vegan chocolate cupcakes and frosting


One would imagine that the whole point of baking vegan would be in the interest of making something healthier. But no, for me, it’s just to ensure that the plant-based eaters among us can also access my baking. It’s also a challenging experiment for me, not unlike the attempts at gluten-free baking I sometimes undertake. Both work well enough, but I don’t eat any of it to be able to say for sure how successful these attempts are.

However, this time I took the vegan goods to a vegan acquaintance who was willing to give me an honest and detailed appraisal. I’d adapted my standard ANZAC biscuit, which looks deceptively healthy but isn’t, to be vegan, but this was simple. It was simply a matter of swapping regular butter for coconut oil, and this apparently worked beautifully. So much so that the vegan ANZAC biscuits were gone quickly with non-vegans praising them, and the vegan acquaintance only getting to enjoy one.


Not too different from a regular ANZAC biscuit

As for the chocolate cupcakes, it was reported that the cake itself was not unlike any standard vegan cupcake. Maybe a little dry, maybe not inspiring, but passable. This is mostly what I expected, but I also think that these cupcakes probably need to be eaten very soon after being baked (they can’t sit out for days, particularly uncovered, as was happening where I left them). Here is the vegan cupcake recipe I used, minus the pretzel flourishes…

It was however reported, quite against my expectation, that the frosting was superb. And I guessed – and this was confirmed – that vegan frosting is not always an easy thing to achieve. With taste and consistency being a bit fussy without butter or eggs, I gave it a lot of thought because many commercial vegan margarine substitutes just separate and don’t whip up well. And vegetable oils aren’t successful. You could just do a dark chocolate ganache topping, but that was not what I was after.

Finally I remembered the old days and the good old solutions my grandma favored. Her frosting recipe had nothing to do with veganism or healthy choices but had a lot more to do with what she had on hand and what ingredients she was used to working with. And that’s when I realized, ah yes, you can make frosting from solid vegetable shortening (i.e., something like Crisco). No it is not the healthiest solution, and vegetable shortening isn’t the easiest thing to find in Sweden. But find it I did, after doing a bit of reading online about how people use vegetable shortening to make light, fluffy frosting. It’s also a boon if you’re trying to have perfectly white frosting, which is impossible using butter. In my reading I realized that professional bakers often use Crisco to make frosting not only because it is so white but also because it is so stable and less fussy than butter icing.

As it happens, I was going for a chocolate frosting, so I whipped the vegetable shortening vigorously, added a lot of powdered sugar and a whole lot of vanilla extract and then alternated between unsweetened cocoa powder and hot coffee.

vegan cupcake

Yeah, I hear you… the sprinkle job/decoration leaves much to be desired.

Vegan chocolate frosting with vegetable shortening recipe
2/3 cup all-vegetable shortening (e.g., Crisco)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (at least 1 teaspoon; I think I used much more)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups powdered sugar (approximate – work with it to get the balance you prefer)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
5 to 6 tablespoons milk (or hot coffee – I wanted a deeper, richer chocolate flavor, so I opted for coffee)

Beat shortening for several minutes; add vanilla and salt. Continue to beat on high speed until very fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, and begin to beat on low speed until incorporated. Add cocoa powder alternately with the milk or coffee, until you get everything mixed together well. Give it a taste to see if you need to adjust the ingredients for taste (more cocoa? more vanilla?)

Once you’ve got your flavor right, beat on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes (maybe more!). And frost!

best chocolate cake ever – supposedly


My go-to chocolate cake recipe has always been a bit more than ‘basic’. When I first published it here in this blog way back in 2009, I referred to it as “basic”, but later, when I started baking on a grander scale, I realized that, no, in fact, it has too many separate steps to be called basic. When you can make one-cup microwave chocolate cake to satisfy those driving choco-cravings or something a few steps simpler, this one is not the easiest you can get. But every chocolate-loving friend with whom I have shared this particular cake will tell you that the extra steps are well worth it.

Many years ago when I started making this cake, one friend told me it was the second-best cake of her life (after her wedding cake). Another friend uses this recipe every time she needs a killer cake that will not fail. The other day for a work dinner, I produced this cake, and one of the dinner party guests exclaimed that it was possibly the best cake she has ever eaten. High praise indeed. Similar accolades flow every time.


best chocolate cake ever

The only difference this time between my original recipe and what I did now is that I used two different kinds of frosting. I made a standard buttercream (cocoa, powdered sugar, butter and sprinkle of coffee), which I used as a rather thick crumb coat. On top of this, on each layer, I slathered on generous heaps of chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream, which always comes out tasting a bit like chocolate mousse. Again, worth the extra work.

