February 2009 Archives

Mardi Gras King Cake

kingcake1.jpgIf you were to have asked me about Mardi Gras 10 years ago, my likely response would have been "meh". I just didn't care - out here in California there aren't any big parades, I'm not Catholic, and no one I knew "celebrated" it in any way.

Enter Tori.

In college I met a lot of people, but not one more obsessed with all things "Fat Tuesday" than Tori. Masks, beads, Carnaval, king cake - the whole nine yards. Slowly I was turned from someone who didn't care into someone who loved one more reason to celebrate life and party down.

In the last few years, my celebration has evolved from "just another party" to a full blown southern feast, with vegetarian versions of southern favorites, including jambalaya, greens, corn bread, grits, drinks like hurricanes and juleps, and the aforementioned king cake. It's a simple recipe, and decorated it really stands out and makes a great centerpiece.

King Cake - Traditional New Orleans Recipe
(From Tori)


1/2 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees - not boiling)
2 tablespoons (or packages) active dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
3 1/2 - 4 1/2 cups flour, unsifted
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup warm milk
5 egg yolks
1 stick butter cut into slices and softened, plus 2 tablespoons more softened butter
1 egg slightly beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1" plastic baby doll, plastic coin, or other trinket


Pour the warm water into a small shallow bowl, and sprinkle in yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar. Allow the yeast and sugar to rest for three minutes then mix thoroughly. Set bowl in a warm place for ten minutes, or until yeast bubbles up. Combine 3 1/2 cups of flour, remaining sugar, nutmeg and salt, and sift into a large mixing bowl. Separate center of mixture to form a hole and pour in yeast mixture and milk. Add egg yolks and, using a wooden spoon, slowly combine dry ingredients into the yeast/milk mixture. When mixture is smooth, beat in 8 tablespoons softened butter (1 tablespoon at a time) and continue to beat 2 minutes, or until dough can be formed into a medium-soft ball. If you have a bread machine or stand mixer, you can combine ingredients using the method you prefer.

Place ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and knead like bread. While kneading, sprinkle up to 1 cup more of flour (1 tablespoon at a time) over the dough. When dough is no longer sticky, knead 10 minutes more until shiny and elastic. The dough should hold together, not be sticky, but not be overly floury or stiff either.

kingcake2.jpgUsing a pastry brush, coat the inside of a large bowl evenly with one tablespoon softened butter. Place dough ball in the bowl and rotate until the entire surface is buttered. Cover bowl with a moderately thick kitchen towel and place in a draft-free spot for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the dough doubles in volume.

Using your pastry brush, coat a large baking sheet with one tablespoon of butter and set aside. Remove dough from bowl and place on lightly floured surface. Punch dough down, and re-knead to form a ball. Form dough ball into a cylinder, about 1 1/2 to 2 feet long, and form it into a large circular or oblong ring on the baking sheet. Sprinkle cinnamon over the top. Place ring in draft-free spot for 45 minutes, or until the circle of dough doubles in volume.

kingcake3.jpgPreheat oven to 375 degrees.

Brush top and sides (including inside) of dough with egg wash and bake on middle rack of oven for 25 to 35 minutes until golden brown, careful not to overcook. Cool on wire rack. If desired, you can hide the plastic baby or other trinket in the cake at this time.


1 box (16oz) powdered sugar, or just under 4cups
1/2 cup to 1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Food coloring to make yellow, green and purple icing
Sugar, for garnish

Pour sugar into a large bowl, add vanilla, then slowly add milk until sugar is incorporated. Icing should resemble very thick paste and be a similar consistency - if too thin, add more powdered sugar. Otherwise, it won't stick well to the cake.

kingcake4.jpgOnce mixed to desired consistency, separate icing into three parts (use glass bowls or disposable plastic cups). Color each small batch with approximately 20-25 drops of coloring, ratios per directions on box. Colors should be very bright and vivid. Usually Yellow and Green are included. For purple, combine 15 drop red and 10 drops blue. Pour colored icing onto cooled cake, alternating colors as desired. To garnish, combine 1 tablespoon sugar with small amount of food coloring, and mix in a very small container with a toothpick until desired share is reached. Apply to appropriate section of cake.

kingcake5.jpgNotes and observations: After writing all that out, I realized that when I said "simple" above, I mean for people have some experience baking. If separating eggs, proofing dough, and mixing your own icing colors seem daunting (they were to me when I started baking), come back to this recipe when you're ready.

