Thursday, September 23, 2010

Five-Spice Banana Cupcakes with Coconut Vanilla Frosting. Yes, They Are Vegan(!!!)

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Vegan and cupcakes go together like an elephant and a pogo stick, which is to say, not at all and a bit absurd. Vegan baking is pretty much the final frontier for vegan cooks. If vegan baking can achieve results that are equal or superior to baking with eggs, butter and cream, then there's no reason not to go vegan. Personally, I've had mixed results the few times I experimented with vegan baking. Just the other day, VB made some vegan cookies using a Duncan Hines chocolate cookie mix. The resulting cookies did not brown because there was no butter and they were doughy and a bit dry. Overall, not necessarily a "fail" but I wouldn't call it a resounding success either.

So. When I saw Chef Chloe Coscarelli on Food Network's Cupcake Wars, I was skeptical. Really? This fair-skinned chocolate-maned fairy princess (seriously, she looks like Snow White) is going to magically make vegan cupcakes that are better than all the butter and cream confections? No way, I thought and switched the channel.

(Off topic, but Food Network needs to stop biting off TLC and Bravo. Cupcake Wars is just a copycat of TLC's Ultimate Bake Off and 24-Hour Restaurant Battle is basically Top Chef's Restaurant Wars challenge minus chefs who can actually cook. Bob and Andrea, you are better than copying other people's ideas. Rant over.)

It wasn't until I read this New York Times piece on that episode that I realized her magical vegan cupcakes had beaten the butter-laden competition. There may be something to this vegan baking after all. I took her vegan cupcake recipes and gave them a different flavor profile. For my vegan cupcake attempt, I made five spice banana cupcakes with vanilla icing. I know this sounds kooky, but the five spice powder adds a bit of warmth to the cupcakes. And it makes you wonder, "What is that? Let me take another bite..."

For these vegan cupcakes, you'll need:
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup of soy milk
  • 1/2 cup of canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of five spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and five spice powder in a large bowl. In another container, whisk to combine soy milk, canola oil, apple cider vinegar and vanilla extract. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Add mashed bananas and stir until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated.

Pour into muffin tins lined with paper cups to about 80 percent full. Bake for 15 minutes. If you're a go-big-or-go-home kind of a person (like me) and used giant cupcake paper cups, then bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cupcakes cool before frosting.

For the icing, you'll need:
  • 1/4 cup of coconut oil (It is a white solid and comes in a jar. You can find it at Whole Foods)
  • 3 cups of confectioner's powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
First, cream coconut oil with a whisk. It won't look like creamed butter, but it should be softened. Add confectioner's sugar and vanilla. While whisking, pour in the water one tablespoon at a time. By the time all the water is incorporated, you should have icing that has a thick butter cream consistency.

Frost your cooled cupcakes and add some walnuts on top for crunch. You're done!

I was really skeptical about the whole thing, especially the frosting. I had tried to make frosting with confectioner's sugar before and they tasted sickly sweet with a very thin consistency. Make no mistake about it, this frosting is sweet, but the coconut oil makes it so fragrant and thick just like buttercream. The cakes are moist and tender with just a hint of spice. These cupcakes are so delicious, they make me wonder, what other delicious flavors of vegan cupcakes can I make?

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