Vegan, Gluten-free birthdays? Yes we can!

So about a week ago I realized I had a dilemma.

Rich’s birthday was a week away and I still wasn’t allowed to eat any gluten whatsoever.

Now, this may not seem like a huge deal, except every year that we’ve been together I’ve baked him some sort of birthday treat. Last year it was the caramel cake for the Daring Bakers Challenge. Previous years involved cupcakes or cookies. How can it be a proper birthday without some sort of sweet indulgence? I suppose for this year I COULD have just made him something and not had a chance to sample it myself. Totally possible, not unreasonable. And yet, I didn’t like the sound of that. I’ve been very good on this diet; I’ve eaten very few sweet treats over the last few months. So I should be able to share some treats with my husband on his birthday, right?

Then I remembered Babycakes, the NYC bakery that is well known for its wheat-free (often gluten-free) vegan treats. And that a friend of mine had forwarded me one of Goop’s newsletters, that contained a few of the Babycakes recipes in it. I’d saved the recipes for a special occasion, and well, I think a birthday counts! Given I’m going to always be at some level of gluten or wheat-free, I figured I might as well just invest in buying the book, and went to the bookstore yesterday to grab a copy. I also spent some time skimming reviews of the book online.

The reviews I skimmed told me two things: first, that the recipes weren’t really foolproof, and second, that the frosting recipe isn’t popular – many had trouble getting the consistency correct, and also weren’t fans of the taste. Armed with this knowledge, I set out first thing this morning to whip up a batch of the vanilla cupcakes.

And the result?

Gluten-free, vegan cupcakes

I was so pleased to find these are a fantastic replacement for my usual gluten-y vanilla cupcake recipe. I made a few small substitutions to the recipe, in spite of the many warnings that the recipes would only really work if you follow them to the letter. I replaced the garfava flour with half garbanzo, half rice flour, as I couldn’t find garfava flour yesterday, but also because I’m not a fan of the strong bean taste of things made with only bean flour. As well, I didn’t have any lemon zest, so I left it out, instead opting to put in a tablespoon of lemon juice. And finally, I decreased the amount of agave syrup a little bit, replacing some of it with just plain water (to make sure the liquid amounts would still add up).

I noticed as these were baking they looked, well, like cupcakes! I’ve become so used to gluten-free baking over the last few months that I was genuinely surprised by this, as most things I’ve made have had different textures to their gluten-y counterparts. Different doesn’t usually mean bad, per se, just not what I’m used to. But with these cupcakes it was somewhat comforting to know they’d look like they were supposed to.

I found the baking time written in the recipe was a bit off for my oven. When I pulled them out after 22 minutes, they were a bit over-baked. I know, I should have watched them a little more closely, but hey, mea culpa. So if you make these yourself, do keep an eye on them after the 15 minute mark.

Texture and flavour wise, they’re awesome. Lightly vanilla flavoured, good crumb, not weirdly chewy like some gluten-free baking. Two enthusiastic thumbs up!

As for the frosting, well…. I decided to go with an old standby, the chocolate recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I figured that hey, I’m not trying to avoid all refined sugar for this, since it is for a birthday, after all.

Gluten-free, vegan cupcakes

The cupcake recipe is available over at Epicurious. Note that as written it makes 24, but it halves easily.

Chocolate Buttercream from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

1/4 cup non-hydrogenated shortening, at room temperature
1/4 cup non-hydrogenated, butter-flavoured margarine (I used Earth Balance)
1/2 cup good quality cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons soy milk (or other vegan milk)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Using a hand mixer, combine the shortening and margarine. When well combined, sift in the cocoa powder and mix well. Then add in the powdered sugar, a little at a time, adding in splashes of the soy milk between additions. One everything is combined, add in the vanilla and beat well for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.

Makes enough to generously frost a dozen cupcakes, or lightly frost 2 dozen.

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