You can ice the cake on a baker's rack so the excess drips into oblivion - I happen to think, however, that the pooled icing is both a) delicious and b) neat-looking when it comes together on the pan. But it's your cake.

The bready nature of this cake means that it won't do well sitting out for long - don't bake it more than a day before you plan on eating it. You'll also want to decorate it just a few hours before you serve it - that gives the icing time to set some, but not enough to get hard. The cake goes well with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream to balance textures. Enjoy!

Thank you, Little Caesar's!

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I must say that I haven't been to a Little Caesar's in a LONG time - but back in the day, their $5 pizzas were a mainstay in our household. That said, I might start going back, because they're all kinds of awesome for having this kind of information on their website:

Vegetarian Options at Little Caesars
Little Caesars wants to help meet the growing needs of our vegetarian customers and offers them many appropriate menu choices. Vegetarian diets that allow dairy products can easily be planned to meet nutritional adequacy using any of the Little Caesars vegetarian-style pizzas. Little Caesars pizzas can be ordered with cheese-only or with any of our fresh vegetable toppings including onions, green peppers, and tomato slices. Mushrooms, ripe olives, and pineapples are also available toppings. Banana pepper rings can be added to give some "zip" to any vegetable-topped pizza.

Please note: Topping selection varies by location. Visit your local Little Caesars Pizza restaurant for topping availability.

For the Strict Vegetarian Diet (Vegan Diet)

A strict vegetarian diet requires a little more planning for nutritional adequacy because it may require special conditions such as no animal by-products. Little Caesars' pizza crust is made with a quality, high-protein flour and contains no animal products or by-products. The sauce is made from crushed tomatoes and is seasoned with a special blend of herbs and spices - it also is made without animal by-products. This means that customers who are strict vegetarians can order a Little Caesars vegetable pizza, without cheese, and still fulfill their needs.

There are other items that can be special-ordered from our menu that are acceptable for a strict vegetarian diet. For example, Crazy Bread® can be ordered without Parmesan cheese along with an order of Crazy Sauce® on the side.

If every restaurant (especially chains!) had a page like this on their site, my life would be much, much simpler. It doesn't take much to make me happy: Know what "vegetarian" and "vegan" mean, and tell me, simply, what's in your food. Little Caesar's does it perfectly.

Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting


I wasn't planning on making more cupcakes this week, but the tiny little cupcake tins I found at the store inspired me. I decided also to finally try the "madeira" recipe from my cake decorating book. It was simpler than most of the rest, and looked good and standard (though it turned out a little dry).

Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

1 cup (two sticks) butter, softened
1 cup superfine sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar, then add eggs and beat together. Add vanilla. Combine remaining dry ingredients, and add, about one quarter at a time, to wet ingredients until combined. Stir in peanut butter until mixed.


If making cakes, add batter to one 9"x13" pan, or two 8" or 9" round pans, and bake for 35-45 minutes, until done (cake is done when a toothpick or knife stuck in the thickest part comes out clean). For cupcakes, fill papers 2/3rds full and bake 12-18 minutes, depending on size. Remove and let cool before frosting.


1 stick butter
2-3 cups powdered sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
1/2 cup (or more) cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
Chocolate syrup or milk, to taste/desired consistency

In a large bowl, use electric mixer to combine sugar and cocoa powder until integrated. Add vanilla. If thicker frosting is desired, add more sugar; if thinner, add chocolate syrup or milk. Using a knife or pastry bag, apply frosting to top of cakes or cupcakes.

I had 36 mini papers, and enough batter left over to make eight "regular" size cupcakes (each about 4x larger than the minis), so the total yield here is between 60 and 72 mini, or 15-18 regular sized cupcakes.


Thoughts and Advice: I found the cupcakes very good, but a little dry. They weren't at all crumbly, but they didn't stick to the wrappers (paper or foil) and didn't have the moistness I was looking for. If I made them again, I might use oil instead of butter in the batter, or splash in some milk. I also found the thick batter very difficult to handle at first (It wouldn't drop in cleanly with a spoon), so on my girlfriend's advice, I made a makeshift pastry bag and that worked fantastically. I garnished some of the cupcakes with crushed peanuts and/or a half peanut stuck in the frosting, and that looked nice and let people know what they were in for. If you make this recipe, I'd love to hear how it comes out!

