Rumpkin Pie Chai Cupcakes

Given that I was leaving the US two days after my birthday to the land of (soy) milk and (date) honey, where it has been fairly consistently sunny and warm (aka Paradise. I’ve gone to the beach more times since I’ve been here than I have in the last few years. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that my Ulpan (Hebrew language school) is about a block away from the water) I thought it was necessary to try and make as many autumny recipes as possible before I left, so for my second birthday cupcake (the first being the Apple Orchard cupcake) I of course had to do something with pumpkin.

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Vegan Pumpkin Spice Latte (not chai) at Peacefood Cafe Downtown in New York City

While I briefly discussed that the cupcakes I have been making are all part of a theme, what I didn’t reveal was that I actually have a whole list of cupcakes to make sitting on my phone, combining seasonal ingredients, with tea and/or booze into awesome cupcakes. Well some of them are seasonal, some are based off of favorite cocktails, while others are inspired by well known tea based drinks. Mental cupcake creation is one of my favorite things to do when I have a long trip to take, and as I dream up cupcake combinations, I have finally taken care to write all of them down. The task now, is to slowly test out these cupcake combinations to see what works, what doesn’t, what’s popular, what I can effectively make gluten free etc.

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Rumpkin Pie Chai cupcakes with the pumpkin peeking through a patch of frosting. Garnished with a sprig of thyme.

There were several factors that went into the creation of this cupcake. First, how to best incorporate some booze into the already popular Chai Latte cupcake from VCTOW (that’s Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World…I’m not going to pull a Rachael Ray and always say the abbreviation and what it stands for, I promise). This is one of my dad’s favorite cupcakes, and the best part is, they’re super simple to make on their own. I thought a good spiced rum would fit nicely with the flavor profile, so that was settled quite easily. Then came choosing an appropriate filling. On my list I actually have written both pumpkin pie and cashew cardamom mousse. I wanted something that would meld nicely with the spices already present in the cake, but when it came down to it, the pumpkin craze had already begun, and nothing could beat a chai spiced cake with a deliciously creamy pumpkin pie filling. I generally consider spiking my frostings, just for the extra dose of booze, but because I was making these in tandem with the apple cupcakes (rather than packing….sorry Dad. And Jordan. I bake when I’m stressed, ok?) I needed to make my life a little easier and use only one frosting for both cupcakes. So on went the cinnamon buttercream. The last element to these cupcakes were attempting to make them gluten free. I have tried several different flour mixes for cupcakes with varying successes. This time, I used some leftover from the mix suggested in The Allergen-Free Bakers Handbook by Cybele Pascal. I’ve found that this mix creates a cupcake that is a little more dense than I would like, but the secret to the chai cupcake recipe is the addition of some non dairy yogurt, which creates a moist, light cake. I wanted to see if the combination of the yogurt with the flour blend would create a more satisfactory texture. Good news: it did!

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Autumn in Israel

Frequently, when I write down my cupcake ideas, I like to dream them up as the perfect package, complete with elegant if not time consuming garnishes. After all, I would eventually like to sell these (in which case maybe I should stop giving away all my secrets!), but usually, I just don’t have the time to make some of these complicated little additions, nor can I necessarily finance all the resources. For example on the apple cupcakes, I really wanted to throw on a little piece of pie crust, because yum. Crust is totally the best part of the pie. Also, they go crazy for garnishes like that on cupcake wars, but when it came down to it, not only was in nice to have a slice of fresh, crisp apple on top, it also added a nicer color, and, took significantly less work. When it came to garnishing the Rumpkin cupcakes, I found they needed a pop of color to brighten them up. Luckily, I had some sprigs of thyme that had dried up in my fridge, and added the perfect touch of color/actual pumpkin patch vibe I was going for. While I didn’t intend them to add anything flavor-wise, thyme and pumpkin make a pretty nice pair, though you could also probably use a sprig of rosemary or even a sage leaf (talk about an autumn classic, pumpkin and sage).

