Ask Auntie Alicia – How to Make an Affordable Organic Wedding Cake?



What makes a wedding cake a wedding cake is the icing. You could make or buy a simple cake made from organically grown ingredients and then pay a professional to ice and decorate it for you. OR you could ice it very simply with white icing yourself, and garnish with fresh flowers (make sure they are not from poisonous plants like plumeria or oleander). Dendrobium orchids, pansies, hydrangea, rosebuds, and leatherleaf fern are favorites of mine for this. They should match the colors in your bouquet, so you can put the bouquet on the table near the cake when you do your wedding photo of the cake cutting. Or, you could decorate the cake with sugared fruit, as my permaculture teacher friends Ryan and Tara Holt did for their eco-wedding (see photo above).

My mother taught me the secret to icing a cake on the serving plate, without getting icing on the plate:  tear waxed paper into long triangular pieces, and lay them on the plate before you place the bottom layer of the cake on it.  The long narrow points go under the cake.  You want to have all parts of the circumference of the cake layer resting on pieces of waxed paper, and all of the plate protected by the widest parts of the triangles of waxed paper.  Apply the icing with a flat spatula.  When you have iced the entire lower layer, place the next layer on top of it, and ice that.  Continue until you have coated all of the layers with a smooth, flat layer of icing.  When you are done icing, carefully remove the triangles of waxed paper, one by one.   Then you can add the sugared fruit or edible fresh flowers.

One way to save money on a wedding cake if you are having a big reception is to have the person baking the cake make a small tiered wedding cake (a 6” tier on top, a 10” tier underneath) to pose with in the cake-cutting photos, and make sheet cakes of the same batter and icing to feed the guests. You’ll get less than 30 servings from the two tiered cakes, depending on how the server cuts it. On 10” or bigger cakes, make a circular cut 3” in from the outer rim of the cake, and cut pieces from this outer section before you cut up the inner 4” diameter piece into 3 sections. Your tiered cake will look more elegant if it is presented on an elevated cake stand. You can buy the pillars to separate the layers at a floral supply store.

My very favorite organic wedding cake during the 11 years I had the wedding business was baked from an original recipe by organic pastry chef Diane Burr on Maui. It was a special order from a couple who wanted everything natural and organic (most of my clients didn’t care what was in the cake as long as the icing was perfect). The cream cheese, honey and vanilla icing didn’t look that great, but she dressed it up by garnishing it with fresh dendrobium orchids and leatherleaf fern. Inside, the cake was divine. Diane calls it her Jungle Cake. She added chopped fresh ripe mango, chopped dried pineapple, fine coconut shreds, chopped macadamia nuts, thinly sliced banana, chocolate drops, chopped candied ginger and ground cinnamon to some kind of rich cake batter and baked it in three pans of different sizes. I wish I had the recipe!

Congratulations on your engagement, Aleta, and thank you for going organic!

Love and Blessings,


Quinoa With Steamed Vegetables

Quinoa (pronounced “KEEN-wah”) is a good-tasting high-protein grain of the same family as amaranth.

Here’s how to make a simple vegan dish I like:

Steam a variety of vegetables together until fork tender. Tonight my mixture is: three broccoli crowns cut into branches, three broccoli stems, peeled and cut into half inch sections, one big carrot, scrubbed and cut into half inch sections, one big parsnip, scrubbed and cut into half inch sections, one big yellow onion, peeled and cut into one inch sections, and two yellow patty-pan squash, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces.

Some other possibilities are brussels sprouts (stemmed and cut in half), zucchini (washed and cut into half inch sections), string beans, washed, ends trimmed off and cut in half, crookneck squash, washed and cut into half inch slices, red or white cabbage cut into bite-sized pieces, or cauliflower, broken into flowerlets.

Set aside the steamed vegetables and save the cooking water separately.

Quinoa is cooked at a proportion of one part grain to two parts water. One cup of dry quinoa makes enough for two generous servings. For three people, for example, use one and one half cups of quinoa and three cups of water.

