Project Just Desserts: Veganizing Top Chef! Week nine: VEGAN Battleship Chocolate Bundt Cake with Sour Cherry Compote!  »

Does our ninth guest chef really need another introduction? You guys, it’s TERRY HOPE ROMERO! She is a PROFESSIONAL. She wrote her own post! She commented on the episode! She veganized AND personalized the original recipe so you will want to and be able to make it yourself. Did she time her recipe to sync up with National Bundt Pan Day? Possibly, the woman is magic. And here she is!

When Vegansaurus asked me to participate in the veganization of the most recent winning recipe of Just Desserts it was my perfect excuse to pull away from the computer and open up a fresh bag of vegan sugar. And of course vicariously live through the pain and triumph of the contestants, but at home and without the fuss of wearing pants. Who knows, maybe you’re not even wearing pants while reading this post. But I know you like dessert; either way I now salute you with cake.

However, last week’s show was a nightmare of confectionery request: teetering towers of anniversary sponge layers, buckets of fondant and food coloring (oh, Zac), all smothered in mounds of buttercream. Where are the glistening crèmes, chocolate ganache or decadent tortes, Just Desserts? How mean a challenge was that? And don’t get me started on decorating: after baking thousands of cupcakes by now, with a pastry bag full of frosting I don’t often go beyond a swirl or a dollop. Who has precious time to spare when honest, tasty vegan cake is what the world needs right now?

This to-the-point recipe stars a fluffy chocolate cake brushed with brandy syrup. Syrup-brushed cakes stay fresh longer, plus you have the thrill of soaking dessert with booze. I love the easygoing joy of serving cake with ice cream: pair it either with homemade Greek-style frozen soy yogurt, or your favorite vanilla soy or coconut-based ice cream. Chocolate and cherries is a favorite combo of mine too, so the sour cherry compote (also kinda Greeky) stays. It’s the ideal compliment to the sweet cake and tart, gently sweetened soy froyo.

I do like cake, even if I sound a little curmudgeonly, and my preferred way to enjoy it is pure and with a modest touch of creamy or fruity, like in this recipe. The buttercream may be gone, but I’ve kept the “battleship” name in honor of the awesomely strange and bold choice of chef Danielle’s serious grey tint for the frosting of her winning monument to octogenarian love. An unfrosted Bundt cake embodies that certain something—massive, tall, and ready for both love and war. Seriously chocolatey dessert warfare, that is.

Battleship Chocolate Bundt Cake with Sour Cherry Compote
makes one cake; serves 1 cake monster or 12 others
Time: 45 minutes bake, about 10 to mix

A Bundt pan adds a badass sculpted look to this tender, fluffy chocolate cake that gets additional depth from modern-day chocolate soy milk and old-fashioned strongly brewed coffee. Serve naked as-is, or tastefully dress it up with a brushing of brandy syrup and swoosh of sweet & sour cherry compote.

3 Tbsp. finely ground flax seed
1 cup hot, strong-brewed coffee
1¼  chocolate soy or almond milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¾ cup canola oil
1 cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
(tip: Brew extra-strong coffee, stronger than you could actually drink, for a fully flavored cake)

Brandy Syrup
⅓ cup sugar
⅓ cup water
2 Tbsp. brandy (Metaxa is Greek brandy if you want to keep the theme going)

Sour Cherry Compote
8 oz. dried cherries
2 ⅓ cups pomegranate juice drink
1 Tbsp. agave nectar
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and arrange an oven rack in the center of the oven. Spray a 12-cup Bundt cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a large measure cup combine hot coffee and ground flax seed and set aside for 5 minutes, then stir in chocolate soy milk. In a microwave-safe, large bowl melt chocolate at 50 percent power (or melt chocolate over a double boiler, whatever works for you) for 45 seconds to 1 minute, then stir chocolate with a rubber spatula until melted. Stir in canola oil and sugar and mix to thoroughly combine.

In a large mixing bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Form a well in the center, scrape in the chocolate mixture and then pour in about half of the coffee mixture. Mix just enough to moisten ingredients then add remaining coffee mixture, stirring to combine. Do not over mix, only make sure no remaining dry flour mixture remains. Pour batter into the prepared pan, using a spatula to get every last drop from the bowl to the pan. Bake undisturbed (no peeking!) for 45 minutes then test center of cake with a wooden toothpick: toothpick should come out clean—a few crumbs are OK. Do not over-bake cake. Remove cake from oven and cook in pan for 15 minutes. Place a serving plate on top of cake and invert pan, lightly tap top of pan before removing. Allow cake to cool another 10 minutes then brush with brandy syrup. Brush with syrup several times, making sure to cover both outside and insides of Bundt cake.

Brandy Syrup
In a small saucepan bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes until sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat, cool for 2 minutes and stir in brandy.