And now for the recipe:

Chai Cupcake (adapted from VCTOW)

  • 1 scant cup non dairy milk
  • 4 black tea bags or 2 tbsp loose black tea
  • 1/4 c dark or spiced rum
  • 1/4 c canola oil
  • 1/2 c vanilla or plain non dairy yogurt
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 c gluten free flour blend*
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • Pinch to 1/8 tsp ground white or black pepper

*I used the the flour mix from the Allergen-Free Bakers Handbook, but you could try whatever you have on hand (or regular flour, and leave out the xanthan gum).  I just can’t vouch for the final product using a different gluten free flour combo.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with cupcake liners.  Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until almost boiling.  Add tea bags, remove from heat and cover.  Let sit for about 10 minutes, then squeeze all the excess milk from the tea bag/leaves and discard.  Measure the tea mixture, and rather than top off with milk, top off with rum, so the mixture equals 1 cup of liquid.  (This is why you can even start off with a little bit less milk even).  In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, yogurt, sugar, vanilla, and the tea mixture until all lumps disappear.  Sift in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and all the spices into the wet ingredients. Mix until large lumps disappear; some small lumps are ok.  Fill tins full and bake about 20 to 22 minutes until a sharp knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

  • 1/2 can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling, you want plain old pumpkin)
  • 1/2 c coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tbsp tapioca starch (cornstarch would probably work too)
  • 1/4 c sugar or maple syrup or to taste
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • pinch of cloves
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tbsp spiced rum

Combine everything but the vanilla and the rum in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until well combined and smooth, then cook until it just starts to boil, stirring frequently.  The mixture should smooth out even more and then thicken to a thick, custard-like consistency.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and rum.

Cinnamon Buttercream*

  • 1/2 c nonhydrogenated vegan margarine
  • 1/2 c nonhydrogenated shortening
  • 3 1/2 c confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tbsp non-dairy milk

*You really only need a half batch for 12 cupcakes.  I made this whole recipe in conjunction with the apple cupcakes, and was able to frost 2 dozen with this amount of frosting.

Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined.  Add the sugar and cinnamon and beat for another about 3 minutes more.  Add the vanilla and 2 tbsp of the non dairy milk.  Beat for another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy.  If it is too dry add more milk, 1 tbsp at a time.

To assemble:

Put the pumpkin pie filling in a piping bag fitted with a large round tip.  Using your pinky finger, poke a hole in each cupcake.  Fill with as much pumpkin pie filling as you can, leaving a nice round dollop of filling on top of the cupcake.  Fit a separate piping bag with a star tip and fill with the cinnamon buttercream.  Pipe little star flowers all around the pumpkin.  Garnish with a sprig of something green.

Sorry for the lack of pictures with this post!  I was in the middle of moving, and didn’t think to take more.  Mostly, I’m happy I took five minutes to write down these recipes.  Also, I probably should have gotten this out sooner, but good thing pumpkin is still entirely appropriate to eat throughout November!

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Vegan Apple Orchard Cupcakes

It’s been a few years since I’ve had the opportunity to go apple picking, but nonetheless, apples are still one of my favorite fruits. As much as I don’t look forward to fall (I know blasphemous, but I really dislike cold weather, even autumn cold) I still look forward to apple season, when I can get fresh crisp apples in all kinds of sweet and tart varieties. My favorite apples are usually a pleasant blend of sweet and tart, with just a hint of berry in the finish, like the pink lady apple. And while I definitely prefer all of my fruit fresh, apples are probably my favorite to eat cooked into a pastry, be it pie, cake or muffins. It came as no surprise then, when I discovered Woodchuck hard cider about two years ago, and instantly fell in love. It’s the perfect drink to casually sip, and never gets old given the preponderance of seasonal flavors and special batches. I particularly like the Summer blend, with it’s hint of blueberry, as well as the 802, which is slightly richer and has some deep caramel notes. Of course it was completely necessary to turn my favorite drink into a cupcake, one which is perfect for a northeastern autumn—or my birthday, which falls at the end of September. I hadn’t planned on making my own birthday cupcakes this year, but I accidentally joked about doing so when I invited my friend out for my birthday party, and everyone kinda took that seriously. So I heeded their advice and made not one but two kinds of cupcakes (the second of which I’ll post about at a later date).

Woodchuck Winter and Woodchuck Pink

Woodchuck Winter and Woodchuck Pink

I blended the cider into a cake with just a hint of warming cinnamon, and then filled it with a scrumptious spiked apple filing, and topped it off with a cinnamon buttercream. It’s garnished with a slice of fresh apple, and drizzled with a little dulce de leche. The first time I made these, I actually used several different spices in the cake, but I found that they overpowered the cider, whereas I think cinnamon will be complementary, and add that hint of warmth we expect with apple cakes, without overpowering the cider flavor.

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Apple Orchard cupcakes in all their glory

Cupcakes:

  • 3/4 c hard apple cider, such as Woodchuck 802
  • 1/4 c non dairy milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/3 c canola oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners Combine the non dairy milk and the vinegar, and set aside while you mix the cider, sugar, oil and vanilla together in a large bowl. Add the milk mixture, and beat (a fork does the trick) until the mixture looks fairly homogenous. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture in two batches, mixing well before adding the second batch. The batter should be fairly smooth, with only some small lumps remaining. Add the batter to the liners, filling until each is about 3/4 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool.

