Tales of half-assed, gluten-free baking from the heart: Betty Crocker + a can of soda = BFF birthday appropriate

*Interrupting our regular series of farmers market updates with an important gluten-free, boxed mix baking report, live from an undisclosed Stumptown Coffee locale*

Every year, I seem to have some mishap with joining team gluten-free for my bff’s birthday baking.

The final endeavor always looks pretty great, but my standards for cake are high. And homemade birthday cakes? Even higher.

One year, I went with a custom gluten-free baking mix and learned my lesson that when a recipe calls for brown rice flour, it really means super fine brown rice flour.

Another year, I just wasn’t in love with the store-bought blend I used. It was a personal bummer that frosting can only take so far.

This year, it was the opposite, with quite an amusing construction and even more ridiculous of an evening.

Over all, this is the most pleased I’ve ever been with my semi-homemade, gluten-free endeavors. While the cupcakes and myself did not take the near 100F heat very well, we both looked confident heading onto the first bus ride, walking down the aisle with audible gushing from other riders. Melting aside, this year’s construction was one of the funnest things to ever make its way from my kitchen. I almost can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ve gotta give it up to Betty Crocker and whatever surely genetically modified superhero, gluten-free flour blend they have in their corporate baking arsenal. This was a finger snapping, $1.99/box-from-Grocery Outlet win. I just decided I wanted something that would freaking work so I could spend the rest of my time handling the decorations. And let me you about the first thing that popped into my head as I laughed to myself about this sudden initiative: Go all out. Soda cake this baby.

RIGHT?! I swear, I have an aunt who’s probably done this little cultural phenomenon, if you will, but things were typically from-scratch or Italian bakery purchased in my childhood home. The one and only time I’ve ever done this so-called “trick” before was during my first year in Portland, vegan-style, with some accidentally vegan mix and a can of cherry coke, no doubt. And that was really a case of peer pressure.

So, I read up on this particular, gluten-free Betty Crocker mix and the soda trip, and didn’t catch any internet fuss. There wasn’t much discussion going on ⸺ all I noticed was a curious recommendation to add whipped egg whites. Well, guess who realized they likely still had a jar of leftover Ener-G from a certain VVC2011 Hannah Kaminsky meringue magic demo? Oh, yes. This gal.

The thing is…I grabbed up two cake mixes because it wasn’t just cupcakes on my mind. I’d had my eyes open for a doughnut pan for some time now during my thrift store visits, and a few weeks before, it finally happened. I was shopping for some new-to-me quirky dream heels at the Goodwill on SE 6th, doing my normal stroll through the baking equipment aisle afterwords, and there it was. Shiny and likely never even used! Screw full price.

That brings me to sitting down with Maeve over glasses of cava, thoroughly reviewing her choices, the option of doughnuts vs. cupcakes vs. cake, and deciding on cupcakes for the sake of transport. It just didn’t sit right. This was my bff we’re talking about, and as someone with a nice amount of baking-for-crowds anxiety that can only be put aside by overcompensating, it was time for another something special.

Clearly this is by no means a recipe, as I have yet to receive a consulting offer from Betty Crocker Global, but I can tell you that:

 

1) It worked! Betty Crocker Yellow Cake Mix + Hansen’s Ginger Ale + Ener-G + some other flavor goodness is more than A-OK!

2) The flavor breakdown: The bff’s favorite flavors for summer 2014 were on file as blueberry, lemon and ginger.

The Cupcakes: Lemon ginger with ginger ale, bourbon vanilla, grated fresh ginger, lemon rind and fresh lemon juice.
The Buttercream: Blueberry juice and plum-blueberry liqueur (from summer 2012) with lime rind, bourbon vanilla and orange bitters.
The Mini Doughnuts: Blueberry juice, ginger ale, bourbon vanilla, lemon rind and fresh blueberries.
The Glaze: Limoncello (courtesy of Meyer lemons and summer 2013), lemon juice, bourbon vanilla and lemon rind.
And that Drizzle: Spiced caramel, infused with bourbon vanilla, cinnamon sticks, cloves & Thai cardamom.

3) The breakdown: One box of Betty Crocker Yellow Cake Mix + 2 Ener-R-G eggs whipped in a Vitamix with liquid of choice + one can of natural ginger ale. 

Early brainstorming with ingredients:

Relevancy.

I was behind a couple with multple boxes and suitcases of books to sell at Powell’s yesterday. Real talk, it was beyond time to attempt to sell some of the vegan cookbooks I never ever use (not naming names! buy me a drink first, jeez). This couple had so many books it was taking two sellers to review, which meant I had time to try on a series of summer tops at Buffalo Exchange around the corner. Upon my return, a passerby was commenting on the retro Betty Crocker cookbook in their diminishing pile, and the owner proudly mentioned shared an amusing tidbit: Betty Crocker never existed! It was a fabrication for the brand from General Mills. I would link to some actual mythbustin’ on this, but isn’t it suspicious that my immediate search results are limited to tweets on this topic!? Oh, branding.

This was at the point I was considering the incorporation of basil, but who isn’t doing that these days?

For sure:

Blueb ‘eggs’ + lemon rind

Is bluebs even more fun to say that noodz for noodles? You tell me.

Shiitake getting real.

Speaking of, I was also loving the $1.99/6 pack of natural soda sale at New Seasons.

The whole gang:

Doughnut batch #1:

The batter was so terrifyingly thin and had this Betty Crocker-y shine going on, but baked without a hitch!

For the frosting:

This was also a little nerve-racking, as my Kitchen Aid mixer motor remains ker-plunk and I attempted to pull this off in my food processor.