Cherry Compote
Heat pomegranate drink in a saucepan over medium heat until steaming and simmering. Add cherries, turn off heat, cover and let sit for 30 minutes. In a food processor puree cherries into a chunky mixture with agave nectar and wine vinegar. Taste and adjust sweet/sour flavor with lemon juice and more agave if desired. Compote will thicken slightly as it cools.

Frozen soy yogurt with orange flower water
Serves 4 to 6

In homage to Danielle’s intriguing Greek yogurt ice cream here’s a simple frozen soy yogurt lightly sweetened with agave and flavored with orange flower water. Remember that orange flower water does not taste like oranges: it has a light floral flavor commonly found in Mediterranean sweets. Can’t find it? Omit it and add more vanilla extract (or a little almond extract).

This soy frozen yogurt should be served immediately after freezing in the ice cream maker. If packed and frozen for more than an hour it will get overly hard and require thawing. Either way, this froyo is tart and light; add more agave for a sweeter yogurt or use sweetened plain soy or coconut yogurt.

24 oz. plain soy or coconut yogurt, unsweetened or sweetened
½ cup or more to taste light agave nectar
2 tsp. orange flower water (not orange extract!)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl beat yogurt until smooth, then stir in agave nectar, flower water and vanilla. Taste and adjust sweetness by adding more agave if desired. Freeze according to ice cream maker manufacturer’s instructions, about 25 minutes should suffice for a firm frozen yogurt. Serve immediately with cake and warm compote.

To serve, use a very sharp, think knife to slice cake into thick slices and serve with 2 or 3 generous tablespoons of warm cherry compote and a scoop of frozen yogurt/ice cream. Serve immediately! Great with dark roast drip coffee or strong Greek-style coffee.

Terry Hope Romero bakes her cake, eats it too and likes to pretend she’s cooking on a pirate ship when in her home kitchen base in Queens, NYC. She is co-author of Veganomicon, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar and her most recent book is also her first solo, Viva Vegan! 200 Authentic and Fabulous Recipes for Latin Food Lovers. Visit her at

It’s pumpkin pie brownies, from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar (co-authored by this week’s Just Desserts guest chef, Terry Hope Romero!). You guys, it’s a PUMPKIN PIE on top of PUMPKIN BROWNIES. And today, it’s for breakfast. My head just exploded, goodbye.
[photo by digiyesica]

It’s pumpkin pie brownies, from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar (co-authored by this week’s Just Desserts guest chef, Terry Hope Romero!). You guys, it’s a PUMPKIN PIE on top of PUMPKIN BROWNIES. And today, it’s for breakfast. My head just exploded, goodbye.

[photo by digiyesica]


Top Chef: Just Desserts, episode nine airs tonight, and our ninth chef is revealed!  »

The ninth episode of Top Chef: Just Desserts airs on Bravo tonight (10 Eastern/Pacific), which means that we’re ready to unveil our ninth guest chef who will veganize the episode’s winning dessert! See the first eight here: Chocolate mousse! Mini cheesecakes! Margarita bombes! Toffee brownies! Chocolate cake! Fried pie and ice cream! White chocolate mousse! Panna cotta! Rice Krispy bars coated with chocolate and hazelnut butter! Red hot macarons! DO IT. Our next chef needs no introduction but you know we’re verbose, so:

Terry Hope Romero is fucking amazing! Seriously, she’s already co-authored your favorite vegan cookbooks (That’d be Veganomicon, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar), but she also recently published VegNews' 2010 Book of the Year, Viva Vegan! Seriously, every single one of her cookbooks is The Best Ever. I’d probably bet my life on the fact that you own at least one of her cookbooks. Not only that, her twitter is hilarious and adorable, and everything about her is totally rad. Also, we’ve heard a rumor that her partner in delicious crime, Isa Chandra Moskowitz (OMG the new PPK is beauuutiful!), might be teaming up with her on this one? We are seriously jumping up and down over here, and you know what cynical assholes we are so this is kind of a big deal.

We’re thrilled to see what Terry does with the crazy challenges that Top Chef: Just Desserts throws her way tonight. Luckily, the bon bon challenge below is the Quickfire, so you know we won’t be torturing her with making something that normally takes two days in five minutes. 

[can’t see the video? watch it on!]


Thieving with a vengeance  »

I generally like people to get along. I think it’s nice, and me feeling that way makes it easier for me to believe I’m an OK person. However, every once in a while, something happens that really pisses me off, and I have to talk about it to everyone, and this is happening right now, so I have to tell you about Vegetarian With A Vengeance! ARRRRRG!


