Chocolaty Chocolate Cake & Lemon Buttercream Frosting

A long overdue visit took place over a warm California weekend to celebrate life events that have collected since the start of our latest trip around the sun. 
This visit called for some sweet experimenting and delicious creating in our kitchen.

For the birthday of my fantastically talented cake-baking aunt, it had to be gluten free, chocolate, beautiful, and delicious.

The dense, moist crumb of this fudgy chocolate cake paired deliciously with the zesty lemon buttercream frosting that draped it, as well as the sprinkling of winsome lavender that graced it.
A perfectly splendid charmer to celebrate my sweet, generous, lovely aunt's birthday, as well as a number of other significant life events that had taken place since our last visit.

This turned out to be the perfect gathering and life-celebrating cake.

Chocolate Cake Frosted in Lemon Buttercream & Sprinkled with Lavender {Allergen-Gluten-Dairy Free}
makes 1 - 9x13" pan or 2 - 8x8" pans or 4 - 4" round mini cakes or 2 dozen cupcakes

Chocolate Cake
-1 1/2 cups organic sugar
-1/2 cup non-dairy butter
-1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
-1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
-1/2 cup sweet white rice flour
-1/2 cup brown rice flour
-1/2 cup millet flour
-1/4 cup coconut flour
-1/4 cup tapioca starch
-2 teaspoons guar gum or xanthan gum
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-1/2 cup sour non-dairy milk (1 tsp. apple cider vinegar + non-dairy milk of choice)
-2 teaspoons baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
-1/3 cup cocoa powder
-3 Tablespoons melted dark chocolate
-1 cup boiling water

1. Preheat oven to 350F and thoroughly grease pan(s) or line muffin tin with liners.
2. Cream sugar and butter. Add applesauce and vanilla.
3. Combine flours, guar gum, and baking powder in a bowl. Mix baking soda into sour milk and let sit.
4. Alternate adding sour milk and flours to the applesauce mixture, thoroughly combining between each addition.
5. Add salt and cocoa powder, mix well.
6. Melt chocolate into boiling water, make sure chocolate is thoroughly melted then fold boiling mixture into batter until smooth.
7. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake in preheated oven 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fine crumbs.
Allow to cool competely before frosting with buttercream, if need be, remove from pan(s) and refrigerate layers until cool before frosting.
*for level cake layers, make sure you thoroughly grease pan(s) and wrap strips of wet towel around pan(s).

Lemon Zest Buttercream Frosting
-1/2 cup vegetable shortening
-1/2 cup non-dairy butter
-4 cups confectioners sugar
-1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
-2 Tablespoons fresh lemon zest
-1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1. Cream shortening and butter together. Add sugar one cup at a time, alternating with a splash of lemon juice after each addition. Beat until smooth.
2. Add lemon zest and vanilla and beat 3-5 more minutes until smooth, creamy, and fluffy.

chocolate cake adapted from this recipe by The Gluten Free Vegan
lemon buttercream frosting adapted from this recipe by A Rented Kitchen
After frosting cooled cakes, store in refrigerator until ready to serve. 
For clean cuts, run knife under hot water before each cut, this helps the knife slice through the cake smoothly.
optional substitutions...
-non-dairy butter: coconut oil, coconut butter
-gluten free flours: you can add, subtract, or substitute flours based on your preference, try avoiding flours with too strong of a flavor, like quinoa or chickpea
-apple cider vinegar for sour milk: lemon juice or white vinegar

Mangia! Mangia!

Chickpea Veggie Burgers

Memorial Day is a day to reflect and remember. A day to celebrate the brave and honorable that carried our country on their shoulders, and a day to be thankful for what they gave their lives fighting for. 

I am truly thankful each and every day that my beau came home. That after fighting overseas with for our country, he came back safely and we get to live out the rest of our days together. 
I do not take this blessing for granted. 

My grandfather stood on the front line of the Korean war, under the command of Chesty Puller. My pop flew planes as an airman in the '60s, his sister held a place as an early member of the Ninety Nines after earning her pilots license in the 1950's, and worked for the War Department during World War II. These selfless patriots as well as countless courageous legions have put our nation before their lives throughout the life of our free country and are the reason we live the way we do.

It is clear to me that they wear our flag on their hearts, and they are proud to have fought for it. I see the fight, loss, and pride in my husband every day I have with him, and I see it in my grandfather with every story he shares.

We will be celebrating the holiday with family and friends on the houseboat of my grandfather-in-law, who served as a medic in the Vietnam War. Living on the lake for a few days, surrounded by great company and breathtaking views, we'll be celebrating the true, un-commercialized holiday with each of the brave souls that gave their lives in our hearts.

These delicious, nutrient-dense veggie burgers have quickly become one of our favorites and are sure to grace many barbecues, gatherings, and celebrations to come.

