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Monday, March 26, 2018

Vegan and Gluten Free Vanilla Cupcakes with Sunflower Icing (and natural food coloring)

Following quickly on the heels of my Bunny Pull Apart Cupcake Cake, I just had to share these gorgeous (and easy!) gluten free and vegan sunflower cupcakes. I think of these bright little cupcakes as little bombs of sunshine. They make me stupidly happy to see them when I open the fridge (which is where you'll want to store them).

I'm confident that if you show up at Easter dinner with these, the recipients will reward you with big smiles.

And don't let the icing daunt you! Though the buttercream sunflowers look complex, I only had to do one tester cupcake before I felt confident enough to work more quickly. In the end, I couldn't tell which was the tester.

Even if the petals don't seem perfect as you're piping them, never fear. Nature isn't always perfect and symmetrical either!

 The cupcakes can be made large or mini - I made mine mini, because I like bite-sized ones. As such, the supplies I suggest below are for mini cupcakes.  

Some useful supplies

Wilton leaf tip, #366
Either fabric icing bags or disposable ones like these (I've washed these to use them more than once)
Mini muffin tin
Mini muffin tin liners

Optional: pretty contact paper to line a baking sheet for presentation. I got mine at the local dollar store. I didn't actually stick the paper to the sheet. See below for details.

Ingredients for Gluten Free and Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes (makes 24 mini or 12 large)

1 cup + 3 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup + 1 Tbsp sorghum or brown rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Mini vegan chocolate - like these Enjoy Life ones (These are for the sunflower centres, and added during the icing stage)


Preheat oven to 350F and line muffin tin with cupcake liners.

1. In a large bowl, whisk water, oil, brown sugar, and vanilla until sugar is mostly dissolved.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Add 1/2 dry ingredients to wet mix and beat in. Add remaining 1/2 mix and beat until smooth. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full. Bake 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from tin and let cool completely on a rack.

Ingredients for Vegan Buttercream Icing

1/2 cup vegan butter, like Earth Balance, at room temperature (or regular butter for a non-vegan version)
2 cups powdered confectioners sugar
1 small shake of salt (eliminate if using salted butter)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons water, as needed
1/2 - 1 tsp ground turmeric, or more as needed to achieve desired color. Don't worry, this won't really taint the flavour of the buttercream.
To make the icing:

1. Cream the butter with a hand blender or spoon until smooth. Gradually add in sugar until incorporated. Beat in vanilla, then add water as needed to make a stiff, smooth icing. Add turmeric as needed to achieve desired color.

2. Scoop icing into piping bags with a leaf tip, #366 fitted onto it.


To decorate the cupcakes

IMPORTANT NOTE :   I recommend reading the instructions that come with your leaf tip, if there are any. I also watched a few short Youtube videos before I tried icing. I recommend this one by Xanthe Milton  and this one by 22do

Since the videos do a far better job than I could of explaining how to make a leaf, I'll give you the short version here:
Dab a small amount of icing in the centre of a cupcake, and smear with a knife. I didn't bother spreading this over the entire cupcake surface, just the centre. This will help hold in your chocolate chips.

Then make the flower petals. Working around the edge of the cupcake, hold the tip at a 45 degree angle to the cupcake and squeeze icing against the cupcake, then pull away and relax pressure. Create 2 rows of leaves. For mini cupcakes, you'll have just a small space left in the centre. Press 6 or 7 mini chocolate chips in the centre.

Chill cupcakes to set icing and keep stored in the fridge.

If using contact paper and baking sheet: cut contact paper to fit inside the baking sheet. Dab some buttercream icing on the underside of the contact paper on the four corners, and smooth over the sheet. Dab icing on the bottom of each cupcake then press them onto the contact paper to help hold them in place if you're moving the cupcakes around at all.

Since I made these as an experiment before Easter, I had a lot more than I wanted to eat all on my own. Therefore, I carefully packed them 6 apiece into little aluminum loaf tins and passed them on to my in-laws.

The reason I had so many was because I also trialed this Bunny Pull Apart Cake.
 If you use the recipe to make the 24 mini cupcakes, you'll end up with more than enough to make both the pull apart cake, and 13 sunflower cupcakes. 

Tip: If you decide to make both the sunflower cupcakes and the bunny pull apart cake, you don't need to double the icing amount. I made 1.5x the recipe and had just enough. (i.e. 3/4 cup vegan butter, 3 cups confectioners sugar, etc).
I set aside a few Tbsp for the pink icing (to make the bunny nose and ears), and then divided the remaining in half. One half was colored with turmeric, and the other left plain. 

Not all the cupcakes are shown in the image because I ate some... ;) That's why I had to give the rest away, before I ate them all...

Have you seen the latest novel in my romance series, The Anubis Mask? Get it now, and the priestess Betrest  as she searches for the mysterious man-god she met one lotus-infused night.

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