Measure the dry quinoa into a large strainer and let cold water run over it until it stops bubbling. Place the quinoa into a pot (use a 2 quart sized pot for 2 to 4 servings) and measure the vegetable cooking water into the pot. Place the cover on the pot, bring it to a boil, and turn the heat down very low and let the quinoa cook until all of the liquid is absorbed (10 to 15 minutes).

Turn the quinoa out into a large festive serving bowl, pour the steamed vegetables on top of it and toss gently. At this point you can season it according to your preference, or let each person season his or her own portion. I like a little organic extra virgin olive oil and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos on mine, but others might prefer tamari, gomasio, toasted sesame oil, sea salt, or parmesan.

Minestrone for a Small Planet

A lovely vegan soup for a cold January day.

One pound green lentils, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed well
One large yellow onion, peeled and cut into large pieces
Two large carrots, scrubbed well and cut into thick slices
Five cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
A bouquet garni cotton cloth bag containing one bay leaf and sprigs of parsley, oregano, and basil leaves
One pound whole grain pasta (brown rice or quinoa pasta for gluten-free eaters) cooked and drained according to the directions on the package.
Four heads of broccoli (about 5 or 6 inches across the heads), rinsed, cut into bite sized pieces, and steamed until fork tender. (Peel the stems before you cut them into cubes)
1 1/2 cups good quality marinara sauce
3 tablespoons of organic extra virgin olive oil

Place the lentils, onion, carrots, garlic and bouquet garni in a slow cooker (Rival Crock Pot, for example). Cover with pure water plus one inch. Turn the cooker on high until the soup boils, stirring occasionally so the lentils don’t stick to the bottom of the pot, then turn it to low and leave it on for eight hours (overnight) or until the lentils and vegetables are very tender. Remove the bouquet garni bag. In a large soup cauldron, gently blend all of the other ingredients with the lentils and vegetables.

What I like about this soup is that the broccoli is freshly steamed and the pasta is cooked al dente, rather than either being boiled to mushiness in the soup, and the olive oil has not been heated, other than by adding it to the soup at the end. The other thing I like about this recipe is that the lentils, having been soaked and rinsed, are much less likely to give you gas, even when combined with broccoli.

Each bowl of soup can be optionally enhanced according to the tastes of the person to whom it is served, with seasonings such as ground black pepper, hot sauce, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, Himalayan pink salt, sea salt, flake-type nutritional yeast, or grated parmesan cheese.

I like to make extra and freeze it for a quick meal later in the month.

This soup could be lovely served with hot bread, a green salad, and/or an entrée, but, personally, I find one bowl is a whole meal for me.

Vegan Eggnog

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Here’s an eggnog so healthful you can drink it all year long!

For each serving add:

1 cup unsweetened coconut, almond, hemp, or cashew milk, chilled
1 peeled ripe banana, fresh or frozen, cut into 1 inch sections
1 tablespoon agave syrup (or less if you like)
A pinch of nutmeg (or more if you like)

Place in a blender jar and whir until creamy and smooth.  Serve in festive glasses.


Note: David Little, the holistic healer who taught me this recipe, liked to add a squirt of Renshenfengwangjiang, a ginseng and royal jelly syrup (“as the booze”).

My writer friend, Pamela Beth Raffalow Grossman, from New York City, just posted this today (December 23, 2018):

Just want everyone to know that Alicia Bay Laurel’s wonderful vegan eggnog has been a big hit I’ve brought to 2 holiday parties this year, and counting (and in past years too). Per one serving: One banana; one cup almond or some such kind of milk (oat, soy); some agave syrup; and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Basically, combine these ingredients in a blender in proportions that look good, and blend; it’s hard to screw it up, though one time I added a smidge too much nutmeg. Delicious; not too unhealthy; does not make you feel like you might puke, like regular eggnog can. Spike as desired. Thank you, Alicia!!!!!!!

I’m telling you. It’s eggnog without the “What the fuck did I just do to myself??”

Replies author Kristy Eldredge:

It is fabulous! As addictive as real eggnog but no horrible repercussions, like Pam says.

