Dead Man’s Party or Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes

dead mans party

Mexican Chocolate Cupcake

The Day of the Dead is a time to honor your loved ones who have passed on, and to have delicious sweets. The sugar skull is an iconic symbol of this holiday, but I’m not an artist so I decorated cupcakes with pictures of sugar skulls. To add to the theme I chose the flavors of Mexican Hot Chocolate for a nod to the holiday’s roots in Mexico.

My standby favorite chocolate cupcake recipe was used here, but I modified the flavors. The frosting was adjusted to add sweet cinnamon. Also, I added chipotle powder for the spiciness. How much you add is up to you – this could be a treat or a trick!

Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes
1 cup almond milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup organic sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 TBS all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
generous 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 – 3/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 cup nonhydrogenated shortening
1/2 cup nonhydrogenated margarine
3 1/2 cups organic powdered sugar, sifted if clumpy
1 tsp powdered cinnamon
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup almond milk
For Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350F and line a 12-cupcake pan with paper liners. Whisk together the milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add the sugar, oil, and vanilla to the milk mixture and beat until foamy.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and chipotle powder. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and beat just until no large lumps remain. Pour evenly into the liners, filling three-quarters of the way. Bake 18-19 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.
For Frosting: Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and beat for 3 more minutes. Add the cinnamon, vanilla and milk and beat for another 5-7 minutes until fluffy.

Until next time, happy baking!

Ginger Lollipops

ginger lollipopsIt’s almost Halloween and that means … candy! I know it’s not baking but I had never successfully made candy before and I like a challenge. I found a recipe using simple, natural ingredients (read – no corn syrup) so I gave it a whirl.

A few tips about candy making: 1) Set aside some time to make this and be patient. The process of heating the sugar mixture seems slow but it will happen. 2) Do not leave the pot unattended. I attempted candy making once years ago, but each time I did I got distracted and ruined it. My recent attempt at Halloween candy met with the phone ringing and then the door ringing seconds later. I was mere degrees from the correct temperature so I wisely ignored both. Shortly thereafter the honey smell became very strong and then instantly I hit the right temp. A few seconds later and it would have burned. 3) Wash the pot and utensils immediately after pouring the mixture into the molds. I washed the pot and thermometer quickly after pouring but I forgot the spoon for a few minutes. Getting the now-hard candy off of the spoon was more difficult than you would imagine. 4) This recipe makes 20 round lollipops, but molds vary. I had a tray with parchment paper at the ready for pouring out the overage. Do not use the extra to overfill the molds. Overly full molds are a pain to unmold.

In case you’re still wondering about cooking candy and not baking, I can let you know that my chocoholic taster was very enthused with the finished product in spite of the lack of chocolate.

Ginger Lollipops adapted from
vegetable oil, to grease molds
candied ginger, chopped very fine
2 cups organic sugar
2/3 cups honey
3/4 cup water
10 drops organic ginger (Zingiber officinale) essential oil
Use oil to grease lollipop molds. Drop a few pieces of candied ginger into each mold. Insert lollipop sticks and set aside. In a heavy-duty saucepan, combine sugar, honey and water. Insert candy thermometer, making sure not to touch bottom of pan. Cook at medium heat, stirring until ingredients are dissolved. Check pan occasionally to make sure mixture is not bubbling over.
Once thermometer reaches 300F, remove from stove. Once bubbling subsides, add ginger essential oil. Stir well. Pour mixture carefully into molds, making sure sticks remain secure. Let cool before removing from molds. (If lollipops are difficult to remove, briefly run hot water over back of mold tray.) Place in plastic bags or plastic wrap.

Until next time, happy un-baking!

Berry Protein Muffins

berry protein muffinA while back I mentioned that one day I would bake with protein powder to see what kind of effect it would have on a final product. That day has come. I was alerted that taste, texture and color would change when adding protein powder to a baked good, but the only downside to my experiment was an oddly greenish colored muffin. But that seemed appropriate for a pre-Halloween treat.

