October 26, 2010

Vegan Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes

So this is a recipe I adapted from a few trial and errors of vegan recipes that I found online for the Shadow Machine Gala. The original recipes I found were very poorly written with 1 1/4 cups of this and 1/3 cup of that and 3/4 tsp of something else. What’s with all these obscure measurements? It’s like saying something is 38 inches long when you could say 3’ 2” or saying measure out 6 mL of this and 255 ml of that. WHY!!! So I basically developed a fool proof recipe that is really quite easy. It goes something like this.

Note: You can put any kind of icing on these cupcakes such as chocolate ganache or butter cream. I wanted to keep this strictly vegan, so I made it with Chocolate Vegan “Butter Cream” Icing and some toasted coconut shavings. This recipe makes around 36 small cupcakes.
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  • 2 cans of Coconut Milk
  • 1/2 can of Vegetable oil (or 1 cup)
  • 2 tsp Vanilla
  • 2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 cup All Purpose White Flour
  • 1 cup Cake/ Pastry Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 cup Pure Dark Cocoa (good quality)
  • 2 cups White Sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
1. Mix wet ingredients. In a medium sized bowl, add coconut milk, vegetable oil (fill up half the can because who wants to do more dishes?), vanilla and apple cider vinegar. Stir.
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2. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. 1 cup of each kind of flour, baking soda, good quality pure dark cocoa, sugar and salt. Mix it together with a spatula.
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3. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and beat with an electric mixer on high until the batter comes out thick but smooth.
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4. Using an ice cream scoop and a measuring cup to catch the drips, spoon out enough batter to fill 3/4 of the way full in the paper lined muffin/cupcake trays.
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5. Put the cupcakes into the oven at 350 degrees F for approximately 20-30 minutes (depends on how hot your oven is and whether or not you have a convection oven.) Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and when you poke the tops of the cupcakes, the top bounces back.
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6. Brush on some coconut infused simple syrup to keep the cupcakes moist. Ice with Vegan “Buttercream” or chocolate ganache or any other topping you would like.
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Note: Why it’s important to use good quality cocoa. Compare the difference (I ran out and had to use just no name brand cocoa that was in the pantry)

Vegan Chocolate ‘Butter Cream’ Icing

There is no butter in here, hence the quotations around Butter and Cream but it’s just as creamy and tasty as the original. There is still veggie fats in there, so I can’t profess to say that it’s healthy… but it’s a good vegan recipe that I found to work well. Don’t add too much powdered sugar, or else it will be more runny. Add more shortening if it needs stiffening up. I used this on the Vegan Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes and in the Vegan Chocolate ‘Blackout’ Cake between the layers and the crumb coat around it.

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  • 1/2 cup Non-hydrogenated Shortening
  • 1/2 cup Vegan Margarine (Earth Balance is the one I used)
  • 3 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 cup Soy milk
  • 1 cup Cocoa Powder

1. Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy in a stand mixer or use a hand held electric mixer. Start off at the ‘stir’ speed and work your way up. Or else you’ll end up with icing sugar EVERYWHERE.

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2. Add Vanilla and soy milk and beat for another 5-7 minutes until fluffy.

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October 25, 2010

Co.ERASGA- 10 years

I’m not a type of person that will sugar coat anything (in the figurative sense because I do coat baked things in sugar). I will never tell you something is nice if I don’t like it, and I just tell it like it is. If am not fond of something however, I just bite my tongue and I don’t say anything. I’m an honest kind of person and I am often very critical of things but I like to keep it in a fine balance. The reason I say all this is because of the comments that are to come after this paragraph, and I do not want you to think that I am masking anything, I am saying a false truth or that I am making things better or worse that it actually was. Here goes.

