Sometimes, a really great cupcake can cure just about anything, am I right?
When you cut out dairy products, eggs, wheat and refined sugar what on earth do you make a cupcake out of anyways? If you are only beginning to remove these ingredients from your diet, you might have even thought that a cupcake would be something you were going to have to learn to live without. Oh dear friend, you are incorrect! It has taken me many years to get a cupcake recipe right, but this one is definitely one of the best I’ve had (can I say that about my own recipe?). These Chocolate Avocado Cupcakes with Butterscotch Frosting are rich, moist and not too sweet. I find a lot of vegan or gluten free recipes have the tendency to go overboard with sweetness as if to disguise the strange textures and tastes that often occur when using wheat flour alternatives.
This recipe is sort of a 3 part series; the cupcake batter, the white icing sugar replacement for the frosting, and of course the frosting recipe itself. It may appear to be a lot, but it really isn’t, and trust me the reward at the end in the form of a delicious chocolate cupcake will be well worth the effort you put in.
I am quite particular about what my 21 month old eats, and I am very strict about sugars. I try my absolute best to keep any refined sugar out of his diet altogether. Sugar is in almost everything premade or prepackaged. This includes bread, milk (cow’s, soy, almond and otherwise), juice, pasta sauce; any pre-made foods like frozen lasagna, pizza, apple sauce, crackers, cereal and the list literally goes on and on. This means, unless you are making almost everything from scratch, it is almost impossible to avoid. Now, I am a Mother, I understand that it is time consuming and lots of hard work to ensure that all of the food your child consumes is fresh, home-made and that only the finest and cleanest ingredients are used. I get it. My goal here is not to scare the pants off of you and push you in a direction that might be unattainable or uncomfortable for you and your family. I just want to bring attention to a subject that is highly important in my eyes, so that you might consider even a handful of fresh meals or alternatively made treats in order to minimize the amount of processed or refined foods that you and your family consume.
I encourage all of you to check out an incredible documentary called Hungry for Change. It is available for free on Netflix or you can purchase it directly from the website if you so desire. This film is truthful, helpful and enlightening. This film really sheds some light on the sugar epidemic North America and many other parts of the world are now suffering from.
There are many alternative sweeteners that you can take advantage of in cooking and baking to replace refined white sugar whenever possible. Maple Syrup is one of my favorites, pure coconut palm sugar is another wonderful option, agave is controversial but still better than white sugar in my eyes, and dates are a fantastic option as well as honey. Honey is really and truly not vegan, although some vegans do decide to consume it. Each one of these sweeteners boasts their own unique nutritional advantages. Maple Syrup for example contains calcium; dates are great for iron and vitamin a; pure coconut palm sugar is low glycemic and contains many micronutrients as well as amino acids.
Depending on what you are making some of these sweeteners work better than others. For example, when making gluten free baked goods it often improves the overall product when you use ingredients that provide moisture to the recipe, so sweeteners like maple syrup, agave or dates would work well. In a sauce or a frosting where you don't want to add something that will make the final product too liquid or runny you might use coconut palm sugar, like in the Butterscotch Frosting recipe below.
Regardless of what cane sugar replacements you decide to use, you really should try to limit the amount of “sweets” in your diet. Generally speaking, sweet treats contain more fat and calories, often less needed nutrients and are, well, treats! Treats are meant to be special, so save them for special occasions. The best part about living by that rule is that when you do have one they taste even better!
Is today going to be your treat day? If so… it is time to get to work!
Chocolate Avocado Cupcakes with Butterscotch Frosting
1 1/2 cups of gluten free flour (I prefer Bob's Red Mill brand)
1/4 cup of unsweetened cacao powder
1/4 tsp. of sea salt
1 tsp. of baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. of baking soda
2 tbsp. of coconut oil
1/4 cup of mashed avocado
1/2 cup of water minus 3 tbsp. (room temperature)
1/2 cup of coconut milk (boxed and room temperature)
2.5 tbsp. of vanilla (I recommend the Simply Organic brand)
1 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup of maple syrup (room temperature)
In a large bowl mix all of the dry ingredients; flour, unsweetened cacao, sea salt, baking powder and baking soda. In another bowl mash the avocado and coconut oil until blended well. To that same bowl add the rest of your wet ingredients; coconut milk, water, vanilla, apple cider vinegar, and maple syrup. Combine the two and mix until smooth. If any of your ingredients are not room temperature the coconut oil may start harden again, so try to avoid using cold ingredients. If you cannot avoid it you will need to mash the coconut oil into the mixture thoroughly.
Line a cupcake tray with paper liners. Fill 2/3 of the way and bake for 18 -20 minutes at 350 degrees. In my oven, 18 minutes is the magic number. 1 minute less and they are too soft; 1 minute more and they begin to get dry. If your oven runs hot definitely check in at the 18 minute mark.
This recipe yields 12 cupcakes.
Coconut "icing" Sugar
1 cup of coconut sugar
1 tbsp. of potato starch
Begin by placing the coconut sugar and the potato starch in a food processor (a Vitamix is wonderful for things like this). Blend on high until the coconut sugar turns into a fine powder much like the consistency of icing or confectioners’ sugar. Give it a couple of minutes to settle before you remove the lid on your food processor as the powder is very fine and will puff out like smoke all over your kitchen if you remove it hastily after blending. Pour and store the "icing sugar" into a container (you likely won't want to use this amount in your frosting unless you have a serious sweet tooth; it is just nice to have some extra on hand for other things).
Butter Scotch Frosting
3/4 cup of Soy Free Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread
1 tbsp. of vanilla
3/4 cup of coconut "icing" sugar (or to taste)
Add ingredients to blender and blend until smooth. You may need to refrigerate the icing for a few moments before doing any icing, just like an actual butter cream frosting this melts slowly at room temperature, so treat it accordingly.
Once you ice the cupcakes they will hold up nicely at room temperature for an hour or two. However, I like storing them in the refrigerator until you are close to consuming. The icing is nicest when just slightly chilled.
Enjoy! As you can see, River did!
Photos by Danielle Matar