Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Foodbuzz selected me for another free coupon giveaway! This time I got two coupons from Duncan Hines and one from Comstock-Wilderness.  I have been wanting to make a pumpkin spice cake for awhile so I was very happy to get the coupons. I used the coupons to get a box of Duncan Hines Spice Cake, a can of  Buttercream Frosting, and a can of Comstock Apple Pie Filling. Surprisingly, they are all vegan! But, they are processed food, which should always be eaten in moderation. Like Cookie Monster says, sweets should be a sometimes food. Processed foods should never be the main staple of your diet. That being said, there are things you can do to box mixes to make them healthier. Just preparing them vegan alone cuts out all the cholesterol. Rather than oil, I used apple sauce. And for more nutrition, I added pumpkin puree.  For the frosting, I blended the Apple Pie Filling so it was a bit smoother, then added it to the frosting.

These cupcakes combine classic holiday flavors into a small little treat. Could even make a wonderful Thanksgiving dessert.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes
1 box of Duncan Hines Spice Cake
1 cup apple sauce
3/4 cup rice milk (soy is fine too)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 can of Duncan Hines Buttercream Frosting
1 can of Comstock Apple Pie Filling

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a cupcake tin with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, add the cake mix, apple sauce, and rice milk. Mix together well.

Add the pumpkin puree and baking soda, then beat together for 2 minutes.

Fill the cupcake tin 3/4 of the way full and bake for for 18-21 minutes.

The cupcakes are ready when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Once ready, let them cool in the tin for a bit, then remove and let them cool completely before frosting.

While those cool, puree the apple pie filling until smooth.

In a small bowl, mix together the puree and the butter cream frosting. If it’s too runny, add some powdered sugar to tighten it up. Refrigerate until the cupcakes are ready to be frost.

Finally, frost the cupcakes anyway you like. I really suck at decorating. If I was in Oregon, I would have begged my mom to decorate them for me. But, I did garnish with a little nutmeg and raw sugar for fun. 

The applesauce and pumpkin puree make the cupcakes so moist, definitely what I have been craving. Thank you Foodbuzz, Duncan Hines and Comstock-Wilderness! I am bringing this cupcakes to a friend’s house, I hope she and her roommates like them.

Birthday Cupcakes: Kona Mocha and Tropical Coconut

Today is my birthday! I am 24 years-old today and pretty happy about it. I am not where I thought I would be at 24, and that’s a really good thing. The most important thing I have learned in my 24 short years of life is to just go with it. Life takes you places you never imagined and the best thing to do is not fight it. If you told me when I was 16 that I would be living in Hawaii pursuing a degree in geology, I doubt I would have believed you. I still don’t have it all figured out, but life is more fun with surprises 🙂 I  would have believed you if you told me I was going to become a vegan though.

I put more thought into what treat I wanted for my birthday than is probably needed because I hardly ever make sweets. It’s a real treat when I do. I searched the web, found many yummy options but none really caught my eye. I couldn’t decide between something coconut/mango-y or mocha/chocolate-y. Then I realized I could make both! But I didn’t want to end up frosting 48 cupcakes all day so I decided to make a normal 24 batch and just split the batter.

I used a box mix because, it’s just easier. But, it’s organic and does not have tons of scary chemical ingredients. I am not opposed to packaged products occasionally, but they should not be the stable of your diet. But a nice treat on your birthday is fine.

I made two cupcakes from a single box mix, Tropical Coconut and and Kona Mocha. It’s not hard to doctor-up a simple box mix with your own variations. The Tropical Coconut have pineapple-mango preserves in the batter, a pineapple-mango buttercream frosting and are topped with coconut shavings. The Kona Mocha have Kona coffee and chocolate added to the batter, chocolate buttercream frosting, and are topped with some coffee grounds. If you want to make full batches of either or both of these, just don’t split the batter and add double preserves in the pineapple mango and double the chocolate and coffee in the Kona Mochas.

By the way, Kona coffee is the only coffee that is completely grown and produced in US. Make sure it says 100% Kona coffee on the label for the real stuff.

The Cupcakes
1 box of vanilla cake mix (I used Dr. Oetker)
4 and 1/2 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer
6 tbs water
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup applesauce (I used cinnamon but plain is fine too)

Pineapple Mango Variation 
3 tbs unsweetened pineapple-mango preserves
1/4 cup soy milk
1/4 tps baking powder

Kona Mocha Variation
1/2 extra strong Kona coffee
2 ounces of dark chocolate, melted

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees and spray a cupcake tin with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, add the cake mix.

