin tip of a Pilot pen)
toothpicks (one for each topper figure)
1.) Armed with a heft bottle of kombucha, I found the perfect photograph of Gandalf. It was already a good size, but I had to enlarge the Frodo picture slightly so he’d be to scale with his wizard counterpart.
2.) Turn your screen’s brightness all the way up, place your paper over the image, and secure with a small piece of tape.
3.) Using a pencil, trace the image and indicate shading.
4.) Repeat process for Frodo.
5.) Using an ink pen, trace your pencil lines. Erase stray pencil marks.
6.) Use colored pencils to color in your figures, then carefully cut each one out.
7.) To “laminate,” cover each one completely (front and back) in clear tape.
8.) Trim off the excess tape. Not perfectly laminated, but will repel cake and icing enough for our purposes.
9.) Use another small piece of tape to attach a toothpick to the back of each topper. Now you have a little Gandalf!
And a tiny Frodo!
Since the cake decorations were a surprise, I hid Frodo and Gandalf in an envelope. I put one of my favorite Tolkein quotes on the front, then set it in the mixing bowl with the other decorating ingredients.
On the next Lord of the Rings Funfetti Cake post, see how to assemble and decorate the cake!
For Maddie’s Lord of the Rings themed cake, I needed to make Shire-green frosting. While mine isn’t quite as saturated as the film’s green grass, I think it gets the point across. What’s the secret to ethically sourced, vegan, and dye-free green frosting?
Yes, spinach. The “food coloring” was easy as pie to make.
Shire Green Buttercream Frosting
2-3 Tablespoons water
1 cup butter cream frosting (see the Making of the Cake post for recipe)
1 cup powdered sugar (optional)
Place spinach and water in your food processor. Pulse to combine, then leave on high speed to puree for a few minutes. Strain using a mesh strainer, pressing the spinach puree with a spoon. Clean out your food processor, then add the frosting. To add “food coloring” to the frosting, add spinach juice, then pulse to combine. You might need to adjust the texture of your frosting and thicken it. That’s where the optional powdered sugar comes in. Add as needed, until the frosting is thick and creamy, then chill for at least 15 minutes, then ice away!
The best part about this pale green wonder? You can’t taste the spinach at all! Maddie was so impressed that I made my own food coloring, but I didn’t dare tell her what was in it, and she was way off the mark with her guesses! Proof that this trick is tasteless and delicious!
Again, not as saturated as the dye-ridden store bought variety, but definitely a green frosting I’m not afraid to eat!
Up tomorrow: how to make your own Gandalf and Frodo cake toppers!
And for more on the inspiration for this post and natural, homemade food coloring, see this post.
This cake! There are hardly words to describe it’s deliciousness and the Bear’s glee upon creating and eating it. She’s weird about cake. If it’s too sweet, too grainy, too smooth, too foamy, too… you name it, she’ll only eat it once.
She has this thing about how icing meets cake and moistens it that makes her think it’s uncooked. (?) But this cake?!? She loved! And she ate it more than once!
This cake was so incredibly wonderful and its theme so fun to create that I’m making a little mini series here on the blog to share all the recipes and how to’s so that you too can make your very own funfetti and/or Lord of the Rings themed cake!
Today, it’s the recipe portion. You’ll learn how to cake and create both the funfetti cake and vegan buttercream funfetti frosting. This is certainly not the healthiest recipe I’ve had here on the blog and it does incorporate several ingredients I never buy or use in baking regularly, but hey! It’s worth it! And birthdays do only come once a year…
Veganland Funfetti Cake
For the cake:
1 cup plain vegan milk
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 and 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
as many vegan** sprinkles as you want! (I used 1 and a half entire containers!)
**be careful when buying sprinkles! You need to check for confectioner’s glaze, which does contain animal products. For more on vegan sprinkles, see this post.
In a glass measuring cup, combine milk and apple cider vinegar. Set aside and allow to curdle. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda, salt, and sprinkles. Add oil, lemon juice, vanilla and almond extracts, and water to milk/vinegar mixture. Make a crater in the middle of the dry ingredients and add in the liquid ingredients. Stir until well incorporated. Pour into your well greased and floured baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 25-40 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out of the center cleanly. Allow cake to cool completely before frosting.
Note: For the Shire cake, we made 2 round cakes for a layer cake base and a small loaf pan to make the hill for the hobbit hole.
