Basic Chocolate Cupcake (Vegan, Gluten-free, Soy-free)

This recipe is great for a pinch when you want something homemade but don’t need to pull out all the stops. People love them! They’ll never know you made the cake in one bowl (but I’ll know). I used a very slightly adapted recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking, which is a totally amazing starting point for vegan bakers. As far as I know the simplicity of the recipes is owning to the fact that it is a war-time invention meant to give you cake through the rations.

I’m going to go ahead and say it: Be careful how your choose to pipe the chocolate frosting on or it will look like, well, something you don’t want it to look like. Alternatively, you might choose to do another flavour like vanilla or raspberry.

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Chocolate Cake

Makes 12 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (mine)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup canola oil (or any other neutral oil)
1 cup cold coffee (I used brewed and cooled espresso)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place liners in muffin tin. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and whisk. Add the liquid ingredients and whisk until smooth. If you’re using gluten free flour, there is no risk of over-mixing, so relax. Scoop into liners, filling them 2/3 full. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cake springs back at your light touch. Let cool.

Basic Chocolate Frosting

1 cup non-dairy margarine, softened
3/4 cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean pod, scraped (optional)
4 cups icing sugar
2 – 3 tablespoons non-dairy milk

In a large bowl, using a hand or stand mixer, whip the margarine for 2-3 minutes, until it starts to lighten in colour.  Add the cocoa, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean (if using) and mix until combined. Slowly add the icing sugar, thinning out with non-dairy milk as needed. Pipe onto cupcakes.

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The Best Vanilla Cupcake (Vegan, Gluten-free)

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OK, vegans and vegan-allied people, we need to talk about your vanilla cakes. True to my nature, I’m going to be blunt: your vanilla cakes are awful. I know, I know, anything you can do, I can do vegan and all that. I understand the knee jerk reaction to jump the defence of any and all vegan foods. The vanilla cakes are stodgy and gummy, taste of baking powder and are far too heavy. This all distracts from what is supposed to be the most light and fluffy cake in your baking arsenal. You know the recipe I’m taking about if you’ve ever made vegan vanilla cupcakes. It’s a disgrace. You try to google a different recipe and that one comes up over and over. I knew I could do better. You can do better.

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The thing about vanilla cake is – well, you have to bring your best to the table because it’s so simple and the flavour is so muted that any imbalance is going to stick out. Texture is everything. There’s a reason chocolate cake is easier to make taste delicious; every flavour outside of vanilla is going to be more forgiving.

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In honour of my milestone birthday coming up this Sunday, I am debuting a recipe I’ve been working on for the better part of a year. It only seems fitting that I post this for such a big birthday. 10 points to whatever Hogwarts’ House you belong to if you can guess it.

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These are everything I wanted: a balanced vanilla cake with the right amount of moisture while avoiding being too heavy. It’s light and fluffy. Just the right amount of sweetness; perfect as it is or dressed up.

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I’ve used my vanilla bean frosting from my Gayke, but feel free to leave out the vanilla bean for a cheaper alternative.

Makes 12 cupcakes

1/2 cup silken firm tofu
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 vanilla bean scraped (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup all purpose gluten free flour (mine)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup non-dairy margarine, softened cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup non-dairy milk

In a blender or food processor, whip together the non-dairy milk and firm silken tofu until smooth. Add the apple cider vinegar, vanilla bean and vanilla extract, blitz one more time and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Add liners to the cupcake tins. In a large mixing bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients together. Using a hand or stand mixer, add the non-dairy margarine one piece at a time. Mix until the mixture starts to look like wet sand. Add the milk and tofu mixture and stir to combine. Lastly, add the 1/4 cup non-dairy milk and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full and bake for 20 minutes, until the tops have achieved a light golden brown hue.

Set aside to cool completely.

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Vanilla Bean Frosting

1/2 cup non-dairy margarine, softened
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
3 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoons non-dairy milk (if needed)

Get your mixers ready. Using a hand mixer and great strength or a stand mixer, whip the margarine for about 5 minutes. It will become like satin and take on a lighter colour. Add the vanilla bean and mix an additional minute. Slowly begin adding the icing sugar. Add the vanilla extract and splash of the milk. Finish off the icing sugar and mix for another 5 minutes. Taste and add more milk, if you feel the frosting is too dry.

Pipe onto cupcakes and top with sprinkles, candles or whatever else strikes your fancy.

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Melon Cupcakes with Matcha-Melon Frosting (Vegan, Gluten-free)

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I make cupcakes because coming up with new combinations for a format you totally understand is a dream come true for a foodie, they photograph wonderfully and my cake decorating skills are not up to snuff on whole cakes just yet. I love the way these look – kind of old fashioned with the green and red colour combination, yet with an entirely modern flavour!

