Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vanilla Pecan Bourbon Balls


My Mom, who is one of my most important dessert testers has been asking me to make her some bourbon balls for a while now, and I finally decided to give in.  Mind you I have never made them before, only heard about them so I wasn't quite sure what all other people put in them, and didn't bother to look.  I just decided to sort of wing it and put into them what I thought would be good, and this is what ended up being included...some vegan pecan cookies I had made, some toasted pecans, maple syrup, a healthy dose of bourbon of course...and of course vanilla and maple extracts for good measure! 


Now, after actually looking at some recipes I realized that most other people include cocoa powder or chocolate somewhere in the filling, but who cares...they ended up being delicious without it.  I did however coat them in white and dark chocolate, so they looked like little truffles, and sprinkled them with pecans.  I thought they were fabulous...sweet little liquor bombs with a nutty maple vanilla flavor! 



But would my Mom like them?  That was the question.  But not to worry, she loved them!  If you would like to try a little different version of a bourbon ball, here is my recipe:

Vanilla Pecan Bourbon Balls
Makes about 2 dozen

1 1/2 cups vegan pecan sandies or sugar cookie crumbs
1 1/2 cups toasted pecans
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp maple syrup or more if needed
2 Tbsp bourbon
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp maple extract

8 oz vegan white chocolate
8 oz vegan dark bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

In a food processor, combine cookie crumbs, pecans, vanilla and maple extracts, bourbon, and 1 Tbsp maple syrup, and process until well blended, and starting to come together like a dough (if not sticky enough add a little more maple syrup).  Roll mixture into 1 1/2 inch balls, and place on a foil lined baking sheet.  Place in the freezer until chilled and firm, about 1/2 hour.  Melt white chocolate and dark chocolate in 2 separate bowls in the microwave using 30 second intervals, stirring in between.  When chocolate is melted, dip half bourbon balls into the white chocolate, coating entire outer surface, and placing on a foil lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle with chopped pecans.  Repeat with dark chocolate.  Place sheet in the fridge for a little while to set chocolate. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Banana Bread Cookies



When I was little I loved going to both my Grandma's houses they both always had delicious things for me to snack on while I was over.  Kitty Grandma, my Mom's Mother called so because she had kitties, liked to make a wonderful banana nut bread.  It was her Mother's recipe, and it was wonderfully sweet and studded with crunchy walnuts, needing no adornment.  The recipe was passed down to my Mom who swears it is the best banana bread she has ever eaten. Later on my Mom added her own spin to the bread, which became the standard at my house, chocolate chips. My Dad's Mom, Grandma Lyons always made the best chocolate chip cookies!  She would sit and roll out the balls of dough with her hair in curlers and I would help.  We would bake them together and I always enjoyed snatching them right out of the oven while they were still warm and gooey!  When I make either banana bread or chocolate chip cookies, and I smell the wonderful aromas that they fill the kitchen with, I can't help but think of my Grandmas and the memories I created with them.  I had some over ripe bananas, and some chocolate chips, and yesterday I decided that I would make a dessert combining these favorite two sweet things I snacked on as a child at my grandmas houses!  Banana bread cookies!  What could be better than a creation combining the banana flavor and walnuts and mild spices in banana bread and the chocolate chips, caramelly flavor and crunchy chewy texture of a chocolate chip cookie! 

So I got to work and came up with a vegan banana bread cookie.  I started with a cookie base using a combination of coconut oil and earth balance for my fats because I think they give the best flavor, and maple sugar and agave nectar for the sweeteners.  I used whole wheat pastry flour laced with a little cinnamon and nutmeg, which was always included in the banana bread, and plenty of vanilla extract!  I added the mashed banana of course, because it wouldn't be banana bread without it, but I also added a tiny bit of banana extract to allow the banana flavor to shine through.  Toasted walnuts and of course chocolate chips were a must, as they were always standard in both the banana bread and the chocolate chip cookies!  I had no doubt these would be delicious as I was snacking on the spoonfuls of dough while forming the cookies!  Those that did make it into the oven to be baked gave off the wonderful aroma of banana bread as well as the scent of chocolate chips in the cookies!  I had to try one while they were barely cool enough to eat and it was amazing!  Nothing like a gooey chocolate chip cookie warm from the oven!  It reminded me of when I used to steal the cooling cookies from the pans at Grandmas...and these were just as tasty!  You would not be able to tell that there was no eggs or dairy in them!  They were easy to make, so you should try them as well if you have a little time to let the dough chill. Take a little time to warm up your kitchen and create a memory of your own!


