Nolan’s Birthday Cupcakes

Yesterday, my first-born son turned three years old! I cannot believe how fast the time has flown.

 

268581_10107873905936204_2791176742070351537_n

Two days ago, I posted a picture of the cupcakes I made him in the cooling process and received many inquiries for the recipe, so here it is!

These cupcakes are just sweet enough and super fluffy. They are delicious on their own or topped with your frosting or icing of choice. My cake formula is also easily adaptable, should the recipient have special dietary needs or preferences, as was the case at Nolan’s daycare (one little one couldn’t have peanuts). Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: CAKE

Makes 12 cupcakes or one 8 x 8 square or round cake

  • 1 cup flour –> I’m using whole wheat.
  • 1-1 ½ cups (depending on the flour) unsweetened, unflavored plant milk –> I’m using 1 cup cashew.
  • ¾ cup sweetener –> I’m using turbinado sugar.
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed
  • ¼ cup oil –> I’m using melted coconut.
  • 1 vegan “egg” substitute (i.e. mashed banana, applesauce, etc.) –> I’m using 1 small banana.
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum (a binding agent, if using gluten-free flour) –> I’m not using it.
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½-1 tsp extract (depending on the flavor intensity) –> I’m using 1 tsp vanilla.
  • ¼ tsp salt –> I’m using pink Himalayan sea salt.
  • Up to ½ cup specialty ingredients (chopped nuts, dried fruit, shredded coconut, cocoa powder, citrus juice/zest, etc.) (optional) –> I’m using nearly ½ cup chopped raw walnuts and ½ tsp ground cinnamon.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your “egg,” whether that involves scooping, mashing, combining, etc. in a large mixing bowl.   Mix together all of your wet ingredients in the same bowl. Separately mix all dry ingredients. Using a whisk or wooden spoon, slowly incorporate the dry into the wet until a smooth, pourable batter forms. Stir in any specialty ingredients, if using.

Pour the cake batter into a greased square 8 x 8 baking dish or round baking dish, or evenly into 12 lined muffin cups. Place the cake/cupcakes in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. My mom always told me that it’s better to over bake a cake (and under bake a brownie); nothing worse than goopy batter in the middle!

 

DSC_2742

Set your cake on a cooling rack for an hour or two. Speed the process by placing it uncovered in the fridge. When your cake (or cupcakes) is cool, frost and decorate (if you want), and dig in!

DSC_2750

 

 

 

Advertisements

Pomegranate “Cream Cheese” Frosting

I’m happy to report that my take on traditional cream cheese frosting does not include either dairy cream cheese or processed vegan cream cheese.  The star here—as with my fruit mousse—is cashews.  I’ve been using cashews in everything lately, from my “alfredo” sauce to my creamy vegetable sauce to this cake topper.  It’s amazing how smoothly they blend up and I’ve come to prefer them to blending up tofu most of the time.

In other news, a recent Bountiful Basket yielded sixteen pounds of pomegranates, so Travis and I have our work cut out for us in using all of those up.  Pomegranates are normally quite expensive, so we seized the opportunity to stock up on this super food for cheap ($15!).  Thirty-two weeks pregnant tomorrow, my cravings for dessert have not subsided, so it’ll be pomegranate desserts and smoothies for the next several weeks!

The pomegranate is similar to an apple in shape and filled with sweet, juicy seeds, known as arils.  The arils are the only edible part of the fruit and thus, where all of the nutrients lie.  Arils are high in fiber, vitamins C and K, and polyphenols.  Polyphenols are rich in heart health and anti-cancer benefits, making the arils and their juice highly sought after.

DSC_2415

Having such a large batch of pomegranates right now means that I have fruits of varying colors and sweetness levels.  Believe it or not, the paler arils from the pomegranate pictured above were actually sweeter and tastier than the richer red arils retrieved from a second fruit to garnish the cake.  As a result, I used the paler arils in the icing itself and the deep red arils for sprinkling.