In a small bowl, whisk the Enger-G Egg replacer and water. Add to the large bowl.

Add the soy milk and applesauce to the large bowl, mix together well, making sure to get air in the batter. If you aren’t a broke college kid like me, you can do this in your stand mixer.

Now evenly divided the batter into two bowls.  I only have one cupcake tin so I had to make them one at a time.

For the Tropical Coconut, in one of the bowls add the perseveres, 1/4 cup soy milk, and baking powder. Mix together well again.

Pour the batter into the cupcake tin, filling eat 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 10-12 minutes. They are ready when a tooth inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Let them cool in the tin for bit, then remove from and let cool completely.

For the Kona Mocha, in the other bowl add the coffee and melted chocolate. I added some extra coffee grounds in for an extra kick too. Mix together well again.

Pour the batter into the cupcake tin, filling eat 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 10-12 minutes. They are ready when a tooth inserted into the middle comes out clean. 

Let them cool in the tin for bit, then remove from and let cool completely. 

The Frostings
1 box of vanilla frosting mix  (I used Dr. Oetker)
2 stick soften vegan shortening
1/4 cup soy milk
Tropical Coconut Variation
1 tbs pineapple-mango preserves
unsweetened shaved coconut
Kona Mocha Variation
2 ounces dark chocolate, melted
Kona coffee grounds
If you have stand mixer, use it. It sucked mixing this all by hand. 

In large bowl, beat together the frosting mix, shortening, and soy milk until smooth. 
Divide into two bowls.
For the Tropical Coconut,in one bowl add in the preserves and mix well. 
Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle on some shaved coconut. 

For the Kona Mocha, in the other bowl add the melted chocolate and mix well.
Frost the cupcakes, and sprinkle on some coffee grounds.
I decided to be nice (and it’s healthier for me not to eat them all anyways) and share them with the geology department. So UHH geology majors, go check the seminar room today.
I left some out for me to eat tonight of course, but one conveniently didn’t fit in the box when I was packing them up last night 🙂 Oh, the frosting is so good. And I love how moist the applesauce makes the cupcakes. Not as pretty as my mom would have made but delicious nonetheless. Happy Birthday to me indeed!  
PS, When I checked the geology seminar room at 12:30, only a few cupcakes where left. Guessing they were a hit!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I have a friend coming over tonight so I thought I would be a good hostess and bake something yummy. My favorite cake is red velvet cake. So moist and sweet, it really does melt in your mouth like velvet. I haven’t had any since I went vegan, so I thought it was time to pull out my cupcake tin again and make some.

I Googled “vegan red velvet cupcakes” and the first link to come up was from a blog called Mac & Cheese.  These Red Velvet Cupcakes have no complicated ingredients and stay pretty true to the original recipe, which is what I wanted since I love it so much. The author adapted the recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, a book I am dying to get.

I halved the recipe and made a few changes. I used mirin instead of apple cider vinegar because it is what I have on hand. The vinegar is for leavening mainly, and you use so little that it does not alter the taste really. I also used hemp milk instead of soy because I like it better. I used melted dark chocolate instead of coco powder and butter instead of vegetable oil.

Nice deep red color.

The biggest change was the coloring. I used beet juice instead of food coloring. I did this for two reasons: it’s cheaper (one stupid little tube of red dye was $4.99!) and it’s healthier. Food coloring is pretty much all chemicals—and sometimes isn’t even vegetarian because it contains carmine (beetle scales). I thought of using a natural dye after I saw my friend Eva posted a blog where she used bright foods to dye her Easter eggs (check it out here).  I Googled it and it turns out I am not the only one who doesn’t want a “red beetle cake.” I wasn’t sure how much to use at first so I added a little at a time till the color was right without thinning the batter too much. You cannot taste the beets at all. But, to be safe and keep Marquis happy, I added a bit more sugar just in case. They did not come out BRIGHT red, but that’s fine with me. I’d rather have lighter cupcakes than ones full of toxic dye.

Make your own if you can

And I have to admit, I used store-bought frosting from a can. I suck at making frosting and since these are for a guest, I wanted them to be perfect. At home my mom usually ends up fixing my pathetic attempts. I never can get the consistency right. Most can frostings are actually vegan. They are made with soy, which doesn’t spoil quickly like dairy does. I found the one with the fewest scary chemical ingredients and punch it up a bit with vegan cream cheese.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
1 cup hemp milk (or whatever non-dairy milk you prefer)
1 tsp mirin (or whatever vinegar you like)
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 and 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tps baking soda
1/2 tps baking powder
1/2 tps salt
14 g dark chocolate, melted
1 tbs vegan butter, melted
2 tps vanilla extract
The juice from 1 can of beets
1 can vanilla frosting 
1/4 cup vegan cream cheese (try Tofutti)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F and spray a cupcake tin with cooking spray. I don’t use cupcake liners, they are just extra waste.