Vegan Banana Bread Cookies
makes 1 1/2 dozen

Cookies:
1 cup maple sugar, or granulated organic sugar
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup Earth Balance vegan buttery spread at room temperature
2 medium well mashed very ripe organic bananas
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp banana extract
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp cassia cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 12 oz bag vegan chocolate chips
2 cups toasted walnuts, chopped


In a large bowl, combine buttery spread and coconut oil with sugar and beat until fluffy and well combined. Beat in the bananas, vanilla extract, banana extract and agave nectar until well combined. In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, then add to the large bowl, and mix until well combined. Mix in the chocolate, walnuts, and place in the fridge to chill until firm. To bake, Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll balls into about 2 inch balls, and place on prepared cookie sheets a couple inches apart (refrigerate unused dough while baking the other trays). Bake for about 15 minutes, until puffed and just starting to brown slightly. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining cookies.

Friday, November 26, 2010

My Apple Pie


 Everyone has a favorite pie on Thanksgiving, be it pumpkin, pecan or apple...or maybe all of them in many cases, but my favorite is apple.  I know, a lot of people may think that apple is nothing special, because it is often made other times of the year than just around the holidays, but to me apple has a way of cleansing the palate that the other 2 favorites don't.  Plus, I don't know very many people who don't like apple pie, it is always a crowd pleaser.  This is part of the reason why I decided to bring an apple pie to Thanksgiving dinner at my boyfriend Dave's family's Thanksgiving.  I have always enjoyed bringing desserts to my Family get togethers so I thought it was a wonderful idea to volunteer to bring one! 


My apple pie however is not exactly what you would call a classic.  It is sort of a hybrid between a pie and a crisp, combining the elements of both that I enjoy.  A buttery flavorful crust a sweet tart cinnamony filling, and of course the glorious oat streusel topping that everyone likes to steal pieces of as soon as it emerges from the oven.  At home actually I usually skip the bottom crust altogether and make crisp because I love the topping so much, but this time for a special occasion, and for serving purposes I felt I needed to have one. 
My Mom always made her apple pies with a crumble topping rather than a pastry top, and her streusel always contained oats...I guess her influence rubbed off on me because I always have to make mine this way!  My oat topping was not going to be just oats for texture however, I added pecans and coconut, because I love the nutty and toasty dimensions they both add to the crumble!  The filling on my pie needed to contain a lot of cinnamon, of the Chinese cassia variety because to me it is the most sweet and fragrant, as well as maple sugar, because I much prefer its deep flavor to simple brown sugar. 


I assemble and "bake" my pie in a little bit of an unusual way.  It is sort of a mixture of two different test kitchen recipes for pie and crisp, but with my own measurements and such for ingredients and amounts.  The crust is first blind baked so it gets golden brown and keeps its texture once filled, and prevents soggyness.  The filling is then cooked stovetop, to ensure the apples are the perfect consistency, then is poured into the crust.  Lastly the topping is scattered on the pie, and baked until golden and fragrant in the oven.  This process results in a pie that has crust, filling and topping perfectly cooked.  It may be more labor intensive, but in my opinion it is worth it once you dive into that pie! 


It is really quite scrumptious with the buttery crust, sweet, tart, caramelly spiced apples, and crispy nutty topping.  It needs no adornment, but if you want to guild the lily a nice scoop of coconut milk based ice cream puts it WAY over the top.  Don't wait for a holiday to try out this pie...

