Monday, April 14, 2014

Big blue minivan cake

Who wants to make a cake for their minivan?

Wow. Sexy. source

Okay, let me rephrase that question. Who wants to make a cake? A big one? With lots of frosting?

When cake is the question, yes is always the answer. Obviously.

But my family does indeed have an emotional connection to our minivan. The minivan is a symbol of suburban life, of gas-guzzling trips across town lines in search of groceries and movie theaters, of mothers carting their children to soccer practice and violin lessons, of the frantic, scattered lifestyles we have in this weird western world. We have traveled many miles in this van—from Cape Cod to, well, Cape Cod again (forgive our lack of creativity in family vacations).

Two hundred thousand miles, in fact.

My mother and I crossed that milestone on the way home from soccer the other day. It was a moving occasion, worthy of screeching to a halt and snapping a photo for the Facebook wall. Now, we have a ways to go before we set the record for most miles ever recorded on an odometer, as, well, some fellow seems to have racked up about three million miles on his Volvo since the 1960’s.

Well fuck. source

But there is still some sense of pride in our humble auto.

I’ll admit. Maybe not too much pride, but enough to merit making a cake.

Of all types of cakes, three dimensional cakes made to look like something that is not a cake are perhaps the most intimidating. Besides a wedding cake. And as such, I have not been able to keep myself from attempting to make them time and time again, with tragic consequences. Observe:

Wait, what is that? 

In this lovely picture is a shoe constructed from hummingbird cake and cream cheese frosting—and joy to the world, it turns out cream cheese frosting is not ideal for icing cakes in any amount of detail. Who would have known?

Mom, didn't I tell you to take the picture from an angle, not straight on? Ugh.

This Easter cake, I dare say, came out slightly better—more Cooking Light cake (carrot, this time) frosted with simple cream cheese icing and topped with desiccated coconut. The ears? Starbucks biscotti. Yes. Really.

To this day I don’t know why I tainted the cake with jelly beans.

And now the crème de la crème, the fabulous and glamorous cheeseburger cake—


Aaaaaand of course I am lacking a picture of this one. It was pretty fabulous and glamorous, though. Chocolate and vanilla pound cake; chocolate ganache and vanilla buttercream and cookie dough frosting; mint gummy lettuce and fondant cheese and red vanilla pudding ketchup…mmm, I can still taste it. Probably because we were eating leftovers for weeks. It came out looking pretty damn pretty, for a couple of amateurs (said amateurs being my mother and I), but it wasn’t that difficult to put together—just stack and frost three layers of cake, and boom. Done.

Just trust me. It was awesome.

You may have noticed I am not too keen on fooling around with fondant, even if I have to sacrifice the cake’s appearance. And it’s true. You, too, can make a messy and amateurish cake without the use of gross fondant. American buttercream it is!

*confused screaming*

At least it is content with itself. Look at that smile! Priceless!

Below is the method I used to create this cake. I would have made this vegan frosting from, but I am sadly strapped for ingredients (who the fuck has soy milk powder?) and thus have relegated myself once again to the blessedly simple yet painfully sweet basic American buttercream. I also used a brilliant vegan vanilla pound cake from Vegan Richa, which calls for making a roux. It is not that difficult. Honestly. And even if it was difficult, the result is well worth it.


Big Blue Minivan Cake

Makes one big-ass cake

Vegan Vanilla Pound Cake (adapted from Vegan Richa)

Makes one 9 x 13 layer



183 grams • soy milk (or other nondairy milk) • ¾ cup

28 grams • golden flax seed meal or chia seeds • ¼ cup

6 grams • salt • 1 teaspoon

42 grams • vanilla extract • 3 tablespoons

20 grams • apple cider vinegar • 4 teaspoons

250 grams • granulated sugar • 1 ¼ cup

28 grams • vegetable oil • 2 tablespoons


81 grams • vegetable oil • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons

94 grams • all-purpose flour • ¾ cup

244 grams • soy milk (or other nondairy milk) • 1 cup


187 grams • all-purpose flour • 1 ½ cups

32 grams • cornstarch • ¼ cup

7 grams • baking powder • 1 ½ teaspoons

2 grams • baking soda • ½ teaspoon


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13 inch pan with parchment (or thoroughly grease it).

In a large bowl, mix chia seeds or flax meal with milk and let sit for a few minutes. Add remaining wet ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.

In a medium bowl, combine everything under dry ingredients.

In a medium pan, place 81 grams oil over medium heat, then add flour and cook until the mixture becomes aromatic, about two minutes. Remove from heat and mix in about 2 tablespoons milk. Pour in the rest of the milk and combine thoroughly. Returning to medium-low heat, cook until a thick roux forms and it leaves the pan, about one minute.

