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.

recipe of old

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.

cards for judges

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.

Octopus Books table

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.

(Award winning!) chocolate cupcake

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.

cupcake tray

So, needless to say it has been quite a weekend. Now if you'll pardon me, I need to go take 100 naps.



VeganLisa said...

Your cupcakes looked beautiful. Thank you for sharing your award-winning recipe. Sometimes, sticking with what you know is the best way to share your gifts.

It sounds like you had an amazing day at VegFest!

Elie said...

Congratulations!they look so yummy, I want to make them right now! but at 2:42 I can't go buy the ingredients... gotta wait! Congrats again!

ciaochow said...

What a day, what a win! I'd bet there are a lot of readers who aren't the least bit surprised that you won... or maybe that's just me. Congrats again!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! you totally deserved to win. They're simple, decadent, yet really unique. And they don't look overly complicated to make either. Your perseverance paid off big time!

Kat said...

CONGRATS!! That is wonderful!!

And here I thought you were making earl grey cupcakes? Glad you went with chocolate almond - I need to make your recipe this week.

the [sugar] apothecary said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!! I love that you used almond meal in the cake, so good! You should be very proud.

PS: Love your wood floors!

Fanny said...

Well done!! That cupcake sounds reaaally good.

Nat said...

Amazing. Now, I'm thinking about chocolate cake.

tweal said...

Wow congrats on winning! I was at vegfest and had a good time but I forgot about the cupcake judging. They do look super delicious, so cool Aunty Loo will be making them!

zoom said...

Congratulations! You're amazing.

KellyC said...

Congratulations! They look awesome and obviously tasted it too!

foodfeud said...

How exciting! Congratulations! And you're right about how hard it is to ice cupcakes - it looks like you did a great job.

joe vegan said...

Congratulations! I wish I had been one of the judges, but alas...

It looks like I may have to try to recreate your award-winning cupcake once my sugar levels return to normal after my gorging on sweets at this year's veg fest.

titaniumgrrl said...


Darn I must have JUST missed the announcements!

Caroline said...

Congrads! I am so happy for you and know that it is well deserved because you put so much passion and hard work into everything you do, and I know how challenging the process can be, especially with food. Enjoy the win!

Sarah S. said...

Awesome to the max!!! Congrats!

Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes said...

Congrats- that is so exciting!
The cupcakes look amazing, can't wait to try them myself!

aztextpress said...

WOW! Congratulations! Those cupcakes look so amazing that I am not the least bit surprised that you won! And thanks so much for sharing the recipe. I am really looking forward to giving these a try, but I know already that they won't look as great as yours!

Alli said...

HAHA all that worry and anxiety and you WON the whole thing! YEAH!
I went by the cupcake contest and had a glimpse of them first hand...Someone there was going on about how good yours I started suspecting something was up!
Also, fun to actually see you in person, even though I felt like a huge rambling weirdo with a baby strapped to her back!
Congrats again on your successful trip to cupcake land! I will be sure to pick one up if they are sent to rainbow.

Hilary said...

Wow! That is so awesome!

Jennifer (It Ain't Meat, Babe) said...

Thanks so much, everyone for all those compliments. I wish I could give you all a cupcake!

Alli: I didn't think you were a weirdo at all! It was thrilling to be recognized, I love knowing that people are actually making these recipes.

Shaun Desjardin said...

Congrats Jennifer!
I was really pleased with the quality of cupcakes that were entered into the Vegan Cupcake Challenge. Your recipe however, was outstanding!
They got rave reviews from our panel of judges. A well deserved victory and I hope to see you next year!

Caitlin said...

congratulations! all your hard work totally paid off, and your cupcakes look delicious! you go girl!

Trista Hill said...

Congratulations on your win! They look amazing and I can't wait to try out the recipe. Awesome!

Esen said...

WOW! I knew you'd win! Congratulations Jennifer! Can't wait to try this recipe!


Fame Throwa said...

Is Auntie Loo's selling your cupcake right now? If so, I MUST swing by and get one.

(I hope you've confirmed that they're just as good as yours. I like Auntie Loo's as a concept; I just wish their cupcakes were better. I tried a couple as candidates for our wedding cupcakes, and they were so bad, I threw them out. Me! Throwing out cupcakes! Never thought I'd see the day... Guess I've been spoiled by Turtlehead's vegan baking.)

Kate said...

I made these in mini-cupcake form for my co-workers and they were awesome!!

Sarah B @ Bake + Bike said...

This is wayyy late, but CONGRATS - that's fantastic!! I volunteered at Capital Cupcake Camp last fall when I was working in the Ottawa area, and it was so cool to see all the vegan creations.

I wish I could visit Auntie Loo's to try one of your creations!

Pearl said...

they're amazing. thanks for sharing the recipe, jennifer. I made a variation:

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I am organizing the VegFest 2012 Silent Auction (Sunday, April 29th), and I was wondering whether you would be willing to donate some of your AWARD winning cupcakes to the silent auction. If you are, I'll probably couple them with some of the cookbooks. Please don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions -- you can reach me by email at: markeyisapunk at yahoo dot com.