So Nadria’s been on a vegan kick lately. I’m always game for a challenge, so we’ve been experimenting with lots of animal-product-free recipes. (Discoveries: 1. Soy cheese is pretty terrible. 2. Soy cream cheese is actually pretty tasty. 3. Vegan butter is the most horrible abomination ever created by mankind.)
During this same time period, the good people at Lark sent me a copy of their new book Cake Ladies: Celebrating a Southern Traditionby Jodi Rhoden. The book profiles 16, well, cake ladies—a unique Southern phenomenon of women who aren’t professional bakers exactly but who are locally famous for their cakes and bring them to every wedding, funeral, and any other occasion—with recipes from each, of course.
Two of those cake ladies are the Cupcake Fairies, a pair of New Orleans women who opened a home-based cupcake business after Hurricane Katrina that tries to offer healthier option. Their recipe in the book is vegan red velvet cupcakes, colored with beets instead of food coloring and topped with vegan-cream-cheese icing.
Perfect, we thought. (Nadria loves red velvet anything.) We set out to Whole Foods for vegan margarine (ugh) and cream “cheese,” and followed the recipe exactly, with one exception—we used almond milk instead of soy milk.
It was a bit of a disaster. We ended up with rubbery hockey pucks. They didn’t taste too bad, but the texture was all wrong. At first, I blamed our using almond instead of soy milk, but as you’ll see, this recipe is just fundamentally flawed: I’m guessing the ratio of flour to fat is off somehow. (I’m not put off the cookbook entirely just yet, though; look for a post soon about another attempt with a more “normal” recipe from it.)
Undaunted, Nadria continued her vegan-cupcake quest. She discovered Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, which seems to be the best-regarded cookbook in the (surprisingly crowded) vegan-cupcake genre.
Not actually possessing a copy of this book, we found its chocolate cupcake recipe online and decided to pair it with the icing from this Vegetarian Times recipe instead of its own chocolate glaze to recreate that red-velvet flavor.
I’m a big vegan-baking skeptic, but that second batch was mighty convincing. (That photo above is a couple of the results.) It really got the moist, crumbly texture perfect. As in you-could-fool-a-carnivore perfect—even with almond milk instead of soy. I was blown away.
I wouldn’t say this recipe is any healthier than a normal cupcake, but if someone you know loves sweets and can’t eat dairy, this book is a goldmine. (And if you need a Christmas present for Nadria, consider this your official suggestion.)