The Shadow Machine performance piece by Alvin Erasga Tolentino’s artistic direction was unbelievable and truly magical as the dancers took the content and subject matter to new heights. They explored a myriad of emotions, creatively executed a number of characters and made this contemporary modern dance, something in a league of its own. I am not saying all this only because I am a big fan and friend of Alvin’s… I am saying all this in all honest truth and in an effort to make you Vancouverites go and watch this moving performance that will leave you mesmerized in the finale and captivated throughout the show. This is a very visually and aurally stimulating performance as, hence the name, Shadow Machines cast shadows on multiple screens, the movement of the dancers depict a remarkably machine like quality that I never imagined could be communicated through human movement. The dancers interact with the moving pictures in shadow and projection and the brilliant vocals in the soundtrack (live singer) creates an almost eerie, haunting atmosphere as they depict the early days of Vancouver’s shipping and fishery industry to pay homage to Vancouver’s heritage and cultural history. The venue was very fitting as the show was located in the W2 building across from the newly constructed Woodwards complex. 

Located in historic Gastown, the content of the piece married beautifully with the proximity to the rail lines, the ocean and the formerly industrial area of Vancouver. There were so many creatively genius moments in the piece where dancers had shovels for dance partners, where they cast lines out to sea, when the dancers were freight cars, a moving and dancing table took center stage and in the end they project images on a moving medium (that I never thought could ever be so magical). The whole piece alludes to the rapidly changing and often easily forgettable nature of the blue collar work industry, the heritage of the city as well as the people responsible for the pioneering of the West Coast.

All this being said. If you live in Vancouver. You too can experience this emotionally diverse and touching performance where you’ll get shivers up your spine, you’ll marvel at the creative depiction of a story via movement and a multimedia experience that will (as they say) keep you at the edge of your seat until the final grain of sand touches the ground. (You’ll know what I mean when you go see it).

The shows are on this week between October 27-30 at Storyeum in Gastown (151 West Cordova Street). Get tickets at Tickets Tonight and go see it!

Being able to experience this show and the Gala following the performance only a few days ago, made me so proud of Alvin for the direction of his piece as well as well as the 10 year achievement of his contemporary dance company Co. ERASGA. Wow, is he ever amazing.

As you may know from the Co.Erasga- Shadow Machine Gala post I did last week,  Alvin had asked me to prepare a few dishes to supplement the catering that was being done as well as bake cupcakes and possibly a cake for the event. I could not have done this without the help of my friends and family as they helped by lending me any and all supplies they had, shared their knowledge on vegan baking, gave me tips on how to make fondant (never made it before), got me chicken at wholesale price, helped me decorate the cupcakes, answered my S.O.S. calls, helped make the cake look fabulous and gave me all the support and love I needed to take on this project. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I could NOT have done it without you.
I am going to give a special shout out to my mom, because without her I don’t think I could have done any of this. Those of you that know me personally, know that I tore a ligament in my right knee only a week ago, and was limping and sporting a pimp’in cane (although I didn’t feel so pimp’in AT ALL). Well, my mother helped me by getting me ice for my knee when I needed it, drove me around to get groceries at the best places to keep on budget, helped me carry things, got sugar when I ran out the day before the event, she was my bank as she lent me money I didn’t have (without interest), she marinated the chicken for me without me asking her to, she let me take over her living room and kitchen as cupcakes were absolutely everywhere, she let me use her oven which was on for many many hours, she helped me make the dumplings, she was there to reassure me that I could pull it off when I had doubted myself and she helped clean up the mess I created in the kitchen during the makings of this seemingly small catering gig. Mom, I could not have done this without you and thank you so much for being there for me and I love you very much. Okay, Sappy part over.

In preparation for this event, I went to many of my favourite groceries stores as outlined by Shopping for Groceries Part 2 and Where to Shop for Groceries in Vancouver. I am so glad that these places exist where you can get quality fruits and vegetables as well as specialty ingredients at a fraction of the cost you would normally get at major grocery stores. Well, like I said, 5 days before the event my mother was kind enough to drive me around to these places and I got a car load of stuff to help me cook and bake my way to catering for this event. I made lists to check and double check all the ingredients that I needed and made sure that every penny I spent was in accordance with the budget.

