January 05, 2011

"More Great Good Dairy-free Desserts" review | Big orange bundt cake

Dessert. I have kind of an awkward relationship with dessert. On the one hand, I love the idea of dessert — it's so appealing to share a rich and beautiful sweet with guests at the end of a meal — but on the other hand, I've never liked extremely sweet or rich foods. I'm fascinated by the voluptuous appeal of a beautiful dessert, but ultimately disappointed by the often too sweet/too rich taste. I know. I know. I'm the odd one out. I've been known to stare into a bakery window, gawking at the riches within, then walk away, sated by the view.

There have been times when I've upped the sweetener in a dessert to what seems to me drastic proportions, to please guests, and then heard comments like, "I really love this — it's not too sweet." Sometimes it seems like my version of "not too sweet" and others' version are from different universes. In spite of this, I never get tired of fantasizing about desserts and making them in real life, and there are more than 50 recipes on this blog to confirm that.

It was with both excitement and worry (mostly excitement) that I agreed to accept two dessert books from The Book Publishing Company, with a plan to review them. Would I want to make any of the recipes? Would I feel compelled to alter them? I decided to try one dessert from each book, and the first book I perused was, "More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts," by Fran Costigan. The book contains a great first chapter on everything you need to know about ingredients and equipment, as well as tips and techniques for baking success. She answers all the questions about agar agar, and the difference between cornstarch and arrowroot. She covers sweeteners and fats, and lots of other sweet and sticky subjects. The information was thorough and helpful.

The rest of the chapters were filled with so many inviting recipes like mango pineapple mousse, chocolate cranberry bread pudding, better baklava, blueberry slump, good cornbread, dark moist spice cake, tart lemon spread, currant scones, amazing hot fudge sundae cake, lovely light lemon cake, fruit and cream tarts, frozen desserts, fruit desserts, and a New York egg-less cream. It was hard to choose. It would have been nearly impossible to pick a recipe if I hadn't been itching to make a bundt cake, and found a recipe for big orange bundt cake. I made it for a family dinner, and it got eaten right up, with much approval from the diners, including me. In addition to great taste, it had a wonderful texture and rise. I did make a couple of very minor changes, and a more substantial one, but the results were still excellent. Instead of using 2/3 cup of oil, I used 1/3 cup of oil and the rest soy yogurt. You can find this recipe and others on Fran Costigan's Web page. I expect I'll be making many more recipes from this wonderful book.

Big orange bundt cake (reprinted with permission)
1 1 ⁄ 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1 ⁄ 2 cups unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup light natural cane sugar
1/4 cup dark whole cane sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
1 cup orange juice
1 cup soymilk or rice milk
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange extract
3 tablespoons finely grated orange zest

Yield: 12 to 16 servings

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Oil* a 10- to 12-cup Bundt pan thoroughly.

2. Place a wire mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Add the pastry flour, white flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, sugar, and dark whole cane sugar to the strainer. Tap the strainer against the palm of your hand to sift the ingredients into the bowl. Stir with a wire whisk to distribute the ingredients.

3. Combine the oil, orange juice, soymilk, vinegar, vanilla and orange extracts, and zest in a separate bowl, and whisk until well combined. Pour into the dry mixture and stir with a whisk until the batter is smooth.

4. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared Bundt pan. The pan will be two-thirds full. (If you have more batter than that, perhaps a cup or so, bake it in one or two 1-cup baking ramekins or custard cups.) Smooth the top of the batter with a small spatula. Rotate the Bundt pan to level the batter, and tap it lightly on the counter to eliminate air bubbles.

5. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the cake is golden and springs back near firm at the center when touched lightly. A tester inserted in a few spots near the center of the cake should come out clean or with only a few moist crumbs.

6. Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. Place another wire rack on top of the cake and turn the pan upside down. Shake the pan gently to release the cake. Cool the cake completely before serving. Glaze

Simple orange glaze
I made my own glaze for the cake. Whisk 1/2 cup of orange juice into two teaspoons of arrowroot in a small pot. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of evaporated cane juice, and cook and stir until the glaze thickens and clarifies. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 teaspoon of orange extract OR vanilla extract, and one teaspoon of soy yogurt. Drizzle over the cooled cake.

* I follow the directions for greasing a bundt pan that I found on a baking forum. Use equal parts of Earth Balance (or vegan shortening), oil, and flour. ( About 1 teaspoon each is plenty.) Mix the three together and grease the pan. I've never had a bundt cake stick using this method.

Disclaimer: I received the book for free. I reviewed the book for free. All opinions are my own.


New Years Day dinner

I made Texas caviar, as usual, but with a couple of variations. I added two large grated carrots, and about a cup of chopped parsley instead of cilantro.

We also had baked polenta with smoky tomato sauce and capers, mixed roasted vegetables, steamed kale with garlic, and a big green salad.

Our plates of food were so colorful and delicious.

