Horta = Vegetable. Hortamatic = Traditional recipe gone veganized goodness.


July 17, 2010

Vegan Pirate Ship Cake

Brave little ship about to hit cupcake island.

Intros and Inspirations

This cake was made using my yellow cake recipe. It's moist as a wet hankie and completely delicious. However, the setting, an 18th century pirate ship? Completely new. I decided to make the ship-themed cake for Rob's birthday after my good friend Bonnie mentioned her employer making a ship cake. Rob also is a huge fan of pirate ships. My model is loosely based on this:

Very loosely.

History of Dish

Pirate ship cakes have been around a long time. Possibly even longer than pirates.

Rob asked, 'Where did you get that plastic pirate?!' To his surprise, the pirate figurine bedecking the cake was carefully researched and based on Jean Lafitte.

Or, it has been sitting on our dining room window sill for the last 3 years (apparently, unnoticed).

Materials Needed

  • Yellow Cake recipe & frosting
  • Blue food coloring
  • Rum extract
  • Wooden skewers
  • Fake flags. I used old CD labels bent over.
  • Optional: decorative icing. I used black glitter style. Bad choice in this case (see conclusion).
  • Authentic Pirate Figurine©
  • Blue sparkly sprinkles
  • Corn holder and candle cannons
  • Serving platter

Yield and Pre-heat

Since the round cake pans will cook faster than the big rectangle version, you will need to cook them for a shorter period. Ditto for the mini-cupcake islands.


  • Make two batches of the Yellow Cake recipe.
  • Place the batter evenly into four pans: a rectangular pan, two round pans, and four small cupcake tins. (I only used one cupcake for this version.)

Baking and Frosting Making

  • Monitor the baking process. The mini-cupcake islands come out first, followed by the round cake ship hulls. The cake is ready when a finger-press indentation bounces back in the middle (thanks Rob's cousin Melissa).

  • Meanwhile, make the frosting. Based on 'yo ho ho and a bottle of rum' I decided that it would be necessary to make the sea rum-flavored. I added blue food coloring and some rum extract to one batch of the frosting. The frosting was a simple mix of 3/4 Spectrum non-hydrogenated shortening + 1/4 earth balance spread, organic powdered sugar, and rum extract. (I used imitation since it wasn't a real pirate ship)
  • For the actual ship, I made chocolate frosting using the same recipe, except eliminated the rum and added about 2 T of rich chocolate cocoa powder.
  • Place both frostings in the fridge to chill.


  • Let the cakes cool. Once cool, remove from pans carefully (I put pans upside down over plate/platter then tap the pan).
  • Cut out two rectangular chunks from the middle of your rectangle cake (see picture below). Your ships will be sailing there later. Retain the cutouts as you will need to supplement the ship with part of them and/or you can eat them later.
  • Cut the round cakes in half. The four halves will eventually become your ship. So they balance better, you can also trim off the round parts, just barely. Though I don't think that was necessary in hindsight.
  • Place chocolate frosting between two slices, to glue them together. Do the same with the other two.
  • Coat the outside of the cakes with a thin layer of appropriate frosting color and cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours (I was in a hurry and put them in the freezer). This will ensure your later layers of frosting will adhere better and crumbs will not get in your frosting (thanks for the tip, Shirle). You need only coat those areas you are going to frost (that will show) and any damage areas (where the ship-cake was hit by cannon balls and is coming apart).
  • Once cooled, frost your rectangle sea first. Sprinkle with blue sparkles.
  • Rather than do what I did, frost the boats first then place them into the sea.
  • Add your cupcake island(s) and skewered flags and pirate. Add the corn holder and candle cannons. Don't forget Jean Lafitte.


Some people preferred the sea whereas others took the chocolate ship.

Photo by James

Thankfully, no one ate or wanted the plastic pirate or corn holders. But everything else was pretty much disapeared.


Blueberry cannon balls and vegan wafer walk-the-plank planks.


Though I noticed an unfortunate likeness to a certain oil spill after decorating the ship with a “B” and placing little black frosting drops in the 'sea', little room for comment remained after being distracted by my dead-on skull and crossbones flags that were viciously rumored to be potato heads.

