Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Happy New Year's Post: Ringing In 2012...

Best Ever Birthday Ice Cream Cake

Though this is a few days delayed, I hope everyone had a wonderful New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. My New Year’s was slightly hectic but definitely enjoyable. Since my Husband’s birthday is on the 30th of December, and we generally spend the entire day alone together, we traditionally have a birthday party for him on the 31st. This year was no exception, although I did end up working New Years this year, which is why the holiday was a bit hectic on my end.

Since virtually everyone attending the party - with the exception of my good friends J and C - was a dedicated omnivore we decided to make it easy on everyone by ordering pizza for our main meal. That way the omnivores could have their boring sausage pizza and us vegans and vegetarians could have something delicious as well. Since I spent most of the day at work, this was also a major time savor. I did however undertake the task of providing appetizers and a cake, which honestly was enough work itself.

It took quite a bit of time and deliberation, not to mention a lot of pouring over my cook books before I finally decided on what to make. I find it so hard to cook for picky omnivores because too often it’s been my experience that they turn their nose up at anything I make that’s ‘out of the ordinary’ Open-minded omnivores are a breeze and I love them, but you just never know what people are going to like, or how they are going to react. So after a lot of thought I decided ‘what the heck’ and picked items I knew my husband and I would probably enjoy. It was after all HIS birthday party.

So I started with dip. It’s my opinion that you can’t have a party without at least a couple of dips or spreads available, for party-goers to nosh on with pita bread or raw veggies.

First I decided upon the Truffled White Bean Humus from Party Vegan. I love humus but it’s always nice to switch it up with different flavors and I thought this might appeal to people. It was also helpful that I just so happened to have truffle oil, and the black sesame seeds for which to garnish the dip, in my pantry. I did not however have chives and so I just used some chopped green onion. Now, while I really like the idea of using white beans in a humus, I wasn’t really sure what to make of the dish once it was put together. At first, tasting it right out of the food processor I liked it. It had that indescribable truffle taste with a nice hint of garlic and green onion. The recipe says however to refrigerate the dip for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours which I did. I think it was in the fridge about 12 hours, and honestly when I tasted it again I wasn’t as thrilled with it. The truffle flavor really exploded, and mixed with the garlic and green onion it became a little overbearing. Not much of it got eaten, not even by me. However I think I would make this again, but next time I would decrease the amount of truffle oil to a ½ tbsp and serve it almost immediately.

Truffled White Bean Humus

Next dip on the list was the Edamame Humus from Big Vegan. I love edamame and thus am always looking for new and interesting ways to incorporate it into my diet. What better way then with another untraditional humus recipe? I thought the contrast between a white humus and a green humus would be rather nice, and I was very interested in the Asian flair the miso and edamame would lend to humus. I actually really loved this, a lot. It had a smooth texture and mild flavor with that nice touch of miso. It was great on raw veggies particularly on carrots because they’re a bit sweet. Although I did increase the amount of lemon juice, olive oil and miso used just to give it a smoother consistency. You definitely want to try this recipe, trust me. Also since I was serving this to guests and you never know how your friends will handle spice I garnished the dip with smoked paprika rather then cayenne pepper. Still great!

Edamame Humus

The next spread I went with was actually a pate. The Save a Duck Pate from Blissful Bites, actually. This was a nice thick pate that you could mold although I chose to serve it in a bowl. It had good texture and a robust flavor and seemed to go over well with the vegetarians though it wasn’t a favorite. While I did enjoy it, I thought it tasted overly strong of Dijon and Nutritional yeast, and as much as I love dill, I thought it was a bit too potent. Not at all what I was expecting from a pate. In all honesty I’ve never had a pate in my life, duck pate or otherwise so I don’t know what ‘the real stuff’ tastes like, but I imagine it having a smoother blander flavor, and this I felt was a bit acidic tasting, and tangy. I did like the combo of tempeh and almonds though that way you didn’t get too much of a bitter or nutty aftertaste, though I think the next time I make this I’m going to have to adjust the seasoning’s a little bit. Perhaps more parsley and less dill the next time, not to mention cut the nooch in half.

Save a Duck Pate

From dips we move on to other appetizers, and for the rest of them I stuck with Party Vegan. Not only for the sake of ease but because the book contains so many great sounding recipes that I rarely get the opportunity to use.