Amy's Honeycrisp Apple Crumble Pie
makes 1 9 inch deep dish pie

Crust:
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 Tbsp maple sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
7 Tbsp cold Earth Balance vegan butter
2-3 Tbsp ice water, or as needed

Filling:
9 cups diced honeycrisp apples (6 large)
juice of one lemon
1/2 cup maple sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp maple extract
a large pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
Topping:
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp maple sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
8 Tbsp cold Earth Balance vegan butter
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1  cup pecans, chopped
1 1/2 cups large flake coconut

To make crust, whisk together flour, sugar, and sea salt in a medium bowl.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal and has chunks of butter no larger than pea sized.  Add about 2-3 Tbsp ice water and start to squeeze the dough together with your hands and knead it slightly until it forms a cohesive ball (adding a little more water if too dry).  Knead slightly and form into a disk.  Roll out on parchment paper to a 13 inch circle, and using parchment to lift dough, transfer to a 9 inch deep dish pie plate, and carefully fit into the bottom.  Decoratively flute the edges of the pie, using thumbs and forefingers.  Cover dough and place in fridge to chill until very cold, for at least an hour, or overnight.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Prick crust with a fork on the bottom and sides, and place a sheet of foil over the crust fitting it snugly against the bottom and sides and folding it over the edges.  Fill the foil with pie weights or dried beans and place in the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes, then remove foil and continue to bake until the crust is golden brown about 10 minutes more.  Meanwhile, to make filling, place apples, lemon juice, maple sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large stockpot over medium heat.  Cook apples, stirring occasionally until soft and caramelized, about 20-25 minutes.  Stir in extracts, sea salt and flour (you may need to add a little more than half a cup if apples are very juicy).  Pour filling into baked crust.  To make topping, combine pasry flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sea salt in a medium bowl.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender until there are only very small chunks of butter the size of peas left. Add oats, pecans and coconut and squeeze dough together with your hands, mixing as you go until you have evenly distributed the mixture and it is clumping together in places.  Scatter the topping over the pie, and bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly golden brown and fragrant (keeping a close eye on it, as coconut can brown quickly).  Let pie cool at least an hour, then feel free to dive in!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Almond Joy Layer Cake






When I was a kid I was not a fan of Almond Joy candy bars.  I think it was because of the overly sweet artificial flavor that they have as well as the huge hard almonds in the center.  So why would I choose to make a cake with the same flavors of an Almond Joy bar?  Well, now that I am an adult, I like the combination of almonds chocolate and coconut!  Just not in the form of the commercially made sickeningly sweet candy.  I called the cake I made yesterday "Almond Joy"  because it gave me joy as I sat and enjoyed every last crumb of it. 

I wanted the cake layers to have a big coconut flavor, so I added it in 2 forms, coconut oil, coconut milk, and shredded coconut.  They tasted like a macaroon, but not overly sweet, just right with all the goodness of coconut as the star.  To frost and fill my cake I chose an almond butter fudge frosting that complimented the light cake layers perfectly in texture and color!  The gooey fudge against the light moist cake was perfect!  I didn't forget to add some coconut and almond between the layers and atop the cake as well...I chose sliced slmonds however, since I am not a fan of the big hunks of almond in the Almond Joy bars. 


The cake was heavenly...that is the best word I can think of to describe it!  It was 100 times better than the candy bars of my childhood!  Here is the recipe if you wish to expirience some almond joy!


Vegan Almond Joy Layer Cake
Makes 1 6 inch 4 layer cake

2 6 inch cake pans

Cake:
1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup toasted finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup maple sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup coconut milk
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp almond extract
2 Tbsp cider vinegar

Frosting:
1 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup toasted almond butter
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp coconut milk, or more if needed
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, or more if needed
1 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups toasted sliced almonds
1 1/4 cups toasted large flake coconut

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and position rack in center of oven. Line two six-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides with parchment paper. Coat parchment paper and pan sides with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, sea salt, and sugar in a large bowl to blend well. Whisk oil, coconut milk, and vanilla extract together in small bowl to blend well, then whisk into the flour mixture until well blended. Whisk in cider vinegar and stir quickly (pale swirls will be in the batter, which is the baking soda reacting with the vinegar, which allows the cake to rise since there are no eggs). Transfer cake batter to prepared pan and bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on rack, about 1 hour. Cut around sides of pan to loosen. Turn cake out onto platter; peel off parchment paper. Let cool completely, then place in the fridge to chill until very cold to make slicing easier (since cakes with no eggs crumble easier). When chilled, slice cakes horizontally in half so that you have 4 layers.
To make frosting, whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl until very smooth, adding more cocoa powder if the frosting is not thick enough, or more coconut milk if too thick. Place a layer of cake on a plate, and spoon about 1/2 cup frosting over, almost to the sides, then top with about 2 Tbsp each toasted almonds and coconut.  Add another cake layer and repeat. Top with another cake layer, another frosting layer, the nuts and coconut then the top cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and the sides of the cake, and sprinkle almonds and coconut over the top of the cake, and at the base.