Not every post has to be a long one

Reading other food blogs, I think I've convinced myself that every post has to be long, detailed, and filled with pictures of the cooking process (or at least an end product). While those are great (and you'll see plenty here), I need to remember that sometimes, I just want to write about what I'm doing (or not doing) and what's good to eat.

All that said, I hate neglecting a blog I just started, but the household got some crazy cold/flu thing two weeks ago, and it really hasn't gone away, yet. That tends to diminish my desire to cook and bake, especially in a documented way. But we are getting better, and there are parties and holidays coming up, so watch for:

Something about all this Amish Friendship Bread we've been making. The Amish don't have telephones or email, so their chain letters involve dough.

King Cake. Last year I got an authentic New Orleans King Cake as a gift from Tori, but this year, I'm making my own (again - I did it in 2006 and 2007, I think).

OC Mexican restaurants. When I was writing at the LAV blog, I started a series on finding good, authentic-tasting Mexican restaurants that had vegetarian beans, rice, tortillas and chips. I'll continue with that pipe dream.

Thanks for reading, and let me know what you want to see here!

In search of the perfect (cup)cake


When I was in high school, gourmet cuisine was not on the menu. This isn't to say the food wasn't enjoyable - the chili billies (corn chips with a thin chili and too much cheese) still hold a special place in my heart. But the best item at the cafeteria seemed so simple, but to this day, I still can't replicate it.

The chocolate cake.

By the time I saw these little gems, they were tightly wrapped in cling wrap, an almost-black, super dense cake and bright white, super smooth frosting. Stacked in piles, each piece - 3" by 3" by 2" - could be had for $0.50, if my rose-colored memory is working correctly. Somehow, the clear wrap never stuck to either the frosting or cake, and both were gooey without being messy. Truly a wonderful (and likely very caloric) way to end one's school lunch.

Fast forward to now - I consider myself a fairly accomplished baker, and have a good idea of the chemistry involved in cake making. I prefer cupcakes for a variety of reasons, but no matter how I try, I can't seem to replicate the school cafeteria recipe. In my memory, at least, the cakes were very dense, almost oily, and didn't crumble at all. They were obviously made in a large sheet, but (perhaps due to their denseness) there wasn't a "rise" or consistency change on the top of any pieces (they were all flat-topped). The frosting was more like a cream cheese than a buttercream, but I have a feeling the fat was all oil. It was also quite sweet, and while it didn't drip down the sides, it wasn't stiff in the least.

I've tried scratch recipes and boxed mixes. I've replaced butter with oil and added sour cream, yogurt, and mayonnaise in varying amounts (mayonnaise is awesome in baking - really). My target cake was always cooked through, but I've even tried lower temps and shorter cooking times. All I've gotten are very delicious cupcakes that are wonderfully dissimilar from what I'm looking for.


What do you think? Hints, suggestions, advice? If you're looking to try something close, head over to Los Amigos High in Fountain Valley - they might still sell them. Otherwise, Sprinkles Cupcakes in Newport has a density that's close, but not exact (but good nonetheless). I'm sure I can figure out the frosting, but there's no point until I figure out the cake.

Welcome to TofuFighting.com!

Oh, hello.

While this is the first post on the new food blog, I feel like I'm just returning from a short time off. For about a year and a half, I wrote the occasionally food-related Liberal Atheist Vegetarian blog at the OC Register. That was a mix of food, religion and politics, and most of the "Food" was restaurant and product news and reviews. While those things will surely show up here, We're gonna talk recipes, ingredients, food finds, and a host of other things too.

So, yes, hello.

It's not that I need another blog, it's that I just love food. And from what I can gather about other food bloggers, we're all voyeurs, and love taking a peek in each other's kitchens, so to speak. So here I am. Believe you me there'll be a post as "food photos/writing as porn" someday soon.

On that topic, this space will hopefully serve to help me improve my food photography, which I've always thought was lacking. Well, there's plenty of time for that, surely.

This is a work in progress, so if there's something you like, or would like to see, let me know. If you're a food blogger yourself, we'll share links to each other and everyone will be happy. Thanks for reading, happy eating, and let's get going!

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This page is an archive of entries from February 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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