Choco-Hazelnut & Strawberry Vegan Cupcakes (Or, the Taste of Summer)

Living in Montreal, fresh fruits and vegetables are not available locally all year long. There’s nothing like fresh, locally-grown fruits and veggies. The taste is above and beyond the greenhouse-grown stuff. Fresh produce is a staple for anyone in the summer, especially people who live in cold climates. For my family, summer means my father’s garden tomatoes, my sister’s bevy of lettuce, cucumber and peppers, and of course, stopping by the farm stand on the corner of Saint-Elzéar and Daniel-Johnson for some delicious and vibrant strawberries.

IMG_5982

I love strawberries with pretty much everything: smoothies, ice cream, crepes, French toast and of course, cupcakes. One of my strawberry-themed breakfasts last week was featured on the Huffington Post Canada Living Instagram page, which was pretty darn cool, if I do say myself (my mother thinks it’s pretty cool too).

This week’s recipe is inspired by my favourite pairings: strawberries and Nutella. I work with a lot of vegans, and so I thought I’d try to get those similar flavours in that all my colleagues could enjoy them. They are my favourite test subjects, and their affections are surprisingly easy to buy with free food. These cupcakes are wonderfully moist and dense, and the real strawberries in the icing will make you unable to eat artificially-flavoured strawberry cupcakes ever again. There’s also a lovely little hazelnut-chocolate spread in the centre, which makes this cupcakes even more decadent. This recipe was enjoyed by vegans and omnivores alike, so feel free to trick your friends and family into eating vegan!

IMG_6027

Choco-Hazelnut & Strawberry Vegan Cupcakes

Makes 30 cupcakes

Cupcakes (modified from Food Network Canada):

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tbsp salt
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup plain or vanilla (unsweetened) almond milk
  • 3/4 vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup room temperature coffee
  • ½ cup vegan chocolate-hazelnut spread (homemade or store-bought)

Icing:

  • 300g vegan butter (I used Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks), room temperature
  • 700g of icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ to ½ cup strawberry sauce (recipe below)
  • Sliced strawberries, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line muffin cups with 30 cupcake papers.

2. In a small saucepan, add 400g of strawberries and 110g of sugar and heat on medium until it starts to bubble. Lower the heat to a simmer, and allow the fruit to cook down for 10 to 15 minutes. You might need to mash up the strawberries as they cook to help them break down. Strain the sauce through a very fine strainer. It’s important to remove as much liquid as possible so that the addition of the sauce does not mess too much with the consistency of the icing. Allow to completely cool before using.

3. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl of a stand mixer. If you don’t have one, you can always use a hand mixer or a whisk, but I personally prefer the convenience of a big ol’ stand mixer. Mix together until it’s completely combined.

4. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until completely combined. Fill each cupcake paper up about two-thirds, using a ladle or an ice cream scooper. The batter is quite thick, but not quite thick enough to scoop easily with a regular spoon. Bake for about 20 minutes. In my oven, the cupcakes turn out perfectly at 19 minutes. You’ll know they’re ready when a tester or wooden skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Let the cupcakes completely cool before icing.

5. While the cupcakes are cooling, beat the vegan butter on medium speed for about 6 minutes. {Pro tip: do not attempt to make icing of any kind (especially vegan) when it’s 38C outside. Everything gets really melty really fast. Unless you’ve got the A/C on, just don’t do it. Learn from my mistakes, kiddies.}Add the icing sugar in two batches, beating the mixture for 3 minutes between each addition. Add the vanilla extract and mix until combined. Mix in strawberry sauce. Add more icing sugar if the icing isn’t stiff enough.

IMG_6012

6. Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, remove the centres with an apple corer. If you don’t have an apple corer, a small paring knife will do. Be sure not to go completely to the bottom of the cupcake, so you don’t cut the cupcake liner. Scoop a couple of spoonfuls of vegan chocolate-hazelnut spread into a small piping bag or a sandwich bag. Cut a small hole in the tip (or corner, if it’s a sandwich bag) of the bag and fill the whole with the spread.

IMG_6006

7. Scoop the icing into a large piping bag fitted with a large closed star tip, then pipe icing onto each cupcake. I did a simple rosette, starting from the middle of the cupcake and making my way outwards. I find that vegan buttercream doesn’t hold quite as well as regular buttercream, so I don’t do anything too fancy with the icing. If you don’t have piping bags, you can of course simply ice the cupcakes with a spoon or offset spatula. Decorate each one with two slices of strawberries.

IMG_6016

Eat ‘em and weep, kiddies!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s