Thursday, January 20, 2011

Vegan Cupcakes

Am I wrong or is there a cupcake renaissance going on? The local bakery downtown has a big sign in their window declaring “We have cupcakes!” as if that would really get people excited, and maybe it has. I’ve noticed cupcake ads in a few other places so perhaps they’re the latest craze in the world of bakery treats.

Of course, with their paper or foil wraps, cupcakes are just portable pieces of cake, and that's probably part of the attraction. A cupcake is easier to eat walking down the street than a slab of cake in a styrofoam container. Also commercially-made cupcakes can be very photogenic, piled high with their swirls of brightly-colored frosting and sprinkles. They make good eye candy but, not being a fan of big piles of frosting, I would probably prefer a brownie.

Anyway it was my wife’s birthday this past week and to celebrate she decided that instead of a regular cake she’d rather have a few cupcakes, which would make our enjoyment of birthday treats more manageable and of shorter duration. Like me she’s trying to stay healthy but realizes the importance of letting go occasionally (key word = occasionally).

A few days before the birthday I purchased three cupcakes from the downtown bakery to see what all the fuss was about. Knowing the standards of the establishment I’m sure the cupcakes were well made with good ingredients (i.e. butter instead of hydrogenated shortening), but we found them rather ordinary and, at $3.00 a piece, a bit pricey as well. Of course this just stoked my desire to make some REALLY good cupcakes for my wife’s birthday.

My wife is lactose intolerant, so it was preferable that the cupcakes contain no cow’s milk or butter. This is where the “vegan” part comes in.

There’s a spunky little book called Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero that we often rely on when we want to make scrumptious treats without the lactose found in milk products. We’re not vegan but because vegan recipes contain no milk or dairy they fit in with my wife’s dietary restriction.

The really newsworthy point is that these vegan cupcakes are some of the best cupcakes we’ve ever tasted, period. The recipes are not difficult, nor for the most part do they call for hard-to-find ingredients. You can confidently serve these to even the staunchest non-vegans, who will only know that they’re eating something delicious. Vegans, of course, will be appreciative. Well done, Isa and Terry!

The cupcake recipe below is adapted from a recipe in their book. I did not use the recommended icing because my wife wanted a very pronounced coffee and chocolate flavor for the top, so I used a different recipe. Because the frosting needs to sit for a while to reach spreading consistency, you may want to make that before making the cupcakes.

I also insisted on making 18 cupcakes rather than the 12 yielded by the original recipe. Being healthy is great, but birthdays only happen once a year, right?

Vegan Coconut Chocolate Cupcakes with Mocha Frosting
Makes 18

Coconut Chocolate Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 1/8 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons coconut extract
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350º F. Place 18 cupcake liners in muffin tins, or spray 18 muffin slots with non-stick spray. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Place vegetable oil, coconut milk, sugar, and extracts in a separate bowl and mix well until sugar loses some of its gritty texture. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients in 3 or 4 batches, beating well after each addition. Mix until smooth, then fold in 3/4 cup shredded coconut.

Fill cupcake liners or muffin slots about 2/3 full. Bake about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then place on wire racks to cool completely before frosting.

Mocha Frosting
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, etc.
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine sugar, cocoa, and soy milk in a medium saucepan. Whisk to make a thick paste. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture comes to a boil. Lower heat and boil gently for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Let cool, stirring occasionally, until frosting reaches spreadable consistency. Will keep refrigerated for up to a week.

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut, lightly toasted
Chocolate-covered espresso beans

Top each cupcake with a generous amount of Mocha Frosting. Place one or two chocolate-covered espresso beans on each. Sprinkle with toasted coconut.


  1. Happy Birthday Dana and way to go Steve for making vegan cupcakes... it would be better for me too if my muffins were vegan but alas, my little oven wont bake 18... lol. but then its not my birthday :)

  2. I wish I could transport one over! Yum!!