Thursday, August 18, 2011

Blackberry Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

Gluten-free vegan dark chocolate cupcakes frosted in blackberry cashew cream, laced with a bit of white chocolate ganache. One of my good friends is getting married next month and I’m making the cupcakes for the gluten-free and vegan guests.

What fun, right?

I love to bring out my pastry bag, mound up the frosting, and dream of the day I’ll have a café and make my living once more in the kitchen. This is where every bad day or frustration grows into dried cherry oatmeal cookies, blueberry lemon madeleines, jerk-roasted carrots, berbere lentils, sunset shepherd’s pies, and dark chocolate cupcakes. This is where I belong.

Cocoa butter is an amazing ingredient. During our weekend in Vancouver, B.C. a few weeks ago, I found pure cocoa butter in a grocery store. I’m a sucker for untried ingredients. It jumped from my cupboard a couple days ago and worked its way into my first attempt at vegan white chocolate ganache. Not bad. It mixed well with the frosting, but I know it could be better. I’ll be working on this again soon.

The blackberry cashew cream frosting makes these dark chocolate cupcakes stand up straighter, as proud of their royal purple caps as a child is of her berry-stained picking fingers. Does it replace butter cream frosting? Well, no. But no one will miss it.

The trick to this frosting is to blend the cashews till they’re completely smooth. Don’t stop too soon the way I did with my first batch. You want cream, and the fat in the cashews will give it to you if you’re patient. Turn on the food processor and dream a little. Hum a tune. Conjure up the smiles you’ll see when your friends taste these cupcakes.

Build your café on a magical little corner of the city.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes*
Makes 12 cupcakes or 1 9” round

50g sweet rice flour
80g brown rice flour
20g potato flour
60g tapioca starch
50g baking cocoa
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt
150g cane sugar or vanilla sugar
½ cup canola oil
¼ cup coffee or coconut milk
¾ cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp molasses
1 ½ Tbls apple cider vinegar
12 whole fresh blackberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease muffin tin with coconut oil.

In a large bowl, sift together flours, cocoa, baking soda, sea salt, and sugar. Mix well and break up any clumps of cocoa. In a separate measuring cup or bowl, beat together oil, coffee, water, vanilla, molasses, and apple cider vinegar. Thoroughly and quickly mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling each cup about ¾ full. Push a single whole blackberry down into the center of each cupcake so just the top of it is visible. Bake immediately, about 25 minutes. Cool at least 10 minutes before removing from tin. Chill in refrigerator at least ½ hour before frosting with Blackberry Cashew Cream Frosting.

*Recipe inspired by Moosewood Restaurant's Vegan Chocolate Cake

Blackberry Cashew Cream Frosting
Makes about 3 cups

2 cups raw unsalted cashews
½ cup high-fat coconut milk
½ cup vanilla sugar
24 blackberries
¼ cup maple syrup

Arrange cashews in a deep bowl and fill the bowl with water till about 2 inches above the surface of the cashews. Soak 3 hours or more.

Drain water from cashews and put them in a food processor or blender. Pulse 5-6 times to break up the cashews, then push all the pieces back down towards the blades. Stir together coconut milk, vanilla sugar, and maple syrup. While blending on medium speed, pour this mixture in a steady stream into the cashews. Stop once midway through to push cashew pieces back down towards the blades. When all the liquid is gone, add the blackberries while the food processor continues to run. Keep blending, stopping every now and then to push larger pieces back down, about 5-10 minutes. You want the cream to be silky smooth without any bits of nuts detectable in the texture.

Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pushing it onto the surface of the frosting. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before using.

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