heart of darkness: black cocoa "fauxstess" cupcakes
why are the snack foods marketed towards kids made of the most artificial, bad-for-you, just-plain-junk ingredients? and why do kids go nuts over the stuff? oh, i know why, it's because these little nuggets of garbage taste good. i can still clearly remember the wave of joy that washed over me each time i found in my lunch bag one of those little packets of impossibly orange colored "cheese" that came with a few crackers and a little red plastic stick for spreading. it never occured to me to wonder why this cheese never needed to be refrigerated, or why it left that kinda waxy coating on my tongue. i just knew i loved that plastic box with the little compartments and the vivid red and orange nestled therein. and how about those little white milk-flavored sugar sticks that came with two different colors of sugar. you'd lick the stick, dip in sugar, suck off sugar and dip again. sugar on sugar action. hardcore.
cheese thingies and lick'em sticks aside, my all-time favorite snack was the veritable hostess cupcake. or the ho-ho. or the twinkie. or the suzy-q. really they were just different sheeps' clothing hiding the same wolf. now, as an "adult" (how did that happen? i don't feel like a grownup!), i have the contradictory emotions of longing and disgust when confronted with my former love, the hostess cupcake. sounds like a bad relationship, yes?
well, it doesn't have to be that bad. not if you whip up a batch of fauxstess cupcakes from the Vegan with a Vengance cookbook. if you're not familiar with this little gem and you are a vegan you should check it out...the recipes are approachable (this by far the most complicated one in the book) and for the most part they consistently deliver on flavor and ease of preparation. i've had good results from most of the recipes, especially the pumpkin muffins and lemon cornmeal waffles.
but back to these "fauxstess cupcakes". i'd been eyeing this recipe for several months but kept putting off taking the plunge because they seemed so horrendously complicated. i mean four different things to make for one little cupcake?!! and then there was that damn black cocoa. what the heck is black cocoa anyway?
having been through the fire of these doubts myself, let me just say, "do not fear the fauxstess". although these guys are undeniably a multi-step project, they are not difficult to make. the cupcake itself is very straightforward. the ganache is just a matter of throwing some stuff together in a bowl and nuking it. the royal icing is basically powdered sugar and water. and the filling, well, you do have to beat the filling for what seems like an eternity. the assembly of the components is just plain fun and could be a good project with the kiddies. or the roommates. or your imaginary friends. all one of them.
the part that gave me the most difficulty was the black cocoa. black cocoa is like it's dutch processed sibling but extra "dutched", meaning it is made significantly more alkaline. this results in a cocoa that has a very dark, almost black color with a mellower, deeper flavor. regular cocoa is sharper in taste, lighter in color and more acidic. some say this extra dutching makes it taste "chalky", which i can see, but it is not an unpleasant taste and it is very slight. it's the same sensation in the chocolate part of an oreo cookie. the hard part was finding the stuff. after fruitless expeditions to five different markets i ended up purchasing some on the internet. you can make these cupcakes without the black cocoa but they will not have that dark brown color and characteristic taste.
if you're not completely scared off yet, carry on brave soliders, and give these a whirl. i promise you, i really promise you, that you'll like them. and if you don't want to deal with all that frosting and margarine and shortening nonsense, just make the cupcakes. they have a gorgeous crown and a light, airy texture. they are good enough to eat all by their lonesome. or maybe you could poke your finger in the center to make a little well, fill it up with rasperry jam, then sprinkle powdered sugar on the top. or not.
naked an unafraid, little cupcake stands in all it's natural glory
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 Tablespoons black cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain rice or soymilk
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
preheat the oven to 350 and line a 12-muffin tin with paper cupcake liners. spray with the liners with canola spray to prevent sticking. sift together the flour, cocoa powders, baking powder, baking soda and salt. in another bowl combine the rice milk, oil, maple syrup, sugar, vinegar and vanilla. beat at medium speed for about two minues. add the dry ingredients to the wet and beat for about another minute to combine. fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full and bake for about 25-30 minutes. remove from oven and allow to fully cool.
2 Tablespoons non-hydrogenated margarine
1/4 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons superfine (caster) sugar
2 Tablespoons plain, full-fat soymilk powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
in a small bowl beat together the room temperature margarine and shortening until well combined. add the sugar and soymilk powder and beat at high speed for a long time. ten minutes or until the icing is very fluffy. add vanilla extract and a tiny pinch of salt and mix for another minute. set aside.
1/3 cup soy or rice milk
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 T. maple syrup
in a small saucepan bring the soymilk to a boil then lower heat to a simmer. add the chocoate and maple syrup and mix. remove from flame and allow residual heat to fully melt the chocolate. stir to combine. or you can place all ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and melt on high for a minute or two, checking and stirring the mixture every twenty seconds until done.
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 Tablespoon soymilk powder
1 Tablespoon water
sift the sugar into a bowl and add soymilk powder. add 1 teaspoon of water, then the rest bit by bit until you get a thick consistency, slightly more solid than toothpaste. this stuff has to hold its shape so it should not be drippy in the slightest.
putting it all together
1. poke a hole in the center of each cupcake with your finger, making a little well where the filling will go. place the filling in either a pastry bag, or improvise one by using a ziplock bag with a tiny bit of one edge snipped off. fill the hole until the frosting is level with the top of the cupcake.
2. spread the chocolate ganache over the top of the cupcake, covering the frosting filled hole either by using a cake decorating spatula or dipping the tops of the cupcakes into the bowl of melted ganache. place cupcakes in the fridge for about ten minutes to set.
3. again either using a pastry bag with a little attachment or another ziplock bag with an even tinier bit of the edge snipped off, make the squiggles on the top of the now firm ganache. place in refrigerater again for a few minutes to fully set.