July 10, 2010

Seitan '10 or 麵筋

Seitan! (as seen on My Carolina Today.)

Intros and Inspirations

I guess I've been making seitan too long since I had to think about where my homemade seitan process began. I found a recipe online and adapted it. This is for certain: the need arose out of thriftiness. Some might say cheap-skate-ness. It's a heck of a lot more economical to make your own, and quite easy. This recipe will cost you about $4.50 for a couple pounds, or .56 per serving. That's crazy!

Since seitan is made from the protein part of the wheat (gluten) it is extremely high in protein. As with all non-animal products, it's cholesterol free.

Finally, it's tasty as all heck and holds up great whether BBQ'd, skewered, or stir-fried. I believe that we as a culture are just at the tip of the seitanic iceberg and more variations are forthcoming. If you have any, feel free to post them below.

My previous recipe called “Saved by Seitan” featuring Chef Shirle and Phil & Brad of Megafaun is also available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-XJjQip44M

This version is not too dissimilar: based on inspiration from this Vegan Sausage recipe I added some friendly Garbanzo Bean (Chickpea) Flour to the mix and reduced the salt.

History of Dish

From Wikipedia:

Wheat gluten...is believed to have originated in ancient China, as a meat substitute for adherents of Buddhism....One story attributes the invention of imitation meat to chefs who made it for Chinese emperors who, traditionally, observed a week of vegetarianism each year.”

It is the stuff of royalty!

Yield and Pre-heat

Eight 'servings' of about ½ cup each.

Order of preparation: Start your stock, then stir your dry ingredients together while the stock heats.



  • 8 cups water
  • ½ cup Bragg's Liquid Aminos or soy sauce
  • 2 T olive oil
  • Add to broth: fresh sage, garlic, onion...or whatever spices float your gluten boat


  • 2 cups vital wheat gluten (I use Bob's Redmill – available in the health sections of most stores)
  • ½ cup chickpea/garbanzo bean flour
  • ¼ nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 T ground pepper


  1. Put all the “broth” ingredients in a large pot (I use a cast-iron cauldren) and set heat to medium-high to begin heating.

  2. Meanwhile, mix all the dry ingredients with a fork.

  3. Once almost boiling, reduce heat to simmer/low.

  4. Scoop out 11/2 to 2 cups broth and add to the dry mixture and stir with your fork as the broth might be too hot (It will be hard to handle with a fork and you will need to switch to clean-hand kneading in a moment.)

  5. Knead by pulling the dough almost apart and together, folding in on itself (see the video if needed). You can also punch it. The idea is to get it very elastic and firm, or as Phil said, “brain-like.” Most recipes call for 5 minutes kneading, but I usually knead for 2-3 minutes only until the desired firmness is achieved and the dough is a big ball.

  6. Once consistency is reached, tear the ball in half. Carefully drop each half into the now-hot broth.

  7. Make sure the heat is turned to low so it just simmers.

  8. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, then flip. Cover and simmer another 30 minutes.


Since it's summertime, lately I've been going the easy route with these suckers. Once boiled, let it cool and drip-dry in a sieve. Then, cut the seitan ball into small shishkabob pieces, and marinade in your favorite BBQ sauce. Skewer, then place in aluminum foil to BBQ. Right before it's ready, seer on the grill for those pretty lines. This way it won't dry out. Or you can baste them and not use the foil as a random 4th of July party-goer suggested.

Another favorite is to coat them in a mixture of oat flour, garlic powder, and nutritional yeast, then lightly fry in a cast-iron pan. Delicious coating almost like Shake-n-Bake. Which should be the standard of excellence for all foods.


I interrupted Rob's practice to ask him to pose for these seitan shots.

With the flash on:

And off:

Another happy customer.

Rob post-bite and prior to throwing seitan chunks across the room after one too many takes of this pose.

Also brought this new version out at parties, and it's a hit. Whether or not the praise is statistically significant is a debate for another blog....or up to you. I'd love to hear your variations. Post them below if you'd like. I want to figure out a way to make seitan have fatty pockets. Any discoveries of how to do this would be worth 1,000 drachmas.