*if you would like a 4 layer 9 inch cake, double this entire recipe and bake in two 9 inch cake pans.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pecan Maple Caramel Praline Cookies


 When I was little my Mom used to make pecan praline cookies that I couldn't get enough of.  They tasted butterscotchy and caramelly with the richness of brown sugar and toasty pecans.  They were from an old church cookbook that she had acquired was just married, which got lots of use over the years.  I have since lost the recipe, but the memory of the delicious cookies still remains, and so when I was trying to decide what type of cookies to make yesterday, this one came to mind!  Pecan Praline! 


But these ones would have my own spin on them, and would not leave me feeling like I was in a sugar coma...since I tend to ingest much of the dough and freshly baked cookies in the process...a baker has to sample her product!  I wanted mine to have a maple flavor for another dimension, so I used maple sugar as well as maple syrup and extract in the dough.   I swapped the butter for earth balance and coconut oil and added a small amount of applesauce to keep them soft, since the original cookies were pillowy.  I added lots of  toasted pecans, much more than Mom used to, because I wanted them to be very present! 












My cookies were then topped off with some salted maple caramel and toasted pecans, which was not the same as the original.  I opted for a more gooey topping than frostingy.  The finished cookies were heavenly...all of the goodness of the old ones my Mom used to make, but with my own unique flair.  The soft buttery tasting cookies with the crunchy pecans and gooey caramel made for a good remedy for my cookie craving.  Of course I had to give my Mom a sample, and she thought they were better than the original, and you felt better after eating them.  I am glad I can eat more and not feel so guilty!  Try out this fabulous fall cookie...although I wouldn't limit it to the cool months! 


Vegan Pecan Maple Caramel Praline Cookies
makes 3 dozen

Cookies:
1 cup maple sugar, or granulated organic sugar
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup Earth Balance vegan buttery spread at room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp maple extract
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
2 cups toasted pecans, chopped

Salted Maple Caramel:
1 cup maple sugar
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp light agave nectar
1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
1 T. Earth balance butter
1/2 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 Tbsp maple extract
1 tsp sea salt

about 1 cup toasted whole pecan halves


In a large bowl, combine buttery spread and coconut oil with sugar and beat until fluffy and well combined.  Beat in the apple sauce, vanilla extract, maple extract and maple syrup until well combined.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, then add to the large bowl, and mix until well combined.  Mix in the pecans, and place in the fridge to chill until firm.  To bake, Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll balls into about 1 1/2 inch balls, and place on prepared cookie sheets a couple inches apart (refrigerate unused dough while baking the other trays).  Bake for about 10 minutes, until puffed and just starting to brown slightly.  Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool.  Repeat with remaining cookies and let cool completely.  To make caramel, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the sugar, agave nectar and water to a boil, stirring well at first to dissolve the sugar. Turn down the heat to low and cook until the liquid is deep amber in color, about 6-10 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally to ensure even cooking. Remove the pan from heat. Very carefully (the mixture will bubble), stir in the coconut milk, earth balance butter vanilla, maple extract, and sea salt until smooth. Let cool until it is a thicker constency before using on cookies (it gets thicker as it cools, so I let it sit in the fridge for a while).  Drizzle caramel over each cookie and top with a pecan half. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Honeycrisp Apple Ravioli with Pecan Date Filling and Maple Caramel


 Ravioli has been on my mind lately.  I wanted to make some last weekend but ran out of time...since it is rather time consuming, making the dough and digging out the pasta machine and all.  I guess I was kind of bummed that the ravioli making didn't happen, and since I didn't get my ravioli fix in a savory way while I was daydreaming during my run this morning I came up with a sweet way I could get it!  I often eat honeycrisp apples for dessert, and so I was thinking I could slice one really thin and assemble the thin slices like ravioli!  Much more exciting than simply biting into an apple!


