The Midsummer Failure Cake and Other Stories

The Midsummer Failure Cake and Other Stories | http://BananaBloom.com

As much as I would love for my baking projects to always go smoothly, reality is far from it. Failures happen, disasters are faced, and lessons are learned. This is the story of the midsummer failure cake, and other stories of my more recent baking failures.

The Midsummer Failure Cake and Other Stories | http://BananaBloom.com

A natural consequence of sharing photos of the sweets I make is that friends and family start to submit polite baking requests.

Well, I suppose “OMG I WANT” is about as polite as it gets when someone is suddenly overcome with an intense craving. I admit my responsibility in provoking these feelings in people (follow me on Instagram at your own risk).

I love making people happy, and few things are as quick to bring on the smiles as whipping out a plate of gingerbread truffles.

But as much as I enjoy baking, it doesn’t come without its bouts of anguish. Oh, my faint little heart has been through a lot in my attempts to bake things perfectly. Not to mention forgetting to breathe while trying to transport a delicate cake to a party.

And sometimes my projects fail completely. It sucks every time that happens, but usually I can figure out what went wrong and try again. However, when you’re hustling to get a dessert ready for delivery, a failure isn’t just a lesson learned, it’s a fucking disaster.

The Midsummer Failure Cake

Midsummer this year we were invited to a friend’s house to celebrate. As is tradition, I was in charge of the strawberry cake.

Mistake number one was when I decided to try a new recipe for the occasion. The idea was picture perfect – a tiered sponge cake layered with a white chocolate strawberry mousse, covered in frosting and decorated with fresh strawberries.

The sponge came out perfect, the mousse was looking good, it was during the assembly that everything went straight to shit. As I took the cake out of the spring form on the morning of the party, I quickly became aware of the fact that my mousse had not set. It was squeezing out between the layers of cake and pooling around the base of it at an alarming speed. I had spent three days making the different components of the cake, and we were scheduled to be at the party in an hour. There was nothing I could do but try my best to cover up the mess with fresh strawberries and hope it would at least taste good.

Related: Strawberry & Peach Midsummer Cake

Imagine then how I felt when we got to the party and I found that the parents of the host – who run a successful and famous bakery in England – were visiting. They’d been informed, with enthusiasm, that I was the passionate baker who would be bringing dessert. As my failed cake was finally unveiled, I could hardly believe the irony of what I was looking at. Not only was it set in a puddle of mousse, during transport it had also incurred three tectonic cracks across the top.

Related: Strawberry Cheesecake Truffles

We had to use spoons to scoop it out of the spring form and serve the gloppy mess in bowls. It was one of the ugliest and most delicious cakes I’ve ever made.

The Midsummer Failure Cake and Other Stories | http://BananaBloom.comThis is the only photo I got of the cake, and it honestly makes it look a lot better than it was. Notice the big cracks across the top?

That time I tried to make vegan Toffifee

My most recent baking failure was when my sister asked me to make her a vegan version of Toffifee (caramel and nougat candies). Easy, I thought. Nope, ridiculously tiring. Allow me to illustrate with photographs how this one went.

The Midsummer Failure Cake and Other Stories | http://BananaBloom.com

True to its usual turn of events, it all started so well. The caramel didn’t boil over, I expertly filled the little aluminum forms without much spill, and dropped a perfectly roasted hazelnut in each one.

The Midsummer Failure Cake and Other Stories | http://BananaBloom.com

With finesse, I dripped melted nougat over each caramel. It was at this point that my curiosity induced me to peel the aluminum off of one of the caramels. Only it didn’t peel off. The caramel was stuck to the tantalisingly cute heart shaped form like a tongue to a frozen pole.

Cue lengthly slur of cursing.

The Midsummer Failure Cake and Other Stories | http://BananaBloom.com

I had a day to salvage this and get it right before I was meeting my sister to deliver the candy. So I decided to give it a second attempt. I ran out and bought new ingredients and a praline form sure to circumvent any efforts from the caramel to attach itself.

