Omg. This is like the ultimate chocolate box. Of cupcakes.
I pretty much don’t eat candy until the holidays roll around and boxes of chocolate start to trickle in. I am totally that person who, when handed a box of chocolates, would very much like to take a bite out of each one because
- I like to know my options
- I’m indecisive
- I have grass-is-greener syndrome when it comes to chocolate.
Taking bites, however, infuriates my siblings/grosses out my parents, so these days, out of politeness, I cut each potential sucker in half. Sometimes I still get complaints, but I kind of think I’m doing everyone a favor because who wants to bite into a coconut-filled chocolate when you wanted caramel? No one, that’s who.
So cupcake mixology: I’m borrowing this term from A Beautiful Mess and applying it to this
mess beauty of a technique. I’m obsessed. I’m afraid I’m never going back to normal cupcakes. Why did we ever make batches of 12, 24, 36 of the exact same cupcake and frost them with the exact same frosting when we could’ve frosted 20 different kind of cupcakes with 20 different frostings??
Oh right, because only an insane person would do that. But this is actually not thatttt much more work than say, baking a nice-looking layer cake. If I can mix and frost 30 cupcakes in different frostings before work, you can definitely pull this off. And armed with these, you’re guaranteed to be the most popular person of the next party you attend.
Mix up your favorite vanilla cupcake. I purposefully chose a very basic, 1-bowl vegan cupcake so that I wouldn’t have to deal with eggs, creaming butter, or a bunch of bowls because I knew adding all the mix-ins would be plenty of work. I adore this recipe because it’s delicious on its own, but also the perfect vanilla-scented blank canvas. The cupcakes rise to perfect domes and they are so tender and moist and dewy-crumbed that it’s hard to believe they’re so simple, let alone vegan. They’re pretty much my ideal vanilla cupcake.
Assemble your mix-ins. A.k.a every possible ingredient in your kitchen that you’d want to taste in/on a cupcake.
Mix your cupcakes. Use a separate, small bowl as your mix-in bowl. I used 1 tablespoon of batter per mini cupcake. I started with the cupcakes where the mix-in was simply sprinkled on top–sprinkle-topped, banana-topped and the jam swirl. Then I started stirring in the mix-ins. I built on some of the flavors–for example: I added two tablespoons of batter to the bowl, stirred in a dash of cinnamon and scooped out one tablespoon to make a cinnamon cupcake, then added a drip of molasses and tiny dashes of cloves, nutmeg and ginger to make a gingerbread cupcake.
Pro bakers would cringe at my process–I really just added a dash of this, a tiny scoop of that to each tablespoon of batter I doctored: you’re practicing the art of eyeballing. If–whoops–you dumped in what looks like way too much cocoa powder, add more batter. If I absolutely had to guesstimate, I’d say I probably used about 1/16-1/4 teaspoon of mix-in per cupcake, depending on the ingredient.
Bake the cupcakes. Only 11 minutes for these beauties. Yeee.
Mix the frostings and frost. Once the cupcakes are baked, whip up a basic vanilla buttercream or your (preferably white) frosting of choice. I used several small bowls to dip the coconut- and sprinkle-covered cupcakes into, but for the most part I used one bowl to mix the rest of the frostings, simply wiping or rinsing the bowl out between batches and leaving the dark-colored cocoa powder and nut butter frostings until the end. (If people with allergies may be eating your cupcakes, you might want to be more vigilant about keeping your cupcakes uncontaminated.)
Here’s what I made in my batch:
Starting with the top row, from left to right:
- Lemon poppyseed // Lemon zest
- Cinnamon // Vanilla frosting with cinnamon
- Jam swirl // Vanilla with jam
- Coconut // Coconut-dipped
- Funfetti // Sprinkle-dipped
- Vanilla // Coconut-dipped
- Gingerbread // Cinnamon
- Banana // Chocolate
- Chocolate chip // Black and white
- Raspberry-filled chocolate // Dark chocolate raspberry
- Chocolate // Vanilla with cocoa powder
- Peanut butter & jelly // Peanut butter
- Peanut butter // Chocolate
- Sprinkle-topped // Sprinkle-dipped
- Banana-topped // Honey
- Oatmeal // Milk chocolate
- Banana // Peanut butter
- Almond meal // Vanilla with sliced almond
- Mocha // Chocolate
- Biscoff // Biscoff
- PB2 // Chocolate Mocha
- Rosemary // Black pepper
- Marzipan // Coconut-dipped
- Cornmeal // Vanilla
These make for a seriously showstopping tray. I can see so many occasions that be great for a little cupcake mixology: for someone’s birthday, for a party, for a bridal shower, or you could even host a cupcake mixology party! Because, um who WOULDN’T want to spend hours making a million different kinds of cupcakes?
The only problem with these is that you’ll want to eat all of them.
Mix-in ideas: I have endless ideas for cupcake mix-ins and I’m sure you do too. Here are some I came up with:
For cupcakes mix-ins:
- Citrus zest: lime, lemon, orange
- Chocolate: Cocoa powder, chocolate chips, chopped dark chocolate shards
- Coffee: Instant coffee, espresso
- Fresh fruit: apples, mashed or sliced banana, shredded coconut, mango, strawberries, plums, peaches, cherries
- Fruit butter: pumpkin, apple/applesauce
- Grains: Almond meal, cornmeal, rolled oats, quinoa
- Herbs: Rosemary, basil, thyme, pepper
- Nut/seed butter: peanut, almond, cashew, tahini, sunflower
- Nuts/seeds: poppyseeds, chopped almonds, peanuts, cashews
- Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom
- Spreads: Biscoff, caramel, nutella
- Syrups: agave, maple syrup, molasses, honey
- Vegetables: Grated zucchini or carrots, pumpkin or sweet potato puree
- Shredded or toasted coconut
- Cocoa powder
- Grated chocolate
- Black pepper/other herbs
- Toasted coconut flakes
- Malted milk powder
- Citrus zest
- Jam (swirled in or dolloped on top)
- Candied nuts
- Fleur de sel
- Truffle salt
- Apple cider vinegar is a good ingredient to have on hand if you’re trying out vegan baking. Often, a pancake, biscuit or cake recipe may call for buttermilk or yogurt. In many of these cases, you can sub a mixture of milk and vinegar to take its place (1 cup milk minus 1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon vinegar). You can use any kind of vinegar that doesn’t have a strong taste (distilled white, for example), but I generally prefer apple cider since it has the least unpleasant scent to me. The vinegar adds the acid that is naturally found in buttermilk and yogurt that is required to react with the baking soda to help your baked goods rise.
- Olive oil is a great sub any time a recipe calls for canola or vegetable oil since those are highly processed. I haven’t had an occasion yet where I could taste the olive oil in a baked good. Coconut oil is another great option.
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or dairy-free milk of your choice)
- 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1¼ cups white whole wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1/3 teaspoon table salt
- 1/3 cup olive oil (I think this could be cut down to 1/4 cup. Let me know if you try it!)
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line mini muffin pan* with cupcake liners.
Whisk the almond milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside for a few minutes to get good and curdled.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt until no large lumps remain.
Add the oil, sugar and vanilla to the measuring cup. Add your mix-ins! See above for how I did this.
Fill cupcake liners two-thirds of the way and bake for 11-12 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack, and let cool completely before frosting.
*If using a standard-sized cupcake pan, fill each cupcake two-thirds of the way and bake for 20-22 minutes.
Adapted from PPK.