Today I’m sharing my “go-to” recipe for chocolate cupcakes. This recipe has never left me down. My oven can be really temperamental when it comes to cake baking, but these cupcakes always turn out perfectly. They’re light, fluffy and deliciously moist.
I’ve made them numerous times for fundraisers and they always sell in a flash. None of the children at our local school are vegan, but they choose these cupcakes simply because they love them. It also makes me happy to know that the children with dairy allergies are able to join in. I often spot their mums making a beeline for me as I step through the school gate with my cake tin.
Next Friday is the annual Macmillan coffee morning here in the UK, which has now gained the status of the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning. Last year, the event raised a wopping £25 million for people affected by cancer.
As many of you already know, this is a charity very close to my heart and I’m always delighted to join in the coffee mornings and help raise money for the Macmillan nurses (or ‘Angels’ as I like to call them). Some years I’ve baked literally hundreds of cakes, like at this event in Dorset, which was organised by my sister.
Other years, I’ve joined in coffee mornings with friends or in my local community. It’s a great event to be involved in so, UK friends, do check out what’s happening in your local area.
And why not take along a batch of these tasty chocolate cupcakes? Most people don’t realise that cakes can be made free from animal products, so it’s always fun to see the look of shock on their faces when I tell them these cupcakes are 100% dairy and egg free.
So what do they contain? Well, there are no fancy or weird substitute ingredients; just simple ingredients that you’re likely to have as pantry staples, like oil, vinegar, sugar and cocoa powder. The recipe I use is lightly adapted from the Basic Chocolate Cupcake recipe in Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero’s fab little cupcake book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I then add a simple dairy-free chocolate frosting and sprinkles.
To be honest, these cakes don’t really need frosting as they taste amazing just as they are. If you add orange extract to the mix it takes them to a whole new level of deliciousness. Chocolate Orange has got to be one of the best flavour combos ever.
However, for fundraisers, these babies would look a little naked so we need to dress them up. I don’t go overboard with frosting as I find that piles of frosting is not only sickly, but also detracts from the delicious flavour of the cupcake itself. I tend to just smear some on with a palette knife and add a few sprinkles to finish it off.
If you’re vegan, you need to watch out for animal ingredients in sprinkles, including beeswax, shellac, gelatine and the red food colouring cochineal (aka E120, carmine) which is made from crushed beetles. I can’t see anything of animal origin in Asda’s Rainbow 100s & 1000s and Rainbow Sprinkles but I might contact them to double check. The packet has a big V on it, but it would be helpful if they said whether they’re suitable for ‘Vegetarians and Vegans’.
Makes 10-12 cupcakes
Hands-on time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 18-20 minutes
Ready in: 40 minutes
240ml / 8 fl oz / 1 cup soya milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
160g / 5½ oz / ¾ cup unrefined (golden) caster sugar (organic sugar)
70ml / 2½ fl oz / 1/3 cup organic rapeseed (canola) oil (or other neutral-flavoured oil)
1 tsp vanilla extract (or use 1 tsp orange extract for chocolate orange cupcakes)
70g / 2½ oz / ½ cup plain (all-purpose) flour
70g / 2½ oz / ½ cup fine wholemeal (whole wheat) or chapatti flour (I use the latter)
37g / 1 1/3 oz / 1/3 cup cocoa powder
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan) / 350F. Line a muffin tray with paper liners.
Whisk together the milk and vinegar in a large bowl and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt.
Add the sugar, oil and vanilla extract to the wet ingredient bowl and whisk until fully incorporated and the sugar has dissolved. Sift in half the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Repeat with the remaining dry ingredients.
Fill the liners three quarters full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted through the middle comes out clean. (I bake mine for 20 minutes in a fan oven at 160C. My oven has a tendency to bake cakes unevenly so after 15 minutes I turn the trays round 180 degrees and bake for a further 5 minutes).
When ready, leave to cool for a couple of minutes then transfer to a wire rack and leave until completely cooled. Stored in an airtight container, these cupcakes should keep for 3 days at room temperature, up to a week in the fridge or for a month in the freezer. To freeze, place in a single layer in a freezer bag. Squeeze or suck out all the air and zip/tie securely.
Dairy-Free Chocolate Frosting
The frosting quantities below should be ample for coating 12 cupcakes using a palette knife. If you want to pipe frosting, I would recommend doubling the quantities.
150g / 5½ oz / 1 cup icing sugar (powdered sugar)
4 TBSP cocoa powder
50g / 1¾ oz / 4 TBSP dairy-free spread (vegan butter) e.g. Pure / Earth Balance
2 TBSP non dairy milk
Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a large bowl. Add the dairy-free spread and milk. Gently stir with a silicone spatula until incorporated (this will stop the sugar and cocoa flying round the kitchen as you beat it). Beat either by hand or, for a light and fluffy frosting, beat with an electric whisk. If the frosting looks a little dry, add another 1 tsp of milk.
Frost the cakes and decorate with sprinkles just before serving.