FOOD & COOKING: Vegan Indian Cupcakes

I am obsessed with cooking, baking and general experimenting in the kitchen.  I enjoy making traditional dishes to “let’s see what’s in my fridge” meals.  Many of you may remember me Instagram-ing about a rainbow-colored “Space Cake” I made for my friend’s birthday party.  I also am very obsessed with cupcakes…especially vegan ones.

Here are a few vegan gems I whipped up as an experiment once:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Boysenberry Coconut Buttercream frosting!

"Elvis Cupcakes" Peanut Butter Cake and Banana Buttercream Frosting.

I was watching a repeat of “Cupcake Wars” when I was taking a break from work.  There was an episode for Indian-themed cupcakes.  The winner of the challenge would have their cupcakes premier at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.  The first challenge was about taste and capturing the mystery and allure of Indian culture into a single cupcake; using traditional Indian spices like:

  • cumin
  • coriander
  • curry
  • chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • mango chutney
  • pomegranate seed
  • cardamom
  • star anise
  • cinnamon
  • turmeric
  • mace
  • nutmeg
  • saffron
  • basil

There were twelve different spices that the show chose, and one of the contestants got the “brilliant” idea of putting all twelve ingredients into a stew and then adding the stew into the batter…YUCK.  The stew looked like a really messed up version of tikka masala or some kind of tomato stew with green peas, and large chunks of tomato….needless to say this team was eliminated on the first round.

There was another group that made a different version of a carrot cake…I believe he called it “Kama Sutra Carrot Cake.”  Cute.  However, the application of the curry and the chickpeas seemed a little off.  They added whole chickpeas and curry sauce directly to the batter.  This made the batter salty and consequently they had to make the batch over again.  They suspected that the curry may have been the culprit or perhaps it was the chickpeas; they may have been soaked in brine.  At the judges table, the judges complained that they had to “work around the chickpeas to get to the cake” (there were bits of carrots and golden raisins inside too)  and it was oddly textured.

Although I think adding chickpeas to desserts is a novel way to get kids (and adults) to eat their veggies (I once ate a cookie with chickpeas inside), I think this team may have gone about adding the chickpeas to the batter the wrong way.  Not only that, but I think the curry powder application was off the mark as well.

A few weeks before I was watching a repeat of Jimmy Fallon and guest Carla Hall (who is now on The Chew– a great show) was explaining her method of making chicken pot pie.  In the beginning of the recipe, she made something called “pea salt.”  Basically this was dehydrated peas and salt, ground together to make, well- pea salt.  This way, you still get the flavor of the peas without adding a ridiculous amount of peas (you would still add some for texture and additional flavor in the end), and you get the necessary amount of salt in the dish in the first stages.  It’s genius!

I believe this same method can be used with the chickpeas.  Baking the chickpeas until über crunchy and then grinding them into a powder and then adding it as a dry element…to the flour.  So I guess it will be like “chick flour.”  This way, the majority of the moisture from the chickpeas is taken out first.  Once ground down into a powder, it will combine easily with the flour and will add a (hopefully) crunch to the batter.

As for the curry powder, if you take elements of what makes a great curry (turmeric, ginger, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, coriander) you will have a sweet and spicy cupcake.  If you sub the milk- or in this case, soy milk for the sweet nectar of a coconut, you will indeed have your curry.  Most curries have fennel seed in them, but since I plan on using star anise, I don’t want to add too much licorice flavor to the batter.

I will be using my vegan cupcake bible…also known as Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and use the “Golden Vanilla Cupcakes” recipe as my base.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbs cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract, caramel extract or more vanilla extract

*I will be using coconut milk instead

** I like to use about 1/4 cup of raw granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of honey (sometimes real maple syrup- grade B, agave syrup or molasses).

***I will just be using extra vanilla.  I want to save my almond extract for my frosting.

Chickpea Drying

I took a hint from this really cool Spicy Crunchy Chickpea Snack recipe on JustHungry.com.

I will not be using soaked chickpeas made from dried peas.  I will be using canned chickpeas.  It’s one 15oz can I got from Trader Joes.  I washed them in a colander (to remove that tinny taste and to get any starch off).  Then I boiled them for 5 minutes (this makes sure that they will digest properly in your stomach).  I then drained them and rinsed them again in the colander and ran cool water over them to snap them to attention.  Here, make sure you pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F.  Then, I took a little salt and tossed the peas in it and then spread it on a baking sheet.  And let bake for about 35-40 minutes until super crunchy.  Let them cool for a few minutes.

When I took the chickpeas out of the oven, they looked like this:

Then I transferred all of it to a blender (your food processor will work fine) and blended on high until it becomes as flour-like as you can get it.  This is also where I added a few of my star anise (3 large stars) and a few cracks of fresh ground pepper.