I ended up making 2 types of chicken wings (7 kilograms in total!!!! Thanks Core): Crispy Herb with Sesame and Honey Ginger + Garlic. I made the Vegan Tofu Yam and Veggie Dumplings, Vegan Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes with Vegan Chocolate “Butter Cream”, and a Vegan Chocolate ‘Blackout’ Cake with the same “Butter Cream” as the cupcakes, fresh raspberries, Bonne Maman Raspberry Jam, and Chocolate ‘Tootsie Roll’ Fondant. I am hoping to get all the recipes up and how to make them as soon as possible, but this might be done in sections as the week goes on.
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So with only a day left to go in the preparations for the event, I had made simple syrup, made the vegan dumplings that were frozen in the fridge, toasted the coconut shavings, and borrowed Bamboo steamers from friends and bought a couple of my own. That was basically it. There was still a LOT left to do. Ahh! As I progressively crossed things off the list as I made things one by one, the last thing I did was bake the cupcakes and that was one tricky thing to master, let alone making the fondant that I had never made before! I had looked up all the recipes online for vegan everything and spent a full day on just the vegan fondant (they usually have gelatine but I used agar agar powder).

Even after all the preparation and research, the vegan cupcake recipes did NOT turn out the way I wanted them to in the first batch. So, I had to tweak the recipe, throw out a few of the ingredients, added my own ingredients and finally it yielded the right chocolaty, coconutty, sweet, spongy results I wanted in a cupcake. I had opted to go vegan as much as I could (obviously chicken wings can’t be vegan) because the dance industry is notorious for dietary restrictions and also, Vancouverites are also big on vegetarian and veganism, so I figured might as well cater to the whole crowd.  Oh, and everything was nut free because a friend that was in attendance is deathly allergic to nuts.
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All in all, the preparations went smoothly as I was happily humming to myself and making the crispy herb mix, fondant and cupcakes until the wee hours of the morning (2:30am) and I made labels for the goods so that people know what they have in them and that some things were vegan. I had to get to work the the next morning by 6am (up at 5:15) so my sister helped me load up the car with all the ingredients and bags and bags of cupcake towers and ingredients. I’m glad I spotted the berry cardboard boxes at Costco, because they perfectly fit 24 cupcakes each and were stackable! I wrote Vegan Dumpling and Chicken on my hand so that I wouldn’t forget to get them out of the fridge and freezer in the morning and off I went to bed. My thoughts were racing as I recounted all the things I had packed to make sure I didn’t forget anything, and had trouble falling asleep, and when I woke up it was so hard getting out of bed. You’d think after going to architecture school where I did that on a regular basis  (sleep 2-3 hours a night), my body would be more adapted to it, but really… it was pretty tough.
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Driving to work at 5 in the morning.
So work was pretty short, as there wasn’t a whole lot to do, so I was done by noon. I decided to take a little nap in the car, then resume work. Well, I slept till 2 and I still had the cake to level and assemble, the frosting to make, the cupcakes to decorate, the chicken to bread and bake off, the honey ginger + garlic sauce to make, the dumplings to bake off and all the while, worrying about the cake design! I had thought that I could be talented enough to cut out a figure of Alvin in a dance pose, and cut out *10 years * on top in blue and white fondant, and then have Co.ERASGA on the side of the cake, with W2 on the other side. Yeah, I was being WAY too ambitious and maybe I wasted too much time doing this because I didn’t even end up using them! 