And sure enough, I got the sweets out of the form without problem – success! In the fridge they went, ready for delivery the next day.

The Midsummer Failure Cake and Other Stories | http://BananaBloom.com

I woke up the next morning to find that my Toffifee had decided to unite in an amoebic form. And in its team effort, it was reluctant to release its sticky grip from the parchment paper beneath it.

Nevertheless, I handed over the single-celled Toffifee to my sister with instructions to use a knife, blunt force, and perhaps the aid of a freezer. I figure the effort for the reward is worth it, because at least it tasted really good.

I’d love to hear about your baking mishaps (I know I’m not alone in this) – share your story in the comments!

Vegan Brownies – On a mission to make the best

Vegan Brownies | http://BananaBloom.com #vegan #brownies

Is it possible to make vegan brownies and get that gooey centre, that crisp outer, and those crunchy corner pieces? Of course it is! Here’s how to make tasty yum vegan brownies.

Vegan Brownies | http://BananaBloom.com #vegan #brownies

I’m on a mission.

A mission to make the best vegan brownies. And this is just the beginning of it.

This recipe makes froykin’ delicious vegan brownies. But, being the undying perfectionist that I am, you can be sure I will be continuing to perfect this recipe until I am certain it has reached best status (and then of course I’ll share that recipe too!)

Vegan Brownies | http://BananaBloom.com #vegan #browniesGet your ingredients together

Now, seeing as these vegan brownies already are totally #flawless, then what exactly are my requirements for a best brownie? Ah, well. You see, I happened to grow up in a home where brownies were a staple. And nobody makes brownies like my mama.

Slightly chewy texture
Gooey centre
Crunchy and crispy on top

The best.

Vegan Brownies | http://BananaBloom.com #vegan #brownies

This recipe is 99 percent of all that good stuff, but I intend to make it 100 percent. So while you wait for me to Einstein this into perfectionism, you go ahead and make these. Because, have you looked at the photos? I thought so.

Vegan Brownies | http://BananaBloom.com #vegan #brownies

Vegan Brownies

1 3/4 cup (4 dl) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp chia seeds + 4 Tbsp water
4 oz (100 grams) dark chocolate (70%), finely chopped
1 cup (2 dl) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 banana, mashed
3 Tbsp vegan butter
1/4 cup water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup (3.5 dl) sugar (I used a mix of cane and brown sugar)

Directions

  1. Set the oven to 350 F (175 C) and line a oven proof dish with parchment paper (about 5 x 11 inches | 13 x 28 cm).
  2. Mix the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium sized bowl, set aside.
  3. Stir together the chia seeds and water in a small bowl, set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients until combined. Add the chia seed mix and beat with an electric beater until completely combined.
  5. Add the flour to the wet batter and stir together with a spatula or wooden spoon until just combined. The batter will be very thick, more like a dough.
  6. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and use a spoon or spatula to press it into the pan, making sure you press it into the corners.
  7. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, allow to cool on a rack before cutting it into squares. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Enjoy!

Vegan Brownies | http://BananaBloom.com #vegan #browniesBrownies before they hit the oven

Vegan Brownies | http://BananaBloom.com #vegan #brownies

How do you like your brownies – crunchy on top and chewy in the middle, topped with frosting, in a bowl with vanilla ice cream?

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Veggie in Gothenburg – Happy Vegan

Happy Vegan - veggie in Gothenburg | http://BananaBloom.com #vegetarian #veggie #Gothenburg

Part two of my veggie in Gothenburg mini series. I stopped by the newly opened Happy Vegan while visiting Gothenburg. Happy Vegan is an all vegan grocery store packed to the brim with all the vegan products you could possibly want and need.

Happy Vegan - veggie in Gothenburg | http://BananaBloom.com #vegetarian #veggie #Gothenburg

I’m not going to try to downplay how excited I was to have the opportunity to check out Happy Vegan during my recent trip to Gothenburg. They opened just a week before my arrival to the city and have already stirred up a little bit of a buzz about them.