In a small bowl, add the mirin to the hemp milk and set aside to curdle. This is to replicate buttermilk.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Next add the milk mixture, melted chocolate, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Mix well.

Mix well so you don’t have any streaks.

Add as much beet juice as necessary to reach the desired color without thinning the batter too much. This is the main reason I didn’t use oil, cut down on the liquids to keep the right consistency. It should be slightly runny like a typical cake batter.

So happy my mom bought me a cupcake tin.

Fill the cupcake cups 3/4 the way full and bake for about 20 minutes.

They smell so good!

They are done when no longer jiggly and a toothpick inserted comes out fairly clean.

Let them cool in the pan for a bit so they are easier to remove. Then let them cool completely before frosting. I made mine the day before and refrigerated them over night.

To make the cream cheese frosting, put the frosting and the cream cheese into a bowl. Mix together well, whip it up a bit to make it fluffier. You can add some powdered sugar to thicken it up if needed.

Mix well so you don’t have cream cheese lumps.

Not only am I bad at making frosting, but I am bad at the actual frosting step as well. So, I use a piping bag instead—well actually I use a ziplock bag with the one tip cut off.

Since I added more liquid, I added some powder sugar to thicken it.


I got a little fancy and made a swirl frosting. I put some beet juice in half of the frosting to make it pink. To make the swirl pattern, put half the white on one side of the bag and the pink on the other then squeeze together (I forgot to take a picture of this, sorry).

When you pipe it on to the cupcakes, the colors swirl together. Because I live in a humid place, I stuck mine in the fridge to set.

Sweet, moist, and velvety. Just as good as dairy red velvet cake. Sure to please any guest—that is if you want to share. 

Mandarin Orange Cupcakes

My mom bought me a cupcake tin last week, and although I used it to make Yorkshire Pudding, I thought it was time to make some cupcakes. When I was looking for a can of black beans yesterday, I found a random can of mandarin oranges and suddenly imagined orange cupcakes with chocolate icing. The battery was dead on my laptop so I decided to make a recipe up rather than try to look for one my phone.

Thanks mom!

Mandarin Orange Cupcakes
1 tbs flax seeds
1/2 cup HOT water
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tps baking soda
1/2 tps baking powder
1/4 tps salt
1/2 tps ground ginger
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
2 tbs soy milk
1/2 tps vanilla extract
1 can sliced mandarin oranges, drained but reserve 1/4 of the juice
1/2 vegan dark chocolate bar

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F and spray a cupcake tin with cooking spray.

Add the flax seeds to the hot water, stir lightly and set aside for at least 10 minutes. It should make a syrupy liquid.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and ground ginger.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, applesauce, flax seed mixture, soy milk, and vanilla extract until slightly frothy.

Pieces of oranges and flax seed for color and texture.

Next add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Then add the oranges and the reserved juice. If mixing by hand, whisk everything very thoroughly. If you are using a mixer, mix on high for 3-5 minutes. This will break-up the orange pieces and brings air into the batter so the cupcakes are light and fluffy. 

3/4 of the way filled is perfect.

Pour the batter into the cupcake tin, filling each cup 3/4 of the way full.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until slightly golden. You can insert a toothpick into the middle of one, if it comes out fairly clean, they are done.

All cooled. You can smell the oranges.

Let them rest in the tin for a few minutes, then remove them carefully and allow them to cool completely before you ice them. The chocolate will just melt off if they are still warm.

If it’s too runny, it won’t stay on the cupcakes

Once cooled, break-up the dark chocolate a bit and place it in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute. It will vary based on the amount and type of chocolate you use. I did 3 squares for 30 seconds. You don’t want it to be totally liquid, but it should be very loose. Stir a bit with a fork to break up any remaining solid pieces.

The fun part! I let mine sit in the chocolate for a second.

Next dip the tops of each cupcake in the chocolate, coating it to your liking (I slathered mine pretty good). Let them sit afterward for a bit for the chocolate to set.


A nice twist on normal white cupcakes. The ginger gives it a little bite. And chocolate and orange is always a good combination. They went great with a glass of iced citrus green tea.

They came out just as I imagined!