Fresh Raspberry-Champagne Vegan Buttercream Frosting

Yield: enough to generously frost 12 regular cupcakes or a single-layer cake

School started on Monday with an in-service week for teachers, so I made these beauties for a few of my teacher friends to wish them a “sweet” start to a new school year.

What a hit they were!  One teacher wanted the recipe, one said they were “three minutes of uninterrupted heaven,” another sent me a text saying, “Awesome cupcake,” and still another said he was quite sure it was the best cupcake he had ever eaten!  And, by the way, all of these teachers are omnivores.

What makes them so special?  Well, the vanilla cupcakes from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World are darn good.  But the cupcake-frosting combination is out of this world.  Truly, it was the frosting that sent everyone over the moon: fresh raspberries that I marinated in champagne!  Actually, they were from a sangria recipe I created with Prosecco (I was testing a recipe for a major project that, fingers crossed, will come to fruition).  But, for the purpose of recreating the frosting without having to make sangria first, I figured out the correct proportion of Prosecco and sugar.  The flavor is bursting with berry freshness and a little tangy zip, but there is a subtle depth and complexity about it too.

These cupcakes are pretty enough for a wedding, but it would be a shame to save them for such rare occasions.  Bake up a batch and make any day special!

1/2 cup sparkling wine (I use Prosecco, but champagne would be lovely too)

3 tablespoons natural sugar

1 cup fresh raspberries

2 tablespoons vegan butter

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

2 tablespoons vegan cream cheese

5 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

The day before you plan to make the frosting, marinate the berries: in a small bowl, dissolve sugar in the sparkling wine, add berries, stir well, cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours.  To make frosting, cream butter, shortening, and cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy.  Add the powdered sugar, a cup at a time, starting the mixer on slow and gradually increasing the speed so that you don’t coat yourself in sugar.  After you’ve added about 2 cups of the sugar, drain berries and add all of them with another cup of sugar, beating well.  Don’t be alarmed if mixture looks curdled; it will smooth out as the remaining sugar is added.  Continue beating and adding remaining sugar and vanilla until the frosting is thick and creamy.  You may find that you need more or less of the sugar in the marinade, as well as in the frosting, depending on how sweet and moist the berries are, respectively.  So adjust as you see fit.  Use the frosting immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.  I like to pipe swirls of frosting on top of the cupcakes using a pastry bag before garnishing with white nonpareil pearls for a very feminine look (I purchase the pearls at our local Kroger).  However, a fresh raspberry perched on top , perhaps with a mint leaf, would also be lovely.

Note: I recently saw some Oreos (they’re vegan in the U.S.!) with a berry filling!  So pretty in pink.  I’m thinking that the frosting would be absolutely scrumptious between two chocolate wafer cookies, no?

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Go Dairy Free Just Published My Vegan Lemon Verbena Cupcakes with Orange-Almond Butter Cream Frosting!

Find the back-story and simple recipe for these cupcakes  HERE

And if  you don’t have lemon verbena growing in your garden, run, don’t walk, to the nearest garden center or farmer’s market.  It has become one of my favorite herbs: pretty, versatile, and easy to grow!

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Vegan Chambord-Spiked Fudgy Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies with Coconut-Espresso Buttercream Frosting

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen cookies (easily doubles)

Everyone loved my Vegan Mini Kahlua-Spiked Chocolate-Almond Cupcakes with Coconut-Espresso Buttercream Frosting.  And, since I had frosting left over from my testing session, I thought it might be perfect in a decadent fudgy thumbprint cookie.  Since I also had hazelnuts and Chambord on hand, they became Chambord-Spiked Fudgy Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies. 

These were devoured by my non-vegan husband!

