I signed up for a cake decorating class. It's a 4-week course at my local craft store. For the first lesson, I needed to bring 6 un-iced cupcakes. I wanted a clean, easy and easy-to-make-dairy free recipe for simple vanilla cupcakes.
I found this wonderful Williams Sonoma recipe for vanilla cupcakes. I replaced the butter with Earth Balance buttery sticks and I used my lilac sugar, which by now has a wonderful fragrant flavor and aroma.
The cupcakes baked evenly, gave me a soft yet structured crumb and had a lovely combination of the vanilla and the lilac flavor.
Now, on to the icing. I signed up for this class because my skills with a pastry bag have always been a little shaky, so I wanted some kind of formal training to make my baked goods look pretty as well as tasty.
We really started with the basics, mainly straight lines, wavy lines, stars and rosettes. We mixed two different colors and played around with the star tips.
I think I did okay for a first timer...
I wanted to bake my boyfriend's mother something special for Mother's Day. When I asked him what his mother liked, he said "double chocolate." I started thinking about the type of dual-chocolate confection I wanted to make and decided upon cup cakes.
Because everything I make must be dairy free - I needed to review a lot of different recipes and create one that would create a delicious dairy free cupcake. I also wanted to experiment by modifying meringue-based buttercream recipe that I found on Epicurious that combined the double-boiler method of a swiss meringue frosting, but with whole eggs and the addition of butter - like an Italian meringue buttercream. However, I needed to make it both dairy free and chocolate.
Here's what I did...
This was one grand experiment. I love red velvet. When I developed a dairy allergy, I couldn't eat or make it anymore. For years, I longed for them, until I worked in the Chelsea section on Manhattan. There is a wonderful vegan restaurant and bakery called Blossom. They make a fantastic vegan red velvet cupcake. On nice days, I would walk over on my lunch break and buy one (or a few...).
Well, when I stopped working in Chelsea, red velvet eluded me again. You see, I can replicate buttermilk by adding vinegar and/or lemon juice to coconut milk, but for red velvet, lemon juice alters the flavor and there is already vinegar in the recipe, so adding more throws off the balance.
Until... I began making coconut milk Kefir at home. The kefir acts almost the same way as buttermilk does in recipes, so it gave me the freedom to make a red velvet confection at home.
Some friends invited me to a Pot Luck, so I had the means and the opportunity to make it.
The next step was to locate a recipe to conform. I chose one from Sally's Baking Addiction. It was a nice base that was relatively easy to convert by replacing the buttermilk with kefir at a 1:1 ratio. I made a double batch - thinking that it would only produce 12 cupcakes. Well, I got 24 cupcakes and two 8" rounds from doubling that recipe.
Now, how do I frost them? One option would be to make the cream cheese frosting with soy-based cream cheese, but I wanted something more interesting than that.
For the cupcakes, I wanted something light and airy - so I made a seven-minute swiss meringue frosting by Gale Gand.
For the cake, I decided to attempt an Italian Meringue buttercream, replacing the butter with Earth Balance Buttery Baking Sticks.
I'm a home cook with a lifelong passion for learning, exploring and experimenting in my kitchen. You can find me at @Debs1 on Twitter and @Debs121212 on Instagram.
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