Let the roux cool for a minute, then combine with wet ingredients. Fold in dry ingredients and mix until well combined. The batter will be gooey and thick and delicious, and that’s okay.

Spread batter into pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely before cutting or frosting.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Taste of Home)

Makes about eight cookies


72 grams • dark brown sugar • 5 tablespoons, packed

28 grams • vegetable oil • 2 tablespoons

23 grams • soy milk • 1 ½ tablespoons

13 grams • granulated sugar • 1 tablespoon

15 grams • unsweetened applesauce • 1 tablespoon

2 grams • vanilla extract • ½ teaspoon

70 grams • all-purpose flour • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon

1 gram • baking soda • ¼ teaspoon

0.75 grams • salt • 1/8 teaspoon

42 grams • dairy-free chocolate chips • ¼ cup


In a medium bowl, mix together first six ingredients until fully combined. Gradually add flour, baking soda, and salt and mix well, then fold in chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Drop 2 to 3 tablespoons of dough on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, making sure the balls are tall and not flat (even though the batter is still soft and pliable). Bake for about twelve minutes or until the edges are slightly browned. Cool for one minute before removing from pan. Allow to cool completely before using in cake.

American-Style Vanilla Buttercream


227 grams • vegetable shortening or vegan buttery spread, room temperature • 1 cup

360 to 480 grams • powdered sugar • 3 to 4 cups

30 grams • coconut milk or other high-fat milk • 2 tablespoons

13 grams • vanilla extract • 1 tablespoon

Salt to taste

Blue food coloring as needed


Make absolutely sure your butter substance is relatively soft and at room temperature. This is of utmost importance. If you do not do this, there will be nuclear war.

Put the butter in your KitchenAid—sorry, electric mixer. Whip that bitch until butter is fluffy and soft and beautiful. Add powdered sugar slowly on low speed, then increase speed until thoroughly combined.

Add vanilla extract and coconut milk and whip some more until it appears to be delicious frosting. Taste, and add salt if needed to cut the ridiculous sweetness of this mixture you have created. Add blue food coloring a few drops at a time until the frosting reaches Patriotic Blue, the color of my family’s minivan. Or whatever blue color you want. Doesn’t really matter.

Keep the frosting at room temperature until needed so it doesn’t turn into an un-spreadable brick of sweet fat.

Cookie Dough Frosting (adapted from Recipe Girl)


113 grams • shortening or vegan buttery substance • ½ cup

105 grams • powdered sugar • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons

27 grams • brown sugar • 3 ½ tablespoons, packed

53 grams • all-purpose flour • 1/3 cup

15 grams • coconut milk or other high-fat milk • 1 tablespoon

4 grams • vanilla extract • 1 teaspoon

Salt to taste


Again, make sure your butter is nice and soft. Whip butter until soft and fluffy, then add powdered sugar and brown sugar and whip again. Add flour, coconut milk, and vanilla, and beat until everything turns into a deliciously smooth and creamy frosting. Salt to taste. If the frosting is too stiff, add more milk. Keep at room temperature until needed.



Vanilla pound cake

4 chocolate chip cookies

Blue vanilla buttercream

Cookie dough frosting

Miniature dairy-free chocolate chips


Cut pound cake into thirds on the long side and stack the sections into a rectangle. Using a good serrated knife, shave off the crusts so the edges are smooth. Round off the edges and carve the front section into a hood.

Spread blue buttercream over the entire cake. Allow to chill in the refrigerator, then spread another layer of frosting on top. Spread and pipe cookie dough frosting to form the windows and headlights.

One by one, press chocolate chips point down into the cake to form doors and other features of the car. Place four chocolate chip cookies on the sides like wheels. Perfection optional (I omitted).

And there you have it! The most pointless three-dimensional cake of all time! Congratulations!

Seriously, look at that fucking smile. It doesn't even care.

If I could do this over again, I would be sure to make the cookies a bit smaller so they don’t look like earmuffs around the car’s head.

Cookie dough frosting on a chocolate chip cookie. Is that redundant?

I would also purchase a few more gallons of blue food coloring so the van doesn’t look like the cookie monster (although I’m not sure that would have helped).

This cake OMG.

Also I may mention while piping, you probably shouldn't try to sing along to the radio so your hands shake with the pure awesomeness of your voice (as I did). 

WTF is that hole in that cookie?

Yup, totally looks like our van.

Flawless. source


  1. Totally agree - the first thing I do with fondant on a cake or biscuit is pick it off and discard it!

    1. Thanks so much for reading! And yes, I do hope to improve my cake-frosting skills in hopes of being able to stay away from fondant. :)

  2. yeah, I don't like fondant, either. Your van cake is pretty cool, -viva la mini-van!! I drove around 5 kids, so I feel your pain, the van- it was a love/hate thing.