Scrumptuous Ugly Soup For What Ails You

If you are just getting over a respiratory illness, you want to get warm and clean inside and out. You need protein to fire up your immune system, but nothing sticky (like eggs or milk) that will inspire the body to make more mucus. And you don’t want to be standing around the kitchen for hours, fussing at the stove. So, get your Crock Pot from the back shelf, fill it with the following healing ingredients, turn it on, and go back to bed. Five hours later, you can get up and have a bowl or two of this rich-tasting soup, and every part of you will be happy. Of course, you can always share it with your friends and family who aren’t sick. It’s perfect winter food.

One carton of organic vegan butternut squash or carrot-ginger soup
One strip of kombu (dried sea vegetable)
One cup of lentils
One can of organic split pea soup (optional)
Five or six large cloves of garlic, chopped fine
A peeled ginger root the size of your thumb and forefinger, chopped fine
One large yellow onion, chopped coarsely
One large carrot, washed and cut into thin horizontal slices
One eighth of a cabbage (red or white) chopped fairly small
The greens of three or four beets, washed (and any imperfect parts removed), and chopped fine
A tablespoonful of soaked hiziki sea vegetable and the soaking water (optional)
A quart of pure water

What Environmental Activists Eat for Lunch

So what do environmental activists eat for lunch, you may be wondering.

Karin (aka Wyldflower Revolution) prefers food that is grown locally (to minimize the amount of fossil fuel and packaging used to bring the food the consumer), produced organically (that is, without pesticides, herbicides, hormones, genetic engineering, radiation, chemical fertilizers, and other substances and processes toxic to human beings, animals, plants and the environment), vegan (because animal products require a much greater use of fuels and land than vegetable ones, and because they are much more likely to contain toxins, due to the industrial farming, industrial pollution of the ocean and waterways, and the way toxins are bio-concentrated as you go up the food chain), and raw (because enzymes and other valuable nutrients are diminished or lost when food is cooked). Her acronym is LOVER: local, organic, vegan, essentially raw.

When I visited Karin, I brought over a bag of vegan groceries, and, after receiving her mild rebuke for all the packaging on my offerings, I watched Karin swiftly combine them into delicious wraps.

She slightly heated (to soften) the organic, sprouted whole wheat tortillas, spread them with organic hummus, piled on a couple of cups of organic mesclun (aka baby lettuces, or cafe salading), tossed on some cubes of ripe avocado and slices of bell peppers from her garden, dressed with a tomato-, tahini- and nutritional-yeast-thickened vinaigrette, rolled them up and called them lunch.

We ate off ceramic plates handmade by a local artist, which sat upon place mats made from recycled rags in the style of rag rugs, using cloth napkins and our fingers. Karin says you have to hold your wrap like Groucho Marx’s cigar, straight out, or the filling will fall out onto your plate (or farther).

Pumpkin/carrot/ginger soup

Recipe for pumpkin/carrot/ginger soup

Bright orange, creamy, rich, pungent, this is a superbly warming soup for cold weather, and one of my most requested recipes.

One large, or two small butternut squashes, or a kabocha pumpkin, with stem cut away, seeds saved separately and toasted on a tray in an oven or toaster-oven (they pop!), and the rest cut into chunks about 3 inches across.

Four large carrots, or an equivalent amount of smaller ones, peeled and cut into 1 inch sections

Two large or three smaller yellow onions, peeled and quartered

A ginger root, about the same size as a large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch sections

Ten garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half

Steam all of the vegetables in a steamer basket in a large pot over a quart of pure or purified water, until soft enough that a fork easily pierces all of them. Let the vegetables cool until you can handle the chunks of pumpkin or squash. Spoon these out of their shells into a food processor bowl. Add the other vegetables and the cooking water. Blend until silky smooth. You’ll probably have to do this step in three or four small batches, depending on the capacity of the food processor. Collect all of the batches in one large bowl and stir in 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, and 3 tablespoons of organic tamari soy sauce. Stir until completely homogenized.

Serve immediately, or store in a refrigerated airtight container and gently reheat before serving. Garnish, if you like, with fresh cilantro leaves and popped pumpkin seeds.