I was introduced to a lovely little book a couple of years back, filled with glorious frilly wishes and dreams made into cupcake form. Piled high with iced mounds of perfection, every one of the cupcakes in this book - literally every single one - made me urgently want to bring the book closer and lick the page. As well as being marvels to look at, these cupcakes were vegan. Dairy free, egg free, yet fluffy and creamy looking. Filled cupcakes, looking like your perfect Dunkin Donuts naughty little treat, had their mousse filling made mousse-y by tofu. Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World promised to be either a revelation or an absolute blasphemy.
It took me a year and a half to get the book (I'm either a rash or a long-delayed decision maker), and everything in there was still a temptation. The first recipe to attempt was dictated as much by what was on hand in the house as by what most tempted me. I also thought that chocolate cupcakes might hide more sins than vanilla ones - if these vegan versions didn't turn out to be so stunning, I thought the chocolate flavor would at least give them a fighting chance of being eaten.
Mint chocolate cupcakes, then. A chocolate cake base, a mint frosting, some chocolate ganache on top and an extra extra chocolate candy stuck on top if you were so inclined. The cake recipe was a surprise. No eggs or butter, clearly, but only a bit of oil to represent the fat spectrum. A cup of soy milk and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar were mixed together and allowed to curdle a bit before throwing in your more traditional ingredients. And that was mostly it, both for controversy and head-scratching replacement ingredients. I was very skeptical as to what kind of cake these would make, and I presumed something dense and dry would be pulled out of the oven.
The cakes these made, though, were wonderful. Top them with whatever you like or just eat them on their own (I did both after whipping up another batch a couple of days after polishing off the first dozen), they are incredibly moist, fluffy, proper-cupcake cupcakes and stayed fresh for several days in their air-tight container. Almost the best part of making them, for me, was being able to have lade-fulls of uncooked batter without the worry of raw eggs spoiling my fun. It felt naughty and indulgent and it was a very good thing. There will be more (many, many more) cupcakes from this book in my future, and with options like Mucho Margarita, Tiramisu, and Apple Cider cupcakes to chose from, it will be a great deal of fun weaving my way through the recipes.
Chocolate Mint Cupcakes, from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.
Makes about 1 dozen cupcake (extra-large cupcakes come in at about 6, average-small sized cupcakes will number about 15)
Basic Chocolate Cupcake recipe:
- 1 C soy milk
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 C granulated sugar
- 1/3 c canola / vegetable oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp almond or more vanilla extract
- 1 C all-purpose flour
- 1/3 C cocoa powder
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 C non-hydrogenated shortening
- 3 C confectioner's sugar (sifted if needed)
- 1/4 C plus 1 Tbs soy cream or soy milk
- 1 1/2 tsp mint extract
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extra
- small drop green food coloring
- 3 Tbs soy cream or soy milk
- 1/3 C semi-sweet chocolate (chips or a bar)
To make the cupcakes:
- Preheat the oven to 350 F / 170 C
- Whisk together the soy milk and the cider vinegar in a large bowl, then set aside for them to react and curdle for a few minutes.
- Meanwhile sift together the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt)
- Stir in the sugar, oil, and vanilla (and almond) extracts to the milk mixture.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, mixing well each time so most of the lumps (or, ideally, all the lumps) are gone.
- Pour the mixture into lined muffin tins and cook for 18-20 minutes.
- Eat any remaining batter and be a very happy cook.
- When cooked, remove the muffins from the tin and set on a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before putting any icing on it.
For the icing and ganache:
- Cream the icing for a few seconds until it's softened (the authors recommend doing this with a fork since it gives better results).
- Add 1 C of the sugar and a small splash (about 1 Tbs) of the cream/milk to the shortening, and mix well.
- Alternate adding sugar and cream/milk to the mixture, mixing well after each addition. Keep this up until all the ingredients are mixed and the icing is creamy.
- Add the mint and vanilla extracts as well as the food coloring, and mix well.
- Pour the icing into a piping bag and select a star tip (like a num 21).
- Meanwhile, make the ganache: heat the soy cream/milk in a small saucepan over a medium heat until it's just about to simmer. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring until the chocolate is entirely melted and things are mixed well.
- Make sure the cupcakes are cooled completely before piping. When ready, pipe the icing in a spiral from outside in, not going all the way to the edges so that a bit of cupcake is visible around the edges.
- Keep letting the ganache cool (about 10 minutes - you don't want it to melt the icing), stirring it every couple of minutes to keep it smooth.
- When cool, use a spoon to dollop a bit of ganache into the middle of the icing. It shouldn't entirely cover the icing, but drip down a bit on the sides.
- if desired, decorate with a small candy in the middle, such as an M&M, smartie, extra decorative rose of mint icing, spearmint gumdrop, etc.
- Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes to let the ganache set.