Have you ever tried a vegan cupcake? True, I don’t typically practice Veganism (abstaining from the use of animal products) in my day to day life, but I am a baker who loves nothing more than trying new things. And since there are many who do choose this lifestyle, I love having vegan options in my baking repertoire. As you may guess though, making a rich and lovely cupcake with no eggs, butter, or milk is a bit of a challenge, or at least you would likely expect it to be. The truth is, had I not been the one who made these cupcakes, I would honestly never guess that they were dairy and egg free, because they are perfectly decadent. You know me–it has to be super yummy for me to share it with you!
The seemingly random need to share a vegan recipe with came from a vegan chocolate cake recipe I found in an inspiring new baking book I have, called Tea with Bea: Recipes from Bea’s of Bloomsbury. Now this book isn’t a vegan baking book, but rather a gorgeous collection of cakes and other baked goods from Bea’s of Bloomsbury in the UK (think vanilla coconut cake with lemon curd & cheesecake filling, gingerbread Guinness cake with poached pears & cream cheese icing and more). Among of all the delightful recipes in this book, I noticed that Bea explains that the vegan chocolate cake is so good that many customers don’t even realize it’s vegan. How could I possibly resist?
I thought I would make this recipe in cupcake form and try out a vegan chocolate frosting recipe. For the cake, Bea was right–you would honestly never know it’s vegan, and with ingredients like sunflower oil, red wine vinegar, and soy milk, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I stuck with a high quality, extra dark cocoa powder, because I knew that regardless of everything else in it, I wanted the intense and pleasing chocolate taste to be dominant. Both taste and texture went way beyond my expectations, truly (particularly the cake texture–so incredibly moist). As for vegan chocolate frosting, well I knew this was going to be interesting since butter is the base for most cupcake frostings I love, and I knew I wanted this frosting to deliver some serious chocolaty richness.
So . . . let’s keep an open mind when I tell you that it’s made with dark chocolate, icing sugar, vanilla, almond milk and…Vegan, non-hydrogenated, omega-3 margarine (gasp!). It’s made by Becel, has no Trans fats, and is primarily made of canola & sunflower oils, but also has vitamin E, vitamin A, beta carotene and more. I know, trust me, I know–the thought of margarine can turn us off, but honestly, margarine has come a long, long way since we may have last checked in. I’m not a margarine expert, but I was very comfortable whipping this into a dark chocolate frosting and, most importantly, indulging in it. Guys it tasted pretty darn fabulous (by now you know I would never steer you wrong, right?).
The cupcakes don’t need sprinkles, because they really are that good, but if you’re like me and you can’t resist the urge to sprinkle your cupcakes, just keep in mind that, if you need the cupcakes to be completely vegan most sprinkles, quins and dragees aren’t vegan. You can find a few brands out there that are indeed vegan, such as some India Tree products, or I used some real dark chocolate sprinkles from De Ruijter, because they were as close to vegan I had (no animal ingredients in the list, but a mention of possible traces of milk). Since I was just making them for us, I was okay with that, but you would definitely want to triple check if you needed them to be completely vegan. Another option is to use a few berries as decoration, dark chocolates, sugar, or any other small vegan confection you can think of.
Trust me, whether you’re vegan or not, these cupcakes are frickin’ yummy.
- 275 g/2 cups plain/all-purpose flour
- 100 g/3/4 cup natural cocoa powder such as Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa
- 2 teaspoons 10 ml baking soda
- 1 teaspoon 5 ml baking powder
- a pinch of salt
- 450 ml/1-3/4 cup unsweetened soy milk
- 2 teaspoons 10 ml red wine vinegar
- 320 g/ 1-2/3 cups caster/superfine sugar
- 320 ml/1-1/4 cups sunflower oil
- 2 tablespoons 30 ml vanilla extract
- 1 cup 227 g/8 oz Vegan, non-hydrogenated margarine
- 1 cup 125 g/4 oz icing sugar (confectioners’ or powdered)
- 1-1/2 teaspoons 7.5 ml pure vanilla extract
- 5 oz 145 g quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled
- 1/4 cup 60 ml almond or soy milk
- pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 160°C (315°F) Gas 4. Put the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Sift twice.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the soy milk, vinegar, sugar, oil and vanilla extract. Pour into the flour mixture and stir until well combined.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake in the preheated oven for 40-55 minutes. A wooden skewer inserted in the middle should come out with almost no crumbs attached, and the middle of the cake, when pressed, should spring back slightly instead of sink. Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes if necessary.
Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Slide a table knife all around the edge to loosen the cake, then remove from the pan. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 1 hour.
In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the icing sugar and margarine and beat on low speed, about 1 minute.
Add vanilla and beat on low until well combined. Add the melted & cooled chocolate and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add almond milk and salt, and beat on medium speed for another minute.
[vegan chocolate cake recipe shared with permission, from the book Tea With Bea]
- The Vegan Chocolate Cake recipe from the book (Tea with Bea) is for a 9″ cake, but I decided to make cupcakes–if you opt for cupcakes, baking time is approximately 18-20 minutes (this can vary depending on your oven, but start to check them around 18 minutes). Once removed from oven, carefully remove the cupcakes from the pan to cool on a wire rack.
- You can divide the cake recipe in 1/2 for 12 cupcakes.
- If you do bake the cake in a round pan, rather than cupcakes, you could split the batter into two 9″ round pans, rather than baking one taller 9″ layer that would later need to be split.
- If you don’t have superfine sugar, you can simply put your granulated sugar through the food processor for a few pulses.
- I always use Nielsen-Massey Vanilla for my baking. For this recipe I also used Callebaut Dark Callets 70.4 % )
- If frosting is too thick, add more almond or soy milk one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached; if too runny, add a small amount of icing sugar until desired consistency is reached. Frosting thickens as it sets.
- Store frosted cupcakes in an airtight container for up to 3 days (just ate one on day 3, and it rocked).
- Be careful with sprinkles–only specific brands are vegan (if you are making these for someone who is vegan, you will need to watch for common sprinkle ingredients such as gelatine, milk, egg whites, etc)
- These cupcakes & frosting are also perfect for anyone who chooses to eat lactose-free.
- For even more fabulous vegan cupcake ideas, check out Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule (thanks, Amy for reminding me about this book in your post comment)
Good luck & enjoy!