Expert Vegan Cooking Tips
Happy, Healthy Birthday - Vegan Style
by Fran Costigan
I was the pastry chef in a 'butter-sugar-egg' kitchen when I adopted an organic, whole-foods, plant-based diet hoping I'd feel better. I did—immediately and dramatically. I left my work, and like many newbies, became quite rigid, declaring all sweets verboten. To make a long story short, when my children said, "mom, no candles in sweet potatoes for our birthdays," I knew I had to find the way back to the sweet life without compromising healthy eating or the yum factor.
My challenge has always been to create a better version of a familiar dessert for tradition's sake, delicious enough for mainstream palates, but without any junk, (including organic vegan junk). I am thrilled to report success based on letters and my own observations. In fact, cakes made from the recipes in my books are winning school bake sale contests; though I do caution against saying upfront—you'll never believe this is vegan. Let the cakes speak for themselves. The following is a typical SOS exchange.
Help Needed By Desperate Good MomI need cupcakes for my daughter's class on her birthday. She's three and to date has not eaten refined sugar or junk foods. I want to keep it that way. I need to bake something my child can eat, and the other children will like too. No frozen bananas this year I hope, and no hard recipes, please.
Dear Desperate Good MomStop worrying. The Diva of Dairy Free Desserts says organically naturally delicious treats are a snap. The other parents will be asking you for recipes. Guaranteed.
I suggest you make age appropriate treats. Simple cupcakes (nut free) are a great choice for younger children, though cupcakes are so popular now—everyone seems to want them. Layer cakes (think chocolate) are perfect for older children. Equal amounts of white and wheat spelt can replace the flours in my recipes if you prefer. My recipes are admittedly long, but the yum is in the details. [Don't panic, this batter is thin]. Anyone who can read can bake. Follow directions, preheat your oven (use an oven thermometer), measure carefully and have fun!
Please feel free to write to me at email@example.com with any questions or comments. Do check out my website www.francostigan.com for information, pictures and more. I hope to have my blog linked soon. By the way, I have been nominated for the VEG NEWS 2007 Awards—favorite cookbook author. Please vote. The banner on my site takes you right there. Voters are eligible for prizes.
These cupcakes are soyfree though you can use soymilk to replace the rice milk if you wish.
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole grain pastry flour
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached white flour
- 1/4 cup dark whole cane sugar (see tips)
- 1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 3/ 4 cup vanilla rice milk
- 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- (Optional) 3/4 cup blueberries, washed and patted dry
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Oil the top of a standard muffin tin. Place paper liners in 10 of the cups.
Place a wire mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Add pastry flour, white flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon to the strainer. Tap strainer against the palm of your hand to sift the ingredients into the bowl. Stir with a wire whisk to distribute the ingredients.
Whisk oil, maple syrup, rice milk, vanilla and vinegar in a separate medium bowl until well blended. Pour into dry mixture and stir with a whisk until batter is smooth. Fold in blueberries.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cups, filing each about 3/4 full. Pour 1/3 cup water into any empty cups to insure even baking.
Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until cupcakes are well-risen (tops will be domed), golden and a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean or with only a few moist crumbs.
Cool the tin on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife between the cupcakes and the inside of the cups and lift each onto the rack; allow to cool completely.
TIP: Succanat and Rapadura are 2 brands of organic dark whole cane sugar that are readily available. There are many others.
Soymilk can replace the rice milk.
Makes 10 cupcakes.