Happy New Year! I hope you and your loved ones had an amazing festive period and aren't feeling too sad about pulling down your decorations and archiving the Christmas carols until next year :) We were very ready to welcome in the New Year and I am super excited about all the new adventures we'll enjoy! One year into blogging and here are my top photos from Instagram over the last year - I'm very proud of them and have lots of exciting goals for this year ;-)
Christmas always comes with lots of baking and I decided to take a break from blogging for the festive period as I always find it much trickier with my terrible twosome in tow! We're three weeks into our school holidays with only a couple of days left to go now. It was great to have some time to reflect and feed the soul - and also to think about some dietary changes to our family.
We already have psoriasis in the family which means staple foods like tomatoes and potatoes are struck off our shopping list as well as red meat and shellfish amongst other foods - and we also have to be mindful about how we combine food groups. We don't stick to it rigidly but there are definitely some foods we always have to avoid. A month or so ago, one of my sons was diagnosed as intolerant to dairy (cow and goat milk), egg white and nuts (almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts). The dietician and I laughed that at least he wasn’t gluten intolerant too and I promise you, I was thankful for small mercies!
We’re lucky that these foods don’t affect his gut and it’s (just?) eczema that we’re dealing with. Still in testing mode right now and we’re hopeful this is just a phase that will pass, especially since his favourite foods are milk, cheese, eggs and macarons! We’re not going to cut dairy and eggs out completely but obviously reduce and manage them and look for other options. We’ve immediately switched to soya milk and there’s no egg on toast in any form, but we’re allowing a little of these in baked goods. We’re also teaching him about making choices about how he eats. Time will tell.
So I wanted my first blog post of the year to be dedicated to him as he's been such a trooper. He's never grumbled or groaned and has embraced this new phase with gusto. I spent some time last year investigating vegan baking and looking at how I could replace ingredients that I traditionally used in baking, although at that time it was more out of interest than any kind of necessity. One of my favourite recipes was this Chocolate Cupcake with Coconut Frosting. This is a lovely frosting but its limitations are that I just can't get it to look as pretty as I’d like and if I use sprinkles or cocoa nibs as a topping, they discolour the icing after a little time. Just before Christmas I experimented with vegan butter and cream cheese in a frosting, but my son declared this was not a success taste-wise and the frosting was too soft and the peaks drooped after piping :(
I turned to a book that a friend gave me during my baking odyssey last year - Babycakes. I baked these Raspberry Scones from it which were delicious but I couldn’t easily find ingredients in other recipes and it was relegated to the bookshelf for a later date. Great to have this handy right now! One of the common ingredients they use in their cakes is apple sauce so I decided to replace the sugar that I had in my original recipe with some of this sauce and see if I could make a squidgier cake. And I also wanted to try some of their chocolate frosting.
The apple sauce can be bought (sugar free) but was very simple to make. I used two Granny Smith and two Pink Lady apples, peeled and cored and chopped into 1cm pieces. These were mixed with lemon juice, cinnamon and agave nectar (check out the free from section of supermarkets) and then roasted on a tray for 35 minutes. Once they have been roasted and cooled, they need to be blitzed to a smooth puree with hot water and more agave nectar and immediately refrigerated for up to one week in an airtight container. This made double the amount I used in the cupcakes. Very simple and amazingly sweet with the agave nectar.
I then made the frosting as it needs to be refrigerated for at least six hours (it can be kept for up to a month in an airtight container). This is also simple to make but does require dry soy milk powder which I couldn’t find locally in any health food stores and ordered from Ebay (I haven’t experimented with leaving this out). All the ingredients bar the coconut oil and lemon juice are blitzed in the food processor and then the oil and lemon juice are added slowly with the motor running. I think my lemon juice might have been too cold as the frosting did start to solidify as I added the final ingredients and became very lumpy and not very attractive! So I microwaved it in short bursts until the lumps had melted and then stirred it until it was smooth. Then covered it with clingfilm and popped it in the fridge.
I have spent the last few days working on this frosting as it still turned out lumpier than I expected so the final product looked smooth but when you dipped into it, it looked very granular. I did re-melt it and then refrigerate it again which worked. The recipe also says that if it's too soft when removed from the fridge, you can add liquid coconut oil into it - the oil will start to solidify when it hits the chilled frosting and go stiffer. BUT - given my experience, you would need to take care that the coconut oil doesn't solidify into little lumps again.