 I wanted the filling to contain some sort of nut, and I thought what better to use in the fall then pecans!  I sweetened them up with some dates, since I consider them like candy, as well as a dash of maple syrup and vanilla.  The gooey filling was divine, especially when enclosed in the tart crunchy apples.  But it needed a sauce and some other components as well, since ravioli isn't so pretty when not accompanied by some sort of sauce or adornment.  I had some leftover caramel in my fridge from the weekend as well as some spiced pecans, and they went perfectly with the ravioli to complete the dish!  It was beautiful, and delicious!  I still might have to make savory ravioli one of these upcoming weekends if I have time, but I was glad I made some sweet ones in the meantime!


Honeycrisp Apple Ravioli with Pecan Date Filling and Maple Caramel
Serves 4

Caramel:
1/2 cup maple sugar

2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp light agave nectar
2 Tbsp coconut milk (not lite coconut milk)
1 1/2 tsp Earth balance butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp sea salt
Filling:
1/2 cup pecans, toasted
3 large medjool dates, pitted
2 tsp maple syrup
a large pinch of sea salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Spiced Pecans:
1/2 cup pecans
2 tsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp maple sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground chipotle
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

32 very thin apple slices from medium sized tart sweet apples (sliced vertically, so you have circles)

To make caramel, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the sugar, agave nectar and water to a boil, stirring well at first to dissolve the sugar. Turn down the heat to low and cook until the liquid is deep amber in color, about 15-20 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally to ensure even cooking. Remove the pan from heat. Very carefully (the mixture will bubble), stir in the coconut milk, earth balance butter vanilla, maple extract, and sea salt until smooth. Let cool before using.
To make filling, combine all ingredients in the food processor until smooth, and set aside. 
To make spiced nuts, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.  Toss nuts with maple syrup, maple sugar, spices, and sea salt, and spread out on sheet.  Roast until fragrant and toasted about 7-10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool. 
To assemble, spread out half the apple slices on a work surface.  Spoon a heaping tsp filling onto each, and top with another apple slice and press down around edges of apple slices to form "ravioli".  Repeat until you have 16.  To plate, place 4 raviolis on a plate and drizzle with caramel. Top each with spiced nuts, and serve!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Persimmon Orange Flower Water Ice Cream with Pistachio Caramel


It is fuyu persimmon season once again, and I was very happy to get my hands on some!  The lovely tomato like bright orange fruits have such a delicate marshmallow like flavor, I love to simply slice one up and eat it plain.  But I thought they would be wonderful in ice cream!  I thought they would be especially good added to a coconut milk base laced with vanilla and orange flower water, since these are all very delicate flavors. So I got to work and made some! 


The ice cream had a beautiful light orange color, and what was even more beautiful was the flavor!  It tasted like marshmallows with a floral vanilla undertone, and was sweet but not overly so.  It was delicious on its own, but I decided that I wanted to make a pistachio caramel to compliment it.  I thought that the salty flavor of the pistachios would compliment the sweet caramel and ice cream well, as well as be beautiful with the green against the orange.  It was  a nice autumn dessert, and I was glad I tried doing something with the persimmons besides just eating them! 


Persimmon Orange flower water Ice Cream with Pistachio Caramel
Makes about 4 cups of delicious ice cream

Persimmon Ice Cream Base:
3 cups organic full fat coconut milk, chilled
2 ripe organic fuyu persimmons, diced
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp agave nectar
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp orange flower water
1 Tbsp bourbon

To make base, combine all ingredients in a blender, and process until well blended. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to package directions (mine takes about an hour, and is still a little soupy like the consistency of a malt, but firms up in the freezer later). Pour into a freezable container with a lid and place in the freezer for at least a few hours, or overnight to firm up for best results.

Pistachio Caramel:

2 cups organic white granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light agave nectar
1/2 cup coconut milk (not lite coconut milk)
2 T. Earth balance butter
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp sea salt
2 cups pistachios, toasted and salted

To make caramel, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the sugar, agave nectar and water to a boil, stirring well at first to dissolve the sugar. Turn down the heat to low and cook until the liquid is deep amber in color, about 15-20 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally to ensure even cooking. Remove the pan from heat. Very carefully (the mixture will bubble), stir in the coconut milk, earth balance butter vanilla, maple extract, and sea salt until smooth. Let cool before using.  Stir in pistacnios and serve with ice cream!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Vegan Maple Turtle Cake


It is world Vegan month...so I thought, what better way to celebrate, than make a decadent vegan cake!  What first came to mind was a turtle cake...decadent layers of gooey caramel and chocolate laced with pecans and sandwiched between moist chocolate cake...the type that makes you drool just thinking about it. This cake would be inspired by one I had as a child.  My Mom used to take me to a restaurant in St. Paul called Cafe Latte which is famous for their turtle cake, and it is pretty magnificent with all of it's layers.  I always had to have a nice big piece when she took me there.  But of course theirs is not vegan, so I wanted to create my own veganized version of this fabulous cake that tasted just as decadent, and gooey in every way. 