For the frosting:
1/2 cup Earth Balance or other vegan butter
1/4 cup soy milk, rice milk, or other non-dairy milk of choice
3-4 cups Veganized Powdered Sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup vegan sprinkles
In your kitchen mixer or food processor, combine butter, vanilla, and milk. Slowly add powdered sugar. I used about 3.5 cups to get a good consistency, but this depends on the mixer/processor etc. You might only need 3 cups or as many as 4 to get a thick, creamy frosting. Transfer frosting to a bowl, then mix in sprinkles. Chill for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, before icing cake.
It might be trickier than you’d think to track down vegan sprinkles. I went to three stores before I found some and read countless labels, but not to worry, they are out there!
This frosting is so delicious! I removed some before adding in the sprinkles to color it a pale green for Shire-colored grass to top the cake.
Stay tuned for that how-to in tomorrow’s post!
Birthday nachos! The best ever! These had Daiya, black bean relish, guac, sour cream, fresh salsa, fresh jalepenos, and vegan BBQ!
Tuesday was the Bear’s birthday! It was a day filled with love, fun, and lots and lots of delicious vegan food. I haven’t done one of my “Through the looking glass” posts in a while, so here goes! I’ll be posting recipes for many of the dishes you see here later in the week, and will have a mini series of how-to’s on the vegan Lord of the Rings funfetti cake that was the highlight of the day. So buckle up, here’s a recap of the Bear’s birthday!
Crêpes for breakfast! I made a simple batter and a delicious mushroom filling. I also served them with maple almond butter (one of Maddie’s birthday presents) and various toppings.
We stuffed and rolled our crêpes table side. They were divine!
While making crêpes, listening to the Amélie soundtrack is a must.
After breakfast, it was more music (our Joni Mitchell Pandora station this time) and cake baking!
Perfect birthday kitty.
Lunch! We went to our fave veg-friendly restaurant and of course ordered the nachos to split. We also split a sandwich and desserts with Maddie’s sister but I was too distracted by my tiny niece eating vegan key lime pie to photograph!
After lunch, we went up to our local beer store for a couple of local pints. We even got to keep the pints themselves! (Currently drinking iced coffee out of mine!)
She wanted a picture of me on her birthday for some reason.
Maddie got an espresso bean birthday beer, and I got “The Countess” a raspberry beer. We also came home with a great 12-pack “sampler” from Great Lakes Brewing Company. Not local, but a deal at $7.99 and so delicious.
We headed home for…grilling! Maddie got to use her birthday present (the grill) to cook up some Tofurky Beer Brats, red bell peppers, and onions on the grill.
Our friends came over to watch The Hobbit and cut (drumroll please!!) the Lord of the Rings funfetti cake! (Much beer was consumed.)
The weather was perfect and the company delightful. It couldn’t have been a tastier Bear birthday!
Coming up tomorrow: the Lord of the Rings vegan funfetti cake recipe!
I often refer to my collective group of kitties/rabbits as “weasels.” I love weasels, I’ve always found them to be thoughtful, mischievous creatures, which is exactly what these four are. I always think of The Wind and the Willows when I think of weasels, or Brian Jacques Redwall books that I used to read as a kid. Each of my babies seems to take on a different personality in each house we live in. Here, Olive sleeps on our pillows at night, Beans hops around and hides under the bed, and Leonor Fini is obsessed with the kitchen rugs. Stumpy Skellington has a soft blanket on the front porch that we sit on when out front, and her own private room in the back with her rabbit hole, food, and water dishes. She loves to chase butterflies and hide in the grass and stalk the dogs our neighbors take on walks up the sidewalk. One day maybe she’ll catch one…
Vegan frozen pizza?!? This if anything surely harkens the dawn of the vegan age! There are a few pizzas, Amy’s has a cheeseless one, but none that have been screaming from the frozen section in Whole Foods “I’m vegan! I’m vegan! You are too! Pick me!”
To say the least, I’m stoked that there’s an easy vegan option for those days when I don’t feel like cooking, I need a pick me up, or I want to be just like everyone else I know and eat a frozen pizza for crying out loud! I’m thinking those days when I want to be like Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo–that lady loves her a frozen pizza.
Daiya has come out with several new products recently that have gone above and beyond their classic cheezy shreds. There’s the Daiya wedge in three flavors that all make my heart sing, and some new Daiya cream cheese-like spreads not to mention cheeze slices. Needles to say, I’m above and beyond impressed with the expansion to their line and with the taste of the products I’ve tried from it thus far.
