Sweet Utopia

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The world needs to get over itself and eat more dessert. There, I said it. Well, I’ve been saying it.

This can be easily accomplished when the food is as foolproof and delicious as what can be found in Sharon Valencik‘s Sweet Utopia, which I accepted to review in honor of the Luscious Vegan Desserts campaign.

I hopped into the kitchen as soon as I managed to salvage the damaged envelope from my mailbox (thanks, USPS wo/man, for shoving an elephant inside a mouse hole…) and I’ve been impressed with every single thing I covered myself in flour and melted chocolate for, so far.

A deciding factor of if I (along with 99% of the vegan or not population) will purchase a new cookbook among the exciting and ever-increasing vegan selection of them is if its pages are filled with fun, creative and sometimes daring recipes. A few classics thrown in there are good, and you will find several in Sharon’s work, as well as a great number of soon-to-become new favorites too, along with pictures of what the results should look like.

Even though I want to try and lay off the sweets and other baked goods for a bit (I’ve been saying that, too), I find myself irresistibly drawn to goodies like the green-speckled oaties, and ooh, would you look at the green tea swirl cheesecake? Clearly, I’m in dire need of something green.
But anyway, I can say it’s been a while since a cookbook has had me coming back for more the way this one does.

Here is my favorite recipe from it that even people who pretend not to like sweets will burst into songs for. And if they don’t, we’ll just have to forcefully make them. With pie or cake in hand. Or both. Sing it!

The frosting is rich and bursting with flavor, while the texture of the cake is remarkably tender and fluffy. This one’s already secured its place as a frequent flier on our recipe to-do list. Want the honest truth? I begrudgingly gave Chaz two slices and kept the rest for myself. And I’d do it again.

The Ultimate Peanut Butter Cup Cake:
from Sweet Utopia, by Sharon Valencik

For the cake:

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup vegan butter at room temperature
1 cup soymilk
1/4 cup applesauce
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the frosting:

1 cup nondairy chocolate chips
1 cup unsalted creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/3 cup vegan butter at room temperature

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil and flour two 8-inch round cake pans. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In a separate large bowl, combine the sugar, peanut butter, and vegan butter and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in the soymilk, applesauce, vinegar, and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on racks.

To make the frosting: Melt the chocolate chips in a double-broiler over gently simmering water. Alternatively, place them in a microwave safe bowl and microwave at medium power for 1 minute. Microwave for 25 seconds longer and stir until smooth. If necessary, microwave for an additional 25 seconds. Combine the melted chocolate with the peanut butter, powdered sugar, and vegan butter in a food processor or blender and process until smooth and fluffy. Alternatively, beat with an electric mixer.

To assemble: Remove the cooled cakes from the pans and spread about one-third of the frosting over one of the cakes. Place the other cake over it and frost the top and sides. Cover and store in the fridge until serving time.

Yield: 12 servings

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Very Berry Corn Muffins from the same book. Tender, fruity and perfect in every way. Sharon asks “Who needs pancakes?” in the intro for this recipe and for that, she has my endless affection. (Pancakes and I have issues to work through.)

  • Josiane says:

    Oh, I know that this one would get me my nephew’s undying love! (especially if I make a carob version of the frosting – yeah, he prefers carob over chocolate!) Bookmarking it for an upcoming family gathering. :)
    Your muffins look fabulous too! Looks like they’ve got just enough batter to hold the fruits together… yum!

    • Celine says:

      carob over chocolate? that’s gotta be rare. I oscillate between loving carob and thinking it’s the vilest thing ever. hence the unopened 5-lb bag of the stuff that’s been sitting around the pantry for a couple of years now.

      • Josiane says:

        I know! Though I guess it might be due (at least in part) to his allergies: being allergic to dairy, he can only have dark chocolate (besides the vegan milk chocolate bars, which I’m not sure he’s had the opportunity to try) – he used to love it, but it fell out of favor when he discovered carob. I personally love the thing, especially now that we have access to “real” carob, and not just the not-so-tasty thing that they called carob when I was a kid (it was the same thing, except that they had stripped it of its natural sweetness, in order to get it closer to cocoa I guess – bad idea!).
        By the way, the carob treat I tested for you last fall? Amazing. I could easily use that 5-lb bag of carob on a giant batch of that thing!

        • Celine says:

          I never had carob back in Switzerland, found out about it here. I wonder why it’s uncommon there? Or maybe I just am a freak for not knowing. You find good vegan milk choco bars in CA? We used to have great stuff at Trader Joe’s, made of rice milk, but they discontinued it for whatever reason.

          I would hate to throw the carob powder so thanks for pointing out the carob treat thing. I’m gonna try to find other recipes to use it for, too.

          • Josiane says:

            Vegan milk choco bars: I’ve seen some, though I can’t tell how good they are, as I haven’t yet tried them – I’m a dark chocolate kinda gal! I can try them and then send some your way if they’re good. :)
            I’m making a note to email you soon and tell you about the carob thing I’m (almost) addicted to. Could help with emptying your bag!

  • Fun! I’ll be doing this campaign with the Book Pub Co too!! I haven’t started yet though. Look at you all on top of things!! That PB cake is on my to-make list for sure. I love Sweet Utopia!

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sweet Utopia *Sharon and Rick Diamond, Travelyoda. Travelyoda said: Sweet Utopia – have cake, will travel |: This one's already secured its place as a frequent flier on our recipe to… http://bit.ly/9fiYoP […]

  • Mm PB and chocolate. I love anything made with that combo.

  • Nora says:

    I have Sweet Utopia and still have to review it! :) Beautiful photos!