I already had a dark chocolate cake recipe that I was going to use, and a delicious chocolate  fudge frosting, but what was in question was the caramel.  I wanted a maple caramel...I had added maple to the other components of the cake, maple sugar and extract in the cake layers and maple in the frosting.  But I had never made a vegan caramel before, and I was going to try.  I didn't have a specific recipe, and my first attempt failed.  I burned the sugar, and it separated from the coconut oil I had used in place of butter creating a cement like mess in my stockpot...and making me very very frustrated.  But me not being one to give up started over with a new recipe.  This one used coconut milk in place of the heavy cream, and earth balance in place of the butter.  I had my fingers crossed and was praying that it would turn out as I finished it off with the coconut milk...and it did!  It was delicious!  I had forgotten how good home made caramel could be! 


I assembled my cake, and I was so anxious to dive in that it only sat for about as long as it took me to take the photos of it.  It was heavenly...decadent, rich, gooey, the toasted pecans mingled in with the brownie like cake and fudge frosting with the salted maple caramel!  Party in my mouth!  You definately could not tell that it was vegan.  The maple was definatley a good choice to pair with the pecans and chocolate.  If you need a decadent dessert, this would be a must...and I guess you could use store bought caramel if you don't want to deal with making it, just add a little maple extract and sea salt.  Happy Vegan Month!


Vegan Maple Turtle Cake
Makes 1 6 inch 4 layer cake
2 6 inch cake pans

Cake:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use ghirardelli)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt

1 cup maple sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup coconut milk, lite or full fat
1 Tbsp maple extract
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp cider vinegar

Salted Maple Caramel:
2 cups maple sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light agave nectar
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
2 T. Earth balance butter
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp maple extract
2 tsp sea salt

Frosting:
1 1/2 cup agave nectar
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp coconut milk
1 1/2 cups sifted cocoa powder, or more if needed
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp maple extract

2 1/2 cups toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and position rack in center of oven. Line two six-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides with parchment paper. Coat parchment paper and pan sides with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a large bowl to blend well. Whisk oil, coconut milk, maple extract, and vanilla extract together in small bowl to blend well, then whisk into the flour mixture until well blended. Whisk in cider vinegar and stir quickly (pale swirls will be in the batter, which is the baking soda reacting with the vinegar, which allows the cake to rise since there are no eggs). Transfer cake batter to prepared pan and bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on rack, about 1 hour. Cut around sides of pan to loosen. Turn cake out onto platter; peel off parchment paper. Let cool completely, then place in the fridge to chill until very cold to make slicing easier (since cakes with no eggs crumble easier). When chilled, slice cakes horizontally in half so that you have 4 layers. Keep chilled until you are done assembling the cake.
To make caramel, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the sugar, agave nectar and water to a boil, stirring well at first to dissolve the sugar. Turn down the heat to low and cook until the liquid is deep amber in color, about 15-20 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally to ensure even cooking. Remove the pan from heat. Very carefully (the mixture will bubble), stir in the coconut milk, earth balance butter vanilla, maple extract, and sea salt until smooth. Let cool until it is a thicker constency before using on cake (it gets thicker as it cools).
To make frosting, whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl until very smooth, adding more cocoa powder if the frosting is not thick enough, or more coconut milk if too thick. Place a layer of cake on a plate, and spoon about 1/2 cup frosting over, almost to the sides, then scatter with about 1/2 cup of toasted pecans and drizzle with a heaping 1/4 cup caramel.  Top with a another cake layer and repeat. Top with another cake layer, another frosting layer, pecans, caramel, then the top cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and the sides of the cake, and arrange whole pecans decoratively on the top of the cake.  Drizzle with caramel, and let it drip down the sides.

*if you would like a 4 layer 9 inch cake, double this entire recipe and bake in two 9 inch cake pans.