We all know the seminal vegan cookbook Vegan With a Vengeance by the talented Isa Chandra Moskowitz, right? Well, it turns out that FIVE YEARS after it was published, Grub Street Publishing in the UK (the owner of the publishing rights to Vegan With a Vengeance in the UK) is releasing Vegetarian With a Vengeance on July 30. That’s right—a vegetarian cookbook with a disingenuously familiar name. What the hell?

Understandably annoyed by this apparent biting, Ms. Moskowitz recently posted about Vegetarian With a Vengeance on her Twitter feed, prompting an outpouring of vegan rage, which overflowed onto Vegetarian With a Vengeance's Amazon page. How has Grub Street responded to the criticism/vegan shitstorm? Oh, only in the most mature and professional manner possible: by posting a poorly written, unclear screed in the discussion thread on the Amazon page. No press release, no post on the company site, no Facebook announcement—no communication of any kind save a few internally inconsistent comments buried within a thread on another company’s website. Clearly, this is a publisher that cares deeply about the vegan and vegetarian community.

It turns out that the book was originally written in Danish, and there’s some debate about whether the Danish title, Vegetarisk Vellyst, translates to Vegetarian With a Vengeance or not. My buddy Ditte, who is Danish (is from/lives in Denmark Danish, not Danish American, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but let’s just say she speaks good Danish), swears up and down that the only really plausible translation is “Vegetarian Delight,” which Google seems to agree with. The publisher swears (in the Amazon thread) that it was the authors who came up with the scurrilous translation and that the publisher snapped it up because they thought it would do well because of its similarity to Ms. Moskowitz’s book’s name—not that they intended to ride her coattails or anything. In any event, it seems clear that Grub Street was attempting to capitalize on the association the creatively translated title would buy them with Vegan With a Vengeance, even if it’s unclear who did the actual creative translating (you all can wade through the Amazon discussion and draw your own conclusions—I’m not your mom!).

The whole thing is a confusing, frustrating, dumb mess, and it’s really sad to see. Not to be all starfucker or anything, but I know Isa. She’s a nice person who is a great cook and writes fucking awesome recipes. She’s generous with her time and her recipes, but more than that, she’s an example for all vegan cookbook authors out there when it comes to being a good member of the vegan community, giving credit where it’s due (example here), and dealing with conflict in a responsible way. Not to say that we should canonize Ms. Moskowitz, but I’m left wondering why it was too much to ask that the people looking to make a profit in vegan (or vegetarian) dollars treat the people in the community with a little respect.

I’m really happy to see all the vegan books coming down the pike. It’s awesome that there are so many great options out there, with more being released every day, and I’m really happy for the authors of these books. But I’m also worried, and incidents like this make me more so. It’s great that businesses are figuring out that vegan money spends just as green as, um, other money, but it’s not as great that businesses are figuring out how to exploit the vegan community to make a quick buck. Veg publishing is, apparently, a business worth getting into these days, and I’m worried that I’m going to start seeing other vegan authors taking hits from shady publishing houses, or unscrupulous vegan authors who “borrow” recipes unattributed and unchecked by their publishers. And don’t even get me started on authors who back out of their publishing contracts six days before printing, causing the only all-vegan publishing venture I was aware of to decide that maybe the book business isn’t the way to go, costing all future vegan authors the possibility of an all-vegan ethical-as-fuck publisher. All this is to say: ugh. Can we please just get some fucking unity in the fucking scene?

Because that’s really it, right? Being vegan (and vegetarian to an extent) means being a conscientious consumer. It means abstaining from the products that come from the death or suffering or stealing from another living thing. I guess we’ve been lucky that we could mostly take for granted that buying a veg cookbook was a pretty safe bet, ethically speaking—until now. Dig a little deeper when you’re putting down your hard-earned dollars, and let’s give our money to the people who are interested in doing the right thing, not making a quick buck. We have this amazing luxury in that we can pick and choose what vegan books we want to support, so let’s (non-dairy) milk it for all its worth! We may not all agree on which authors/publishers/books are the best choices, but the point is that the thinking about it and putting in the effort is a worthwhile thing to do. For the vegans, for the animals, let’s do this!


Viva Viva Vegan!  »

Vegan Chile Rellenos. That’s right, I said VEGAN CHILE RELLENOS.

I am talking, of course, about the new book from Terry Romero (co-author of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and the Veganomicon and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar), Viva Vegan! Turns out it’s now available for pre-order (and it’s cheap! Under $13! Recession-friendly!)!

I have it on good authority that the recipes are the bomb-diggity-ass-shizz and are going to revolutionize kitchens across the world. Being Canadian, I can’t cook Latin-style food for beans (har!), but I sure can eat it! I can’t think of a better person than Terry to help the masses break free from the bondage of taquerias and crappy boxed taco kits, so pre-order away, and free yourselves!

The only down side is that the book won’t be actually released until Apr. 27, 2010; in the meantime, keep your eye on Terry’s new website and hope for sample recipes!

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