Flora Viola McIntyre, born 1903, never heard the word “vegan” but she definitely knew how to bake without eggs or milk.
When you keep your own hens, you don’t have eggs in the winter. As the days get shorter, the hens rest more and stop laying eggs. (And that’s when you won’t have to head out to the chicken coop to collect the eggs from cranky hens who peck at you when you sneak a hand under them to get the eggs…) Ok, I’m back now. And cows don’t naturally produce milk all year round either. So, there are lots of old recipes that don’t call for eggs or dairy. They’re vegan!
I taste test vegan recipes by asking myself…what would Granny think of this? Would she serve this? Would she even eat this??
I think the original vegan cupcake recipe was OK, but why stop at OK? The recipe called for baking soda and baking powder. I don’t like the taste of baking soda, so I leave it out if there’s another leavener. Usually the baked good rises just as high and that’s what’s happened with these cupcakes. I used the baking powder, left out the baking soda, and replaced apple cider vinegar with fresh lemon juice, just because.
I liked the flavour of the second batch much more without that lingering salty, baking soda aftertaste.
If you’re looking for light and fluffy cupcakes, you’ll want to look elsewhere. These cupcakes remind me of old-fashioned chiffon cakes, or pound cakes. The crumb is quite spongy. I like it.
Also, very easy and quick to make. Just whisk everything together in one bowl. That’s it.
The Vegan Pastry Cream
The first vegan pastry cream I made called for silken tofu, powdered agar (in place of gelatin) and arrowroot (in place of cornstarch). I’ll admit I have kind of a sick thing for tofu. I can eat the stuff plain. Am I even human? I don’t know, but despite my tofu love I found its earthy, beany taste out of place in pastry cream. (What would Julia Child say? I shudder to think.) Also, the pastry cream never set – even with the addition of the incredibly gummy arrowroot. It stayed runny which made for a decidedly unattractive cupcake. (Verdict from Taste Tester Ron: “Um, what’s in this exactly?)
But, then I started thinking…what is pastry cream really? Just fancy vanilla pudding. Why not veganize a nice pudding recipe? Which I did. It was awesome and I didn’t use any agar or arrowroot. Agar comes from seaweed, which may seem gross until you find out how gelatin is made. You will never eat Jell-o again.
I made the pudding, pastry cream first with Silk Organic Original Soy Milk and then with So Nice Organic Unsweetened Almond Milk and both puddings were the silky epitome of everything you expect in a pudding. Coconut milk beverage will be my next pudding experiment. The rum is optional, but…loveable.
The Chocolate Ganache
This was a pleasant surprise. As chocolate often is I guess. “Ganache” sounds French and complicated, n’est pas? But this is about as easy as it gets – just melt some chocolate with a little “milk”. I used Camino Fair Trade Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate with some maple syrup and a little corn syrup. It stayed soft, glossy and spreadable for days in the fridge which meant we could add it to everything!
I make the pastry cream slash vanilla pudding first, so it can chill and continue to thicken while you make the ganache and the cupcakes. You’ll have at least four servings of pudding leftover and is that ever a bad thing?
Once everything is cool, I cut a little “hat” off the top of the cupcake and hollowed it out a bit more to hold the pudding. Then I levelled the bottom of the hat so it would sit nicely on the filled cupcakes and carefully pooled a small amount of ganache on top. Ta da!
- 553 ml (2⅔ cups) your favourite non-dairy milk, divided
- 114 g (1/2 cup, 4 ounces) sugar
- 37 g (1/4 cup. 1.3 ounces) cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 10 ml (2 teaspoons) vanilla
- 5 ml (1 teaspoon) rum, optional
- In a medium saucepan, heat 473 ml (two cups) of milk over low-medium heat.
- Meanwhile, in a heat-proof bowl, mix the remaining 80 ml (2/3 cup) milk with the sugar, cornstarch and salt.
- When the milk is steaming, slowly whisk it into the sugar-cornstrarch mixture.
- Return the mixture to the saucepan and return to heat.
- When it comes to a gentle boil, continue to cook it for one minute to cook the cornstarch.
- Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and rum.
- Divide into six serving bowls and chill about one hour. Let it sit undisturbed (so the protein bonds don't break apart) until you are ready to eat it or fill the cupcakes.
Two teaspoons is a lot of vanilla. I am extremely fond of vanilla. You might prefer one teaspoon.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen. I left out the eggs and swapped out the cow's milk.
- 237 ml (I cup) non-dairy milk
- 5 ml (1 teaspoon) fresh lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 80 ml (1/3 cup) vegetable oil
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
- Stir the lemon juice into the milk and leave it to sour while you gather the other ingredients.
- Whisk together the soured milk, oil, sugar and vanilla.
- Spinkle in the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt.
- Whisk until there are no large lumps.
- Fill the cupcake liners ⅔ full.
- Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the cupcakes test done -the centres are firm and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
- Cool five minutes. Then remove to a wire cooling rack and let them cool completely before filling and frosting.
I used Spectrum Organic Canola Oil. Refrigerate after opening.
Adapted slightly from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I removed the baking soda.
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) non-dairy milk
- 100 g (4 ounces) semi-sweet or dark chocolate
- 30 ml (2 tablespoons) maple syrup
- 15 ml (1 tablespoon) white corn syrup
- Slowly melt the milk and chocolate together over very low heat.
- Remove from heat and stir in the syrups.
- Pour into a cool bowl and chill.
Slightly adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I added some corn syrup.