February 7, 2011

Cupcakes 6 Ways for Your Little Valentine

Wacky Cake (allergy-safe: dairy, egg, peanut, tree nut, soy)        NOTE: contains wheat

Nothing says Valentines like chocolate.  And since I'm a bit of a candy Nazi, chocolate cupcakes are the perfect solution.  We use the very popular “Wacky Cake” recipe (NOT for the wheat allergic--please send tried and true gluten-free recipes!), which was originally published in Rosemarie Emro’s Bakin’ Without Eggs, but is now widely printed all over the Web.  We use it for every birthday and event that calls for cupcakes or cake (or just whenever we feel like having a treat!).  The kids always help (in other words, a little bit of spilled flour here and there doesn’t seem to matter), and they’re moist and delicious.  Instead of cold water, I substitute soymilk* (I try to add calcium wherever I can since I currently have a very relunctant milk drinker on my hands). 

1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vinegar (I use balsamic)
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup cold water*

In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  Add vanilla, vinegar, oil, and water (some recipes say to make three wells for the vanilla, vinegar, and oil, and then add the water over all of it and mix.  I just throw it all in and it seems fine) and stir until moistened.  Pour into a lightly greased 8x8 baking pan or lined or greased cupcake pan (makes about 12 or so).  Bake at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it springs back when touched lightly.

What I love about cupcakes is that you can dress them up for every occasion (NOT that my kids won't eat them right out of the oven!).  I decided to look around the house to see if I could get some inspiration, and came up with the following six ways to give your sweetie her own personalized treat!

1.  Dusting with confectioner's sugar
Best dusted with a metal strainer or sifter but I personally can't stand washing those things (or anything else with tiny little holes) so my results were only so-so.  I was trying to make a powdered sugar heart and if you turn your head just so, you can make it out...but hey, my kids were still impressed.
I cut out a small heart from a piece of paper, placed it over my cupcake, and sprinkled the powdered sugar (but I'm telling you--with strainer, so much better) over the top, pulled the template off ever so carefully (with my child pulling at my elbow begging me for a bite), and dusted off the excess. 

2. Red fruit
At the market the other day, I was surprised to see raspberries, red grapes, strawberries, and cherries all available (I'm not saying they were cheap--it is still the middle of winter) for adorning some lovely Valentine's Day cupcakes.  A little confectioner's sugar and a raspberry is sometimes all you really need.  Simple and perfect.  My boys actually prefer this to a frosted cupcake.

3. Frosting
There are lots of dairy free frostings out there.  You can find the premade ones on the shelf--just make sure you read the ingredients--many of them do contain dairy.  I used this Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting recipe, which calls for dairy-free margarine, Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, vanilla extract, and confectioner's sugar.  But you know how I hate using my sifter?  Well, I sort of disregarded the sifted word in the recipe and ended up adding way too much sugar.  The kids didn't complain, but the frosting was too thick and I ended up adding some soymilk to make it more creamy.  Add a homemade flag to the top using a toothpick and sticker (we had these hearts stashed away for our Valentine card making from last year). 

Here is the vegan cream cheese frosting recipe:
1/4 cup softened margarine
1/4 cup softened dairy-free cream cheese (like Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese)
2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Mix together margarine and cream cheese until just combined.
2. Use a mixer to whip while adding 1/2 cup batches of confectioner's sugar
3. Mix until smooth and creamy, and then mix in the vanilla
4. Keep tightly covered and refrigerated until ready to use

(I'd really like to hear how your version--with the proper amount of sugar, or less--turned out!  Send pics!)

4. Pink Frosting
Yes, pink.  I was actually going to attempt red, but it seemed a little more involved than pink (but please do share any techniques you have for making red!).  I ended up taking about half of the frosting and adding a bit (maybe a tablespoon--add a little at a time and see how it goes) of beet juice from a can of sliced beets and stirring it up.  Because my frosting was already on the thicker side, the texture worked out after adding some extra liquid.  If you're worried about frosting texture you could always try to reduce down the beet juice in a pan.  Experiment with the amounts, and have fun with your pinkalicious cupcakes!

5. Doilies and other Valentine Scraps
If you're making homemade cards this year, you probably have as much Valentine stuff laying around as we do--lace doilies, stickers, felt, stick-on gems and flowers, etc.  Get creative!  Logan chose this one (see his sugar print on the side of the sticker?  :)).

6. Play jewelry
My almost 2-year-old is so into "jewelry" (where on earth did she ever learn this?).  She's got these play bracelets, necklaces, and rings all over the place.  Find them at party stores and dollar bins at other discount stores, and add a little wearable bling to your cupcakes.

There are so many more things you can do with cupcakes!  Piped icing, sprinkles, pretty cupcake liners, ribbon, flowers...you name it!  I'm guilty of loving the decorating even more than the eating.  Send us the pictures of your Valentine's Day cupcakes and we'll post them next week!


  1. Upon further research, I found out that the Wacky Cake recipe may have resulted from rationing during WWII, when eggs and milk were scarce. I did not know this...

  2. So elegant and easy they were without a pastry bag in sight! Looking forward to using these tips for the next birthday. (Oh, I've always ignore the "sifted" direction, which clearly I shouldn't. Now I know why my frosting always turns out too sweet!)

    Mom to food-allergic kids,
    Ryken (5.5yrs, dairy, peanuts, walnuts) and
    Callan (2yrs, dairy)