Thursday, 12 June 2014

Vegan chocolate cupcakes with buttercream

These just may be the best cupcakes I've
ever had, vegan or otherwise.
Can you tell I've gotten my camera up and running again? Two recipes in as many days makes for happy readers, right?

These little beauties were inspired by me coming across a massive stash of sprinkles and cake decorating stuff. What better way to use up sprinkles and piping bags than with vegan cupcakes? (Don't worry; it was rhetorical. I know full well that there's no better way.)

Enter the noble chocolate cupcake. And buttercream. We mustn't forget the buttercream. Vanilla buttercream so that we get the best of both worlds--bold chocolate and silky-smooth vanilla. Oh, yes.

When you bite into these cupcakes, you'll understand why I can't get over how beautiful they are. They're the most amazing deep, reddish-brown. They're super fluffy with an impressive crumb. And did I mention they're delicious?

The buttercream is light, airy, full of vanilla flavour, and doesn't taste a damn bit vegan. Also, one of the best parts is just how easy it is to make, assuming you've got access to an electric mixer (steal your mother's if you have to--it's 200% worth it). Also, I can't overstate how much of a difference it makes to invest in an extra-large star-shaped piping tip. It makes your icing look like something out of a magazine. For real.

The glorious cross-section shot, showing the gorgeous colour of the cake and the airy lightness of the buttercream.

If you're into ethical consumerism, this recipe is so easy to make Fair Trade, like I did. Just grab some turbinado and cocoa from Camino, vanilla from Frontier and powdered sugar from Wholesome Sweeteners and you're set. (FYI: I get no commission from recommending these products; I just really love them.)

Let the love affair begin!

The Group of Heaven.
Midnight chocolate cupcakes with buttercream 
Makes 24 cupcakes

For the cupcakes: 
2 cups turbinado sugar
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 cups tap water
1 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Mix sugar, flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa together in a large mixing bowl. Add water, oil, vinegar and vanilla to the dry ingredients and beat by hand until smooth. You will have quite a thin batter--this is totally normal!

Line 24 muffin pans with paper liners and fill with batter. The cups will be about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched with a finger. If you touch one before it's done, don't worry; it will usually return to shape (or close). You'll also probably cover it up when you ice it.

Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting with vegan buttercream (below) and decorating with your favourite sprinkles! (If you use sugar sprinkles--which are essentially just coloured sugar--try making your own out of Fair Trade sugar! Confetti-style sprinkles are also cute, but need to be purchased. I made a whole post on the cutest that Amazon has to offer, if you need to buy some.)

For the vegan buttercream: 
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup Earth Balance (original)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar

Using an electric mixer and the small mixing bowl, cream the shortening and butter until light. Add the vanilla and beat one minute more, scraping down the sides twice. Add icing sugar and beat on low speed to incorporate. Scrape the bowl down, turn the mixer speed up to medium and beat until it's super light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Pipe buttercream onto the top of the cupcakes using a pastry bag and a very large star tip (I used Wilton 1M) for super snazzy-looking results. In a pinch, you can also just spread the frosting with a broad knife or spatula. Best if used right away, and store your frosted cakes in the fridge if you expect they'll last longer than 24 hours.


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