Since stuffed mushrooms are always a hit, and usually a safe bet with omnivores I decided to make the Artichoke Stuffed Mushroom recipe. I like artichokes, and these mushrooms were good, most of them got devoured but honestly after popping a few mushrooms I started to feel a little overwhelmed by the artichoke content. My husband loved them though, and devoured the few leftovers for lunch the next day. Personally I like my stuffed mushrooms better.

Artichoke Stuffed Mushroom

Next I made the Spinach Phyllo Cigars with Walnuts and Figs. I love figs, spinach and walnuts and who doesn’t love anything wrapped in phyllo? I’ve been wanting to make these little morsels for nearly as long as I’ve had the book and so I thought now’s my chance. In the end they weren’t exactly what I’d imagined. They were a little heavy on the figs, which is fine except that the fig flavor seemed to overpower everything else. Figs are also one of those things that most people either love or hate and apparently the majority of my omni friends and family are none to fond of the little things. Oh well, c’est la vie right? You never know until you try, and really they were pretty good cold the next day but maybe I’m just crazy. I’d make them again using less fig and more spinach, as well as a little diced onion I think.

Spinach Phyllo Cigars with Walnuts and Figs

Next up were the Sun-dried Tomato and Green Olive Biscotti, served with Artichoke Tapenade. Again I’ve been wanting to make these since I first got the book but was a bit intimidated by the prospect of making my own biscotti. They were, however, a raving success and even my husband who doesn’t like olives, pine nuts, and really isn’t all that fond of sun-dried tomatoes either enjoyed them. I wasn’t able to cut them super, thin like traditional biscotti, since I don’t have a truly good and decent knife that can handle the task, and I didn’t bake them enough to get them really hard and crisp but I kind of liked that they were bite sized rounds. I also liked that they were on the softer side, because all my fillings can’t take a lot of hard chomping! The tapenade was pretty good too, but a little strong of caper. I think I’d add a bit more choke next time and decrease the caper amount, but it did pair beautifully with the biscotti, and actually didn’t taste too bad smeared over cold fig phyllo cigars the next day.

Sun-dried Tomato and Green Olive Biscotti

Artichoke Tapenade

Last but not least I made the Chickpea-Artichoke bites with Rosemary Aioli which was the major crowd pleaser, and universal favorite of the night. They kind of remind me of medallion sized falafels in appearance. Flavor wise they have a nice artichoke taste with hints of lemon and Dijon. They’re great when eaten on their own but amazing when paired with the Rosemary Aioli which is super simple to prepare. Just pour the ingredients into a food processor, scrape into a bowl and serve. Except I didn’t have sherry vinegar so I used Apple Cider instead. It was phenomenal! A winning combination indeed.

Chickpea-Artichoke Bites with Rosemary Aioli

As I said the main event was pizza. We ordered from a local place our family likes and it was fantastic. Definitely one of the best pizza’s I’ve had since going vegan. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of it but I can at least tell you about it. It was thin crust, with no cheese (obviously) but extra sauce, fresh basil, roasted garlic, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and broccoli. It was phenomenal, so delicious that even though we ordered a family sized pizza for the four of us, at the end of the night there were only 4 meager slices left!

Then of course after a nice period of digestion we brought out the cake, and what an elaborate affair that was. When I asked my husband two weeks earlier what sort of cake he wanted me to make for his birthday he replied "Ice Cream" You see, both he and I grew up in households where ice cream cake for birthday’s was the tradition. Birthdays were the only times of year either of us ever had the opportunity to enjoy ice cream cake, and generally we only received that privilege twice, maybe three times a year. It was and still remains our favorite. My family always used to go the Dairy Queen route, which I loved especially that oreo fudge center, while my husband’s family goes the Baskin-Robbins route with something called a golden-ribbon I think. I’ve never really been a fan of the BR ice cream cakes because I never thought actual cake should have any place in an ice cream cake. I wanted a straight wall of ice cream, however for my husband’s birthday I decided I wanted to go all out extravagant.

Since his birthday last year - wow, it sounds so strange to say last year when it was less then a week ago! - was something of a milestone I was determined to make the cake of all cakes! I was obsessed with making the perfect most monestrous and amazing cake in existence. Without wanting to brag I think I did a pretty damn good job. The finished product certainly exceeded even my wildest expectations.