I discovered a recipe that already included protein powder. The problem was that some of the ingredients seemed in odd proportion. So, I jumped right in and made many changes to the original. Most importantly I ensured that it had slightly higher than usual amounts of flour and liquids compared to the other ingredients. I also cut the baking powder in half; the amount listed would have made the muffins explode at high altitude. The vegetable oil was reduced because too much oil in high altitude baking can equate to greasiness. After a multitude of adjustments, I give you:

Berry Protein Muffins adapted from
1 cup + 1 TBS almond milk
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup organic sugar
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unflavored hemp protein powder
3 TBS vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup frozen or fresh berries
Preheat oven to 350F and put liners in a 12-cup muffin pan. Combine milk and apple cider vinegar and set aside to curdle. In a bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and form a well in the center. To curdled milk, add hemp protein powder, oil, and vanilla and whisk until smooth.
Pour milk mixture in the well of dry mixture, and stir only enough to moisten. Fold in berries and scoop dough into muffin pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean; a few moist crumbs are okay. Remove from oven, cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Cool for 20 minutes.

Until next time, happy baking!

Is chocolate vegan?

Chocolate Bar

Image courtesy of Lisa Salamida at

You’re at the grocery store to purchase goodies for a vegan baking spree. You look at your list and think, “Vegan Chocolate … that’s easy, I’ll get dark chocolate. It’s vegan.” Although that sounds like a no-brainer, unfortunately it is not always the case. It would be nice if it were true, but since it’s not here are some pointers to lead you to the vegan stuff.

You will want to stay away from milk chocolate, as you realized with your initial instinct to buy a dark variety. To find a viable dark version, PETA recommends to “always look for a high percentage of cacao, between 55 and 85 percent—the higher the percentage, the purer the bar. Also, be sure to check the ingredients, as some brands’ dark-chocolate bars still contain dairy products. Avoid chocolate that has a long list of ingredients, because chances are that some of them are fillers.”

While you are looking at the ingredient label, also keep in mind that quality chocolate will have “pure ingredients and no additives. The ingredients will be simple: cocoa, cocoa butter, lecithin, sugar and sometimes vanilla. And that’s it.”

By now you have read the ingredients, checked for the short-list, and deemed your chocolate worthy. But there is one last step – look for food crossover warnings. These might say “Manufactured on the same equipment that also makes products containing milk” or “May contain milk.” If you don’t see these sentences proclaimed in tiny print, you should be safe.

By now you are thinking that chocolate comes from a plant (Theobroma cacao to be precise), so why isn’t it vegan? Good question. It was simpler in the past, but in recent years manufacturers have been adding butterfat for a creamy “mouth feel.” So now some varieties of dark chocolate are no longer non-dairy.

This is making my head spin. Maybe I should just stop baking with chocolate. Hmm, not likely.

Filled Pumpkin Spice Muffins

pumpkin spice muffinsNothing says fall like pumpkin spice, and what better way to feature it than in a warm muffin. The muffin recipe I found is extra special – it has a filling and a topping. The recipe is also part of the #Bakealong Challenge by King Arthur Flour. With it’s creamy cream cheese filling and it’s crunchy streusel topping, I was sold. Besides, I love a challenge.

To adapt the recipe to high altitude I had to modify a few things. I added some flour and reduced the baking powder. I also cut the topping in half – you don’t want to weigh down a muffin at altitude. Next I reduced the temperature and baked them a few minutes longer. For the vegan changes I used yogurt instead of eggs, chose vegan versions of butter and cream cheese, and made the milk a non-dairy version. I wanted to make the muffins on the healthier side (healthy-ish?) so I used a combination of all-purpose flour and whole wheat. Now, on to the muffins …