Cuppers, consider yourself frosted.

Close up:

That time I went into mini doughnut making.

Whirlwind.

Ready to transport:

The side view:

Ready for their big day in some cute little liners from New Seasons, and by that, I mean, the shockingly hour-long commute and bus transfer situation in the heat.

I watched them quickly begin to melt and slump and my sugary heart went with it. I won’t even get into the baffling 37 minute break between buses downtown and my almost-fight with a bar owner.

They made it!

(I love how awkward this so much)

In the end, I am not recommending you buy this mix. Please, if you’re in Portland, do yourself a favor and go to Back to Eden. What I am say is that I have far worse gluten free baked goods, and apparently someone at the table called it “the best cupcake I’ve ever eaten”. Could be worse. Til next year!

 

Blueberry-Basil Vodka Lemonade Slushie & Another Week in Portland Produce

We now return to my surely riveting series of local produce adventures.  Spoiler alert, I’m a week behind because I actually spent this past weekend with friends: patiently assembling gluten-free, birthday doughnut-cupcakes and celebrating with my bff and co, brunching, visiting the farmers market (but, of course), biking around town avoiding downpour, and enjoying an extensive, casual happy hour at a favorite spot in FoPo. Yeah, SE…which could also be called avoiding Division Street and what’s become my immediate neighborhood.

This week’s recipe is for a fancypants sounding but totally easy summertime vodka slushie, which after returning from my warm, weekly ride and downing a couple of glasses of ice water, was quite the treat.

Starting with Sunday the 6th’s beautiful, blue & green haul from Lents:

Blueberry Basil Vodka Lemonade Slushie

Blueberry-Basil Vodka Lemonade Slushie

Serves 1

This week’s recipe share takes a hot day, fresh produce, and a desire to kick back.

It’s basically a fruit smoothie with alcohol. You’re welcome.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice > which would no doubt equally delight with lime juice
  • 2 oz. vodka > a fruity, infused vodka would be lovely here
  • 1/2 teaspoon agave or raw sugar
  • 1 oz. fresh blueberries
  • 4 fresh basil leaves
  • 6-8 ice cubes

Directions:

Puree the first 5 ingredients along with half of the ice cubes in your blender. Add more ice or sweetener as needed. Serve pronto in a chilled glass with a straw (and spoon, if you like), garnished as desired.

Double for two.

Week 2, Our Table Summer CSA share

And now for the rest of last week’s kitchen tales…

True life.

Cornmeal-crusted seitan, fresh thyme-roasted red potatoes & summer squash, sautéed baby bok choi, jasmine rice, Sriracha, Zelda

Getting stocky with it.

Singapore Curry Noodles

And that’s another recipe I actually wrote down this week! It told me it wanted to be this summer’s fried rice. We’ll see when I get to sharing it, but the scribbles remain on a torn piece of notebook paper by my side.

Fluffy pillow pancakes, adapted from ThePPK.

This half-order had fresh blueberries, homemade blackberry liqueur (from summer 2012) and club soda. Chipped plate appreciation society.

Dijon Potato Seitan Hash

Another welcome new habit.

Photo Essay: Sauvie Island Peach Picking & Consequent Tart

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Day 20> A simple photo essay, looking back on a summer afternoon spent peach picking on Sauvie Island. Pleasant, fruitful (ba da bum) memories. Continue reading

The Hashtag MoFo ###

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Day 15> In which Jess plays catch-up thanks to an Instagram obsession after a few days of root canal recoup. Continue reading

Hump Day Grilled Cheese Glory

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VeganMoFo Day Four> Yeah, it’s a great day when you don’t have to depend on a (pricey!) store-bought vegan cheese alternative. It’s all about the flavor and purpose: bringing the bread together with a bit of melt, if you dare. Continue reading

Photo Essay: Sunday Visits & Meals, Lents International Farmers Market

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I forget exactly why I decided to visit the Lents International Farmers Market for the first time, but its casual, down-to-earth vibe pulled me in from the get go. That, and the variety of chili peppers at such tempting prices. I think it may have simply been the notion of checking out all of Portland’s farmers markets, and seeing the unique aspects each one offers. So, when ‘International Farmers Market’ popped up on a list, I was hooked. Continue reading

The Get Sconed! Food Porn Report for July ’13

Vegan Pizza on Get Sconed!

With VeganMoFo VII mere weeks ahead, I’ve been busy brainstorming and beginning to prepare, so it’s time to put aside the recipe posts and mason jars with the realization that August is truly moving forward, and share some good old-fashioned vegan food porn* glory, starting with one of the many handcrafted highlights… Continue reading

DIY French Press Cacao Nib Cold Brew (Hey Summer, You’re Welcome)

DIY Cacao Nib Cold Brew on Get Sconed!

Cold brew has become one of the savings graces of warmer days in my life, and it’s ridiculously easy to make at home. You’re essentially extracting the coffee into more of a concentrate (which is why you’re typically see cold brew priced higher than coffee). The method I used comes from Cook’s illustrated’s Dan Souza, and is available on the website of America’s Test Kitchen. As if you could have any doubts now. I’ve combined a couple of steps, based on how I’ve been making at home the past two summers, and throw in the addition of rich cacao nibs, ripped off from my dear from Tom (who rules!). Continue reading

Heartichoke: Orange Watermelon & Jalapeño Mimosa

Heartichoke on Get Sconed!

Happy theme change Monday! I actually made this cocktail in advance before my departure to New York, but as imagined, life is moving quickly, and since it’s hiatus, I can pretend weekdays don’t exist. What’s a girl to do when the … Continue reading