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)
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