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Apple filling in progress, complete with bourbon

Apple filling:

  • 1 medium sized apple, diced small. Skins on or off. (I used a pink lady apple and left the skins on for color)
  • 1-2 tbsp Earth Balance (or other non hydrogenated vegan margarine)
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup (or to taste)
  • 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tbsp liquor of choice*

*I used bourbon here because that’s what I had and I didn’t want to buy a whole new bottle of something since I was moving out of my place the next day, but I think an apple brandy would also be excellent in this filling. Melt the margarine in a skillet over medium heat, add the diced apples and sauté for about five minutes until they just start to caramelize, add the cinnamon, water, and maple syrup and cook until soft, then let the water reduce until there’s only about a tablespoon of liquid left. Now add the liquor, and (VERY CAREFULLY, this step is not entirely necessary, mostly it’s fun) light it aflame! Let the flames burn out, then cook down until there’s only a tablespoon or so of liquid left. We don’t want soggy cupcakes. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool. Cinnamon Buttercream (adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World):

  • 1/2 c non-hydrogenated shortening
  • 1/2 c non-hydrogenated vegan margarine (like Earth Balance)
  • 3 1/2 c confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tbsp non dairy milk

*You really only need a half batch for 12 cupcakes.  I made this whole recipe in conjunction with the chai cupcakes, and was able to frost 2 dozen with this amount of frosting.

Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined.  Add the sugar and cinnamon and beat for another about 3 minutes more.  Add the vanilla and 2 tbsp of the non dairy milk.  Beat for another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy.  If it is too dry add more milk, 1 tbsp at a time.

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Cupcake assembly process

To assemble:

  • 1 apple (I used another pink lady)
  • Dulce de Leche*
  • Piping bag fitted with a large star tip
  • Paring knife
  • a few tbsp of lemon juice

*I used this recipe to a T because I already had it on hand, but if I were to make it specifically for this recipe, I would probably substitute the Jameson for apple brandy.  Just make sure you match the liquor to what you use in the filling. Using the paring knife, cut a circle out of the top of the cupcake, so you end up removing a small cone of cake (you can almost see it in the picture). Do not discard the excess cake!  Add about a teaspoon of the apple filling to the center, so the hole is just full.  Fill the piping bag with buttercream and pipe a beautiful swirl over the top of the cake to cover the filling.  Take the apple, and cut off one side, close to the core (but don’t cut into the core).  Slice that side into very thin slices (so they look similar to the photo all the way above), discarding (ie eating…ok or maybe sharing with the dog if you’re nice) the weird triangular ends. Dip the slices in lemon juice and pat dry. Place the cake piece you cut out just off center of the cupcake, with the smooth part perpendicular to the cupcake surface.  Now lay the apple slice over the cupcake, so it is leaning on the little cake cone.  Drizzle the with dulce de leche, and serve! While these look fairly delicate, I managed to transport them from my apartment to a dinner and then a bar with my friends, and then even managed to take the (one) leftover cupcake to my mom’s in NJ.

Beer, Baileys, and Cupcakes

I’ve gotten a lot of requests for a food blog in the last few years, and I figured the time was ripe to give in to peer pressure.

This is the “Irish Car Bomb” cupcake, named after the drink (I apologize if you find that drink offensive, but I didn’t make it up).  I invented this recipe when I decided to enter the vegan bake-off last February.  I think I applied too late (too late for another cupcake anyway), so I didn’t get to compete with it, but I did make it for fun several weeks later as a treat for my coworkers.  I then improved on the recipe for my friends 21st birthday a few weeks after that.Image

This cake is all vegan, all the time.  In fact, I considered calling this blog “The Olive Branch” because I feel like a plant based symbol of peace of was an appropriate description my cuisine.  Alas, tea, booze and cupcakes have managed to take over, and this is the one that started it all.

This cupcake is a chocolate stout cake, with a Jameson chocolate truffle baked into the center, topped with a homemade “Bailey’s” (or I guess I could just say dairy free Irish creme) buttercream, and drizzled with a Jameson spiked dulce de leche.  I know there’s no tea in these, but in order to get to tea time, I had to go through booze time.

I did adapt the cupcakes into a whole cake recently (yesterday) which made me realize that I’m not particularly fond of making whole cakes. From here on out, I will only be taking orders for cupcakes.  And now, for the recipe.  There are a lot of components, but most of them can be made well in advance.

