Walk, drive, run, or bike past a bakery and the aroma of something sweet and freshly baked is looming in the air that will cause a sudden turn into the parking lot. Once lured in through the door, the smells are intense, with a combination of decadent chocolates, breads, and sweet fruits that enter the nose activating the dopamine in the pleasure center of the brain, down to the tips of the toes. There are brightly lit glass cases with trays of flakey pastries drizzled in white glaze frosting and sticky apples, blueberry, strawberry or lemon fruit preserves are oozing out of the tops and sides. Next to them are chocolate, vanilla, or lemon cupcakes with colored frosting spiraled up in a perfect twist and topped with nuts or coconut. In another case are perfectly round cookies big enough for two in varieties like chocolate chip, peanut butter, glistening sugar, and sweet jelly. Next to those are blueberry, carrot, bran, corn, and banana muffins the size of a softball in neat rows, pies with flakey golden crusts filled with apples and cinnamon, cakes that have a slice cut out so the 4 layers with frosting in between each one can be seen and stared at in a mouthwatering awe. Then, a worker comes out from the back to place the still-warm freshly baked breads on shelves next to the Italian, artisan, sour dough, Kalamata olive, French, and whole grains breads.
Then, that little voice of reason kicks in saying, “Oh no that is bad for you.” It is fattening, there is too much sugar, or you’re on a diet. However, the other side says, “Ok, just one cupcake won’t hurt. One cookie and that’s it, the guilty pleasure.” These treats are often not nutritious or healthy, but very much enjoyed on occasion. However, most typical bakeries do not have vegan options available. Being a strict vegan and eating a whole foods plant based diet, there is still part of me that when you say the word chocolate I am mesmerized with a dreamy-eyed look while imagining tasting a chocolaty cupcake as the saliva glands are activated. So what is a vegan to do and is there a healthier way to satisfy our sweet tooth craving?
Vegan bakeries can be hard to find and some areas do not have them at all. So the other option is to bake treats yourself. Recipes are often very simple and quick to make. There are hundreds of healthier versions that will satisfy sweet cravings. How can vegan treats be made to taste delicious and healthy at the same time? They can be made without refined sugars, using pure maple syrup, apple sauce, coconut sugar or stevia. Eggs can be replaced with black beans, avocado, banana, or flax seed egg, and instead of dairy milk use almond, soy or coconut milk. For flour there are many different varieties such as chick pea (for gluten-free) whole wheat, unbleached white, corn meal, or pastry. Add-ins can range from pure cocoa, unsweetened coconut, pumpkin, carrot, vegan chocolate chips (keep in mind these do have added sugar), organic peanut butter or almond butter, fruit, teas, nuts and seeds. For oil use coconut oil since most canola is GMO and olive oil gives a funny taste. With all of these options, baking vegan treats can be fun and easy.
My daughter has an allergy to dairy, so for her birthday recently I made delicious chocolate cupcakes with cream “cheese” frosting and strawberries. She is also a fan of Pokémon so I put little characters on them for fun toppers. They were delicious and almost all 24 of them were gone by the end of the night. These were made with healthier ingredients that I felt good about giving to my daughter. Below is the recipe for these delicious cakes that will satisfy anyone’s sweet cravings. I’ve also included a second recipe for an avocado chocolate frosting since the cream cheese frosting does have a lot of sugar.
CHOCOLATE VEGAN CUPCAKES
Ingredients for cupcakes:
1 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
1 avocado, pitted and peeled
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
½ cup applesauce
¾ cup almond milk
⅓ cup coconut oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Ingredients for frosting:
1 container Daiya Strawberry Cream Cheese (or plain)
1/2 cup soy margarine
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 container of strawberries
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl. Purée avocado in food processor until smooth then add maple syrup, apple sauce, almond milk, oil, and vanilla, and blend until creamy. Then stir in avocado mixture into flour mixture.
Spoon batter into prepared cupcake cups. Bake 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out with some crumbs attached. Cool. When they are done take them out of the pan and put in the freezer for about a half hour. This will hold the moisture in the cake.
While they are cooling, make frosting by combining the cream cheese and margarine together with a hand held mixer on low then while still on slowly add the powdered sugar a half a cup at a time, then vanilla and lemon juice then, beat until soft and fluffy and well combined.
When cupcakes are ready to decorate, slice the tops off each one and put aside. Then layer a small amount of frosting on the cake, and then put a few sliced strawberries on top. Put the tops back on and layer some more of the frosting and top off with more strawberries. This can be done with the chocolate glaze below.
AVOCADO CHOCOLATE GLAZE
¼ block soft silken tofu (from 14-oz. container), drained and patted dry
3 Tbs. pure maple syrup
½ tsp. vanilla extract
⅛ tsp. salt
4 oz. semisweet vegan chocolate, melted
Blend tofu, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt in food processor until smooth. Add chocolate to tofu mixture and blend.