The concept of “red velvet” anything had eluded me for the longest time. What exactly was red velvet? What was it supposed to taste like and what on earth inspired the name? It wasn’t until my first year of university when I visited the infamous Hummungbird Bakery in London with a friend that I had the opportunity to sample their signature and much sought after red velvet cupcake. The first bite ushered in an overwhelming rush of sweetness – the moist chocolate cupcake melding with a tower of tangy cream cheese frosting and just a hint of that oddly familiar taste of food colouring (thank you, 90s childhood for refining my palate so). To say I didn’t enjoy it would be a flat out lie, but it was definitely far too heavy and overwhelmingly sugary – I don’t recall feeling too great afterwards.
Fast forward 6 years and my taste for sweets has definitely evolved. I love my health-ified vegan baked goods, especially when they’re gluten-free and/or naturally sweetened – but I’m also no stranger to the decadent vegan cupcake or cookie pie, because let’s be honest I’m only human. I believe a healthy balanced diet means being able to enjoy an indulgent sweet treat or savoury junk food item guilt free every once in a while.
Which brings me to today’s Valentine’s Day inspired recipe du jour. While it’s not a healthy dessert recipe by any stretch of the imagination, I can guarantee you it won’t leave you feeling comatose unlike the aforementioned cupcake from Hummingbird’s. It’s also not red, which I know contradicts the very namesake of a “red” velvet cupcake – but having made two batches (one with and one sans food coloring) I noticed no flavor difference and decided I could live without the nasty E number ingredients (which are likely not to be vegan-friendly anyways).
Vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
For the cupcakes:
- 1 and 3/4 + 1 tbsp cup organic soy milk
- 4 tsp organic apple cider vinegar
- 1 and 3/4 cups self raising flour (for a GF option use a self raising gluten-free blend with a 1/4 tsp of xanthan gum)
- 1 cup organic sucanat or regular unrefined golden caster sugar
- 1/3 cup raw cacao powder (you can use regular baking cocoa powder too)
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1 tbsp vanilla essence
For the icing:
- 1.5 tbsp dairy-free margarine
- 2.5 tbsp vegetable shortening
- 1/3 cup dairy-free cream cheese (I use Tofutti original flavor)
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 3 cups of icing sugar
- 1-2 tbsp soy milk to thin
- 1/2 tbsp vanilla essence
- Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a cupcake tray with cases.
- Whisk the ACV with the soy milk and set aside for 5 minutes to curdle. This is the secret to vegan baking and is essentially the dairy-free version of buttermilk.
- In a large bowl mix the flour, cacao, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well combined.
- Add the oil and vanilla to the milk mixture, then combine with the dry ingredients, stirring very quickly until ingredients are just combined. You have to be careful to avoid the raising agents working too quickly, so it’s okay if your batter isn’t completely lump free.
- Spoon the batter into cases evenly and bake for 15 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.
- Allow to cool while you make the frosting. Using an electric or handheld mixer combine the margarine, shortening, salt vanilla and cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar in batches and use the milk to thin as necessary but be wary of adding too much – you don’t want a runny frosting!
- Cool in the fridge for 5-10 minutes before adding to a piping bag and going to town.
I personally prefer a lower frosting-cupcake ratio, and I’m also not too skilled at decorating cupcakes so I find a small amount piped on top both tastes better and allows for a smaller margin of error aesthetically. That said – feel free to frost as liberally as you like!
Decorated with heart shaped cake toppers and polka-dotted cases, these made for the ultimate valentine’s day treat.
And if you’re still not convinced, remember that these cupcakes are 100% vegan and cruelty free – the epitome of what a baked good made to celebrate love and compassion should be. Now what could be more guilt-free than that?
Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day dear readers!