A note on my cooking: when I cook, I generally tend not to have any kind of recipe, and to just dump things into a pot or pan and see what happens, but I can at least try to guesstimate proportions when I post stuff now.  I do use actual recipes when I bake, so those are easier to provide, though they also still generally involve a fair bit of tweaking.

Dulce de (coco) leche (adapted from Alton Brown):

  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split with seeds scraped
  • 1/2 tsp of baking soda
  • Irish whiskey (I used Jameson)

Combine the coconut milks, sugar and vanilla bean and seeds into a size pan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved, then stir in the baking soda (the mixture bubbled up quite violently when I did this, so I would definitely lower the heat first).  Bring back to a gentle simmer, and cook for an hour, stirring occasionally. After an hour, remove the vanilla bean, and then continue to cook until it is a dark caramel color, about 2 hours.  Turn off the heat and incorporate the whiskey.  The thicker the mixture, the stronger you can make it (since you can use the whiskey to thin it out).  Strain through a fine mesh sieve and allow to cool. Serve on cupcakes or ice cream (or on a spoon…or finger as was the case last night).  Store in the fridge (I keep mine in a squeeze bottle).

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Irish Cream

  • 1 can of full fat coconut milk
  • 1 can of light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup of sugar (brown sugar works too!)
  • 3/4 cup espresso or strong coffee (I used a heaping tablespoon of instant coffee dissolved into 3/4 cup hot water
  • 1 heaping tablespoon cocoa powder
  • Whiskey to taste (about 1 cup, but really, make it as strong as you want it)

Combine the sugar and coconut milks in a pot and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, until just slightly reduced, and stir in the coffee mixture.  Remove from heat and add the whiskey.  Enjoy over ice, stirred into coffee, hot chocolate, soy milk!  Store in the fridge.

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Jameson chocolate truffles (adapted from Chloe’s Kitchen)

  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk, with the cream stirred in
  • 1 1/2 cups of semi-sweet (or bittersweet) chocolate, either chips or chopped
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 shots worth of whiskey

Warm coconut milk in a sauce pan over medium heat, until barely boiling.  Add chocolate and stir until smooth.  Remove from heat and add vanilla, salt and whiskey.  Pour in a pie plate or loaf pan and chill until firm.  Form into walnut sized balls, using a tablespoon and freeze until ready to use.  If you want a stronger truffle, I would reduce the amount of coconut milk before adding more Jameson because we want the ganache to set up firm.

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Cupcakes (adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World)

  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsps all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder (I prefer Cocoa Rouge by Guittard.  It has a really deep chocolatey flavor that is exceedingly smooth, rather than bitter)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup stout (I used Brooklyn Brewery chocolate stout. Most Guinness is not vegan in the US)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and fill a cupcake tin with liners.

Combine the milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and let stand (to curdle just a little) while you work on the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Combine the milk mixture with the stout, sugar, oil and vanilla.  Stir together until foamy and well combined.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet in two batches, mixing until well combined, about 2 minutes.  Distribute the batter evenly among the cupcake tin, so each is about 3/4 of the way full.  Place a frozen truffle on top of each cupcake, and bake about 18-22 minutes. The cake should spring back lightly at your touch.  It will not be possible to use the toothpick test for doneness because of the truffle, which should have become encased in batter while baking.  Let cool before frosting.

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“Bailey’s” buttercream

  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance (I prefer sticks for frosting)
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp espresso powder
  • 1 tbsp whiskey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup vegan Irish Cream

Beat together shortening and margarine until fluffy.  Add sugar and cocoa pwder and beat a few minutes longer, until well combined.  Then add the espresso powder, whiskey, vanilla and “Baileys”  Beat together about 5 minutes, until smooth and creamy.

To assemble: either pipe or spread frosting onto cooled cupcakes.  Drizzle with dulce de leche. Eat and repeat.

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Here’s a picture of the full sized cake version.  Making this was definitely a case of Murphy’s Law, as one thing after another tried to trip me up.  Tweaks I made to convert this include adding more liquid as well as some Earth Balance into the ganache, so as to make it spreadable.  Turned out, even though I loved the consistency, I think I over filled the layers, and ended up with ganache oozing out into the icing, so that’s where the chocolate shavings came in.  The writing was dulce de leche mixed with confectioner’s sugar in order to stiffen it up a little bit.  The birthday boy and friend thought it looked great (though I would have liked to make a cleaner presentation of it), and gave me ultimate praise for taste.

Whew! Well that was quite the recipe typing marathon.  I promise I don’t always make stuff that is this complicated, but I can promise it will always be delicious!