Pastry anarchy

I am excited (and, yes, a little intimidated) to be participating in this year’s Vegan Month of Food, aka Vegan MoFo, where people around the world are making an extra effort to eat, cook, experiment with, and write about vegan food. The over 700 blogs participating are inspiring and entertaining and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that eating vegan goes far beyond carrots and celery sticks. There are blogs from the Faroe Islands, Slovenia, Trinidad, Singapore, Israel, Dubai, and many other places. Curious? You can learn more here.

I don’t have a theme to what I’m making this month, but I did want something that was historically relevant. So, for my first posting (November 6), I googled “on this day”. The first thing that came up was the birthday of Johanna the Insane (born in Toledo, Spain in 1479), the queen of Castile and an interesting gal whose marriage initiated the rule of the Habsburg Dynasty in Spain. A quick review of Toledo cuisine  – dominated by quail, partridges, and roasted boar – ruled that out. Even if I could veganize roasted boar, I don’t think I would. Sorry, folks.

The next thing that caught my eye was that in Sweden (as well as in Finland and Estonia), November 6 was King Gustavus Adolphus Day, a day celebrated by the eating of a special pastry only made on this day. A whole day for one type of pastry? No question about it – the vegan gauntlet had been thrown down.

From a websearch that involved a combination of the very rusty fragments of Norwegian that I had learned from a family friend when I was 7 (yes, I know, different country) as well as online Swedish-English translations that came up with some amusing turns of phrase, I was able to determine the ingredients found in a traditional Gustavus Adolphus cake: a spongecake base with layers of custard or fruit (berries or lemon) and topped with a silhouette of King G.A., made of chocolate or marzipan (almond paste). It just so happened that Friday night we were going to a birthday celebration for some friends who are Swedish and who have an entire wing of their house dedicated to housing their cookbook collection, so I was able to do some additional research.

The only other guidelines I could find were rules from a recent national G.A. cake competition that specified “it is important to create pastry with ingredients that were in Sweden in the 1600s: butter, eggs, flour, sugar, milk, and cream”. Hmm. From what I could tell, it seemed that beyond the almond, chocolate, and berry flavors, the form of the cake could take any shape – as long as you had the king’s silhouette (or something kingly) on top.  In one message forum, a commenter likened Gustavus Adolphus cake to a form of ‘pastry anarchy’ (anarkibakelse). Music to my ears. Roll up your sleeves, pastry anarchists!

What I came up with was almond-flavored cupcakes filled with berries, topped with chocolate frosting, and a marzipan crown. My self-imposed rule was that it come from ingredients I had on-hand in the house. I had a pomegranate that had been neglected in the fruit basket for weeks, plus some almost-empty bags of frozen fruit, so that became my filling. All the recipes were variations of recipes from Isa and Terry’s Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World – the basic golden cupcake recipe (made with almond milk and triple the amount of almond extract), the chocolate ganache, and the cherry filling (subbed berries and pomegranate). To see more cupcake photos, click here.

I am looking forward to the rest of Vegan MoFo!