Something that always wows me about frozen pizzas is their size. They’re never as big as I thought they’d be from the size of the box or picture on the front. I had a little bit of size shock with this pizza, but I was so excited about it that I didn’t care. I chose a mushroom and garlic pizza to try out as my favorite pizza flavor is mushroom and olive. It had a robust, garlicky flavor and lots of mushroom chunks. There are also three other flavor options, Cheeze Lover’s, Margherita, and Fire-Roasted Vegetable.
I found that the mushroom and roasted garlic pizza had a thin, crunchy crust, and a the toppings amounts were perfect. Not too saucy, not too many mushrooms, and not too much Daiya. Something I’d return to for sure. Did I mention that they’re gluten and soy free?
Check out your local Whole Foods, Co-Op, or other health foods store and see if they carry these tasty pizzas. If not, be sure to ask if they’d consider carrying them or would order them for you. Activism and the presence of vegan community starts with speaking up!
The official start of summer for me is always Maddie’s birthday (this past Tuesday). It’s right on the cusp of the changing weather, and the world has just become lush and green. It’s often still cool in the evenings and we have our odd 75 degree day here and there. Lots of rain makes the plants leap from seedlings to monsters in the garden out back.
Most of the flowers have all gone, but the lushness they leave in their wake adds a different kind of beauty to our little square of the world. Looking at this house in February left room for the imagination to run rampant, conjuring up ideas of what the property would look like come spring and summer. Our imaginations have been sorely outdone by Mother Nature herself, and by all the plants and trees that surround us.
We recently ventured to a new vegan restaurant this past weekend. The Fiction Kitchen in Raleigh features a fully vegan menu made from nearly all locally sourced ingredients. My cocktail had local strawberry and cucumber, and even the cornmeal they use in apple fritters comes from a farm just down the road.
We got the sampling platter to split for an appetizer–it featured cashew cheese and a tempeh paté, with candied walnuts and crackers from a local bakery. For my entree I got vegan chicken and waffles. I’m still dreaming of that meal…
The next day we had brunch up at our favorite food truck and I had the most delicious summer Hefe with a giant slice of orange.
I was so proud to find these little boogers while out hunting down vegan sprinkles for Maddie’s vegan funfetti cake (stay tuned!) recipe coming your way!
Front porch sitting and Risk playing make evenings so lovely.
Oh tomatoes! I love summers because of the abundance of these fresh, savory fruits. Their versatility is astounding, and their freshness unparalleled. To go with that hearts of palm ceviche (that I’m still dreaming of…) I made some fresh salsa with some ingredients floating around my kitchen. The recipe is simple, the taste is bright and luminous.
1 large yellow tomato, cored
1/2 cup diced red heirloom tomato
1 teaspoon diced jalepeno
1 clove garlic
1 Tablespoon fresh cilantro
pinch chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients except red tomato, salt and pepper in your food processor, pulsing to blend and purée but not liquify. Remove from blender, season with salt and pepper to taste, and stir in red tomato chunks. Best if allowed to mariniate for 2-4 hours.
Red, yellow, and green look so lovely all mingled up together. The red and yellow tomato each have a slightly different taste, and the jalepeno adds just the right amount of spice and flavor. I recommend using some blue corn chips (my favorite tortilla chips by far) to scoop up the salsa, or use it on your tacos, burritos, or various other summery goodies. It makes a great snack or appetizer on its own, especially with a good beer to go along with it.
Our recent trip to the river was so lovely. It’s amazing to see how much the temperature changes when you’re close to a body of water like this. I enjoyed dipping my toes in, and eating a picnic on one of the lard rocks that juts out into the cool. We’ve been eating the most wonderful foods lately–lots of fresh vegetables from the global market we found a couple of weeks ago. It’s so much fun to buy a giant bag of bok choy for $2 and figure out all of the ways to eat it over the next week. I love sautéing it with a bit of oil, salt, and pepper until it’s soften slightly but still has that recognizable crunch.
Books, lots of books. Always lots of books. We got a library card this week, and I now have a stack of books on my bedside table. I like being able to read fiction and non fiction simultaneously. It helps keep me sane to switch back and forth. I’m loving 1Q84.
We’ve had lovely weather lately–cool mornings that lead into brisk warm days. Perfect weather to read outside, drink a cup of iced jasmine tea, and enjoy the mildness while it lasts.