I know it sounds odd to add black pepper to a cupcake- but I once made a bangin’ chai cupcake (without the pre-mixed chai mix) and added the individual powdered spices instead, and one was black pepper.  Just trust me on this one- it will give your cuppys an unexpected kick.

Halfway through this, I figured that I could grind the chickpeas and measure how much “chick flour” there was and then substitute that for part of the all-purpose flour so that the measurements wouldn’t be off for the entire recipe.

When I ground the peas, star anise and black pepper it looked like this:

Curry Powder Mixing

I have two kinds of turmeric.  One is a more rich and darker yellow and is very pungent while the other is lighter in color and less flavorful.  The one pictured (above) is by Shama Gold and is the one that is less flavored and I use that primarily for making my vanilla cupcakes more “golden” since I like to use half and half wheat flour and all-purpose white flour.

  • 1/2 teaspoon Shama Gold turmeric (for coloring)
  • 1/2 teaspoon more flavorful turmeric of your choice (the label for mine is long gone and I don’t remember what brand it is).
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon mace

The Batter & Recipe

  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup vanilla soy milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour (fresh cracked black pepper + 3 large star anise)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sifted wheat flour
  • 2 tbs cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • curry powder mix (use recipe above)
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar
  • 2 and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • a little less than 1/4 cup finely grated carrots
  • a pinch (about 1 tablespoon) of golden raisins

Pre heat the oven to 350°F

Combine all dry ingredients into a bowl.  Sift all-purpose white flour and then sift in wheat flour.  This will remove some of the grain in the wheat flour since the chickpeas will add enough texture as it is.  Add the curry powder mix, cornstarch, salt, baking soda and powder.  Add your carrots and raisins and mix till they are evenly incorporated.

Combine coconut milk and vanilla soy milk in a liquid measuring cup and add apple cider vinegar.  Sir together and let sit to curdle.  Once curdled, add the sugars (granulated, agave, honey).  Add your vanilla extract and whisk in your oil.  Mix all ingredients until the raw sugar has dissolved and the honey and agave are mixed in.

Fold your wet ingredients into your dryFill cupcake foils about 3/4 fullBake for about 20-22 minutes or until they pass the toothpick test*.

*tooth pick test: insert a toothpick in the center of the cupcake and if it comes out dry, it passes the toothpick test!

What’s in it for you?  The CAKE (baked and un-frosted):

Carbohydrates per cupcake: 18   |   Calories per cupcake: 126.03

Carrot Almond Fudge Frosting

I like Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World‘s “Coconut Pecan Fudge Frosting” recipe, but I used this variation.

  • 1/4 soy milk
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • scant pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk (use the remainder of the can you opened for the batter)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped carrots
  • 1/2 sliced almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

I used the same directions that are in the cookbook using the ingredients above.  I will quote it from the book below:

  • “1. Whisk [soy] milk, [cornstarch] and salt in a small bowl or measuring cup. In a large stainless-steel saucepan over medium heat, stir together coconut milk and brown sugar.  Cook, stirring occasionally, till mixture starts to boil.  Turn heat down to low and cook, stirring occasionally for five minutes.  Whisk [soy] milk mixture once more and slowly pour into the coconut milk mixture, stirring constantly to incorporate.
  • 2. Stir mixture continuously til it darkens again, gets very thick and smooth, and [cornstarch] is cooked, about 6 to 7 minutes.  Remove from heat and beat in vanilla […sliced almonds] and [carrots].  Stir till everything is coated and completely combined. Cool to room temperature before frosting cupcakes.”

I lost good daylight during this process, so I will post photos of the final product tomorrow!

Good luck trying it out!  I think they taste great!  If anyone has questions or comments, just write them below and I will respond!

xoxo Joules

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5 thoughts on “FOOD & COOKING: Vegan Indian Cupcakes

  1. You provided a massive amount of work here. Indian spices deserve our careful attention anyway, they are so complex and subtle. I’m always afraid of using them for fear of messing up the dish.
    Spices are getting very trendy ever since that August scientific article confirming that they help combat fat.

    • Yeah! It was a ton of work, but it was super fun to do! You should just experiment with the spices first in just normal dishes like chili and other savory foods and then try baking with them so you know how much of each spice would work best. What is your favorite dish to make?

      • Thing is, as a vegetarian drinking hardly no alcohol, my palate is pretty sensitive so spices are always strong on me. And there are so many spices that flavor combinations are endless, making the task of figuring out what’s good even more difficult :p
        Not sure I have a favorite dish, I love soups, rice, avocado, quinoa,… And I have a weakness for dark chocolate and quality 40% hazelnut paste (got so spoiled I can’t swallow Nutella anymore!).

      • I just realized I never replied to you! How rude of me! Where do you get your hazelnut paste?! What do you use it in? Is it like peanut butter or is it more stiff? Have you found any spices that doesn’t upset your taste-buds?

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