Happy Vegan Birthday to me! And a Babycakes Cake.

Today is my birthday! First off, thank you to everyone who sent my bday wishes via Facebook and Twitter! What a wonderful birthday weekend this has been so far. And an extra special feature to my bday this year: my Babycakes Vegan Birthday Cake! It's extra special to me (and not just because it's so delicious). Let me share my birthday weekend (and photos) with you!...

Last year my husband and I made Beachy Birthday Cupcakes (mid-snowstorm). But this year for the big 3-0, I wanted a special cake. And it seems almost unbelievable, but I have never had my very own full blown vegan birthday cake. Ever! ..until now.

There is something magical about your very own birthday cake.

Another reason why this cake is so special to me is because when I got married in Miami almost five years ago, while the venue was incredibly accommodating for vegan catering, they couldn't handle a vegan wedding cake. So our gorgeous cream and orange-flowered wedding cake was not vegan. Sad right?.. I wasn't able to taste my own wedding cake!! I ate a dessert made from soy and fruit that the Chef made special for me and my vegan guests. (pic below).. And here's my beautiful, but not vegan, aka inedible by me, wedding cake...

It seems vegan wedding cakes are so much more common now! Thank goodness for all the vegan brides out there.

So this year's Babycakes vegan birthday cake with soft purple frosting and elegant pink and cream stars is incredibly magical for me. because for once, I get to have my cake and eat it too!!!

Birthday Dinner. It's become a tradition to go to a Mexican place for my birthday. I wrote about this a few years ago. Sangria and guacamole. We went to Dos caminos in Meatpacking District. Dos Caminos is fabulously vegan-friendly. Guac, corn tortillas, vegan tacos, rice, veg black beans and sangria - plus a Babycakes Cake waiting for me at home! (what more could I possibly want?) I was thrilled to spend my bday with my husband, sister, brother-in-law and a long time bff. Fun night indeed!

Enjoy all my many birthday photos below
(cake, eats, pals, fun)..

Ready to celebrate...

En route to the fun via cab..

My Dos Caminos plate..

Adorable cards (I love kitties on my cards)..

Babycakes Cake time..

My kitty decided to attack a fallen candle..

happy vegan birthday girl...

OK, and now my cake-arazzi flash mob begins. More Cake photos!...

and even more pics (because I LOVE photos!)...

Posing with my beloved cake...


Vegan Caramel Apple Pie!

Fact: I hate Apple Pie. Well, I used to hate it. Here's the recipe that forever changed my tune...

To close out my "pop-up" Pie Series I'm making my vegan Caramel Apple Pie. It combines the sweet tart flavor of baked apples with hints of cinnamon, maple, ginger, lemon and buttery sticky cider caramel sauce. Get my recipe - and Apple Pie kitchen shortcuts!...

"Sooo good!" He says scarfing down a slice of Caramel Apple Pie, standing up. Not even moving to sit at the table a few feet away.
"It's good, right?!" She replied.
"Om. Om. Om. So good." He said. Still devouring pie.
"I know. And you don't even like apple pie!" She excitedly said.
"No! I don't like it at all!" He replied with wide eyes. "..You don't either, right?"
"No! I hate it!" She said flinging her hands into the air and shaking her head in disbelief. "I totally hate apple pie!"

(long pause as he finishes his slice of apple pie.)

"Yummy, right? Sooo good right? I loved it."
She quietly said grabbing his empty plate.
"So good." He agreed.

...epiphany: Maybe we don't hate apple pie...

note: the post photos are taken from various practice pies I made. The first pie with a frozen crust - final pie, from scratch.

At a restaurant, I never order Apple Pie. But I knew there was hope for my "apple pie issues" based on one specific pie I ate as a kid..

The Apple Pie I ate and loved was from a casual gourmet burger spot called Carpos in Santa Cruz California. (Side note, they also serve the first soy veg burger I ever fell in love with. I'd order the Veggie Burger even when I was still a meat-eating kid. So good.) Carpo's Apple Pie wasn't vegan - but the parts I loved about it can totally be veganized. The pie was stacked super tall with what seemed like a hundred layers of thinly sliced apples - all firm enough, yet moist enough to be just about perfect. Not too saucy or overbaked - not a 'mushy' apple to be found. I loved that Apple Pie.

So there were three components I needed to have in my pie recipe to succeed:

1) Super thinly sliced apples.
2) Local or Farmer's Market apples. Organic hopefully.
3) Not too much liquid - and enough starch so that my apple filling doesn't turn out watery or mushy.

