Sunday, May 9, 2010

Vegan Cupcakes are Real Cupcakes

Vegan baked goods are one of those things that when you think about making them, you get a little scared. How will these cookies be able to stay together if I don't put egg in them? Will my icing be buttery and smooth without butter? Would these just be fake cupcakes, looking like a cupcake, but not tasting like one?
Or at least I got scared when I decided to try my hand at vegan cupcakes. I tried out two recipes from the book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, the basic chocolate and the low fat vanilla cupcakes. The ingredients list for the vanilla cupcakes scared me immediately, as it asked for vanilla soy yogurt... and I had no idea one could make soy into yogurt, and I also didn't know where to find it (it turns out Whole Foods is your best bet). The chocolate cupcakes are slightly more familiar when looking at the ingredients list, just substitute wet ingredients for soy milk and canola oil.

I made a butter cream frosting for both of these cupcakes, but for the first round of cupcakes (the vanilla), I used another recipe I found online, which called for margarine shortening and granulated sugar. I should have stopped there and said, "Hold on a minute. That can't be right, you can't mix granulated sugar into shortening and make smooth icing!" But I didn't because I was so worried about messing up by not following the recipe... and so I made frosting that had the consistency of wet sand.

The vanilla cupcakes came out a little dense, probably because of the apple sauce and the yogurt. I thought they tasted a little like banana bread... despite not having bananas in them. I had others try them, and no one else thought they tasted like bananas, so it was just me. But they were still good. Not a cupcake I would want to eat every day, but good. The icing was indescribably weird, so I'm going to let you use your imagination with what the "sand icing" might have tasted like... or felt like on your tongue.

These cupcakes were not billed as low fat, and used canola oil and soy milk. And I will say right off the bat, these were some of the best cupcakes I have ever made. They were fluffy and moist, not overly sweet. Whenever I have made chocolate cupcakes in the past, they were always a little dense, and so this will be my go to chocolate cupcake recipe in the future.
For these cupcakes I made the butter cream icing from Vegan Cupcakes, which was also very good, but still what I would call, a sub par substitute for real butter cream frosting. If I were going to make these again for non-vegans, I would just put real buttercream on them. For the vegan crowd I would go for a simple confectioners sugar icing, rather than the fake buttercream.

That issue, of needing to find an adequate substitute for many things is one of the reasons I am skeptical of veganism. At some point you have to wonder if it is worth it, if you have chosen not to consume animal products, to go to such lengths to recreate the textures and tastes of, for example, butter. With that small criticism out of the way, I have to say, I am won over by vegan cupcakes at least, they are not fake food... but real food. There has got to be a better way to say that?

Photo credit: from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World


  1. Victor Galli
    Philadelphia (Penn)

    I find your experience and experiments with vegan baking delightfully and refreshingly open-minded. All i will say as far as the icing and the cupcakes in general go, is that vegan baked goods (kjust like normal baked goods) can have better recipes and worse recipes. I have had some pretty mind-blowing vegan icing and cupcakes before that no non-vegan would even be able to detect. I would recommend trying some different recipes and seeing what you can find. I think you will be pleasantly surprised :)

  2. I agree with Victor. There are good and bad recipes in both vegan and regular cooking. I've been baking vegan for a while. Admittedly, at first things didn't quite turn out right. But, after some practice I got pretty good at making vegan cakes and cupcakes. My dad loves my lemon bundt cake with Jack Daniels glaze (yes, it's vegan) and my husband loves my chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and peanut butter caramel drizzle. it's to die for!

    As for your skepticism, there are some who are vegan out of health issues and do not wish to consume cholesterol. You can still make excellent desserts with alternate sweeteners (maple sugar) and very little oil or a healthier oil (coconut oil). I have had an excellent german chocolate cake made along those lines. it was so good that 3 diehard dairy lovers and meat eaters loved it enough to eat two slices! you just have to find the right recipes.



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