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When I worked at Starbucks many years ago, I learned exactly two things: I cannot work for a corporation and matcha is traditionally paired with a melon flavour. I used one of these life lessons in coming up with this really EXCITING cupcake. I’m also really close to finally perfecting a vegan vanilla cupcake – which you may or may not know is my culinary nemesis. More on that when I get there, though.

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These are a light and moist cupcake with a POW KABLAM from boozy frosting. If you don’t like or use alcohol, you can sub a melon syrup for the liqueur.  No worries, though, the frosting definitely tastes of matcha buttercream and not shots (shots shots shots)! 

1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
1/2 cup firm silken tofu
Juice of half a lemon
1 1/3 cup all purpose gluten free flour (mine)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 non-dairy margarine, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 teaspoon good quality vanilla
1/4 cup Midori liqueur

In a blender, whiz together the non-dairy milk and firm silken tofu and whiz again, until combined and no solid tofu bits remain. Add the lemon juice, blitz one more time and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Add liners to the cupcake tins. In a large mixing bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients together. Using a hand or stand mixer, add the non-dairy margarine one piece at a time. Add the oil and mix until the mixture starts to look like wet sand, or little clumps have formed. Add the milk mixture and stir to combine. Finally, add the liqueur and mix until the mixture is smooth. I haven’t been able to over mix this – the air just allows for a lighter texture with what tends to be heavy and dry (Vegan = heavy; gluten-free = dry). Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full and bake for 20 minutes, until the tops have achieved a golden brown hue. Set aside to cool completely.

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Melon-Matcha Frosting

1 cup non-dairy margarine, softened
5 cups icing sugar
2 teaspoons matcha powder
1/4  teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
1/2 cup Midori liquer

Using a hand or a stand mixer, whip the non-dairy margarine on high speed for at least 5 minutes. Add the vanilla, matcha, and one cup of icing sugar, beating for an additional 2 minutes.  Add the remaining powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time with a splash of the Midori in between. Alternating between the powdered sugar and small amounts of the liqueur is the key to not having this frosting separate on you. Once the frosting is fluffy, pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Top with a raspberry.

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Lavender Cupcakes with Lavender-Blueberry Buttercream (Gluten-Free and Vegan)

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Sometimes inspiration comes from the tiniest places. I found miniature and adorable Easter-themed cupcakes liners a couple months ago, which led me to want to make Easter-themed tiny cupcakes, which led a million ideas of what that means. I settled on lavender because it is a lovely and underutilized flavour and the pastel colour is perfect for spring.

Lavender has several culinary complements but I wanted to keep it simple and use berries so I wouldn’t strangle the delicate flower bud with something like ginger. I hoped to get a wonderful purple colour out of my buttercream without the need for food dye and so I arrived at blueberries. Excellent.

There are very few times I am 100% satisfied with the results of my culinary adventures. This is one them. These are so lovely. I threw technique I know about baking, vegan baking and gluten-free baking and I poured them into this. Please enjoy.

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Makes 12 large or 30 miniature

Lavender Cupcakes

1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
2 tablespoons food-grade lavender flowers
1/2 cup firm silken tofu
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/3 cup all purpose gluten free flour (mine)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 non-dairy margarine, cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons good quality vanilla
1/4 cup Earl Grey tea, brewed and cooled to room temperature (non-dairy milk, if you prefer)

In a blender, whiz together the non-dairy milk and lavender flowers for about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of firm silken tofu and whiz again, until combined and no solid tofu bits remain.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Add liners to the cupcake tins. Set aside in a small mixing bowl and whisk in the apple cider vinegar. In a large mixing bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients together. Using a hand or stand mixer, add the non-dairy margarine one piece at a time. Add the oil and mix until the mixture starts to look like wet sand, or little clumps have formed. Add the vanilla, lavender-milk-tofu mixture and Earl Grey tea and mix until fully combined. Using a spoon or a small ice cream scoop add one scoop to each miniature liner. If using a regular sized cupcake tin, add fill each liner about 2/3 full. Bake miniature ones for 20 minutes. Bake regular sized ones for 25 – 28 minutes, or until they spring back at your touch. Let cool on a rack.

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Lavender-Blueberry Buttercream

1 cup non-dairy margarine, softened
1 teaspoon lavender flowers, crushed
4 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
1/2 cup blueberries

Using a hand or a stand mixer, whip the non-dairy margarine and crushed lavender flowers on high speed for at least 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and one cup of icing sugar, beating for an additional 5 minutes. In a food processor, add the blueberries and a scoop of the frosting mixture and pulse until well combined and all the blueberry has been blended. The blueberry may separate a bit from the frosting at this point, but have no worries it will come together beautifully. Add the remaining icing sugar in several batches, making sure to whip for another 5 minutes total. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes in desired form.

