vegan dulce de leche cupcakes

Even though at the time it felt as though the sky was falling, I think turning thirty was one of the best things that ever happened to me. So I am pleased to welcome my bestie of hella years to the club. Hooray! You made it! Good job!

Every birthday is worthy of a sweet treat. But the big birthdays call for something fabulous. So I made sure to pull out all the stops. There was a serious debate going on in my head for days. Cupcakes or a cake? Chocolate cookies? Marshmallow frosting? Caramel?

And then I had an epiphany. A dulce de leche cupcake epiphany.

I actually already had a dulce de leche moment a few months ago. I tried the whole canned condensed milk in the crockpot thing, which probably would’ve worked out if I had let it cook for an additional hour or two. Then I went the store-bought route. And put it in everything. I put it in cupcakes. I put it in frosting. But I just wasn’t satisfied with the results. And because I gained a few pounds that week as a result of my overzealous taste testing, I decided I had to move on.

But while I was looking for caramel recipes the other day, I found this recipe for vegan dulce de leche sauce. And I knew I was onto something. The perfect dulce de leche cupcake was just around the bend.

It begins with a super moist, super chocolatey cupcake. Then a little well is created in the center of said cupcake. The well is filled with dulce de leche sauce. And the whole thing is topped with a cream cheese-dulce de leche frosting, which will knock your socks off. It’s quite the package, this little cupcake. It’s just what I wanted.

Thanks for being born, pal!

vegan dulce de leche cupcakes

makes 1 dozen cupcakes

for the dulce de leche sauce:

from Terry Hope Romero via Shine

makes about 1-1/2 cups

1 cup soy creamer or rich soy milk

4 teaspoons tapioca flour or arrowroot powder

1⁄2 cup brown rice syrup

1⁄2 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated vegan margarine

1 1⁄2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon kosher salt (optional)

In a measuring cup, whisk together 1/4 cup of the soy creamer and the tapioca flour and set aside. In a large saucepan, combine the remaining 3/4 cup of soy creamer, brown rice syrup, and brown sugar.  Bring to a slow boil over medium heat. Stir in the margarine and reduce the heat to low. Simmer the sauce for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The mixture should resemble a thick caramel sauce and easily coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Whisk the tapioca flour mixture again and stir it slowly into the simmering sauce. Continue stirring until the sauce thickens even more, simmering for another 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Let cool completely before using in frosting or cupcake filling.

for the chocolate cupcakes:

adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

1 cup soy milk

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

3/4 cups granulated sugar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract or chocolate extract  or more vanilla extract (I used 1/4 teaspoon of almond and chocolate)

1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-processed or natural ( I used Dutch-processed)

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a standard muffin pan with paper liners.

Whisk together the soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add the sugar, oil, vanilla extract, other extracts, and espresso powder to the  soy milk mixture and beat until foamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients in two batches to the soy milk mixture and beat until no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are okay).

Pour into lined muffin pan, filling three quarters of the way. Bake 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

for the dulce de leche cream cheese frosting:

adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

1/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine, softened

1/4 cup vegan cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon dulce de leche sauce

1-1/2 – 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with the paddle attachment, cream together the margarine, cream cheese, and dulce de leche sauce until just combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar in 1/2 cup batches. Add the vanilla and mix until smooth and creamy.

To assemble the cupcakes:

Using the small end of a large pastry tip, insert into the center of the cupcake and remove a small hunk of the cake to create a well.

Fill the well with a spoonful of the cooled dulce de leche sauce.

Fill a prepared pastry bag with the the dulce de leche cream cheese frosting. Pipe the frosting on top of the cupcake.

Repeat with the remaining cupcakes.

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earl grey cupcakes

Last weekend, I was on a mission to make marmalade. Since there is such an abundance of gorgeous citrus available right now, it just needed to be done. While searching for a sour orange, I spotted a mountain of bergamot oranges and decided at that moment that it would be a bergamot marmalade.

Long story short, I have mixed feelings about the marmalade. But I know for certain that I’m in love with bergamot oranges. Bergamot oranges are pale in color, slightly bitter and extremely fragrant. The scent of bergamot, especially when you spend the afternoon peeling and slicing the rind, is heavenly. It almost made me want to make perfume rather than preserves. If you’ve never had a bergamot orange, you’re probably familiar with its fragrance and flavor from Earl Grey tea, which is infused with the oil from the bergamot rind. Which reminds me of these Earl Grey cupcakes.

I love cupcakes. In my opinion, they are the epitome of good things that come in small packages; they’re portion controlled and portable and perfect for just about any occasion – birthdays, bake sales, break-ups, you name it. In my circles of friends, I’m known as the cupcake supplier. Once upon a time, in my early twenties, I dreamed of opening a cupcakery. Which is why even I am surprised that I’ve yet to share a cupcake recipe here. Until now.

I made these Earl Grey cupcakes twice last summer, for two different bridal showers. If you like Earl Grey tea, you will love these cupcakes. They have such a delicate flavor and they’re a great alternative to plain jane vanilla or chocolate cupcakes. I especially like them dressed with a lemon buttercream, which really enhances the bergamot essence of the Earl Grey. Now if I could just get this marmalade situation figured out.

earl grey cupcakes

adapted from Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery by Martha Swift and Lisa Thomas

makes 12 cupcakes

for the cupcakes:

1/2 cup 2% reduced fat milk. at room temperature

4 Earl Grey teabags

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

2 large eggs

3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons self-rising flour

3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.

Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and add the teabags. Cover and steep for about 30 minutes. Remove the teabags and gently squeeze to remove any excess liquid from the bags. Discard teabags.

In a medium bowl, sift together the two flours and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is pale and smooth, about 3-5 minutes. Add the almond extract if using and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until completely incorporated.

Alternate adding the flour mixture and the infused milk, beginning and ending with the flour, mixing until combined after each addition.

Carefully spoon the mixture into the cups, filling them about 2/3 full. Bake for about 25 minutes until slightly raised and golden brown. Test with a wooden skewer in the center of the cupcake. It should come out clean.

Remove from the oven and leave the cupcakes in the pan for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. When completely cool, frost the cupcakes with lemon buttercream.

for the lemon buttercream:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup 2% reduced-fat milk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

4-1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, milk, lemon juice, zest and half the sugar until smooth. Gradually add the remainder of the sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.