Filled Pumpkin Spice Muffins adapted from King Arthur Flour
1/4 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/8 cup organic brown sugar, packed
1/8 cup old-fashioned rolled oats or quick oats (not instant)
dash salt
2 TBS vegan margarine, at room temperature
1 (8-oz) tub vegan cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup organic sugar
1 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 cup vanilla non-dairy yogurt
1/2 cup organic brown sugar, packed
3 TBS vegetable oil
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/3 cup almond milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice; or 1 tsp ground cinnamon + 1/4 tsp ground cloves + 1/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup + 1TBS Whole Wheat Flour
Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with muffin papers. To make the streusel: Whisk together flour, sugar, oats, and salt. Work in margarine, mixing until coarse crumbs form. To make the filling: Place cream cheese in a bowl and stir in sugar. To make the batter: Whisk together pumpkin, yogurt, brown sugar, oil, agave, and milk. Then whisk in salt, spices, baking powder, and baking soda. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl. Add flour and mix until well combined.
Drop a scant 2 TBS of batter into each muffin cup, spreading it to cover the bottom. Dollop on a heaping TBS of filling (I had some leftover), then cover with another 2 TBS of batter. Sprinkle each muffin with streusel topping. Bake for 25 minutes, until a cake tester inserted towards the edge comes out crumb-free. Remove muffins from oven. When they’re cool enough to handle, transfer them to a rack to cool completely. Enjoy within 2 to 3 hours; refrigerate up to 3 days for longer storage. Freeze, well-wrapped, up to 3 weeks.

Until next time, happy baking!

Chocolate-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes

chocolate filled chocolate cupcakesToday is all about chocolate with my chocolate-filled chocolate cupcakes. I saw a recipe for chocolate lava cupcakes and figured that who could go wrong with chocolate and more chocolate. Let’s just say my chocoholic hubby was very excited.

The changes I made to the recipe I adapted were extensive because I felt the recipe would make too much batter. I down-sized the measurements and then reduced the baking powder more to account for high altitude. Then I added more liquids for the dryness at altitude. The last big alteration was to omit the frosting because they seemed a bit sugar-laden for my tastes. I saved some filling and used the extra ganache for a nice topping. Yep, hubby was glad to be a taster.

Chocolate-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes adapted from Vegan in the Freezer
For the Cupcake Filling
6 oz semi­sweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup non-dairy milk
2 TBS powdered sugar
For the Cupcake Batter
1 cup + 1.25 tsp non-dairy milk
1.5 tsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted and then cooled
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1.25 cups + 1 TBS all ­purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1.25 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners. Melt chocolate for filling. Whisk in milk and powdered sugar. Set aside. In a bowl, start batter by adding milk and apple cider vinegar. Let sit for 15 minutes to curdle, then add sugar, oil and vanilla. Whisk until well mixed. In another bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and whisk until mixed.
Fill cupcake liners 1/3 full with batter. Place a dollop of filling in center of each cupcake, with extra filling reserved for garnish. Do not let filling touch sides of liners. Use remaining batter to fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full. Bake for 22-24 minutes. Let cool completely. Drizzle remaining filling over tops of cupcakes to garnish.

Until next time, happy baking!

A Love of Baking and Science

baking loveThe other day I was talking to a friend about my favorite past-time – baking. She had heard that baking was very relaxing, almost meditative. She apparently hasn’t watched me bake. I have heard that activities like kneading bread can be very zen-like, but baking vegan at high altitude is very rational and involves lots of math. My friend said she wouldn’t enjoy it, but I reassured her that I do all the hard work and all a reader has to do is follow recipes. She liked that.

This conversation reinforced why I have my blog. I am fascinated with the science of baking and, trust me, baking with multiple substitutions is scientific. But, others are not as intrigued as I am and just want to bake something that looks and tastes good. I get that, but half of the fun for me is the challenge. I. Will. Make. This. Recipe. Work.

There is also the sense of accomplishment when I peek through the oven window and see a baked creation that I fussed over come to life. Sometimes that fussing takes multiple tries, so it is even more rewarding when I finally succeed. And it’s always good to know I haven’t wasted a pile of expensive baking ingredients. (Have you seen the cost of coconut sugar?)

And then there is the look on my husband’s face when he asks for more, especially when it is a recipe that I am not sure will tantalize his taste buds. Like last week’s zucchini bread, for instance. My husband’s idea of dessert is half a tray of brownies. Zucchini bread seemed far too healthy, even though I added chocolate chips for a chocolate fix. Much to my surprise, he was disappointed when I ate the last piece and there was none left for him. So, happily, I go back into the kitchen to make more … all in the name of science and love.