So I've been making a lot of cakes recently.
And it's been a lot of fun.
But there has been one minor glitch. My son hasn't been able to eat any of the cakes I've been making. You see, he has food allergies. Dairy and eggs are included in those allergies. Which completely rules out most traditional cakes and all of the meringue buttercreams I have been making.
I make plenty of things that he can eat, but I have been promising him that I will try to make him a fancy cake, like those he's been watching me make, that is completely safe for him.
Today was the day I decided to go for it.
But apparently the vegan-baking-deities were not on my side.
I started by making my cake layers. I prepared my pans as usual, except that I was trying to save a few minutes, so I skipped using parchment rounds in the bottom of my pans. I sprayed them well and figured I'd be okay.
Umm... yeah, the entire bottom of the cakes stuck to the pans.
No problem... I'll try to piece it back together.
Umm... nope. Never mind. Didn't even try that with the second layer. Hmm...
The next step was the vegan meringue buttercream.
Now, meringue buttercream has two main ingredients. Egg whites and butter. Both out when going vegan. Instead of egg whites, vegan meringue uses aquafaba - the liquid most people dump out from cans of beans (garbanzo, in my case). It takes some time, but it whips up to a light and airy meringue and can be used as an egg replacement in many recipes. As for the butter, there are plenty of non-dairy butter alternatives. All of the recipes for vegan buttercream that I read recommended either 100% palm-oil shortening or Earth Balance sticks (rather than spread). I couldn't find the shortening in my grocery store, but did find the Earth Balance, so that was what I went with.
To make Italian meringue buttercream, the egg whites (or aquafaba) is whipped to stiff peaks while a sugar and water syrup is cooked to a specific temperature in a pot.
Here is where fail #2 came into play.
Apparently my candy thermometer is broken. And I didn't know it. So while I was waiting for the thermometer to let me know that my sugar syrup had reached 240 degrees, turns out my sugar had way surpassed the soft ball stage that that temperature indicates and... well... yeah. I didn't take pictures of that part. But I had to scrap that sugar, scrub my pot and try again, this time making an educated guess as to the temperature of my syrup, knowing that my thermometer would not be a help.
The second attempt at the meringue seemed to work, so I whipped it all up, added in my "butter" and... had frosting!
Now white-on-white cakes don't necessarily look all that dynamic in photos...
But it came together alright, despite the issues I'd been having...
I mean... it looks like a cake, right?
All unassuming and cake-y?
You can kind of see the uneven layers and what not, but... it's a cake!
And then it was time for dessert.
Both kids started off excited. Both said it was pretty good.
Then, after a few more bites... they both opted to skip dessert.
That's right, my children chose no dessert over this cake.
That is not exactly a promising sign.
I finished both of their pieces. Because... it's still cake. The cake itself was okay - plain, not a lot of flavor, uneven texture... and the buttercream, while smooth and silky like "regular" Italian meringue buttercream, tasted a bit salty and a bit... well, like the Earth Balance spread. The cake and the frosting together taste better than either one component on its own, but even still, it wasn't a hit here.
So today's adventure didn't work out like I'd hoped.
I'll keep trying.
And for my vegan baking needs, I'll stick to this chocolate cake that my family loves. At least until I can find a better layering-cake recipe. I'll also have to play with alternative butter substitutes if I want to try the vegan meringue buttercream again...
Live and learn.