Monday, February 01, 2021

Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes

I had been eyeing this recipe on The Kitchn for a long time. The chocolate cupcakes are vegan and gluten-free (though they do not contain specialty ingredients), while the frosting is made with coconut oil and is dairy-free. The cupcakes and frosting were delicious, but I felt like the “frosting” was very homely-looking and unpleasantly grainy. It broke apart very easily. This seemed to be by design, but I felt that it could be better. 

Luckily, I remembered that my friend Maman des Zigotos had sent me this recipe for a vegan buttercream that was also made with coconut oil. The main difference is in technique, as the oil is melted and frozen before being used in the recipe. I don’t know why this works, but it really does! I think it helps prevent separation in the oil or something? So anyway, I made the cupcakes a second time (with white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose gluten-free flour) and this luscious frosting, and that’s what I’m writing down below. These were fantastic! Plus, the almond extract really plays well with the chocolate and the coconut here. 

Note that while I haven’t tried these cupcakes with 2 eggs instead of 2 flax eggs, I see no reason why you couldn’t make the swap if you don’t have ground flaxseed. Also, if you are using the frosting for another cake, you can use vanilla extract instead of almond extract. You can also use agave syrup or maple syrup instead of corn syrup, but then you might need more powdered sugar to compensate for the more liquid consistency. 

For the cupcakes 
2 Tbsp. ground flaxseed 
1/3 cup warm water 
1 cup almond milk (or lactose-free milk) 
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar 
1 ¼ cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (or regular all-purpose flour) 
¾ cup granulated sugar 
½ cup cocoa powder, sifted 
1 tsp. baking powder 
½ tsp. baking soda 
1 tsp. salt 
1/3 cup coconut oil, liquefied and at room temperature 
1 tsp. almond extract 

Preheat the oven to 350 °F with a rack in the middle. Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners. 

In a small bowl, combine the ground flax seeds and warm water. Set aside to gel, about 10 minutes. In another small bowl, combine the almond milk and cider vinegar. Set it aside for a few minutes to curdle. 

Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl. 

Whisk the coconut oil and almond extract into the curdled almond milk mixture, and then immediately stir both the wet ingredients and gelled flax mixture into the dry ingredients. Beat vigorously for about one minute. (If you are using regular flour, i.e. with gluten, only beat until well combined.) 

Pour the mixture into the prepared cupcake tin. Bake about 20 minutes, or until just barely set in the middle. Set aside to cool before frosting. 

For the frosting 
1 cup coconut oil 
1 tsp. almond extract 
2 2/3 cups powdered sugar, sifted (I only needed 2 cups) 
2 tsp. vegetable oil 
2 tsp. light corn syrup 
coconut chips or flakes, toasted or not, for decorating 

Melt the coconut oil in the microwave for about 1 minute, then stir it until all the solid bits are dissolved. Place it in the freezer for 25 minutes or until it has solidified. 

Allow the coconut oil to come to room temperature before processing. If it is too cold/hard, breaking it up with a fork or a hand mixer will help it soften. 

Whip the room-temp coconut oil with a hand mixer (I used my stand mixer) until it is creamy. Check for any lumps and crush them up. (I switched to the paddle attachment at some point and it worked better.) 

Cream the almond extract with the coconut oil. 

Mix in the powdered sugar in 3 goes, then add in the syrup and oil and whisk until light and fluffy, about 2 more minutes. 

When the cupcakes are completely cool, frost with the coconut icing, then sprinkle each cupcake with a spoonful of flaked coconut.

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