Chickpea Veggie Burgers
makes 3-4 large burgers or about 6 smaller burgers

-1 (15 ounce) can cooked garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
-1/4 cup steel cut oats, ground
-1 medium/large carrot, grated
-1 flax egg (1 Tbsp. ground flax + 3 Tbsp. water)
-1 Tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped (optional, but recommended)
-3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
-3/4 teaspoon cumin
-1/2 teaspoon chili powder
-1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
-1/4 teaspoon paprika
-1/4 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
-1/8 teaspoon Tumeric
-oil for skillet

1. Mash garbanzo beans. Combine flax and water, set aside. Grind oats in blender just before fine, some small pieces should remain. Grate carrot.
2.  Combine spices in small bowl, mix with cilantro into mashed beans.
3. Add oats, carrot, and flax egg to garbanzo mixture. Thoroughly combine.
4. Heat a bit of oil over medium-high heat on skillet. Form burger batter into patties and place on heated skillet with lid vented. Cook until crisped and flip to cook other side.

loosely adapted from this recipe by Momables
After forming into patties, you can store them in a sealed container in the freezer to cook up another time
optional substitutions...
-garbanzo beans: black beans, white beans, kidney beans
-steel cut oats: old fashioned oats, bread crumbs
-spices: these are very flexible-use your favorites to achieve your preferred flavor

While we enjoy good food, and surround ourselves with the best of company, we'll keep in our thoughts those that brought us together for the holiday, and celebrate the life they provided us with.

Lovely photos of my husband's uniform by Kelly Boitano Photography

Mangia! Mangia!

Giant Vegan Marbled Black & White Cookies

These monstrous cookies have graced a few different gatherings. From a going away get-together, to a housewarming party, to an engagement congratulations, to a homecoming arrival, and to the celebration of life, they seem to have a rapid rate of disappearance at each event. 

I have tinkered with the two dough recipes a couple of times to get not only the rich, perfectly sweet cookie dough just right, but also to achieve optimal chewiness and that bakery storefront crackle-top texture.  

When I say monstrous, I mean that in every sense of the word, with no exaggeration. These are unapologetically gigantic, as in, a single cookie would be fit to serve as an entire meal for Hulk, and they're of average cookie size for Paul Bunyan.

My family of hungry Italians ate no more than one of these at a time-there is something to be said about that. After being brought up by Italians, surrounded by good, homemade food at all times, we are known to be able to really conquer food and, typically, can eat up to three normal sized cookies in one sitting.

These cookies are the exception.

Monstrous Marbled Black & White Cookies
makes 1 1/2 dozen monstrous cookies (3-4 Tablespoon-sized) - 2 1/2 dozen smaller, less intimidating, cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

-1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
-3/4 cup brown sugar
-1/4 cup non-dairy milk of choice
-1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
-2 cups flour
-2 Tablespoons arrowroot starch
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
-1 cup chocolate chips

1. Mix together coconut oil and brown sugar. Add milk and vanilla, thoroughly combine.
2. Add flour, arrowroot starch, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, mix until combined, do not over-mix. Stir in chocolate chips.
3. Set aside while you whip up the chocolate dough.

Double Chocolate Cookies

-1/2 cup non-dairy butter, softened, not melted
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 Tablespoon vanilla
-1 vegan egg
-1 cup flour
-2 Tablespoons arrowroot starch
-1/4 cup cocoa
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
-1/4 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
-1 cup chocolate chips

1. Cream butter and sugars until fluffy, add vanilla and egg, thoroughly combine.
2. Add flour, cocoa, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt, mix just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

To Prepare

1. Preheat oven to 350F and line baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick baking liner.
2. Scoop chocolate chip cookie dough by 1-2 tablespoonful, depending on preferred size. Roll into a ball and place on baking sheet a few inches apart. Once you have rolled the first dough, begin scooping the second dough by 1-2 tablespoonful, roll into a ball, then add to a rolled ball of the opposite dough. Smoosh the two together, roll into one giant, marbled ball, and flatten with the bottom of a glass.
3. Bake in preheated oven 10-14 minutes, depending on size. Remove from oven once tops are crackled, edges are slightly tanned, and centers are set. Let cool on baking sheets 5-10 minutes.

chocolate chip cookie recipe adapted from this recipe by Daily Rebecca
double chocolate chocolate chip cookies recipe adapted from this recipe by Very Best Baking
I have not yet made a gluten free version of these and gladly welcome any feedback or suggestions as to which flours you prefer to use when converting a recipe to gluten free.
optional substitutions...
-coconut oil: dairy free butter
-dairy free butter: coconut oil
-brown sugar: 1 cup sugar + 1/2 teaspoon molasses
-sugar: coconut sugar, brown sugar
-arrowroot starch: cornstarch

...lovely accompanied by a creamy vanilla hemp milk cappuccino

Mangia! Mangia!

P.S. I made these to be enjoyed while we gathered to celebrate the sweet company and life of our so incredibly loved family golden retriever, Maggy.

Our little lady passed on after blessing our family with nearly thirteen years of abundant happiness. Her sweet soul provided us with so much more than we could have ever asked for. My gratitude for our time with this sweet being could never be explained in words. Her wisdom and loyal, genuine love for our family taught us that life is best spent surrounded by those you love, and to live life to the absolute fullest every single day. Her resplendent spirit will be forever remembered and cherished in each of our hearts for the rest of our days.

We love you, Maggy, and know you're watching over your family of ducklings, making sure we're all in a row.