No Murders In The Rue Morgue

Plum overload!

My good friend Erika has a plum tree in her back yard that has been off the hook lately, so I found myself with a windfall of fresh, delicious plums. I normally buy the larger black plums when they’re in season, but Erika’s tree bears Santa Rosa plums, common in California, so I branched out to a new variety this time around.

Back in Canada, I have a box containing all my cookbooks, including one that I looked at and drooled over all the time but never used much: The Moosewood Dessert Book. I have a love/hate relationship with all the Moosewood cookbooks. I love many of their old standby recipes (the Six-Minute chocolate cake helped many people bake vegan before baking vegan was cool, and the menestra, while the name sounds like some kind of menopause drug, is delicious and one of the first things I ever cooked for people), I don’t like the reliance on eggs and dairy and much of the language the recipes are written in. Regardless, I love the style of the dessert book – delicious cakes and confections without all kinds of cutesy nonsense. One of the recipes I’d been meaning to try for ages was the Plum Upside Down Cake. I never got around to it, partly because plums were often so expensive back in Canada, but when Erika handed me the 9-pound bag of beautiful Santa Rosas, I knew I had to finally make it. Unfortunately, my book was still in the box in Canada, so I had to find another recipe.

Inspiration came, as it so often does, in the form of Alton Brown. I’ve got a bit of a crush on Mr. Brown, and I’ve been very into his book, I’m Just Here For More Food lately. That book contains a recipe for pineapple upside down cake, so I figured with a few tweaks, I could veganize it, substitute plums for pineapple, and be off to the races! While I’m not 100% satisfied with the result, it is a gooey, tasty, plum-y treat that, with a little more work, will be a real winner!

Plum Upside Down Cake

Gooey Plum Topping
8 tbsp Earth Balance
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup plum cheeks (the sides of the plum, sliced parallel to the pit from either side of the plum)
2 – 3 tbsp pomegranate juice

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Egg replacer for 3 large eggs
5 tbsp water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

Put the Earth Balance in a cast iron frying pan and melt it over low heat. Add the sugar and cook until dissolved, about 5 minutes. Stir to make sure it doesn’t burn. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and press the plum cheeks, cut side down, in circles into the sugar mixture in the pan. Pour the pomegranate juice over the top of the whole thing.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients and whisk together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry mix, and stir until combined. Don’t overmix!

Pour the cake batter over the sugar mixture and plums in the cast iron pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40 – 45 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.


Last Minute Birthday
May 27, 2009, 12:55 pm
Filed under: barbecue, Cakes

My husband turned another year older yesterday. I’d arranged to borrow a charcoal grill from my neighbor to grill up some veggie burgers and kebabs for the occassion, since the birthday boy said he didn’t want to do anything. When I told him what I’d arranged, he was disgusted and told me that in America, y’all don’t barbecue without inviting people over (forgive me, I’m half-watching Cold Mountain while I write this), so we hastily invited over some friends, and I started throwing together some food and a birthday cake.

The birthday boy requested homemade veggie burgers and kebabs and corn on the cob, so I made a trip to the co-op for GimmeLean ground “beef” and a trip to the big, crappy Safeway for corn and kebab veggies. I made up some veggie burgers mixing the “ground beef” with some finely diced onion, sage, and a bit of tamari. Then I marinated the veggies (cherry tomatoes, sweet onions, yellow summer squash, pineapple, and mushrooms) in a bit of olive oil, tamari, garlic, and a touch of ginger. The corn was grilled in the husk. All in all, prep took about 40 minutes and produced enough food to feed about 8 people.

Next up: birthday cake! My husband told me after eating is birthday cake that he hadn’t had a cake in over a decade, so I’m glad I made it. I didn’t have a lot of time and didn’t want to spend a tonne of dough on ingredients, so I made two 8-inch vegan “wacky” cakes (the standard vegan chocolate cake – flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar, water, oil, vanilla, and vinegar) and a batch of Isa Chandra Moskowitz‘s peanut butter caramel. I let the cakes cool and turned one of them out onto a platter. I spread it with the caramel and then turned the other cake out on top. In retrospect, I should have turned out the cakes onto a board and brushed all the crumbs off, but I didn’t, so I had to make do. Next, I whipped up a batch of peanut butter frosting. My recipe is close to all the standard versions but seems to be just distinct enough to warrant posting:

Jordan’s Peanut Butter Frosting (that’s not much different from anyone else’s)

2/3 cup smooth natural peanut butter (use natural PB that isn’t too grainy or separated – you want the stronger, truer peanut taste of the natural stuff, but you don’t want to grainy texture or the oiliness of the kinds that separate – check your grocery’s bulk bins)
1/2 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1/4 cup Shortening
1.5 tablespoons brown rice syrup
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups icing sugar

Mix the buttery spread and shortening (both should be at room temperature) until smooth. You want to get all the lumps out (because lumps of shortening in the frosting is nasty!). Add the peanut butter and vanilla and brown rice syrup beat the shit out of it. I did this all by hand with a whisk. If you’re doing it that way, your arm should be good and tired before you move to the next step.

Add the first cup of icing sugar and beat until very smooth. Then add the remaining cup and beat again until smooth. The frosting should be smooth but fairly firm. The longer you beat it, the fluffier it will get. Electric mixers or beaters are great for this, but it can be done by hand.

I frosted the cake with the peanut butter frosting and threw it in the fridge for about half an hour. Next, I mixed up some quick and dirty ganache (about 1/3 cup of vegan chocolate chips melted in a double boiler with about 3 tablespoons of soy creamer). I had meant to borrow a pastry bag and tips from a friend (I know – it is lame that I don’t own my own yet), but I forgot, so my sole decorating tool was a spoon and a butter knife. In the end, I decided just to pour the ganache over top of the cake and go for the classic chocolate-dripping-down-the-sides-of-the-cake look.

Not my favorite decorating job ever, but it turned out okay and was devoured in about 30 seconds.

All in all, about $50 was spent on food and supplies, maybe 2.5 hours spent in the kitchen doing baking and prep work, and about 4 hours spent having fun! Not a bad investment at all if I do say so myself, and the birthday boy enjoyed his day immensely.