Pumpkin Cupcakes with Macadamia Nut Frosting

Dreena Burton: she knows what’s up.

For years I have been searching for macadamia nuts that do not may contain peanuts, and last weekend my dad found some at Costco!! This is a happy moment; for those of you with food allergies, you get what I am talking about. So, I was finally able to make a recipe that I had on the backlog for months: Dreena Burton’s Vegan Pumpkin Cake and Fluffy Macadamia Mallow Frosting. For her thorough and delicious recipe complete with tips for modifications, go here. Burton is the author of “Let Them Eat Vegan” that is full of delicious vegan recipes for the whole family. I highly recommend it.

Here is my experience with the recipe.

I made my own macadamia nut butter by soaking the nuts in water and blending them into a butter with a food processor. I had to soak the nuts and rinse them well, as they were salted and roasted. Ideally I would have liked to buy actual macadamia nut butter, or make the butter from raw macadamias, but these things are hard to find peanut-free. I would have also liked to use a Vitamix, but I do not own one.

First thing to do is put a can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight, for the frosting.

Ingredients for the Cake
Dry Ingredients
2 1/4 cups flour (I used half millet flour and half white all-purpose)
1/2 cup, plus 2 tbsps, sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/16 tsp ground cloves
(1/8 tsp allspice – I had to omit this because I did not have any)

Wet Ingredients
3/4 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used soy)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tbsp lemon juice

1/4 cup neutral flavoured oil (I used melted coconut oil)

I preheated the oven to 350*F and greased 12 muffin tins (next time I will do 18, as the batter rose more than I expected it to. Cupcakes can be smaller because of the frosting on top that makes them larger).

In a large bowl I whisked together the dry ingredients. For optimal blending of the batter, they should be sifted, but I was lazy. If you do not sift dry ingredients in recipes, make sure that you whisk it well to ensure the lumps are out, and when incorporating the wet ingredients, ensure that there are not any lumps.

In a medium bowl I whisked together the wet ingredients, then added the wet mixture and the oil to the dry ingredients. I used a spatula to incorporate the ingredients together, scraping the bottom of the bowl to ensure everything blended. I filled the muffin tins with batter and baked them for 25 minutes, until a toothpick came out clean. This is how long it took for my cupcakes, as the tins were full, but with 18 instead of 12, I think it would take more like 18 minutes. When in doubt, set the timer for less time than you think, and check on them. I let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting them.

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Ingredients for Frosting
1 can of coconut milk, refrigerated over night*
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeded*
3 tbsp macadamia nut butter
1/2 tsp xanthan gum (found it at the health food store)

*note: I used a brand of coconut milk called Arayuma. I got it at the health food store, and it claims to be organic, fair trade, and preservative-free. 1% of the proceeds go to protecting Sri Lanka’s wild elephants. It was the cheapest coconut milk there, and I wanted to try a good-quality coconut milk. I have heard that canned coconut milk is not too good for you, but I am not exactly sure why. Anyway, I just wanted to try something new.

*note: cut vanilla bean length-wise and use a knife to scrape out the dark paste inside. You can use 1 tsp vanilla extract if you don’t want to use vanilla bean.

To make the frosting, first off, I scooped out the fatty part of the coconut milk, making sure to leave behind all the coconut water. The fat is much more solid than I was expecting, and took up about 2/3 of the can. I placed the coconut fat into a large bowl and whipped it with an electric mixer for about a minute to fluff it up. I added the salt, sugar, vanilla bean, and nut butter and slowly whipped it to incorporate, and added the xanthan gum last. I whipped the frosting for about two minutes until it was creamy. I put it in the fridge to let it solidify a bit more, leaving it in there for about 10 minutes.

Using a piping bag, I piped the frosting on the cupcakes. It would have been easy to just use a knife to spread it on the cupcakes, but I felt like they deserved a little more love than that, given how delicious they are.

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With the leftover coconut water, I plan on making a green smoothie and adding it to that. For the leftover pumpkin puree, check out this recipe of mine from a previous post.

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Ginger Cookies and Hot Chocolate

Brrr it is cold out there! January weather came early to Ottawa, and the winter coat and boots have been deployed. I find the best way to cope with the early winter is by being as warm and cozy as possible. That is why I made ginger cookies and hot chocolate today. About a month ago I started to experiment with making my own nut milk. Along with getting some fresh-made milk, I use the leftover pulp to make flour, then use the flour in my baking. Kinda neat. I add vanilla protein powder to the milk when having it with cereal to add some protein, too. I have made almond milk/flour, but for this recipe I made used pecans.