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I Had a Picnic (And Got Married): The Damn Cupcake Edition

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Planning is all well and good but when it comes to executing a DIY event, such as your wedding, there are bound to be *ahem* bumps. This is the story of the damn cupcakes. They’re pretty, no? Yes, very pretty. But I still hate them.

This is the story of how I came to have 5 grades of cupcakes in the freezer.

About 2 months before the wedding, I got sick. It turned out to be gluten. Blah, blah, blah, here we are on this gluten free blog. I did some experimenting beforehand and found I had not troubles whatsoever making the transition to gluten free baking, so I wasn’t terribly worried about the  cupcakes. I had a DIY stand in mind and the two bottom layers were going to be cupcakes; the top our wedding cake to save for our first anniversary. 

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Husband is not terribly fond of chocolate cake. Chocolate is the easiest to make delicious but he will always choose vanilla first. I was set to do vegan vanilla – which is always a bit touchy, but then gluten free life got in the way. I think vegan vanilla cupcakes are too heavy and have yet to find something I’m satisfied with. Other people are delighted; my palate is too sharp for me to often think something is perfect.  Vanilla was out.

I prefer desserts with fruit and fruit went perfectly with the picnic motif. I thought green and pink would be a great match for the stand I’d made, so green tea it was. Raspberry is a wonderful complementary flavour, raspberry buttercream. I did a test run.

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Officiant and husband thought it was delicious. I was not impressed. After a few days, I noticed husband had not eaten another piece, which means it couldn’t have been that delicious. Green tea was out. One more shot, I did banana-cinnamon to go with maple buttercream. Nah, banana was too boring and the texture was too much like quick bread. Cupcakes should be light and airy.

There was no money or time left for test runs. Also how much cake can two people eat?! Bleh, still sick of cake. Chocolate. Back to chocolate. It’s the easiest flavour to knock people’s socks off with without having to fuss over the details of how it gets made. To ensure my comfort, I decided to go with a very rich vanilla bean buttercream because high-quality vanilla is so very decadent.

I’ve baked a million cupcakes in my life. Never have any trouble. My home kitchen is really tiny, so I did all the wedding prep in my old apartment, where my friend still happen to live. I hauled all my things over and got to work, with my clipboard and endless to-do list(s). When I made the first batch, I was befuddled by the thick and dark batter. I was stressed and already exhausted, so I chalked it up to the gluten free flour mix being different. Baked them. They were hard and gross. I forgot the sugar. F Grade. NO CAKE. Owing to my stress, the heat and my emotions running high from forgetting the sugar, so I thought I’d try to save the rest of the batter by adding the sugar after. Yeah, yeah, I know, it was never going to work. D Grade. NO CAKE.

I did up another batch. Too thick but at least I remembered the sugar this time. C Grade. NO CAKE; NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Changed the recipe, to one with cold coffee and more cocoa. Coffee wasn’t cold enough. B Grade.  NO DAMN CAKE. Got the coffee cold enough. Comparatively A Grade, but I still didn’t really like them. For whatever reason, I also forgot to make the top layer cake, even though it was on my to-do list. Opppppssssss. I put it off and added it to another day. I also kept changing my mind about the design of the frosting because I really don’t care for the standard look of cupcakes. NO CAKE; I CAN’T DECIDE. I settled on a rose design.  NO CAKE; I DON’T HAVE TIME TO PRACTICE. Sent three people out into the great city of Montreal looking for the right tip and a bigger piping bag than the one I had. A couple of incorrect tips (and no pipping bag because the person at the store swore they didn’t sell them there) came back. I decided to use what I already had. NO CAKE THEN. Another trip to the same store turned up a piping bag that fit the new tips. Maybe cake? I don’t know when I’ll have time to frost these cupcakes. NO CAKE; NO TIME.

Flash forward to a night before the wedding – I left a mix for my then fiance to just add the liquid ingredients to and then bake. Except. I. Forgot. The. Sugar. We scraped the top layer being a cake idea (and kept the messed up top layer for our first anniversary) and decided to go with cupcakes on all the layers. As I was frosting the cupcakes, covered in buttercream, giddy from all the sugar I’d eaten from testing it, I kept changing my mind half way through. There ended up being 3 layers of frosting on each cupcake because of my indecision. NO CAKE; TOO MUCH FROSTING.

The morning of the wedding, in the car, the cupcake stand broke in someone’s hands. So, there was no stand. NO STAND; NO CAKE. Really, I kept wanting to drop the cake from the menu and everything conspired to make that possible for me. NO CAKE FOR ANYONE. Nah, there was cake and people liked it or whatever. I didn’t want any flowers, but someone was kind enough to give me a lovely bouquet before the ceremony and they were the absolute perfect addition to our make-shift cupcake stand (on a bbq).

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