DSC_2416

If I were to make this frosting again, I would consider using more cashews to bump up the cream cheese flavor, but I can definitely taste the resemblance in this rendition.  Delicious and inspiring that someday I’ll get vegan cheesecake right.  🙂  Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE:  CAKE

Makes 12 cupcakes or one 8 x 8 square or round cake

For the cake:

  • 1 cup flour –> I’m using whole wheat.
  • 1-1 ½ cups plant milk (depending on the flour) –> I’m using ¾ cup almond since I’m using extra liquid elsewhere.
  • ¾ cup sweetener –> I’m using turbinado sugar.
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed
  • ¼ cup oil –> I’m using coconut.
  • 1 vegan “egg” substitute (i.e. mashed banana, applesauce, etc.) –> I’m mixing a few tablespoons of hot water with my ground flaxseed.
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum (a binding agent, if using gluten-free flour) –> I’m not using it.
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½-1 tsp extract (depending on the flavor intensity) –> I’m using 1 tsp homemade vanilla.
  • ¼ tsp pink Himalayan sea salt
  • Up to ½ cup specialty ingredients (chopped nuts, dried fruit, shredded coconut, cocoa powder, citrus juice/zest, etc.) (optional) –> I’m using the zest and juice of 1 lemon.

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh or steamed fruit (depending on the fruit) –> I’m using ½ cup pomegranate arils and ½ cup raw cashews (soaked overnight).
  • ½ cup powdered sweetener –> I’m using turbinado.
  • ¼ cup room temperature natural vegan butter
  • 1 tsp citrus juice (to preserve the color of the fruit)* –> I’m using clementine.
  • ½-¼ tsp extract (depending on the flavor intensity) –> I’m using a splash of homemade vanilla.

*I would avoid food coloring unless you can find an all-natural variety containing plant pigments. Some varieties come from animals and others are made artificially with chemicals.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your “egg,” whether that involves scooping, mashing, combining, etc. in a large mixing bowl.   Mix together all of your wet ingredients in the same bowl. Separately mix all dry ingredients. Using a whisk or wooden spoon, slowly incorporate the dry into the wet until a smooth, pourable batter forms. Stir in any specialty ingredients, if using.Pour the cake batter into a greased square 8 x 8 baking dish or round baking dish, or evenly into 12 lined muffin cups.

DSC_2411

Place the cake/cupcakes in the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. My mom always told me that it’s better to over bake a cake (and under bake a brownie); nothing worse than goopy batter in the middle!Set your cake on a cooling rack for an hour or two. Speed the process by placing it uncovered in the fridge.

While the cake is baking, make your frosting. First, puree the fruit, cashews, citrus juice, and extract to a smooth, pourable consistency. Beat together the sugar and butter/shortening, slowly incorporating the pureed fruit mixture until an icing-like consistency is achieved. Cover and chill in the fridge while your cake cools to stiffen it up, at which point it will be more spreadable and less pourable.

DSC_2421

When your cake (or cupcakes) is cool, frost, garnish, and dig in!

DSC_2429

Let Everyone Eat Cake!

DSC_1900

Ok, so I don’t do dessert often, but I definitely have a sweet tooth now and then. Some desserts can be prepared more healthily than others; take my dessert smoothie, for example. Other “desserts” are really just a creative or eye-catching preparation of fruit, which I think is fantastic. When I really do dessert, however, I want to go beyond what I’m eating regularly—smoothies, fruit, dark chocolate—and create something that even those not following a plant-based lifestyle would love to eat.

When I think of a “special” dessert, as many people do, I think of cake. I’ve made cakes for myself and others for all sorts of reasons. Years ago, I once made a cake at 10:00 at night because I needed a break from grading essays. Any excuse is a good excuse. 🙂

The problem with cake, like many traditional desserts, is that it is loaded with sugar and fat. While my newly-developed cake formula does not eliminate these foes, I have found a way to make smart substitutions and reductions. I do not cook or bake with white flour, white granulated sugar, or white table salt…ever.

Additionally, because this a plant-based recipe, it is totally vegan and thus, includes no eggs. Gluten-free diet? No problem! You can make this cake gluten-free, too, as I am today. My mother-in-law has a gluten intolerance and is allergic to almonds as well, so I am substituting my favorite plant milk—almond—with flax.

With any dessert, I think it is crucial to incorporate and capitalize on natural sugars whenever possible. Thus, the frosting formula I’ve come up with utilizes fruit as one of its ingredients. In places where I need another type of sweetener, I’m calling upon one of my old standbys: raw turbinado sugar.

