There are a few things that people love to see when they eat food. First of all, presentation is key. They are willing to pay for the looks of it so they can seem up scale when the photo lands on their foodstagram or snapchat. How many times have you heard words among these lines: “Eh.. it wasn’t that great but I bought it for the aesthetics” ,”buy it for the insta”, “overpriced but aesthetic”…. sigh, it’s very telling. Food nowadays is all about show, especially in this generation where with the click of a button, the world of social media can see what you are currently eating right now.
With that being said, aesthetic does not need to be expensive. I wanted to gift a nice dessert to a colleague but did not know what to make. I made a japanese fluffy cheesecake but didn’t love how it turned out, I made cream puffs and was annoyed that they weren’t the same size, I made a roll cake which I had accidentally overbaked… so my last resort was boxed brownies. I felt so defeated because I had really stooped this low, but I knew brownies, let alone boxed ones, were impossible to mess up. I had planned to make an extravagant dessert and ended up with my box of $2 Ghirardelli double chocolate brownie mix. At least I knew it’d be decadent and taste good. But then… I gathered up a few ingredients in my pantry while the brownies were in the oven and realized I could make these brownies look from $2 to $15. No JOKE. With sugar, butter, flour, chocolate chips, cream, and chocolate chip cookies, I elevated these brownies to the next level. “I’m on a new level” as A$AP Ferg may say.
Here are the simple tips that can elevate any dish:
- A simple pattern or design: elegant, and shows an extra step of skill in baking.
- Contrasting colors: a light on dark or vice versa makes the food pop. Looks more 3D and is more enticing to the human eye.
- Monochromatic colors: shades of a single color is very desirable as well. People love monochrome and explains why ombre is so pleasing to look at.
- Texture: In terms of appearance and taste, people love texture. People love crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside, or smooth with a crunch. Ice cream with crushed cookies or gummies are appealing because it adds texture.
- Layers of texture: This is a difficult one because too much can be overwhelming, but the right amount is perfect. I’m talking smooth on top of crunchy, on top of sharp on top of…. you know, the list could go on.
- Packaging: This is key because it’s the first thing that is seen. Before opening a box, packaging gives the first impression. Of course they sayings goes “paying for packaging”..
- Mini or bite size: Ever seen a bundt cake and thought you didn’t want it? Well what about bite size bundt cake… all of a sudden you do want it. It’s because it has become finger food and no plates or utensils are required, and it’s so adorable that it’s irresistible. This is exactly why cupcakes cost so much more than cakes and why donut holes are more desirable than donuts.
And with that being said, transformation of boxed desserts is rather simple once you know how to apply the rules.
With the supplies I had, I did the following:
- Made the cookie crumb topping from my Full-proof puffs recipe and let it set at room temperature to form a swirl for pattern and contrasting colors. [white on black]. Cookie crumb topping was reduced to about 1/4 since I didn’t need that much.
- Pour 3 tbsp hot heavy cream over 4 tbsp chocolate chips to form a ganache for layers of texture. Ganache was drizzled on brownies.
- Crush 1 chocolate chip cookie into coarse crumbs (large and small crumbs included for texture and monochromatic colors. Cookie crumbs will partially stick onto the ganache.
- Cut the brownies into small 1″ x 1″ squares and fit them into a box that already had squares in them for packaging and bite size. It’s difficult to find a box with square placements in them so this definitely isn’t required.
- Lastly, tie a bow on the box if it is a gift and leave a cute note.
Hopefully after reading the guide, you can elevate your next box or cake, dessert, or cookies. Wow your guests when in reality you probably only spent $2 and used whatever you had at home :’) Tricky huh?
Experimentation comes with frustration, wasted time, and wasted money. When attempting to make non-conventional recipes, trial after trial is crucial to get the perfect amounts of ingredients since food is all about the science and measurements behind it. Vegan baking is particularly difficult since eggs aren’t allowed and the animal fats are not able to make the baked product moist. Instead, alternatives like plant oils are utilized, and plant based butter simply isn’t as fragrant as animal based butter. With that being said, I truly appreciate all the vegan bakers out there, in making delicious recipes that are harmless to animals and better for the body overall.