Happy Vegan

Happy Vegan is a grocery store that is – as the name suggests – all vegan. The three dudes behind the store – Sebastian Palmdahl, Daniel Hugin, and Mikael Tronvik – saw the need for a vegan grocer in Gothenburg and took the opportunity to make it a reality.

Happy Vegan - veggie in Gothenburg | http://BananaBloom.com #vegetarian #veggie #Gothenburg

The store itself is like a miniature version of Whole Foods, if Whole Foods were all vegan. And although small, the store stocks everything you need (even if you’re not vegan). Those familiar with Stockholm’s Goodstore (vegan and organic shop) will feel a sense of recognition at Happy Vegan.

Happy Vegan - veggie in Gothenburg | http://BananaBloom.com #vegetarian #veggie #Gothenburg

Happy Vegan - veggie in Gothenburg | http://BananaBloom.com #vegetarian #veggie #Gothenburg

Happy Vegan - veggie in Gothenburg | http://BananaBloom.com #vegetarian #veggie #Gothenburg

The shop was busy with customers when I stopped by, and it’s obvious the trio behind the store have put in a massive effort to stock their shelves full of as many “rare” vegan products as possible. And they’re eager to keep adding to their range. I overheard the friendly cashier chatting to several customers about wish lists and suggestions.

Perhaps most exciting is that they’ve introduced a vegan version of a concept that is very dear to us Swedes – pick n’ mix (or to Swedes: “Lösviktsgodis”). I’ve long waited for my local Goodstore to introduce a wall of vegan pick n’ mix, but it seems Happy Vegan beat them to it.

Happy Vegan - veggie in Gothenburg | http://BananaBloom.com #vegetarian #veggie #Gothenburg

Happy Vegan - veggie in Gothenburg | http://BananaBloom.com #vegetarian #veggie #Gothenburg

Regardless of if you’re craving candy, a vegan frozen pizza, or running low on tofu, Happy Vegan are SO worth a visit. Go give these guys a high five for their enthusiasm. You can find them at HappyVegan.se, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

What’s one vegan product you always struggle to find, or wish your grocery store would stock?

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Why I Won’t Call Myself Vegan Anymore

Why I Won't Call Myself Vegan Anymore | http://BananaBloom.com #vegan #plantbased

I keep most animal products off my plate, but I’ve recently come to the conclusion that something has to change. Here’s why I won’t call myself vegan anymore.

Why I Won't Call Myself Vegan Anymore | http://BananaBloom.com #vegan #plantbased

A little over two years ago I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives and decided it was time. Time for me to go vegan for the second time in my life.

The first time I went vegan was some time back in 2006 after reading the book Skinny Bitch, which advocated a vegan diet for health and a banging hot body. I was 18 years old and yes, a book called Skinny Bitch convinced me. That first time, I stuck to it for a couple of years but for a variety of reasons, I ended up back on a healthy but not entirely plant based diet up until that fateful night of documentary watching two years ago.

A lot has changed since my first stretch of eating plant based. People have become a lot more familiar with the characteristics of a vegan diet. It’s easier to, for instance, order a vegan dish at almost any restaurant since vegan dietary preferences are more widely recognised. But with this widespread understanding of veganism comes – in my experience – an uncomfortable scrutiny.

There’s something about publicly outing you’re following a certain type of diet that provokes people into making your food consumption their business.

Calling myself vegan felt like the easiest way of explaining that I was attempting to (for the most part) cut animal products out of my diet. It beat having to dish out a harangue of scenarios in which I sometimes make exceptions, when or how these special cases might occur, and then defend said deviations.

I soon came to realise that by labelling myself vegan, I was painting myself into a corner. One that was surrounded by an extremely questioning and judgemental audience. If ever someone saw me eating something potentially non-vegan, I would be met with burrowed eyebrows and what felt like an interrogation:

“Have you checked that there’s not milk or eggs in that?”

“Why are you eating that? It’s not vegan!”

“But, I thought you were vegan?!”

