vegan vanilla bean cupcakes with chocolate ganache

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Lovely people. If you’re still out there, you have my heart. It has been forever and ever since the last time we were all here and I can’t tell you how much I have missed this place. I feel like so much has happened in the three months I’ve been away. It’s been a journey.

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I wish I could say that I had gone away for three months traveling the world, doing fabulous things, but that just isn’t the case. I did sneak off to Montreal for a weekend in May, which was lovely and hilarious and full of deliciousness (poutine! and fois gras! oui!). I guess the best excuse for my extended absence is my move. I moved to Berkeley in the beginning of June. I didn’t go very far, about 10 miles, but it was a big deal move. It’s my first time ever being on my own, my first time living outside of the town where I grew up. It took me over a month to kind of sort of get it together. I spent the first few weeks slowly bringing things over from my parents’ (so. much. stuff.). Spent an obscene number of hours perusing the interwebs for home furnishings, obsessing over bar carts and throw pillows and pink sofas. Temporarily forgot how to cook for myself. It was rough in the beginning. I use to fantasize about living alone, but it got kind of lonely after the first week. I didn’t realize just how quiet it would be. I bought a small fountain just because I needed some ambient noise. I’m still figuring a few things out, but I absolutely love my place and can’t wait to share it with you.

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These cupcakes were the last thing I baked in my old kitchen, way back in May. My bestie had a birthday party, and I couldn’t show up without goodies in hand, even though she specifically told me not to bake anything (I know she was just being nice, and didn’t want me to be two hours late like previous years). And although I was already packing up my kitchen at that point, I really wanted to squeeze in one last baking day and one last shoot in that old space. So here we are, visiting the old kitchen for the last time.

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If you’re ever in need a solid vegan cupcake recipe, Isa Chandra is the source. I had something very simple in mind, and vanilla cupcakes and chocolate ganache are about as basic as it gets. I couldn’t resist the berries at the market that morning, and they were the perfect way to finish off these beauties. On to the next chapter…

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vegan vanilla bean cupcakes with chocolate ganache

very slightly adapted from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s post punk kitchen

makes 1 dozen

For the cupcakes:

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup canola oil

3/4 cup sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped

For the ganache:

1/3 cup almond milk

heaping 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon Earth Balance or margarine 

2 tablespoons corn syrup or pure maple syrup

Bake the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.

Whisk the almond milk and vinegar in a small bowl and set aside for a few minutes to curdle.

Sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl and mix.

Beat together the almond milk mixture, oil, sugar, vanilla extract and vanilla bean in a large bowl. Sift in the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix until no large lumps remain.

Fill cupcake liners two-thirds of the way and bake for 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool.

In the meantime, prepare the ganache.

In a small sauce pan, bring the milk to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer and add the chocolate, Earth Balance, and syrup. Mix with a rubber spatula for about 30 seconds. Turn heat off, continue stirring until the chocolate is fully melted and the icing is smooth.

To assemble:

Let ganache cool for about 10-15 minutes. Dip the top of the cupcake in the ganache and then set them on a cooling rack. Alternately, you can spoon the ganache onto the cupcakes. Top each cupcake with a few raspberries and let set in a cool room for an hour or so, or place in the fridge to set.



vanilla-vanilla cupcakes

I’m sneaking in one last goodie since it’s still birthday month. And because I get the feeling that you really need a cupcake right now. Everyone needs a vanilla cupcake in their repertoire. This is mine.

I’ve actually made these cupcakes twice this month. I made them a few weeks ago for my littlest homegirl’s big first birthday bash. And because I had so much fun with all of the colors and hand-tinted sprinkles, I had to make them again for myself.

I’ve made a whole lot of traditional buttercream in my time, but this is my new favorite. It’s light and creamy and sweet without being too sugary. It’s the closest thing to a European buttercream without including eggs. Nowadays, I almost exclusively use a pastry bag to pipe my buttercreams. But there’s something very fun and nostalgic about hand frosting cupcakes. I’m digging it.

The same goes for the cupcake. There are an endless number of vanilla cupcake recipes out there, but this is the one that has yet to fail me. It’s a white cake, meaning that there are no yolks in the batter. This can sometimes lead to a dry cake, but this cake manages to be moist and has a lovely crumb. It’s the kind of thing you crave when you just want a good ol’ cupcake. Plain and simple.

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makes 12 standard cupcakes

for the cupcakes:

adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts: The Cookbook for All Things Sweet and Wonderful by Barbara Fairchild

1-1/3 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup whole milk

3 large eggs whites, room temperature

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners. Set aside.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk milk, egg whites, sour cream, and vanilla in another medium bowl until sour cream is completely incorporated.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 2 additions, alternating with the milk mixture in 2 additions, beating on low speed. Beat until combined, being careful not to overmix.

Divide the batter equally among paper liners (about 1/3 cup each). Bake cupcakes until  a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. Cool in pans on rack for 5 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to a rack to cool completely.

for the vanilla buttercream:

from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones by Kris Hoogerhyde and Anne Walker

makes 4 cups (enough for 24 cupcakes)

1/2 vanilla bean

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

4-1/2 cups powdered sugar, measured then sifted

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 

gel food coloring (optional)

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and use the knife to carefully scrape the seeds from the pod. Add the vanilla seeds and pod to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment.

Beat first on low speed, and then increase to medium-high speed and continue to beat until the frosting is light, fluffy, and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix briefly again.

Remove the vanilla bean. If you’d like to tint the buttercream, add a drop or two of food coloring and mix well. Add more to reach the desired color. Use the frosting immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to two weeks. If made ahead, let the frosting come to room temperature before using and remix briefly using the stand mixer until it regains its light and fluffy consistency.

for the hand-tinted sprinkles:

white sprinkles

petal dust, luster dust, or powdered food coloring

Pour sprinkles into a clean, dry jar with a lid. Add a pinch of food coloring to the sprinkles. Screw on the lid and shake until the sprinkles are tinted. Add more powder to reach the desired shade.

to frost the cupcakes:

Using a spatula, spread the tops of the cupcakes with a generous dollop of buttercream, creating a swirl. Top with sprinkles if desired.