More stuffing one thing into another… Peanut butter bundt cake


I realized while looking through past chocolate-peanut butter blog posts that I made this peanut butter chocolate bundt cake for the first time some November ago … and discovered then that November is bundt cake month. Here we are again, in November, and I have made this cake about four times in the last three days.

I dropped three off at my office and have some here for my Thanksgiving guests (since they are here for more than just the actual Thanksgiving holiday, I have to feed them things, like cake and cookies, on other days as well as just Thanksgiving).

I think I took a picture of the latest attempts at this – but for now will just put a picture of the last time I made this cake (since you can see the inside. The new pics are just general pictures of the whole cake before being cut into. Recipe is available at the link above.

Oreo overload (not overlord – but maybe!), part one


One of my Oreo-laced concoctions this past week involved plopping a whole Oreo cookie into the bottom of a cupcake liner, topping that with rich chocolate cake batter, baking it and frosting it with a cookies-and-cream (vanilla frosting and crushed Oreos, of course) frosting and topping it off with a cute miniature Oreo cookie. I always think, with much love, of my dear friend Nina when I make these. When she lived here, she loved it the one or two times I made them. Oddly, until now, I had never made anything like it since. This is the first time I committed real Oreo overkill, actually. My old approach was just standard chocolate cake batter and cookies-and-cream frosting. The Oreo crust was just a new experiment.

In the past I have always used a standard, go-to chocolate cake recipe, but the idea of taking all the steps required in my normal recipe (separating eggs and beating the whites separately from the rest of the cake) sounded like way too much of a hassle when I was already separating a million eggs for Swiss meringue frosting and baking 11 kinds of cupcakes and 9 kinds of cookies. Could I really be bothered? No. I found a slightly simpler, more straightforward chocolate cake batter to use.

Chocolate cake recipe
1 1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup cocoa
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 175C. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs, then vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together, mix them in alternately with the milk in three rounds. (For extra Oreo overkill, you could also mix more crushed Oreos into the cake batter.)

Fill cupcake liners (after you have put your Oreo in the bottom!) in cupcake pan and bake 15-17 minutes until toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.

Cookies-and-cream frosting recipe
8 ounces cream cheese, softened (I used a 200g container)
1/2 cup softened butter
3 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat the cream cheese and butter together well, add vanilla, then beat in the powdered sugar slowly until well blended and the appropriate, spreadable/pipeable consistency is reached. Mix crushed Oreos into the frosting. Frost your cupcakes after they are cooled and decorate with mini Oreos, if desired.

Baked goods: Chocolate cake (for colleague’s birthday)


I have posted this recipe before earlier in this blog; this time I did make it in the traditional way (as a cake). A colleague was having a birthday, so I went ahead and baked. I asked her last week if she had any special requests (she registered none)… so here it is.

Preheat oven to 300F (about 150C).

½ cup unsweetened cocoa
¾ cup boiling water (or freshly brewed coffee or espresso, hot)
1 cup sour cream
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 cup sifted cake flour
½ cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 egg whites
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

6 Tablespoons softened butter
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
2/3 cup powdered sugar
Tiny amount of milk or coffee to achieve spreadable, desired consistency

Grease and flour two nine-inch or three eight-inch round cake pans.

In a small bowl mix cocoa and boiling water (or coffee) to make a chocolate paste. In another small bowl, mix sour cream and baking soda together to dissolve soda. Mix the cocoa mixture and sour cream mixture together after the cocoa mixture has cooled.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Alternately add the sifted flour and the sour cream-cocoa liquid to the butter and sugar mixture. Beat until fluffy. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat the three egg whites until stiff. Fold the beaten egg whites and vanilla into the chocolate cake mix. Divide mixture between (among) the pans. Bake in preheated oven for approx. 50 minutes, checking on the cake every now and then. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven, let cool in pans for about ten minutes, remove from pans and let cool on baking racks. Once cool, frost as normal and layer.

To make frosting, beat the butter and powdered sugar together, then beat in the cocoa. To achieve desired consistency, add a slight amount of liquid as needed. Add milk for a creamier, milk chocolate frosting. Add coffee for a darker, slightly mocha-flavored frosting.

For cupcakes, line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners and divide the cake batter among the cups. Bake for about 15-20 minutes (check with a toothpick at 12 or 15 minutes to be sure; 20 minutes could be too long.)