1/4 cup melted vegan butter (I like Earth Balance)

1/4 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons chocolate almond milk (chocolate soymilk would be tasty too)

2 teaspoons Chambord (or your favorite raspberry flavored liqueur)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract (that sounds like a lot, but it was just right to my palate)

1 cup natural sugar (this also sounds like alot, but I tried it first with 1/2 cup and it just wasn’t enough; you could reduce to 2/3-3/4 cup if you are concerned about your sugar intake)

1 cup white whole wheat flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

generous pinch sea salt (you may use table salt if you prefer)

1/2 cup finely chopped hazelnuts (if the nuts are too large, when you press your thumb into the dough balls, you will break them up)

Coconut-Espresso Buttercream Frosting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine wet ingredients (first six ingredients) in a medium bowl.  Combine dry ingredients in a separate medium size bowl.  Make a depression in the center, pour in wet ingredients and stir until well combined.  Dough will be stiff.  Line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper.  Using s small scoop, place mounds of cookie 2 inches apart in rows.  Press your thumb into the center of each cookie to create a little depression.  Bake 10 minutes.  Remove the baking sheet to a wire rack and,when cookies are cool enough to handle, press your thumb again into the depression to define it a little more and make plenty of room for lots of frosting!  Let the cookies cool completely on the cookie sheet, as they will break apart if you try to move them while warm.  Fill the depression with  frosting by simply spooning it in or piping it  if you prefer a fancier presentation.  Store cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Note: avoid using all vegan butter in place of the butter-oil mixture, as the cookies will spread too much.

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Vegan Kahlua-Spiked Chocolate-Almond Cupcakes with Coconut-Espresso Buttercream Frosting

Yield: 2 1/2 dozen miniature cupcakes

Where did May go?  I feel that I’ve been out of touch for so long, and that was not my intention!

I had the flu for the first two weeks of the month, and it was all I could do to get myself to school and home.  And, I guess, by the middle of the month, we were deep into testing, final assignments, end of year celebrations and, come the first of June, the creation of exams and oh-so-much-more in preparation for graduation which is only a week from tomorrow!  The last days of school are absolutely breathless!

Speaking of breathless, these fabulously decadent cupcakes will take your breath away!

They were inspired by the irrepressible Kisha Marie, Starbucks barista and beaded jewelry designer extraordinaire.  I love starting my day with an exchange of greetings, ideas, and news with Kisha.  Her exuberance is infectious.  And, I swear, she has my Green Tea Soy  No Syrup Frappuccino started before I even arrive!

Every so often, my local Starbucks where she works offers free tastes from a big carafe.  A recent Kisha Marie concoction gave rise to my newest favorite cupcake: a blend of iced Via concentrate, coconut syrup, and soymilk.  Mmmm…  She always gets the balance of flavors,  consistency, and color exactly right.

Though there is no chocolate in her signature beverage, I thought the chocolate cupcakes would be a perfect foil for the coffee and coconut in the frosting.  Yes, indeed! And the Kahlua?  Well, who needs to justify coffee liqueur?  I just have to remember not to spike them when I share with my students!

But I did share them with all my pals at Starbucks.  The cupcakes received a latte praise (sorry, I couldn’t resist), though Kisha recommended that I use Via instead of my standard espresso powder.  I’m sure she’s right about that.  Next time!

1 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup natural sugar

1/3 cup finely ground almonds, plain or toasted for deeper flavor (use a food processor to achieve the consistency of an almond meal)

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt (table salt is fine, but I love sea salt even in baked goods)

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted (or canola oil)

1 cup chocolate almond milk (chocolate soymilk may be substituted)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

5 tablespoons Kahlua or other coffee flavored liqueur for brushing tops

Coconut-Espresso Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows)

Optional garnish: 30 chocolate-covered coffee beans, sliced almonds, or a pinch of plain or toasted coconut

Line 30 mini-muffin cups with mini-muffin papers.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, stir together all dry ingredients.  In a small bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients except Kahlua.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture.  Stir both together until the batter is smooth, though a few small lumps may remain.  Using a small scoop, divide batter evenly among the lined muffin cups.  Bake for 20 minutes or just until a toothpick inserted in the center of one cupcake comes out clean.  Check at 18 minutes to avoid over-baking.  Remove muffin tins to wire racks to cool.  When cool enough to handle, remove cupcakes from the tins onto the racks in order to prevent them from continuing to cook.  Prick each cupcake a few times with a toothpick and brush the tops with up to 1/2 teaspoon Kahlua each.  Spoon the frosting into a piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe in swirls on top of each cupcake.  Or simply spread the frosting on each cupcake with a dinner knife, spoon or offset spatula.  Garnish as desired and serve immediately or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Coconut Espresso Buttercream Frosting:

6 tablespoons vegan butter (I like Earth Balance)

6 tablespoons vegetable shortening

3 cups powdered sugar

4 teaspoons espresso powder dissolved in 4 teaspoons unsweetened or plain soymilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons coconut extract (extract is preferred over coconut flavor, though the flavor will do if you can’t find extract)

Cream together butter and shortening until smooth.  Beat in powdered sugar, one cup at a time, alternating with the espresso and soymilk mixture, until smooth and creamy.  Start electric mixer on low so as not to coat yourself in sugar.  Beat in vanilla and coconut extracts until completely incorporated.

