March 29, 2009

Vegan Cupcake Trio for the Mammafish Project

When I read that Shelly of Musings from the Fishbowl was looking for volunteers to help create a birthday surprise for her mom I knew I had to join in. Shelly is a vegan foodblogger and former Michigander who currently lives in France. Her mom's 60th birthday was coming up and she still lives in my neck of the woods in MI. I don't think you could get me to turn down an opportunity to bake a birthday surprise for someone.

Shelly gave me the clues that her mom used to like turtle candies and wasn't a big fan of lots of butter cream. Even though I do bake with eggs and eat meat occasionally, I wanted to play the surrogate daughter and bake some vegan cupcakes in Shelly's place. With my husband as a sounding board I came up with a turtle cupcake with a pretzel crust bottom for saltiness, chocolate cake, my vegan caramel cooked softer for a filling, freshly toasted pecans, and a blob of fudge frosting for the turtle body. Since my son was hanging around looking for samples I made a vegan version of the yogurt cake he's been so fond of lately. Half I flavored with lemon and half I added matcha (powdered green tea) to. The matcha got Alex's new favorite frosting, dairy-free white chocolate ganache, and a little slice of candied ginger to make them pretty. The lemon cakes I topped with strawberry filling reminiscent of pie filling. Great strawberries are finally coming in, though it's still months before they are the best local ones. I grabbed a bunch of fragrant organic ones on my last trip up north.

My favorite cupcakes were the strawberry/lemon ones. They are brightly-flavored and make me think of spring and summer on the way. Alex loved the lemon cake but would have preferred the white chocolate ganache with it. I guess I have an Easter cake pairing all set there. The matcha cakes still needed a little more green tea flavor and I would chop the ginger into finer pieces next time because the bite with the ginger was just perfect. Alas, I was only somewhat satisfied with the turtle cupcakes. The caramel was lighter than I would have liked and the flavor was lost in the chocolate cake. The pretzel crust was tasty but it needed a little more margarine and sugar to be perfect. My husband John isn't eating sweets right now but I made sure to freeze some of the extras so he can try them and give me a solid critique. The turtle cupcakes will be getting a second run with a different caramel method, improved pretzel crust and vanilla cake. I'll post the recipe when I'm happy with it. Until then here are pictures of my baking and the recipe for the strawberry/lemon cakes.
Happy Birthday Mammafish!

Strawberry-Topped Vegan Lemon Mini Cupcakes
Inspiration taken from the FatFree Vegan Kitchen recipe Strawberry Snack Cake and the Tofu for Two recipe Fragrant Lemon Cake.
Makes 12 mini cupcakes

Cake ingredients:
1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 ounces (1/2 container) vanilla So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon soy milk
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons almond meal

Strawberry topping ingredients:
8 ounces strawberries, hulled and diced
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

-Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a mini cupcake pan with papers or lay out your mini nut cups on a baking sheet. I use Wilton Mini Nut Cups and I always snip the rolled edge in two spots so that the papers can be ripped off easier. Make the snip just through the edge and you won't be able to tell. You will have to inform the recipients to pull at the snipped spots.
-Prepare the strawberry topping by placing the strawberries, sugar from the topping ingredient list and cornstarch in a cold saucepan. Gently toss the strawberries in the sugar and cornstarch to coat. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally gently, until the strawberries release some of their juices and the juices bubble and thicken. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice to taste. Cooked strawberries lose some of their brightness and the lemon juice will pick that back up. Place the strawberry topping in a bowl, cover and refrigerate. You want the topping cold or it will slide off the cupcakes.
-Begin making the cupcake batter by beating the margarine and powdered sugar in a stand mixer until light and fluffy.
-Add the yogurt a tablespoon at a time, beating between each addition. Add the soy milk, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla one at a time and beat again until everything is incorporated well and the mixture is fluffy like frosting. You will need to scrape the bowl a couple of times.
-In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add half of the flour mixture to the margarine mixture and beat until mostly incorporated. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat just until smooth.
-Fold in the almond meal. Spoon (or scoop with a small disher) the batter into the snipped nut cups or lined mini cupcake pan. Fill each cup three quarters full.
-Place in the center of the preheated oven and back for 14-17 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely. The cakes will fall some while cooling.
-Top each cooled cupcake with a spoon of strawberry topping and serve.

The Mammafish cupcake project: (clockwise from top left) the trio of vegan cupcakes, laying out the pecan turtle legs, the matcha cupcake w/ white chocolate ganache and candied ginger, prepping the pretzel crust for the turtle cupcakes