What is raw turbinado sugar? In a nutshell, it is cane sugar that has not been refined into what we commonly know as white granulated sugar. When sugar cane is pressed, it releases juice that evaporates into the crystals that are turbinado sugar. It is minimally processed with no chemicals. Turbinado sugar retains a rich molasses flavor that is lost in processing white sugar, as well as vitamins and minerals. It is lower in calories than white sugar and, it’s vegan.

DSC_1890White sugar isn’t vegan?! Bone char—from cows—is used to produce white sugar’s white color. Ew.

What do I substitute for the eggs? There are actually more egg substitutes out there than you may have imagined. I follow a mostly-raw vegan blogger that shared these popular switches, equivalent to one egg:

  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed + 3 tbsps water
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds + 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tbsp soy protein powder + 3 tbsps water
  • 1 tbsp agar agar + 1 tbsp water
  • ½ mashed ripe banana
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 tbsps peanut butter

Of course, some of these egg alternatives will affect the flavor profile of your dessert, so choose wisely!

Overall, cake isn’t your healthiest option for dessert, but if you must—and sometimes, you absolutely must—consider an alternative to the boxed variety. I promise, you won’t be disappointed! Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: CAKE

For the cake:

  • 1 cup flour –>  I’m using brown rice.  (See my multi-grain salad post for the nutritional benefits of brown rice.)
  • 1-1 ½ cups plant milk (depending on the flour) –>  I’m using just over 1 cup of flax.
  • ¾ cup sweetener –>  I’m using raw turbinado sugar.
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed
  • ¼ cup oil –>  I’m using coconut (melted).
  • 1 “egg” –>  I’m using ½ of a mashed ripe banana.
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum (a binding agent, if using gluten-free flour) –>  I’m using it (see below).

DSC_1886

  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½-1 tsp extract (depending on the flavor intensity) –>  I’m using 1 tsp vanilla.
  • ¼ tsp salt –>  I’m using pink Himalayan sea salt.
  • Up to ½ cup specialty ingredients (chopped nuts, dried fruit, shredded coconut, cocoa powder, citrus juice/zest, etc.) (optional) –> I’m not using any.

For the frosting**:

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh or steamed fruit (depending on the fruit) –>  I’m using raw strawberries.
  • ½ cup powdered sweetener –>  I’m using turbinado sugar, which I’ve turned into powdered sugar with the dry blade on my Vitamix.

DSC_1892

  • ¼ cup room temperature natural vegan butter –>  I don’t love to use a butter alternative very often since I’m not keen on every ingredient used to make it, but I tried making frosting with solid coconut oil and it just didn’t take.  It’s ok, it’s just a little…and it’s just this once. 🙂
  • 1 tsp citrus juice (to preserve the color of the fruit)*** –>  I’m using lemon.
  • ½-¼ tsp extract (depending on the flavor intensity) –>  I’m using ½ tsp vanilla.

**If you’re like me, I’ll sometimes chow down on a cake without frosting! Add it or don’t. 🙂

***I would avoid food coloring unless you can find an all-natural variety containing plant pigments. Some varieties come from animals and others are made artificially with chemicals.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your “egg,” whether that involves scooping, mashing, combining, etc. in a large mixing bowl.

DSC_1884

Mix together all of your wet ingredients in the same bowl. Separately mix all dry ingredients. Using a whisk or wooden spoon, slowly incorporate the dry into the wet until a smooth, semi-pourable batter forms. Stir in any specialty ingredients, if using.

DSC_1895Pour the cake batter into a greased square 8 x 8 baking dish or round baking dish, or evenly into 12 lined muffin cups. Place the cake/cupcakes in the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. My mom always told me that it’s better to over bake a cake (and under bake a brownie); nothing worse than goopy batter in the middle!

Set your cake on a cooling rack for an hour or two. Speed the process by placing it uncovered in the fridge.

DSC_1896

While the cake is baking, make your frosting. First, puree the fruit, citrus juice, and extract to a smooth, pourable consistency. Beat together the sugar and butter/shortening, slowly incorporating the pureed fruit mixture until an icing-like consistency is achieved. You will probably have some fruit puree leftover. Cover and chill in the fridge for an hour to stiffen it up, at which point it will be more spreadable and less pourable.

DSC_1899

When your cake (or cupcakes) is cool, frost and decorate (if you want), and dig in!

DSC_1901 DSC_1903