Daring Bakers Challenge was Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake from Baking From My Home To Yours. Good! I had to make a cake this month anyway.
The recipe seemed fairly straightforward, a run of the mill white cake like any other white cake; we didn't have to stand on our heads while whipping the ingredients together! (This is not meant to sound nasty towards any of the other challengers -- some of the recipes are very difficult and some are rather easy.) Morven from Food Art and Random Thoughts, the baker who issued this month's challenge, promised a delicious end-result, and who am I to argue with that? So, overall, it looked like an easy challenge. After last month's nine+ hour project, that was a welcome idea. But as usual, it wasn't geared for a vegan diet, so there were substitutions to be made. I used Earth Balance margarine in place of the butter, almond milk in place of the buttermilk, and Ener-G egg replacer in place of the eggs.
One good thing about being vegan is that you can taste your batters as you're going along without any fear of salmonella! The batter tasted okay, but something wasn't quite right. I attribute that to the Earth Balance. I was a huge fan of butter in my pre-vegan baking days. I really don't think anything else tastes quite as good, but I don't consume butter anymore, so... The cake didn't rise as high as I would have expected, but others Daring Baker's also indicated their cakes didn't rise, so I wasn't too concerned. It looked and smelled delicious.
Out of the oven and on to the racks... everything looked and felt normal, but when I sneaked off a tiny piece of the cake to try, it didn't taste right. Lane agreed, but didn't think it was bad and suggested I carry on. But this was going to be a birthday cake for someone special, so into the trash it went.
Attempt number two came out a little better; I incorporated some almond meal in place of some of the flour, which gave the cake a nice flavor. Typically, I would be concerned that the almond meal would make the cake more dense, but this cake is dense already, so I didn't think there would be any harm in trying this. I often do that in my cookie recipes. I love the taste of the nuts, and there's the added benefit of injecting some nutritional value to something decadent!
The recipe called for a buttercream-meringue frosting. Alas. The other option afforded us was whipped cream. So, back to the internet I went in search of vegan buttercream meringue, no luck there. I was kind of relieved not to have to make the buttercream-meringue as Morven (the host) injured herself making it. After last month's near trip to the emergency room, I didn't want to have any medical disasters to have to blog about!!!
Surprisingly, there were many recipes for vegan buttercream out there, all basically the same: an equal amount of vegan margarine and powdered sugar, plus a tiny bit of liquid... soy milk, usually. So, that's what I went with, assuming that if there were that many sites lauding the same basic recipe, it had to be good. WRONG! It was horrible. It had a chemical taste to it. Trying for a quick fix, I added some almond extract which actually helped.
So, I didn't like it. Everyone else was polite and said they did, but no one asked for seconds, and most people didn't finish their slices which is generally not a good sign. Lane's busy chomping down his second slice as I write this, so it wasn't a total waste. But I won't be making this cake again. There are some really amazing results out there. My absolute favorite was prepared by Sakya.
Overall, I'm left wondering if the Daring Baker's is the right group for me. The bakers are all wonderful and the group is supportive and fun. And I love the idea of baking something a whole slew of "my friends" are baking as well. There's a great sense of camaraderie in belonging to this group. But I'm a lone little vegan in a sea of butter and cream. We'll see what next months challenge brings!