Okay so, I printed out the design to scale to fit a 10” cake, then I cut out each shape and laminated it, so that I can trace out the shape in fondant. I figured it would work out well and look professional, clean and modern right? ….umm… yeah. I don’t really know what I was thinking. I guess it’s my instinct to go all out or nothing that made me do this. But, really? Having never worked with fondant before (although I’ve watched enough episodes of Cake Boss, and Ace of Cakes to think that I'm a pro) I think I was in way over my head to begin with. I have to thank my boss for letting me use her kitchen, equipment and oven on the day of, because having racks, a huge convection oven, huge trays to bake things off, and containers to store them in was a HUGE help. She also helped me box things, reassured me that the cake looked good, she helped clean up the mess I made of her store, and gave me a huge hand.
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So while I should have been going ahead and making all the things I needed to make, I decided to start off with cutting out and laminating the templates because I figured I wouldn't want to deal with it later on when the clock starts ticking. Yeah, bad idea. After I cut everything out, laminated it, then cut everything out of the laminate again…it was 3pm and time was running out. The cake! The Cupcakes! The chicken! I frantically called my sister to come in and help me all the while, I made the honey ginger + garlic sauce, put the dumplings in the oven, started assembling the cakes and hoped that help with come soon! 
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Thankfully she came to my rescue and I bossed her around and got her to bread the chicken, wash the cupcake stands, laminate the ingredient cards, and help decorate the cupcakes and my best friend came to my rescue too as she and my sister iced the cupcakes for me and gave me advise on how to make the cake look good and honestly, that saved my life!
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The problem that occurred after draping the fondant over the cake, was that it wasn’t smooth all the way around, and had a “leather couch” finish to it, and not a smooth finish as I wanted. That might have been because I rolled out the fondant on a plastic sheet which the fondant had adhered to and ripped as I was going to roll it up, so I had to start all over and knead it up again and roll it out on large sheets of parchment, which helped in the end, but changed the consistency of the fondant. Well, lesson learned. What was I to do with the folds on the side? (don’t worry I tucked the fondant under the cake after the last picture). Well, no time for that (5:30pm) I have to cut out the dancer at least to go on top of the cake!
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I didn’t have time to cut out the *10 years* so Alvin’s silhouette dancing pose was all of the cut out fondant I had… well… I asked M, “Does this look like a dead guy” As laughter erupted through the tense atmosphere, I knew the answer. She agreed, “Yep, definitely a dead guy”. So I scrapped that idea, got rid of the dead guy and to mask the uneven edges of the cake, Mal thought of an excellent idea to cover the sides with the Vegan Chocolate ‘Butter Cream’ and put the toasted coconut shavings all around the side. I quickly caught on and said, “YES! DEFINITELY a good idea” and we got right on it.
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Yes, I’m crazy. Anyway, a long story I’m trying to make short, we scrapped the dead guy, my friend helped with her expert baker hand put fresh orchids on top instead, and made it look beautiful! We frantically packed up all that we needed, Laurelle helped box everything up, and lent us tongs (Oh crap, I think I need to buy her new ones, I left them at the venue!). We cleaned up the mess we created of the store and we booked it out of there! (7:15pm) The Show starts at 8pm SHARP! AHHHHHhhh!!!

Once we got there, my friends helped me unload the car and set up the bamboo steamers, set out the food, assemble the cupcake stands and basically saved my ass (I was so flustered and tired by this point… the tiredness was kicking in) I had to go park the car, change (I had chocolate all over me (yeah not in an erotic way)) and meet up with my friend that was coming to the event, and we made it into the show by the skin of our teeth. No really, they were just about to close the doors!

Anyway, the show was fabulous as you read in the beginning of this post, and thankfully we all got there in one piece, the cake turned out better than I had ever expected, the people ate up all the dumplings and chicken wings and some people came up and thanked me for making things Vegan! Yay!
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I had these little erasers in the shape of a cupcake that I cut into using a Exacto knife and made into a stand. I’m surprised I thought of that at 2am before I went to bed!
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I got Alvin to do the honours.
The cake quickly disappeared!
The last piece was saved for Alvin.
Beautiful mural in the event space. Wow, it was amazing!!!
And that’s it! That was my day, and my experience of the Co.ERASGA Shadow Machine Gala. I had a lot of fun, stressed out a bit, calmed down again, had a blissfully magical evening watching the performance, and was glad when I got home and hit the hay.

I will put up the recipes for the chicken wings, cupcakes and cake soon! Stay tuned for them!