Today’s lemon poppyseed cake is a delicious dessert that typically would require eggs and loads of butter or oil, but not today. You have stumbled upon a much healthier recipe that you can indulge on day and night!
Low Fat Lemon Poppyseed Cake (Vegan)
yield: 1 loaf
- 1 c. all purpose flour
- 1/4 c. vegan yogurt
- 3 tbsp. vegan buttermilk (recipe HERE) OR 3 tbsp vegan yogurt
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/3 c. + 1 tbsp lemon juice
- pinch of salt
- 1/3 c. granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tbsp poppy seeds
For lemon frosting:
- 1/4 c powdered sugar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 355 F.
- Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, poppy seeds, and salt together in a medium bowl.
- In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, buttermilk, vanilla, and lemon juice and let the mixture sit for a couple minutes.
- Pour the flour mixture into the wet and whisk until fully incorporated. Do not overmix as this could result in a tough cake.
- Pour into a 8 x 4 loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Bake the cake for 25-30 min.
- Take the cake out of the pan and let it cool on a rack for about 30 min. Combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice and spread the glaze onto the cooled cake. Optional: sprinkle some lemon zest on the glaze.
The cake is best enjoyed after it is made, served with a cup of hot coffee or tea.
In making healthier dessert options, I’m hoping that more people can stop giving dessert a negative connotation. Dessert doesn’t have to be overly sweet and fattening. I believe that any store bought dessert tends to be far too sweet for my liking, which is why I no longer purchase desserts. I simply make them at home, alter it to cater to my tastebuds, save money, and have fun. It’s a win-win for me and I hope you all attempt to bake more at home.
I realized whenever people ask what my sweet craving is, my go to is chocolate lava cake. A warm chocolate lava cake with a gooey interior that is so rich a decadent it puts you on cloud 9; YES HANDS DOWN THAT IS WHAT I WANT. I don’t want a regular chocolate cake, I want the LAVA!!! Now, I’ve been experimenting with lava cakes, trying to see if an alternative recipe can be made. Possibly a vegan one? Or low fat? Or gluten free? It has been difficult because the science behind the cake requires eggs, butter, gluten, etc. I’m still constantly experimenting, but I have come up with a glorious vegan recipe that is out of this world! I’m so excited to share it because it’s pretty darn good.
Vegan Chocolate Lava Cake
yield: 3 lava cakes
- 1/2 c. all-purpose
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 3 tbsp. cocoa powder
- 4 1/2 tbsp. granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp. margarine or oil
- 1/2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 c. cold water
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 squares of baking dark chocolate (I used Baker’s chocolate)
- Preheat oven to 395 F. And lightly grease all all of the inside of 3 ramekins. Set them aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk sugar and water until completely dissolved. Add melted margarine (at a very slow rate and whisking rapidly to prevent chunks) OR oil. Add vinegar or lemon juice and lemon and whisk.
- In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt into a bowl.
- Slowly incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry and fold or whisk gently until evenly incorporated. Pour batter into ramekins until 3/4 full and add 2 pieces of dark chocolate into the center of each lava cake.
- Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes and cool on a cooling rack for 3 min. when finished baking.
- Dust lava cake with powdered sugar or a generous scoop of ice cream.
Vegan Chocolate lava cake
The recipe easily serves 3 people with 3 scrumptious cakes, but I may have eaten 2 in one sitting, which I highly recommend against but I honestly could not control myself. And I’ve been craving a lava cake for so ages, so eating 2 in moderation is totally fine!
These lava cakes are the ultimate crowd pleaser and it’s difficult to fathom that they are vegan! What are you waiting for? It’s time to make this right NOW!