For dessert we had a raw pineapple upside down cake from Jennifer Cornbleet's "Raw for Dessert" cookbook, which will be in my next post.

I hope everyone is moving into the New Year with health, happiness and energy.


  1. i would love to have a cookbook that has the definitions of agar,arrowroot etc. i know i can just look it up online but id like having it in book form. this was a great review!!i always cringe at how much oil and sugar is in cookbooks. to me thats just an easy way out, of course it will taste good if you put over a cup of oil in it!! your black eyed peas look really good! last year was the first i had ever heard of the tradition of eating those on new years...out of the loop??lol!

  2. aosdfjaoijfksdf. THE RAW PINEAPPLE CAKE.

    looks amazing. can't wait for the recipe :D

  3. Nice looking cake Andrea, especially with that lovely glaze dribbling down the sides. Mmmmmmm :P

    Of to look at the recipe for the Texas Caviar, looks very tasty!

  4. i'm a little confused, was the bundt cake from jennifer cornbleet? i didn't know she did cooked desserts too. i am guessing the pineapple upside down cake is from her. i've made it, and met her here in seattle! it's a good one.

  5. DD,
    The problem for me with using tons of oil and sugar is that it doesn't taste good! I did really like the bundt cake, however. There's an interesting story about black-eyed peas and New Years, here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/30/opinion/30harris.html?_r=2&emc=eta1

    The pineapple cake was so easy and fast to make — took about 15 minutes. That's all I'll say, for now.

    I'll be the first to admit that cake decorating is not my specialty. :D I just have to hope that the cake will stand on its own, and in this case it did.

    Of course not — thanks for catching that. This just goes to prove I shouldn't write posts at night when I'm tired. (Or I shouldn't hit "publish" until after I've proofed the post in the morning!) Thank goodness I have alert readers who know what's what.

  6. Everything looks so yummy. I will be waiting patiently for the raw pineapple upside down cake! :o)

  7. That cake is beautiful....I'm sort of the same way; I don't like things too terribly sweet, but really it's that I'll take savory over sweet any day...even for dessert. :0)

    Your New Year's dinner looks wonderful. I love the idea of the smokey tomato sauce and capers over polenta!

  8. Michelle,
    I'm hoping to get to it this week.

    Savory, spicy, yum. I have to admit I loved the bundt cake, and it didn't taste as sweet as I thought it would. It was great.

    The tomato sauce was a last minute decision based on left-over sauce in the fridge, and a rather large jar of capers I had bought at Costco. It turned out to be the perfect topping for the polenta. I love polenta and would happily eat it plain - every day!

  9. Are you sure we're from the same plantet? As you just read, I can only dream of having your attitude toward dessert. ;) I've made Costigan's cake in the past and thought it was great. And your NY eats look marvelous, too--I haven't had polenta in ages!

  10. Okay, what's to say? All this food looks so darn good! I especially like the looks of your raw cake. I'm dipping into raw a bit myself.

  11. What a beautiful bundt! I would like a slice, please! My sugar tolerance is not as high as other's either. I usually have to half the amount of sugar called for in recipes. And when I write a recipe to share with the world, I always make it sweeter than I like it, because the "normal" people would like it sweeter! :D

  12. Oh, Andrea, that cake looks gorgeous! The glaze is poured on so beautifully...well done :-) And thanks for the tip on how to grease the bundt pan. I made a bundt cake for a coworkers birthday just before Christmas, and it was ruined when it stuck to the pan like crazy. I will have to give your tip a try next time. Thank you as well for the review of "More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts". I have been lusting after the book for a while now, and I am glad to know you like it.


  13. I (sometimes unfortunatly) am a dessert fan! I love love love sweets and I love baking them even more! I've never tried a bundt cake, but yours really looks beautiful. I'd love to try out this recipe, orange is one of my favorite flavors.

    As for the rest of your dishes, I'd say you ate alot better New Years eve than I did! Everything looks great!

  14. You'd never know from that photo that you're not a connoisseur of desserts and a frequent cake decorator! As so many have observed, that is a beauty of a bundt cake, and the glaze looks expertly applied. I'm going to try your glaze on my next Ginger Carrot Cake. The orange juice and maple glaze I used was great, but yours is so pretty!

    I'm like you, Rose and River - except for a rare craving now and then, I'll always choose savory/spicy over sweet. My husband has a real sweet tooth, but the desserts I bake usually have a tart element like lemon, orange or cranberry to balance the sugar, and I often reduce the sugar, too. I like to taste flavors, not just cloying sweetness. It sounds like you're that way too, which I think makes your palate a perfect one for reviewing desserts.

    And I agree with Dirty Duck about the oil and sugar overdosing in most cookbooks. (Unsweetened applesauce really works like a charm as an oil replacer in most baked dessert recipes, and this one looks like a perfect candidate).