Last week I had lunch with my childhood piano teacher, whom I had not seen in about four years. It was lovely; we caught up over a delicious lunch that she made herself. For dessert she had a ginger-snap vanilla gelato from Stella Luna, a fantastic cafe in Old Ottawa South. Unfortunately, I could not eat it because they also make gelato with peanuts. Silly peanut allergy. Ever since that day I have been craving ginger cookies. So, I am kicking off the weekend with a cozy treat.

Here is the recipe for the ginger cookies, inspired by a recipe on food.com

Dry Ingredients
2 cups flour (I used 1 1/2 cups whole wheat, 1/2 cup white)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Wet Ingredients
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used soy milk, but the pecan milk would have been delightful)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

In a medium bowl I mixed together the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon, and in a small bowl I mixed together the wet ingredients with a whisk. I used the spoon to stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mixed until combined. I then divided the dough into 12 balls, about 1 tbsp each, rolling them in my hands and placing them on a cookie sheet that was lined with parchment paper. I flattened the balls with my hand, then marked each cookie with a fork, in a criss-cross pattern. The cookies were baked at 350*F for 10 minutes. My cookies were soft, but for crispier ones, I could have flattened them even more, and used less dough for each cookie.

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Here is the recipe for the hot chocolate, inspired by a recipe for hot chocolate in The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook.

Ingredients for the pecan milk
2 cups pecans
4 cups water

Ingredients for the hot chocolate
2  heaping tbsp cocoa powder
2 heaping tbsp white sugar (plus more to taste)
1/4 cup water
2 cups pecan milk
pinch salt

I combined the pecans and water in a bowl and let them soak for ten hours. This is to make the pecans really soft. I blended the mixture in a blender on high speed for about two minutes. Then, I drained the liquid with a cheese cloth, squeezing the contents until as much liquid as possible came out. I reserved the pecan pulp in a container for later*

To make the hot chocolate, I whisked the cocoa powder, salt, sugar, and water in a small sauce pan. I heated the mixture until it simmered, whisking constantly. I added the pecan milk and continued to whisk until the hot chocolate came to a boil. I served it immediately.

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The hot chocolate was quite chocolatey, and had a distinct flavour of pecan. I enjoyed a cup of it with the ginger cookies, and shared it all with my dad. I definitely would put a bit of maple syrup next time to make it just a hint sweeter.

*To make nut flour, all I do is lay the pulp left over from the nut milk on a baking tray, making sure the pulp is in a thin layer, and bake it until it is dry and powdery. I think I baked it at 200*F for about 45 minutes to an hour. I kept it in an air-tight container in the cupboard and have used it to make granola bars, muffins, and almond cream. Just be careful, as it does not substitute perfectly for flour. I would use only some of it to substitute all-purpose flour in a recipe.

Vanilla Chai Cupcakes

Valentines day this year marked the beginning of my reading week, and a visit from Tom for the last weekend of Winterlude. Upon beginning a week of relaxing, eating, and reading, I decided to make cupcakes for my two valentines: my dad and my boyfriend. Not wanting to stick to classic vanilla or chocolate, I thought I would try something new.

Vegan Vanilla Chai Cupcakes

Ingredients for the batter
2 cups flour
1 cup icing sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups almond milk
2 chai tea bags
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp flaxmeal, with 3 tbsp water

Ingredients for the frosting
3 cups icing sugar
1 cup vegan margarine
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon

First I brought the almond milk to a low boil in a small pot, turned off the element, and steeped the tea bags for 10 minutes. While the tea bags were steeping I mixed together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Once the tea was done steeping I removed the tea bags and stirred in the apple cider vinegar, letting it sit for about 5 minutes. This makes an equivalent for buttermilk. I let the flaxmeal soak in 3 tbsp water for a few minutes, and meanwhile added the coconut oil and vanilla to the tea mixture. I added the flaxmeal to the wet ingredients then incorporated the wet into the dry mixture.

I evenly distributed the batter into 12 lined and greased muffin cups. Because it was Valentine’s Day I used my heart-shaped muffin cups, given to me by my best friend, Charlotte. The batter baked for 20 minutes at 350 degree Fahrenheit.

For the frosting, I whipped together all the ingredients until smooth and piped them in different designs on the completely cooled cupcakes.

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They tasted more like cinnamon bun cupcakes to me, and were delicious with coffee for breakfast one morning. Also, margarine keeps a soft texture and does not harden the way buttercream frosting does. Overall I was happy with the way they turned out, and I will definitely be making more vegan cupcakes in the future.