On our drive home from Montreal, David and I stopped in Burlington for a quick bite and an early movie. A picnic by the lake would have been the thing to do on such a sunny blue day, but a night alone at the movies is a sacred thing.
We arrived at Palace 9 before 5 pm, an hour early for the “Ruby Sparks” showing, so we bought tickets, stopped at Chipotle for a salad and burrito, and then returned to the theater and settled into our third row seats. I wished I had a few slices of vegan pound cake in my bag along with a jar of blueberry butter to sink the cake into, but honestly, neither cake nor butter had a fighting chance in our house. The cake was gone as fast as it appeared.
Have you seen “Ruby Sparks” yet? Written by actress and star, Zoe Kazan, the film tells the story of Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano), a once brilliant writer who at 19, published a bestseller akin to “Catcher in the Rye”. That was a decade ago and now his agent and scattered fans want to know when to expect the second novel.
Plagued with writer’s block and his own neuroses, Calvin stares at a blank page, stuck. During a weekly therapy session, his therapist gives him a writing assignment to write about what it would feel like to be loved unconditionally, faults and all. The next day, Calvin wakes from a dreamy romantic scene with a woman bathed in golden light. He realizes she (Ruby) is the one, his true love, and races upstairs to his typewriter in a feverish trance. Like the Pygmalion myth about the sculptor who falls in love with his statue and wills it to life, Calvin too falls in love with his fictional character who after a few pages appears in real life. So the love story unfolds.
The film reminds me of “Little Miss Sunshine” (also directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris) and “Juno” with a bit of “Being John Malkovich” and “Lars and the Real Girl” thrown into this comic fantasy mix. “Ruby Sparks” is quirky and sweet without being nauseatingly so—it’s a well written romantic comedy, light yet substantial enough to explore love’s psychological underpinnings.
I like films about writers and Ruby Sparks is no exception. I also happen to like movie picnics for those rare occasions when I plan ahead. Veg banh mi with extra pickles plus a few slices of pound cake and blueberry butter wrapped up tight make a handsome spread.
I typically use silken or soft tofu to bake vegan cakes. As is often the case, I was halfway through this recipe before I realized we were out of silken tofu. Naturally, I did what I had to. I found a pound of firm tofu in the refrigerator. I remembered reading somewhere to lightly steam the tofu in order to remove its signature “bean-y” flavor. A few weeks ago, I brought cake along to the last BYOR and everyone’s response was, “Wow, that pound cake with blueberry butter was so good. I can’t believe it’s vegan and made with tofu!” This was one of those rare occasions where my kitchen experiments worked. “Oh, good,” I replied, “my work here is done.” (You can find my blueberry butter recipe here).
Vegan Pound Cake with Blueberry Butter
makes 1 loaf cake (about 8 servings)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup ground pistachio nuts
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups vegan cane sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup vanilla almond milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup firm tofu (cut into 1/4-inch slices and lightly steamed for 5 minutes to help get rid of any “bean-y” taste)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons agave nectar
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly oil a 9-inch (1 1/2 –quart) loaf pan, line the pan with parchment paper and lightly oil the paper and set aside.
Mix the flour, ground pistachios, lemon zest, sugar, baking powder, and sea salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
In a food processor or blender, combine the almond milk, oil, steamed tofu, vanilla, and agave nectar. Blend until smooth, then pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Be sure not to overmix the batter.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 to 55 minutes.
Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing. Serve with powdered sugar sifted on top along with a spoonful of blueberry butter.