    All your other dishes look so colorful and tasty too! And the beautiful raw pineapple upside down cake even looks like a Wheel of the Year, perfect for New Year's Day! :-)

  15. Ricky,
    Ha! I know we're from different countries, but I think we're from the same planet. I've tried to change my attitude so as to be more normal and eat more sugar, but it just didn't work out. :D

    Maybe someday you'll be able to eat polenta again. Maybe ...

    Well, thank you. I prefer raw in the summer, but dessert is different.

    I'd love to share a slice of cake with you. Yes, the "normal" people are a puzzle, aren't they?

    I compared my cake to the picture in the book, and, well, it didn't look quite as good. MAybe I don't have enough patience for proper cake decoration. No matter, it tasted great! The other tip for removing a bundt cake is to place the bottom of the pan (with the stuck cake) in a pan of hot water for a minute or two. So far, I haven't had one stick. Good luck with your next one!

    I don't think there's anything wrong with enjoying a good dessert on occasion. My taste buds are just not wired for sugar.

    You know, I used Photoshop to decorate the cake. (just kidding, just kidding) I appreciate your compliments, but I know the truth. :D I think we're on the same page with desserts, though.

    I've tried applesauce as an oil replacer but have sometimes been unhappy with the results, but yogurt always seems to work for me.

  16. LOL re: using Photoshop... stinker. :-)

    I've never used yogurt as an oil replacer, but imagine it does work beautifully. I've always had good luck with the applesauce, but would love to try the yogurt trick. Sadly, no one sells organic soy yogurt here (buncha philistines!) but we did get ourselves a yogurt maker, and one of these days I'm going to actually use it! :-) Do you sub an equal amount of yogurt for the oil called for?

  17. Wwwwwowwww, that bundt cake looks delish!!

  18. Laloofa,
    I always leave some oil in the recipe, subbing maybe half. I would probably keep at least 1/4 cup in most recipes. I don't really know, actually, exactly what I do. It depends on the recipe. :-)

    It WAS delish!

  19. oh yum! Everything looks so delicious!

  20. Andrea - love the orange glaze!

    BTW, I just recieved a big fat book on cakes and there is no recipe without eggs or milk. The milk thing I have sorted out (soy/coconut etc)..but whats to be done with the eggs? What exatly do they do in cakes anyway? whats a vegan replacement?

  21. ^ oh, I forgot to mention - we dont get any egg replacer vegan crap here. :)

  22. Andrea,
    Lovely orange cake!

    I know how you feel about sweet. AND about the desire to see or make a beautiful dessert, but not eat it. I admire the heart-shaped baking pans and exotic bundt pans at thrift stores, but don't (usually) buy them.

  23. I sort of know what you mean about desserts. I always do want desserts, though, but it's usually meal type food that I end up enjoying the most. Thank you for sharing your review. I've never attempted a bundt cake so I'm glad to know it wasn't too complicated for ya.

    Your New Year's plate is sooo colorful and delicious looking. Very lovely!

  24. Raw Girl,
    Here's a link to some ideas for replacing eggs: http://www.theppk.com/vegan-baking-the-post-punk-kitchen-shows-you-how/

    If it's just one or two eggs, you can usually replace them OK, but if it's four eggs, or whipped egg whites, then you may have to look for another recipe. I like to add one tablespoon of vinegar to the milk to curdle it, and replace some or all of the baking powder with baking soda.

    Thanks. It had a great taste and texture. Actually, I want to make desserts that I WILL like to eat, in addition to those I just want to look at. I admire your restraint in regards to bake ware. How about if you happen upon athletic ware? :D

    For special occasions I like desserts, but for everyday, I'm happy with a dried date or two.

    Bundt cakes are about the same to make as any cake, just more of it. I just wish my pan were a 6-inch instead of a 9-inch, so I didn't have to make so much cake at one time.

  25. That cake is beautiful! My bundts never come out like that.

  26. I can't believe that I just found your blog and posta about my bundt cake now! Thank you very much! I enjoyed reading your detailed post report and photos are gorgeous. As you pointed out, palates are different. I see this in chocolate classes everytime, as a few people will say, that was good but the chocolate was too sweet and a few others will say, about the same dessert, good but too bitter. I love citrus desserts, finding them less sweet and definitely refreshing. This is a huge cake, meant to serve at least 16, so the amounts of oil and sugar are not really off the charts. Also the whole wheat pastry flour contributes goodness. I am going to try to make this cake with the soy yogurt. It makes sense.

    Happy healthy baking to you!

  27. Mo,
    My bundts don't always come out like that either. Good recipe!

    It was exciting to find your comment! You're right that when divided by 16 servings the oil and sugar are reasonable, (assuming people really stop at one serving!) but I can't stop myself from trying to reduce sugar, salt and fat as much as I can without interfering with the taste. I've found yogurt a great sub for some of the fat in recipes. And I've found white whole wheat flour a great sub for both unbleached and whole wheat pastry flour. Great cookbook!


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