Apple Pie Mission Accomplished!
I've been making this pie for a while now (at least 5 practice pies before posting this final recipe! well tested.) It took me so long because I didn't want to post the recipe until I nailed a vegan pie crust, filling and sauce. All three components will make this a special from scratch pie. ..you can make this pie with any crust you'd like (frozen or fresh). I also experimented with apple skin on vs off. My results are detailed below..

To Peel or Not to Peel? It just kills me to strip away the peel of the apple - the peel is what holds many of the nutrients and fiber. But then I started 'googling' peel on vs. peel off and the consensus was to peel always. Someone wrote the phrase "you don't want your pie to be waxy. yuck." So for my first attempt, I roughly peeled.

I did a very sloppy peel on purpose. So that some of the skin - in very small fragments would be left on.

Apple Skin-On Pie.
I later made a second pie trying the skin-on approach. And guess what - it was delicious! It did have more of a rustic, "Apple Crisp" type flavor from the hearty skins. But when I sliced the apples thinly enough, they were fine. So I just might make all my apple pies skin-on, super thinly sliced from now on. The apple skins are full of fiber and nutrients!

This was when I made the pie with the apple skins still on. Quickie bad-lighting photo, but you see those little splashes of green skin - this pie was quite tasty (skin-on!)..

This was my first pie attempt with apple skin off and a frozen crust. The filling was fabulous, but I needed a from scratch crust to match..

Pie Crust. Fresh or frozen? That is the question. But before you decide, try reading my Vegan Pie Crust recipe and how-to.

TIP! Crust Shortcut: I tried making a food processor-free pie crust and it worked! Instead of pulsing the cold butter cubes and flour together, I fork-mashed them with an extra large fork. This actually worked quite well! See my Vegan Pie Crust recipe for full ingredient info. But really, if you don't have a food processor - try the fork method!

No Crust.
You can even serve the tender baked apple filling - crust free. Just bake in a casserole dish until tender and roasted. Drizzle caramel sauce over top.

So to Re-Cap, My Apple Pie Shortcuts:
1) Leave the skin on your apples! (just slice nice and thin)
2) Try a fork-mashed fresh pie crust.

Vegan Caramel Apple Pie! With Caramel Sauce.

Vegan Caramel sauce (see my recipe for full variations and instructions)
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup vegan shortening (or vegan buttery spread for a more opaque caramel)
3/4 - 1 cup vegan dry sugar
1 Tbsp corn starch (or arrowroot)
dash ginger powder
Dash cinnamon
pinch salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
*as you can see, the sugar/fat ingredients are slightly modifiable based on your sweetness/richness preferences.

Or try my simple Vanilla Caramel Coconut Sauce!

Apple Pie Filling
3 large tart apples, roughly peeled (or not), sliced extra thin
1 tsp cinnamon powder (dash of nutmeg optional too)
1 tsp ginger powder
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 Tbsp corn starch or arrowroot powder
2 Tbsp maple syrup (or dry sugar)
2 Tbsp caramel apple sauce

dotting: 1-2 Tbsp vegan buttery spread

2 pie vegan crusts (frozen or homemade)


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Prepare your apples. Peel (optional), core and slice. A few skins left on is OK. Slice extra thin. Toss the apples in a large bowl with the remaining ingredients. set aside.

2. Start your caramel sauce. Dissolve the corn starch into the cider. Add it to a sauce pan with the other ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil - stirring constantly. When the bubbling becomes intense, reduce to medium heat and continue stirring until the mixture thickens a bit. It will fully thicken as it cools in the fridge. Remove from heat. Pour 2 Tbsp of the caramel sauce over the resting apples - fold well. Pour the remaining sauce into a bowl and chill in the fridge.

3. Work with your pie crusts however you prefer - I did a closed top pie - but you can do lattice or even folded over high rimmed sides like a tart. I like to bake my bottom layer crust for a quick 5 minutes before adding filling and top pie crust. I also like to spritz canola oil on the top layer of crust and sprinkle some sugar as well. Dot apples with vegan buttery spread before closing with top layer crust. If you are not doing lattice design, be sure to add holes to the top of your pie crust to properly vent - allows moisture to escape so your pie doesn't get soggy.

4. Bake pie in 425 degree oven for 15 minutes. Then reduce to 350 and bake for a remaining 20-25 minutes. Baking time for a pie can be a matter of preference - I don't like well-done crusts and prefer them to be tender rather than too crisp. If you want your top a bit more brown, leave in for an extra 5 minutes at 350.

5. Cool pie. For at least an hour. Serve warm or stick in the fridge if serving at a later time. Don't forget to drizzle warmed caramel sauce over top the entire pie - or each pie slice!

before caramel...

with caramel...

Enjoy this delicious pie. (I like it warm best!)