Finally I decided to remove the sugar from my previous Chocolate Cupcakes and in their place add agave syrup and the roasted apples. You can play around with the sweetness of these two so you can make it perfect for you, but this definitely made a softer crumb and squidgier cupcake. The cupcakes are simple to make - mix the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately and then add them together, mixing thoroughly. I ran out of rice flour when I was making them so used a mixture of rice flour and gluten-free plain flour. When baked, the cupcakes need to be completely cool before adding the frosting as it could melt the coconut oil within - and once they've been frosted I found they held up well as long as kept cool but they stayed okay in the kitchen and did not need to be refrigerated. The frosting piped very easily but when holding the piping bag, I needed to hold it near the top as the warmth from my hand started to slightly melt the frosting so the first ones piped had better definition than the last ones.
These turned out brilliantly. The pro's of this frosting are that you can get a peak and look of traditional buttercream which is the one ambition I've had with making vegan frosting. The cupcakes with the apple sauce made a much lighter cake crumb and I definitely think this addition is worthwhile. However you really need to like the coconut flavour as it's predominant in the frosting (fortunately we do!) Also, I noticed that after some time, the sprinkles started to melt slightly into the frosting so if you do want to use them, I'd suggest sprinkling just before serving.
I am absolutely thrilled to start the new year off with such a bake that works for my entire family. Free from baking was definitely not my comfort zone a year ago but a girl's gotta move with the times.
Next stop - vegan vanilla frosting :)
Home-Made Apple Sauce Ingredients (can be refrigerated for up to a week, from Babycakes)
- 2 GRANNY SMITH APPLES
- 2 PINK LADY APPLES
- 30ML LEMON JUICE
- 2TSP CINNAMON
- 80G AGAVE NECTAR (for pre-roasting)
- 40G AGAVE NECTAR (for blitzing in the food processor)
- 80ML HOT WATER
Home-Made Apple Sauce Method
- Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees (fan)
- Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper
- Peel, core and chop the apples into 1cm pieces
- Mix the apples with the lemon juice, cinnamon and 80G agave nectar in a bowl
- Spread them out over the lined baking tray
- Bake for 35 mins, rotating the tray 180 degrees after 20 mins
- Allow to cool
- Blitz in the food processor with 40G agave nectar and the hot water
- Place in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a week
Chocolate Frosting Ingredients (enough for 24 cupcakes, from Babycakes)
- 360ML SOY MILK
- 70G SOY MILK POWDER
- 30G COCOA POWDER
- 60ML AGAVE NECTAR
- 1TBSP VANILLA EXTRACT
- 240ML COCONUT OIL
- 2TBSP LEMON JUICE
Chocolate Frosting Method
- In a food processor, blend the soy milk, milk powder, cocoa powder, agave nectar and vanilla extract for 2 mins
- Add slowly the coconut oil and lemon juice, alternating them
- Extra step: if you mixture goes lumpy, then microwave it for short bursts until the lumps melt (it’s just the coconut oil solidifying)
- Mix until smooth and then pop it into an airtight container
- Refrigerate for at least 6 hours and keep for up to a month
Chocolate Cupcakes Ingredients (makes 24 cupcakes)
- 250G RICE FLOUR
- 1 TSP XANTHUM GUM
- 1½ TSP BAKING SODA
- 1 TSP SALT
- 270G SUGAR
- 60G COCOA POWDER
- 320G SOYA MILK AT ROOM TEMPERATURE
- 150G MELTED COCONUT OIL AT ROOM TEMPERATURE
- 2½ TBSP APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
- 2½ TSP VANILLA EXTRACT
- 290G AGAVE SYRUP
- 125G HOME-MADE APPLE SAUCE (see above for recipe)
Chocolate Cupcakes Method
- Heat the oven to 170 degrees and line 2 cupcake trays with cupcake papers. Melt the coconut oil and put to one side to cool down. Ensure that the soya milk is out of the fridge and at room temperature.
- In one bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: the rice flour, xanthum gum, baking soda, salt, sugar and cocoa powder and mix well. Then in another bowl, mix together the wet ingredients: the soya milk, coconut oil, vinegar, vanilla, agave syrup and apple sauce. If you put the milk and coconut in first and the milk is not at room temperature, the coconut oil will start to solidify. This can be rescued by warming gently in the microwave with short 15 second bursts until the coconut oil re-melts.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix by hand with a wooden spoon.
- Fill each of the 24 cupcake papers with around 1/3 cup of batter and then bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Remove the cupcakes from the tin and leave to cool. It's important that they're completely cool before you frost them otherwise the frosting will start to melt.
- Keep the frosting in the fridge until you're ready to use it - I filled up my baking bag in advance and kept it in the fridge as the warmth from your hands will start to melt the frosting
- Hold the piping bag near the opening at the top as you pipe, keeping your hand as far away from the nozzle as possible to keep it from melting
- Once piped, you don't need to refrigerate the cupcakes but the frosting will start to melt and take on a sheen if the room is too warm
- Add sprinkles just before serving :)