Sunday, May 1, 2011
It's All Right Ma, I'm Only Baking: Dark Chocolate Almond Cupcakes
When I heard that Ottawa's Veg Fest was hosting a cupcake competition for amateur bakers I was all over it. I signed myself up right away. "Fun!" I thought. "Cupcakes!"
Fast forward to this past Friday. I'd had some help from my friend Krishna, who loaned me her frosting bag and cupcake carrier and gave me icing advice. I felt ready to create The Cupcake of Champions. I spent the afternoon baking two dozen cupcakes. One batch of raspberry lemon and one of peanut butter banana.
The raspberry lemon came out sticky and flat. And they were a terrible, Pepto Bismol-ish colour. Ugh. The peanut butter banana ones were tasty but really, they were muffins. If it looks like a muffin and tastes like a muffin, well, it's a muffin. I love muffins, but this was not a muffin contest. Maybe I can say muffin a few more times before the end of this paragraph. Muffin, muffin, muffin. Anyway, the point is, I was seriously regretting signing up for the contest and feeling like a big baking failure. Blargh.
So on Saturday I decided to bake something that I knew would work. I have a time honoured chocolate cake recipe that has never done me wrong. I added extra cocoa powder and I took a slight risk by replacing some of the flour with almond meal. I also added some almond extract to the batter. I made a basic buttercream frosting and flavoured it with cocoa powder and more almond extract. And hence, dark chocolate almond cupcakes were born.
This morning I got up early to ice my cupcakes using my borrowed pastry bag and nozzle. For those of you who've never done this before, it is certainly not as easy as it looks on television. Luckily I was also topping the cakes with toasted sliced almonds, which hid any flaws in my piping.
I tucked my cupcakes safely in the carrier and made my (slightly nervous) way over to Veg Fest. After I'd dropped off my cupcakes, I went to help my friend Lisa sell books at the Octopus Books table. It worked out well for both of us. Lisa got help managing the table and I got to stay busy and sell books, which is something I miss doing since I stopped working at Octopus years ago. Lisa was happy that I knew a lot about the vegan cookbooks we had at the table and I spent a lot of time chatting with people about which cookbook was most suited for their needs and recommending specific recipes out of the books I had at home.
I did manage to get a peek into the cupcake judging room at one point and found out that my cupcakes had made it into the top ten! Since that was the goal I'd set for myself I was quite pleased. The festival got busier and busier and I was too busy talking to people about cookbooks to worry much about the final results of the judging.
At 2:30 they announced the runner up and the winner. I wandered over to hear the results. And guess what?
I won the whole thing! I got a giant bag of vegan products, mostly chocolate and baking supplies from Cocoa Camino, but also some samples from Vega and a few gift certificates. And, even better, Auntie Loo's Treats is going to be making my cupcake and selling it at their bakery and through their distributors for a limited time. Can you imagine? It excites me to no end. I've hit the cupcake big time. And now here's the recipe so you can hit the big time too, in the privacy of your own home.
Dark Chocolate Almond Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup almond meal
6 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup vegan margarine
1 cup unrefined cane sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 6 tbsp water
1 cup unsweetened almond milk soured with 1 tsp vinegar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Grease muffin tins (or fill with paper liners).
Sift flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa powder together in a small bowl.
In a larger bowl, cream margarine and sugar. Add flax and water mixture and both extracts.
Alternately add dry ingredients and soured almond milk to margarine mixture, stirring until smooth.
Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of one cupcake comes out clean.
Makes a dozen large cupcakes, but I wanted mine to be slightly smaller so I was able to make 16 total.
Chocolate Almond Frosting
1/4 cup vegan margarine
1/4 cup vegan shortening
1 3/4 cup icing sugar
1 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp almond milk
approximately 1/4 cup sifted cocoa powder
Preferably with an electric mixer, combine the margarine and shortening, then add all other ingredients. If more cocoa is needed to make the icing the colour and flavour of your dreams, then go for it. Top with toasted almonds.
So, needless to say it has been quite a weekend. Now if you'll pardon me, I need to go take 100 naps.