Having your meal scrutinised by your dining company would make even the most self-assured of us feel uncomfortable. Not to mention exhausted from constantly being asked to defend or explain yourself. But for me, it’s absolutely agonising. Every time someone points their finger at my food and stares at me with question in their eyes, they might as well be saying “WHY ARE YOU EATING?!” as if satiating my hunger is some completely twisted behaviour.

For many years now, I have been acutely aware of, and concerned with, others perception of me. I do what I think is expected of me and am painfully guilt ridden when I discover I have disappointed someone or acted in a way that is contradictory to what they expect from me.

One aspect of my anxiety is that I often feel awkward and uncomfortable when dining in social situations. And adding the observation that has come with (sometimes) eating vegan has made me even more uneasy sharing meals with people.

I’ve come to the conclusion that something needs to change in order for me to work towards freedom from being “on guard” whenever I’m eating in the company of someone else. And for me, that change means not calling myself vegan anymore.

Yes, I eat plant based or “vegan” most of the time, but I will not label myself vegan, vegetarian, or anything else for that matter. I eat food. Just like everyone else. And what I choose to eat is nobody’s concern but my own.

What are your thoughts on this – have you had your meals scrutinised by your company?

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Veggie eating in Gothenburg – Happy M Kitchen

Happy M Kitchen - veggie eating in Gothenburg | http://BananaBloom.com #vegetarian #veggie #Gothenburg

During a recent visit to Gothenburg I took the opportunity to try out some veggie restaurants and cafés. First out from my veggie eating in Gothenburg is a little review of Happy M Kitchen. 

Happy M Kitchen - veggie eating in Gothenburg | http://BananaBloom.com #vegetarian #veggie #Gothenburg

I stayed at a hotel during my weekend in Gothenburg, meaning I had breakfast covered, but had to venture out for the remainder of the days’ meals. This afforded me the opportunity to try some veggie spots I’d scoped out.

On my first evening in Gothenburg, I decided to grab dinner at Happy M Kitchen. Their menu sounded really good and it was only about a 20 minute walk from my hotel.

Happy M Kitchen

Happy M Kitchen - veggie eating in Gothenburg | http://BananaBloom.com #vegetarian #veggie #Gothenburg

Happy M Kitchen is a rather small restaurant with a cosy atmosphere and dimly lit dining room. They’re open all day and serve breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. Their fridge was stocked with juices, smoothies, chia pudding, and raw cakes. And their dinner menu offered starters, mains, and desserts (they have several vegan options).

Happy M Kitchen - veggie eating in Gothenburg | http://BananaBloom.com #vegetarian #veggie #Gothenburg

Happy M Kitchen - veggie eating in Gothenburg | http://BananaBloom.com #vegetarian #veggie #Gothenburg

Happy M Kitchen - veggie eating in Gothenburg | http://BananaBloom.com #vegetarian #veggie #Gothenburg

Being indecisive as usual about what I wanted to eat, I decided to get two starters so I could try more than one thing. The waiter assured me that two starters would be the equivalent of a main (I would later find that I did not agree).

I opted for the vegan Caesar salad with tempeh and the nachos with hummus. I got my meals to go as I wanted to indulge in the romantic image in my head of enjoying take away with Netflix on fluffy hotel sheets.

Happy M Kitchen - veggie eating in Gothenburg | http://BananaBloom.com #vegetarian #veggie #Gothenburg

I’d never had a vegan Caesar salad before, but this one was absolutely delicious! And much to my disappointment, the starter size was of course way too small (especially when I’d discovered how tasty it was). Thankfully, I had the nachos with hummus to go with it, and as simple as nachos and hummus is, they were also very good.

Bottom line – don’t make the same mistake as me kids. Two starters is not going to be enough, get two mains instead. Trust me, you’ll be happy you ordered double once you taste how delicious Happy M Kitchen’s food is.

Happy M Kitchen - veggie eating in Gothenburg | http://BananaBloom.com #vegetarian #veggie #Gothenburg

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