Cookies ‘n Cream Vegan Cupcakes

I want to let you know just how close I was to not putting the word “vegan” in the title of this post. I really wanted you to look at these cupcakes and judge them as you would any other, without any preconceived notions. In my fantasy, you look at the photos of these beauties and decide to make them immediately. You then somehow neglect to notice the lack of any and all dairy in the recipe, bake up the cakes as normal, and take a huge bite exclaiming, “Mmmph oh mah gwwwd!” through a mouthful of rich chocolate cake and buttery cookie bits. This is where I jump into your kitchen (a bit creepy, I’ll admit) and shout: “…and they’re VEGAN too!”

But, fortunately for you and your right to privacy, my fantasy isn’t reality and I do feel obligated to call these Cookies ‘n Cream Vegan Cupcakes. That said, I hope that if you aren’t familiar with vegan baked goods you’ll trust me and at least give these a shot. My winning argument: since making my initial batch two days ago I have since made two more and have been asked to make another 2 dozen for Easter dinner. Do the math people, that’s 5 dozen cupcakes in just under a week. Only a few of my friends/coworkers are vegan and no one in my family is, so there must be something good about this recipe. 😉

I didn’t tweak the source recipe all that much. After my first round of batter came up short (I got 9 dense cupcakes) I decided to double the amount and forgive any leftovers. This works out well because the source recipe for the “butter”cream yields an extremely generous amount of fluffy topping and covered my second batch of 20 cupcakes perfectly. My second round of cakes also turned out a bit different; they were lighter, airier, but still had that initial rich chocolaty taste. I’m guessing the change had to do with the fact that my first batter was made with the final cup of almond milk I had in my fridge. I’m terrible at remembering to shake the container, so that liquid was probably denser than that used in the second batter which came from a brand-new container. The cupcakes were delicious either way, but I found I liked the lighter ones more. Finally, I experimented with adding peppermint extract to the frosting and mint-flavored Newman-O’s to create a mint cookies ‘n cream version.

Cookies ‘n Cream Vegan Cupcakes

(adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World by Moskowitz and Romero)

Ingredients:

For the Cakes (makes ~ 20)…

2   C   almond milk

2   t   apple cider vinegar

1½   C   granulated sugar

2/3  C   canola oil

2   t   vanilla extract

2   C   flour

2/3   C   cocoa powder

1½   t   baking soda

1   t   baking powder

½   t   salt

For the Frosting…

½   C   non-hydrogenated shortening

½   C   non-hydrogenated margarine (Earth Balance is great if you can find it)

3½   C   confectioner’s sugar, sifted if clumpy

¼   C   vanilla almond milk

1½   t   vanilla extract

½   t   peppermint extract

2 – 3 drops green food coloring, if desired

10   crushed vegan chocolate cream-filled sandwich cookies, divided*

10   whole cookies, halved

* Note: Newman-O’s are vegan and can be found in the organic section of most grocery stores. I used 5 of the original vanilla flavor for the vanilla frosting and 5 of their Hint ‘O Mint flavor in the mint frosting, but I’m a little obsessive. With the peppermint extract already in the mint frosting, feel free to just use the regular vanilla flavor in both mixes for simplicity.

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F and line 2 cupcake pans with liners (I needed about 20). Whisk together the almond milk and vinegar in a large bowl and set aside to curdle.
  2. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Go back to the liquid mixture and add to it the sugar, oil, and vanilla extract. Beat the liquid mix until foamy, then slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet a little at a time to avoid clumping.
  3. Using a large tablespoon or scoop (I am a firm believer in cookie dough scoops now!) fill the liners about 2/3 of the way full with batter. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.
  4. While cupcakes cool beat the shortening and margarine together until light and relatively airy. Add the sugar and beat a few minutes more. Add the almond milk and vanilla extract and beat until fluffy. Now, at this step, if you want ONLY vanilla frosting simply add all of the crumbled cookies and fold them in with a spatula. Otherwise, divide up the frosting and add the peppermint extract and food coloring to one of the halves – beating until incorporated. Then divide the crumbled cookies equally among the two bowls and fold in until well combined.
  5. Once cupcakes have completely cooled (you can even save the frosting overnight in the fridge if you’d like, just allow it to return to room temperature before trying to work with it) top with a generous scoop of frosting and a cookie half, alternating vanilla and mint flavors as you desire.


Beezer’s Notes:

Do I have you convinced yet? I hope so. These cupcakes are well worth your time, and I completely understand that you do not have a lot of it to spare. And, yes, I know “vegan” does not necessarily mean “healthy”. I’m not trying to tell you that these bombshells are actually good for you – well, good for your soul maybe as they will rock your world from first bite to last crumb – but I honestly think vegan cupcakes just taste better! They have a lighter, cleaner taste that doesn’t compromise flavor. My mother said she particularly loved the mint version of these because the subtle cool peppermint went well with the light cake and sweet, fluffy frosting. Plus, even if these aren’t exactly good for you, they ARE lower in hydrogenated fats and cholesterol which is slightly less evil. If made to choose I’d eat a dozen of these in one sitting over a dozen traditional cupcakes…maybe even if I wasn’t made to, haha.


Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

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Mango Mint Salsa

Ever since my Mango Lassi breakthrough a few months ago I’ve been searching for other fun and simple ways of using mangoes to freshen up my diet. They usually never make it into a recipe – being sliced and eaten shortly after purchase – but after seeing an alluring photo of mango salsa in a magazine recently, I was able to refrain from munching long enough to dice up my own version. I hope I don’t insult anyone by posting a “recipe” so simple. It isn’t even much of a recipe, more like guidelines, since all amounts are solely dependent on personal preference. Either way, I couldn’t resist sharing something this colorful and yummy!

Mango Mint Salsa

Ingredients:

2     fresh, ripe mangoes

½   green bell pepper

½   small, white onion

2    plum tomatoes

handful of fresh mint leaves

1    small lemon

1   small lime

pinch of salt

Procedure:

  1. Carefully peel and dice mangoes. Mince green pepper and onion. Dice up the tomatoes (I used plum because I’m not a fan of gooey tomato centers, but feel free to use whatever kind you’d like. That goes for the bell pepper as well). Finally, mince the mint leaves.
  2. Throw all ingredients in a medium bowl, including the pinch of salt. Juice the lemon and lime right over the bowl and toss the mix to coat.
  3. Serve immediately with chips, pita slices, on sandwiches, or salads. Also excellent after a night covered in the fridge…any time longer than that I can’t say as my batch was quickly consumed by all parties in less than 24 hours.

Beezer’s Notes:

First, I’m going to be a bit annoying and address semantics for a sec. Perhaps this veggie/fruit mix isn’t so much of a “salsa” as it is a “salad”; one of my lovely tasters made the comment that she always thought of a salsa as something tomato-based. The Wonderful World of Wiki describes salsa as “any type of sauce…in American English, it usually refers to the spicy, often tomato based, hot sauces typical of Mexican and Central American cuisine.” There are plenty of drier, non-tomato based (or even tomato-less!) sauces described as salsas, though – no spice required. Look at this lovely pineapple number for example. So, taking cue from those more experienced than I, I’ll continue to call my mix a “salsa”.

Naming aside, it is definitely delicious either way. I’ve never had a juicier salsa and the addition of mint pulled the flavors together in such a way that each bite screamed SUMMER to me. The flavors were light and zangy, the textures blended well but were also contrasting enough to be interesting, …and look at those colors! Aren’t the keys to culinary success something like: fresh ingredients, different textures, different colors? Check, check, and check!

Overall Enjoyment: ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥

Mint Chocolate Candy Cookies

I was on the phone with my grandmother about two weeks before St. Patrick’s Day. We had just been casually chatting and catching up when she asked if I wanted to have St. Patty’s Day dinner at her place. “Sure,” I said, anticipating the usual feast of delicious ham, sweet potatoes, and maple syrup-baked carrots she whips up for nearly every holiday. “Wonderful,” she replied, “I’ll host and you cook! It’s all settled then.” …wait, what?!

Half an hour later I was on the phone with my youngest brother, shamelessly enlisting his help as sous chef for the big day. We eventually settled on two main dishes and two desserts along with an assortment of snacks. I was a diligent photographer for the desserts – which we baked earlier in the afternoon – but was too caught up in the whirlwind of the kitchen to capture anything decent after that. I’ll remake them later for posting; until then, I leave you with the first of two St. Patrick’s Day desserts: appropriately green chocolate mint candy cookies!


Mint Chocolate Candy Cookies (from The Adventures of Kitchen Girl)

Ingredients:

For the Cookie Dough…

1      C     softened unsalted butter

1      C     powdered sugar

1 ½   t   peppermint extract

2            egg yolks

10 – 15   drops green food coloring (I put in 8 )

2 ¼  C   all-purpose flour

½      t    baking powder

¼      t    salt

For the Cookie Topping…

1     C     dark chocolate chips

3     T     heavy whipping cream

3     T     butter

25         Andes Creme de Menthe candies, coarsely chopped

Procedure:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Begin by making the dough: in a large bowl beat softened butter and powdered sugar with a mixer on medium until light and fluffy. Add the peppermint extract, egg yolks, and food coloring until well combined.
  3. On low speed, slowly add in flour, baking powder, and salt until well incorporated.
  4. Shape dough into 1″ balls and place 2″ apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press a deep well into the center each cookie with your index finger or pinkie (the source recipe says “thumb” but we found our thumbs to be too large and destructive, haha).
  5. Bake 10-12 minutes or until set. Reshape wells if needed. Let cool 5 minutes or so before transferring to wire racks. Allow cookies to cool completely before continuing.
  6. To make the topping: in a small microwave-safe bowl, heat chocolate chips, cream, and butter on high for 30 seconds. Stir well, then heat again for another 30 seconds. Stir once more until mixture comes together smoothly. If more heating is needed, microwave at 10-second intervals stirring well in between.
  7. Fill each cookie with chocolate sauce and top with chopped candy pieces. Allow to cool and set, about 1 hour.

Beezer’s Notes:

These cookies were much drier than I anticipated – think shortbread with less butter. I preferred mine dunked in milk. I’m sure we over-baked ours a bit, though, since they had rather unattractive brown rings around the edges (unlike the beautiful cookies Jo made). You may also have noticed that my young assistant enjoyed tacking single large chunks of candy on top of the cookies rather than the cute little bits shown in the source photo. Never really one for aesthetics, my brother, haha. Giant chunks or no, these we some yummy bites! You can’t go wrong with Andes Mints, in my opinion.

Overall Enjoy-mint: ♥  ♥  ♥


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