After some careful thought and planning I decided to make it a six layer cake. Two layers of cake, one layer of fudge and three layers of ice cream. It would be like DQ and BR got it on and popped out a baby! It seemed to me like combining the best of both worlds and so I set to work. I asked my husband to pick out three flavors of non-dairy ice cream that he wanted. He chose Mocha Fudge Almond Milk Ice Cream, Vanilla Almond Milk Ice Cream, and Cappuccino Almond Milk Ice Cream. Then I asked him what kind of cake he’d like, chocolate, vanilla or yellow. He chose yellow. With those requirements in mind I set to work.

When I tell people I made my own ice cream cake, they always seem very impressed, and often gush about how much work it must have been; but you know making an ice cream cake is actually a lot easier then you might think. - Unless of course you’re going to make your own non-dairy ice cream from scratch, that’s another story altogether. I do however own an ice cream maker so perhaps that will be the next step? - Easy though it may be, it is a bit time consuming because you have to wait for all the ice cream to melt, and then wait for one layer to freeze at a time before you can add the next layer. It is so worth it though! Trust me on this, if you have not yet made your own ice cream cake go and do it!

For the Yellow cake layer I ended up using the Golden Vanilla Cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. I made a double batch and used their suggestion to use turmeric for a deeper yellow color. It worked beautifully. I spread the batter between two 9inch springform pans and while they baked and cooled I set the ice cream out to melt. Once the cakes were cooled I covered one, set it aside and spread the mocha fudge ice cream over the other. Popped it in the freezer waited two hours then took it out. Unfortunately at this point I realized there would not be enough room in the cake pan for all six layers and so I opted to forgo the fudge layer I’d originally envisioned. Instead I spread the cappuccino ice cream over top. Popped it back in the freezer for two hours then spread the vanilla layer over top. After that I left it in the freezer overnight, probably a good 8-10 hours. You want to make sure all the ice cream is rock solid before you put your final layer of cake on top, because if the cream isn’t solid your top layer is going to sink. Once that layer was on, I put the cake back in the freezer until I was ready to frost it.

Best Ever Birthday Ice Cream Cake

About a half hour before we were ready for dessert I removed the cake from the freezer. I frosted it with the Butter Cream frosting recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking, then piped Rice Whip around the bottom and along and around the top of the cake. In the middle I put a big dollop of the rice whip and decorated it with maraschino cherries. Next I drizzled chocolate sauce and raspberry sauce over the cake, both recipes for which I also got from The Joy of Vegan Baking, then ta-da it was done!

Man was it delicious! I’m telling you this is hands down the best ice cream cake I’ve ever eaten. Not even DQ nor BR comes anywhere close to how awesome this was. I will never miss a ‘traditional’ ice cream cake again, and this will now be my go-to birthday ice cream cake. It is very heavy, and very filling mind you, but oh so amazing! Really there aren’t enough words to describe the mouth-watering, taste-bud teasing delight of it! You simply have to try it for yourself. In fact at the end of the night, even though a couple omni’s had turned their nose up at it because it wasn’t "Real Ice Cream" there were only 3 slices left, which interestingly is A LOT less then is normally left over whenever we’d order a DQ or BR cake in the past.

The Inside of The Best Ever Birthday Cake - Look At All Those Awesome Layers!

After all that food I wanted to pass out. I can’t remember when the last time I ate that much was but I was in desperate need of either a second stomach to help with the digestion or cake bypass surgery. Enter J to the rescue who gave me a nice massage which actually really helped to speed up the digestion process. By the time she was done I felt pretty normal, definitely not on the verge of death by food coma, so that was a nice surprise. At Midnight we all ran outside in the cold like crazy fools, banged pots and pans, while we hollered and screamed, shouted Happy New Year to our sleepy little neighborhood, and watched the fireworks shooting off in the distance. Then I grabbed my husband who wrapped his warm loving arms around my waist and we kissed under the moon and the stars. In that moment where lips were upon lips nothing else existed, my mind was clear, I think 2012 will be a good year!


  1. Your party food looked AMAZING and very YUMMY! S.T.

  2. Thank you for all the amazing food! It was definitely worth all the time & energy you put into it. That cake was PHENOMENAL!!! I remember how amazing it was & now I want more. haha It really was the best birthday cake ever! - M