Blueberry & Bosc Pear Pie. with a two-faced pie crust.

Here is my Blueberry & Bosc Pear Pie recipe! I hope you had a chance to check out my vegan pie crust how-to post so that you can put your pie crust-making kills to the test with this recipe!...

Two-Faced Pie Crust. I couldn't decide if I wanted to make a lattice pie crust or a classic full-coverage pie crust. So I did half of each! It worked out beautifully and gave my pie a creative twist.

Pear Tip! You don't have to wait until your bosc pears are super soft and tender for pie. Firm pears will actually soften up quite nicely in a baked pie.

If you are dying to make your own pie crust - go for it! Otherwise you can always use one of the fabulous frozen pie crusts available in stores like Whole Foods.

Corn Starch vs. Arrowroot Powder. I personally love both. I prefer arrowroot simply because it has been known to 'digest easier' and is less processed. But really, you can use either thickening agent.

Two-Faced Blueberry Bosc Pear Pie
vegan, makes one pie

2 pie crusts (or enough dough for the top and bottom layers)
my vegan pie crust recipe here

2 small bosc pears (or one large), sliced long and thin (skin on)
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup apple cider
3 Tbsp corn starch (or arrowroot powder)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegan buttery spread
pinch of salt


1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. (your pie crust should be prepared for filling already).

2. Dissolve the corn starch into the cold cider. In a sauce pan, over medium heat, add all the filling ingredients. Stir gently until the mixture starts to bubble and thicken. Keep stirring over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes. The berries and pears will soften and form their own sauce.

3. Remove the filling from the heat and pour into your pie shell. (I always like to bake my fresh pie crust in the oven for minutes before adding the filling. Full instructions here.)

4. Now you can add your top layer of crust. Any design you'd like.

5. Bake pie for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Then reduce to 350 and bake for an additional 25 minutes - or until edges brown.

6. Cool pie. Enjoy!!! Delicious warm or cold.


Fresh Blueberry Citrus Whole Wheat Waffles

Have a happy weekend with these vegan Fresh Blueberry Citrus Whole Wheat Waffles!

We are expecting snow here in NYC (finger-crossed). I know, I know, who in their right mind wishes for a snowstorm? Me! I'm a California girl so I still get excited for a snow scape. Plus living in an apartment, without a car means I don't have to dig myself out. It is 11:30am and the snow has just started to softly fall onto the cars, building and parks below my window. Cue the Nutcracker "Waltz of the Snowflakes" music..

Waffles for a Cozy Day. On the menu this morning, blueberry waffles. Along with some soy cocoa. Add a few vegan marshmallows or coconut whip for that extra special touch. Some zesty fresh squeezed pink grapefruit juice too. This breakfast was pure bliss. Get my waffle recipe..

Maybe a Coconut Whippuccino with that..

And trust me, you do not need a fancy waffle iron - this one is literally under $15 and works like a charm!

What more do I need on a cozy Sunday morning?

Usher in COZY...

Take Two! I made waffles again today. I added in some almond flour in place of whole wheat flour - flax seeds and buttery cashews. As well as goji berries and some frozen wild blueberries instead of fresh this time. Once again... delicious!

You could also try my Maple Peanut Banana Bread Waffles

Fresh Blueberry Citrus Whole Wheat Waffles
vegan, makes 7-8 small square waffles
recipe slightly updated: 4/2012

1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 Tbsp Hemp Protein Powder (optional)
1/2 cup apple sauce
1/4 cup safflower oil (safflower, canola or virgin coconut)
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup soy milk
1 Tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp citrus zest
2-3 dashes cayenne (optional)
2 dashes cinnamon

1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup diced oranges
1 Tbsp Flaxseed
1 Tbsp goji berries (I soak the goji berries in the 1/2 cup water before folding into mix)

note: you could also sub in some nuts for the seeds if you'd like. Pecans, crushed walnuts or sliced almonds would all be delicious.

Nutrition Info per waffle (8 waffles per recipe batch):
Calories: 190 Fat: 8g, Protein: 4g, Carbs: 26g, Calcium: 8%, Fiber: 3g, Iron: 9%, VitaA: 5%, VitaC: 13%,
*based on 2000 calorie diet, caloriecount.com


1. Mix all ingredients except berries and seeds in a mixing bowl. Whip with spoon.

2. Fold in the berries, citrus and seeds.


3. Heat up waffle iron. Spray grids if your iron tends to be a bit sticky like mine.

4. I poured 2 Tbsp of batter for each waffle. Cooked for about 1-3 minutes depending on your iron's size/heat.

5. Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup and fresh berries.

Hope you all also have a cozy Sunday everyone!!..