Polar Express Gingerbread Train

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Merry Christmas! I hope you’re spending holidays with loved ones doing the things you love. I’ve been doing a lot of sewing – which I enjoy like meditation – and today I’m in the kitchen. No doubt for most of the day! I’m not one to sit down much. Creating something special for my family puts me in the holidays spirit.

 

IMG_6820Every year, I’m tempted to make a gingerbread train with my special cake pan and it often goes not quite as planned. I considered making other plans but my kids are getting older and I don’t know how much longer the Polar Express will excite them. So this year, I took no chances with the cake, I greased it meticulously and it came out perfectly. I used wax paper and vegan butter to make sure I got butter into every groove.

The cake pan is very detailed so the cake itself looks pretty when plain. I made a simple glaze and then decorated it with Skittles, sprinkles and icing sugar to give it a good dusting of snow.

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We don’t have much snow outside – enough to cover the walkways but not enough to cover the grass – this snowy scene may be the best we get this Christmas! The Christmas trees are cutouts we made recently, covered with glaze, Skittles and dusted with icing sugar.

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The cake is the gingerbread cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World. The glaze is simple (1 cup of icing sugar and 3 Tbsps of water with a drop of lemon extract).

Happy holidays everyone! And best wishes for a joyful new year!

 

Gingersnaps and shortbread with chocolate ganache

It’s crunch time. Any Christmas favourites that don’t get made this week will have to wait until next year! So here’s what I’ve been up to. These are two of my family’s favourites: gingersnaps and shortbread cookies.

Gingersnaps may not be pretty but they are easy to whip up. They’re crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside with a real ginger kick. They are the best.

gingersnap cookies

For the shortbread, I opted for something a little more special. I made the cookie dough, piped it through my icing bag with a big tip and while they were baking, made some ganache to top the cookies with.

vegan shortbread

I used half of the cookie dough to make these spiral beauties and spread the rest in a round cake pan to make unadorned shortbread for my son. He’s not a big fan of chocolate.

The recipes come from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar: 100 Dairy-Free Recipes for Everyone’s Favorite Treats. If you like cookies or live with little ones who do, you’ll appreciate the variety of recipes in this book. There’s even a number of gluten-free options throughout.

I have a few more cookies on my list but I’ll be making them with the kids. We’ll need to make sugar cookies in Christmas shapes to decorate. We started our gingerbread houses this weekend but we haven’t decorated them yet.

The kids have school all week so it will be tight for us to fit in all the fun we want to do before Christmas. But I’m sure we’ll have time to make our cookies.

What kind of cookies do you make each Christmas?

Gingerbread people and elves

 

Advent calendar
The advent calendar I made eight years ago.

For my daughter’s first Christmas, I made an advent calendar. On a poster-sized piece of red felt, I sewed white pockets numbered one to 25 in red. On 25 pieces of paper, I wrote Christmas activities that we could do together as a family and inserted them into the pockets of the calendar.

Some of the Christmas activities are simple like “read a Christmas story” and some are more involved like “make Christmas presents” or “make a gingerbread house.” I tried not to set the bar too high most days. Each year, I go through them and move the more complicated activities to the weekends and the quick ones to weeknights. I shifted all the snow-related activities to late December since there’s no sign of snow here.

The kids love going through the pockets and reading the activities so the pockets are showing some wear and tear. This year, I told them there’d be no snooping! We’ll see if they can manage to keep from exploring the pockets.

Each year, I consider making a nicer one because I took a lot of shortcuts when I originally made this and I could make something nicer but I don’t think the kids would let me change it.

Gingerelf cookies

Today’s Christmas activity was to bake gingerbread cookies. The recipe I use is from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar: 100 Dairy-Free Recipes for Everyone’s Favorite Treats.

I used three sizes of cookie cutters and put each size on its own sheet since they all require different baking times. The kids helped me with the cutting and placing on the cookie sheets.

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Little gingerbread people straight out of the oven.

We may decorate a few with icing but they’re tasty on their own – a little army of goodness. If we can find time, we’ll make sugar cookies too and decorate those ones with colourful icing.

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Big gingerbread cookies cooling.

What’s your favourite Christmas cookie?

Orange layered cake with vanilla buttercream icing

It’s my husband’s birthday today so I wanted to make an extra special cake in his favourite flavour – orange.

Vegan orange cake
Orange infused cake with vanilla buttercream icing.

He likes light, fresh flavours – nothing too complicated or fancy. This cake is based on the Light Lemon Bundt Cake from The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks’ Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets. The original lemon is one of my favourites – I make it in the summer when I crave everything lemon. But this cake was not for me and I had a nice bowl full of juicy oranges begging to be used.

I paired the orange cake with the Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting from my trusty Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule. It’s a perfectly simple icing that I use all the time.

four layer cake

I wanted this cake to be extra special so I doubled the recipe to make four layers.

Orange layered cake

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons egg replacer
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2/3 cup freshly orange juice
  • 1 1/2 cups maple syrup
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup soy or almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons orange extract
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Sift the dry ingredients together. In a stand mixer, mix the egg replacer with the water on medium speed. Add the rest of the wet ingredients and mix well. Combine with the dry ingredients. Divide into four round cake pans and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Vegan orange birthday cake

The orange flavour of the cake was divine. Juicing the oranges made all the difference to the flavour too, I think.

I’m not the most patient cake decorator and the cake and icing together are sweet enough so I prefer a fresh fruit topping. I sliced an orange thinly and arranged the rounds on the top of the cake.

Vegan orange birthday cake

I could use some fresh cake decorating ideas – any ideas? Let me know how you decorate your cakes.