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Vegan Banana Mini-Cupcakes with Chocolate-Banana Mousse Frosting–Thank You Isa Moskowitz and Terry Romero!

These beauties were  baked from a recipe in Isa Moskowitz and Terry Romero’s Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  And they are out-of-this-world, or so my AP Studio students, the lucky recipients, thought!

I simply baked the batter from their Banana Split Cupcakes recipe (p. 81) in decorative paper-lined mini-muffin tins without the addition of the pineapple preserves or chopped dark chocolate.   Then I frosted them with their recipe for Chocolate Banana Mousse (p. 157) and topped them with a half macadamia nut–they’re too expensive to use whole!

I omitted the  soymilk from the frosting recipe, as I wanted it quite thick, and only used 10, instead of 12, ounces of chocolate (10 ounces is what came in my bag), and it was perfect.  The recipe is almost identical to my go-to mousse from another source that uses a liqueur in place of the soymilk, so either way would work great.   And both are equally as delicious whether enjoyed as frosting, a mousse, or a pie filling!

The frosting recipe is essentially a package of extra-firm silken tofu processed until smooth with melted chocolate, a couple of more tablespoons of the sweetener of your choice, a little bit of vanilla, and a banana, chilled for about an hour before piping.

I recommend buying this cookbook–a staple in my kitchen (right along with The Blooming Platter that is!)–so that you can enjoy this and lots of other recipes for both traditional and contemporary cupcakes.  Think “Cupcake Wars,” vegan style.

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Vegan Peanut Butter-Cream Cheese-Chocolate Chip Frosting

Okay, so I said that the only thing that might make my Vegan Peanut Butter, Banana, Graham Cracker Brownies better was frosting, but that that “almost seems too decadent if there is any such thing.” Turns out there isn’t. The brownies are really good unadorned. But, with this frosting, they should be a controlled substance.

1/4 cup vegan butter, softened (I like Earth Balance)
1/4 cup vegan cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup plain or chunky organic peanut butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract plus 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
up to approximately 3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips, slightly softened in microwave (some whole chips should remain)

In a small bowl, by hand or with an electric mixer, cream together first four ingredients. Beat in powdered sugar until smooth and the desired spreading consistency is reached. Then stir or beat in chocolate chips. Use to frost your favorite brownies or cupcakes.

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Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting with Variations

Yield: Enough frosting for an 8-9″ two-layer cake or one 9×13″ sheet cake (with some leftover)

This recipe is simply a veganized version of Cream Cheese Frosting that we have all been making since childhood. My earliest memory of it is on my mother’s Hummingbird Cake. I don’t know who first created this popular frosting, but he or she has created generations of addicts.

You will find it to be very forgiving and adaptable. Thicken it by adding more sugar or thin it by adding a few drops of soy milk and experiment with your favorite flavors. A few suggestions follow.

1/2 cup vegan cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup vegan butter, room temperature (I like Earth Balance)
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (feel free to experiment with other extracts)
Plain, unsweetened or vanilla soy milk if needed

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine cream cheese and butter. Beat at medium-high speed until fluffy. Beat in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time to create a thick creamy frosting, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Beat in a few drops of soy milk if frosting becomes too stiff. Add more sugar if it doesn’t hold its shape. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Let the frosting come to room temperature before using.

Citrus: Add the zest of one lemon, lime or orange with the vanilla
Chocolate: Substitute about 1/3 cup of the powdered sugar with cocoa powder
Coffee: Dissolve 1-2 tablespoons instant coffee or espresso powder in 1-2 tablespoons of water and add to frosting with powdered sugar
Mocha: Combine directions for both the chocolate and coffee versions

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