This month, I have baked 48 cupcakes and helped to decorate 84.
It has been great fun.
The first batch was made at the start of June, for Mr Bite's brother's birthday. They were made to complement a lemon cake and followed my standard, 'can't go wrong' vegan chocolate cupcake recipe (repeated at the end of this post).
I decorated the cupcakes simply, with vegan vanilla buttercream and assorted sugar-based sprinkles: leaves in the above photo, and butterflies in the one below.
I have tried a number of vegan cupcake recipes (including the batch I made for bookclub back in May), but these are still my favourite. They are always fluffy, chocolatey, and can stand alone without icing, as all good cupcakes should.
The other 36 cupcakes were, of course, made for my sister's 21st party. My Mum and sister made another 4 batches between them and we ended up with more cupcakes than I have ever seen in one kitchen.
The party was last Friday and from all accounts it went well. I think my sister had fun. I think my contributions (cupcakes, a speech, a photo slide show) went ok. Speech aside, I even found it to be more enjoyable than the 21st parties I went to when I was that age. I suspect this was because I got to stand with Mr Bite, my brother and the adults, rather than the 21-year-olds, and to go home at 10pm. I am old at heart!
I had intended to make the same (vegan) chocolate cupcakes for this occasion, but then on the Monday my sister casually said "You aren't going to make vegan cupcakes are you?".
Now, in fairness to my sister, because I haven't been open about this blog I also haven't gone into extensive detail on my vegan eating preferences. Up until recently my family has thought of me as vegetarian (they do now know I prefer vegan when possible). When I bake, I don't necessarily tell people it is vegan. All in all, they haven't had the opportunity to work out what 'vegan' actually looks like or to grasp that much of what I have been baking over the past year or so is vegan.
Instead of going into this with my sister, I foolishly just said "No, of course not!".
This was a lie.
Unfortunately, my sister then double-checked at the end of the night that I really was going to make "normal" cupcakes and not vegan ones. After confirming this twice, my conscience wouldn't let me make vegan ones and not tell her.
At the same time, I didn't want to try a non-vegan cupcake recipe for the first time when the stakes were a 21st party with 70 plus people.
What to do?!
In the end, my research brain kicked in. I would make a vegan batch and a non-vegan batch and arrange for a single-blind taste test comparison.
The vegan ones
I made the non-vegan ones according to this recipe from Taste.com.au . I followed it exactly, but marbled the batter so that they would look different to the vegan, plain chocolate version. In the end, they would have looked different anyway, but the marbling was easy to do (the recipe calls for melted chocolate, which is mixed in to the batter).
The non-vegan ones
Mr Bite was my first willing participant. I gave him half of each variety and asked him to describe what he thought of each; to pick a favourite; and to guess which one was vegan. For reference, I labelled the vegan batch A and the non-vegan batch B.
A (vegan) on the left; B (non-vegan) on the right
He tasted B (non-vegan) first and described it as "nice, rustic and home-like [?!], chocalatey, and with no harsh undertones".
As for A (vegan)? "Very similar to the first, with the same consistencey and background flavour. Both are chocolatey."
He thought that B (non-vegan) was the vegan one, and indicated that if he had to pick, he slightly preferred A (vegan).
When I repeated this with my Mum and sister, they also found the cupcakes to taste similar. My Mum said that she couldn't pick a favourite but found A (vegan) to be fluffier and so she though it was probably the non-vegan one. My sister said she couldn't pick a favourite but thought A (vegan) was probably the vegan one.
I'm happy to take these results as support for the fluffiness of vegan cupcakes, and for the similarity of this version to the 'real thing'.
Having determined that all cupcake varieties were edible (my Mum and sister's vanilla version also met with approval), we set about piping pink, lemon and vanilla icing onto 80-odd cupcakes and decorating them with marshmallow flowers and more sprinkles.
As for the recipe, I have posted it before but I am re-blogging it here as the photos in the original post are a little less than optimal!
Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting
Vegan and intensely fluffy, these cupcakes have become a firm favourite of mine
Adapted from the Red Velvet Cake recipe in Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's The Vegan Table
Makes 12 large cupcakes or 16 small
For the cupcakes:
1 cup non-dairy milk (I tend to use soy)
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/3 cup good quality cocoa (*see note)
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 180'C and prepare your cupcake tin.
In a medium bowl, combine the milk, sugar, oil, vinegar and vanilla, and beat with an electric beater on medium speed for 1 - 2 minutes.
Add the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt and mix well.
Bake for 20 - 22 minutes, until the cupcakes spring back slightly when touched.
Note. The quality of the cocoa is important as it is what gives the cupcakes their flavour. We tend to use Van Houten, but any good quality brand would work. Although I rarely sift anything, I would also recommend sifting or whisking your cocoa if it is lumpy.
For the icing:
50g non-dairy spread, at room temperature (I use Nuttelex)
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 - 1tbsp water, depending on desired thickness
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat with an electric beater on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
If you plan to pipe the icing, I recommend making a double batch and using only 1/2 tbsp water per set of ingredients.
Do you have a favourite cupcake recipe? And do you think you could pick a vegan cupcake in a line up?