Archive for Recipes: Sweet

Wacky Cake

I’m in the process of writing a new cookbook, and inevitably, when I get into recipe development, I start thinking about when I was a kid, learning to bake. For me, as a cookbook author and recipe developer, one of the biggest challenges is creating recipes that are simple and clear enough for people to follow. I have to bear in mind that not everyone has been cooking and baking for the last 20 years, and put myself back into that beginner mindset.

This was compounded when I started visiting my mother’s recipe box. I lost my mom 12 years ago, but I only recently came into possession of her recipe box. The plan is to do some kind of a project with it, and make each of the recipes available to the rest of my family.

But thumbing through those stained recipe cards, written in my mother’s hand (and a few in 12-year-old Becky’s), I’m amazed at the skills I developed. There are no directions on any of her recipes. They are all just a list of ingredients and how long to bake it for. That’s it. It was just assumed you understood that you cream the butters and sugars together, then add the wet ingredients, then finally the dry. It’s no wonder I learned to bake–I had no other choice!

Wacky Cake Recipe

Wacky Cake Recipe written in my mom’s handwriting.

I came across one recipe in my mom’s box that I noted was vegan. Now, we were not vegan, just to be clear. We weren’t even vegetarian. So 98% of these recipes call for butter, milk and eggs. But this one, for some reason, didn’t.

It’s called Wacky Cake, and I thought I’d do a little research on ye ol interwebs about it. Turns out, the recipe was quite popular during WWII when things like butter and eggs were rationed, and scarce. But there were still occasions to celebrate during the war. There were birthdays and weddings and anniversaries. Cake-worthy occasions, that deserved celebration, even in the absence of the requisite ingredients. So they got creative (sounds a lot like what’s happening in the world right now, doesn’t it?)

A recently colourized version of a black and white photo of my mom and dad with my sister, Shelly. My mom is 20.

The recipe calls for a tablespoon of vinegar and also baking soda. Vinegar in an acid, and baking soda is a base. Put the two together? Magic!

Since I started talking about this recipe, so many people have said they have a similar recipe in their families, and universally, this cake is a favourite.

My friend, Chef Nathan Hyam, uses raspberry vinegar in his version. Another friend said they sub the water for coffee for a mocha version of the cake.

Just try it (assuming you can get flour!). I promise this cake does not disappoint.

Oh–the reason it’s called “Wacky Cake” is not just because it lacks milk, butter and eggs. You were also meant to make it by mixing the entire cake in the pan in which it was baked. That’s a little too wacky for me. I made mine in my Kitchen Aid, and I’ll give you directions for that. ūüėČ

Wacky Cake

(recipe courtesy of my mother, Lena Mary Coleman)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon oil (my mom says “salad oil” I assume that means canola or vegetable)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar

Method:

  1. In a large bowl place the flour, sugar, cocoa, and baking soda, and whisk well to combine. In a separate, smaller bowl, mix together the oil, vanilla, water and vinegar, and whisk well.
  2. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, and pour the wet into it. Whisk just until combined.
  3. This recipe makes one 8″ square cake, one 8″ round cake or 12 cupcakes. Be sure to prepare your pan before pouring in the batter by either greasing and flouring the pans, using cupcake liners, or lining with parchment.
  4. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.

No Bake Peanut Butter Bars

Inspiration is a fickle beast. 

I’ve been writing this blog for so long, I don’t actually know how long it’s been, but I’m guessing it’s a decade or so.¬†

Certainly my participation has waxed and waned. There have been times when I generated 5 blog posts per week (and it nearly killed me), and there have been plenty of times where I took a break and generated nothing at all! 

After doing this for so long, sometimes I feel really stretched for content ideas. Not that, in the world of food, there is ever any lack of subject matter. There’s always another recipe to make.¬†

No Bake Peanut Butter Bars

The inspiration for this recipe came from salt. I know! It sounds weird… but I got a bag of flavoured salt for Christmas from my friend Vicki and immediately my mind started working out what I could do with it. If it was savoury salt, I would have just thrown it into pasta or whatever, but it’s a salted caramel salt from Vancouver Island, and I knew it needed to go into a dessert.¬†

I also had a few bits and bobs of things around, but not really enough for a full recipe of one thing, so I combined a few things and voila! Delicious success. 

This is a no-bake bar, perfect for when you’re feeling a bit lazy. It’s also easy to do a vegan or gluten free version of this recipe (or even a vegan gluten free version!).¬†

It’s a riff on a recipe that has been on of my favourites and that I’ve been making for years, just juzzed up a bit. They kinda taste like a Resses Peanut Butter Cup, but with a crunchier texture. Enjoy.¬†

Vegan Gluten Free No Bake Peanut Butter Bars

No Bake Peanut Butter Bars

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter (vegan butter alternate)
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter¬†
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (alternate: vegan gluten free graham crackers, I use Kinnikinnick S’moreables Gluten Free Graham Crackers)
  • 1/2 cup corn flakes¬†
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar¬†
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup chocolate (dark vegan chocolate or non vegan chocolate chips)
  • milk (non dairy vegan alternative)
  • finishing salt

Method: 

  1. In a small pot over medium heat, place the butter, and melt it. Then add in the peanut butter and the sugar and stir everything well until it’s all melted together.¬†
  2. In a large bowl, place your graham cracker crumbs and corn flakes. 
  3. Remove the butter/peanut butter/sugar mixture from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  4. Pour the entire contents over the graham crackers and corn flakes. Stir well to combine. 
  5. Press the mixture into an 8″x8″ pan, then place in the refrigerator for at least an hour to set.¬†
  6. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Once the chocolate is melted, add a little milk, a few tablespoons at a time, until it gets to a pourable consistency. (this is the tricky part–I can’t give you real measurements here, you have to kinda wing it). Pour the chocolate over the peanut butter base and sprinkle the whole thing with a pinch or two of finishing salt. Place in the fridge to set.¬†
  7. Cut into 12-16 squares. 
  8. This bar tastes great frozen. Store in the freezer and pull one out 5 minutes before eating. 
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