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Loaded Sunflower Butter Cupcakes

     This post will be somewhat personal…I don’t think that having a blog would be complete without some personal and slightly emotional content (related to food, of course!).  There are many, many reasons why I am vegan today.  My dear friend Emily introduced me to the lifestyle in highschool.  She was a vegetarian when I met her.  She introduced me to wonderful staple foods like hummus and falafel that were quite foreign to me at the time.  These are now part of my normal diet and I absolutely could not thank her enough for leading me to them!  
     As I was becoming vegetarian, Em was trying to become vegan.  I thought I was having a tough time!  I remember she would stash hummus in her purse to smear on bagels.  She also switched some clothing and accessories for cruelty-free materials.  The hardest part about the transition for her was giving up ice cream.  It probably didn’t help at all that we both worked at an ice cream shop….
     Needless to say, she phased in and out of veganism for a while before quitting.  I believe she may have picked it back up after highschool, though.  I know it’s been a long, long journey for me.  I didn’t even entertain the idea of veganism until I graduated college and began to read inspirational literature like The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life and Food, Inc..  Over all, I look to this lifestyle as a way of minimizing suffering and maximizing positive vibes (the health benefits and feelings of closeness to the earth are added bonuses!). Emily was still my first exposure to veganism, though.  I was always inspired by her interests in activism, animal rights, and conscious living.  Another big reason for my adherence to this diet and lifestyle is the preservation of her memory.

     For reasons still unclear, Emily’s life was taken while she was away at college in Gettysburg, PA.  This came as a shock to everyone who knew her and to her school community.  This tragedy shook us all to the core.  We have all tried desperately to keep Em’s spirit and memory alive in any way we can.  Her family created a memorial fund in her honor; memorial trees, plaques and peace poles were erected in places her life greatly affected.  Em’s ashes were also scattered around the globe in amazing places that she would have loved to travel to.  
     As one of my dearest friends and greatest role models, Emily will always have a place in the forefront of my mind and heart.  I try to do right by her every day in all the ways that I can.  As you can see, this effort has manifested into the creation of vegan food.  The recipe I’m sharing with you today is based on flavors that Em loved (she had great taste) and her favorite flower.  I made these to celebrate her birthday which was yesterday.  Every year, I try to either make and/or eat a delicious vegan cupcake for the occasion.  I don’t think she’d have it any other way.  🙂
    So, without further a-do, I present (Emily’s) Loaded Sunbutter Cupcakes!  These babies are basically a twist on a Take 5 candy bar, which Em was rather fond of.  Instead of peanut butter, I used sunflower seed butter to pay homage to one of the most beautiful and dramatic flowers on Earth.  Each cupcake is: sunflower seed butter cupcake filled with a dark chocolate mousse and topped with a sunflower seed buttercream frosting.  I sprinkled sunflower seeds and gluten-free pretzel crumbs on most of them for garnish.  For one, I piped a sunflower and finished the center with chocolate chips.  This can be done with plain buttercream and colored yellow, but I wanted the flavor of the sunbutter on mine.  Get creative with yours!  These are supposed to be fun!  😀

Emily’s Loaded Sunbutter Cupcakes

Picture

Yield: 15 cupcakes (I used 2 mini ice-cream scoops for each)
Adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
(She’s the vegan cupcake GENIUS! If it weren’t for this book, I may not be a vegan…maybe….)  😉

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3/4 c almond milk/any non-dairy milk (dare I suggest…sunflower milk?!)
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 c safflower/sunflower (?!!!) oil
  • 1/2 c smooth sunflower seed butter 
  • 1/2 c coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tb date syrup
  • 2 Tb flaxseed meal
  • 1 c gluten-free all-purpose flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2 Tb brown rice flour (or more AP flour)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum 

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 F.

  1. In a small bowl/cup, combine the vinegar and milk to curdle for about 5 minutes.
  2. Mix together all wet ingredients (and the milk mixture, once curdled) in a large mixing bowl with a large whisk or wooden spoon.  Add the coconut sugar and flax meal.  Combine.  Let sit for about 4 minutes.
  3. Sift all dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  Combine until smooth.  
  4. Line a cupcake tin with liners.  Using a mini ice cream scoop (or about a 1/2 Tb meauring spoon), place 2 level scoops in each liner.  Bake for about 15-17 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Let the cupcakes cool thoroughly.  (I put mine in the fridge after letting them sit at room temp. for a few minutes.  It was very warm in my kitchen).

For the mousse filling

Ingredients

  • 6 oz. dairy-free chocolate chips/chopped chocolate
  • 2 Tb unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • approx. 6 oz of silken tofu, drained (I used Mori-Nu extra firm)
  • 2 Tb sunflower seed butter

Instructions

  1. In a microwave safe bowl, microwave the chocolate and milk to make a ganache.  (Alternately, you may use a double boiler on the stove; I was impatient!)
  2. Dump the tofu and sunbutter into a blender/food processor.  Pour the vanilla over it.  (Mmmm…) Blend until smooth.  
  3. Add the melted ganache to the blender and blend until the mixture becomes mousse-like.  Scrape down the sides to make sure the tofu isn’t still chunky.
  4. Transfer the mousse to a lidded container and refrigerate thoroughly before filling cupcakes.  

For the Sunbuttercream

**To make this frosting completely natural/clean, sub the processed fats for refined coconut oil/palm fruit oil; Just make sure the frosting stays cool…otherwise, it may be a bit runny.**

Ingredients

  • 1/4 c vegan butter (like Earth Balance/Nutiva/homemade)
  • 2 Tb non-hydrogenated shortening (I use Spectrum)
  • 1/3 c creamy sunflower seed butter
  • 1 Tb date syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 c powdered sugar (I make my own from Florida Crystals; 6x sugar is vegan, as is organic varieties)

Instructions

  1. Using a mixer (either handheld or stand; preferably with paddle attachment), cream the fats (butter, shortening, sunbutter) together until smooth.  
  2. Add the vanilla and beat until smooth again. 
  3.  Beat in the sugar gradually so it doesn’t snow on your counter top!  If mixture is too stiff, you can thin it out with some non-dairy milk (make sure it is room temp!).  Make sure to add any liquid a little at a time.  


Assembly

  1. Poke a hole in the middle of each cupcake you want to fill.  Alternately you can be a fancypants and use use a cupcake corer.  Nerd. :p
  2. Pipe/spoon cooled mousse into the center of the cupcakes.  If you’re spooning it in (I took the lazy route, too!), push it down with the back of the spoon so it settles into the cake.  
  3. Once the cupcakes are filled, pipe/ spread the buttercream onto the top of each cupcake.  I used an icing spatula for most of the cupcakes.  For one, I piped a sunflower…directions to follow!   
  4. Garnish with sunflower seeds and crushed pretzel pieces. (I prefer Ener-G brand pretzels or Mary’s Gone Crackers; there are many other major brands of gluten-free pretzels on the market now, but I like these because they are GMO free and healthful. Use your favorite!)

Sunflower Tutorial

Instructions

  1. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a medium leaf tip with some buttercream (either the recipe here or your own.  Like I said, get creative! Use yellow/orange/pink coloring…whatever you fancy!!  I chose to left this au naturale
  2. Spread a small amount of frosting onto the top of the cupcake for a base so your flower has something to stick to.  This doesn’t have to be pretty! 😉
  3. Starting with the outermost edge of the cupcake, pipe larger leaves that slightly hang off.  The motion for this is to squeeze for the base of the leaf/petal and release pressure as you pull the tip away from the cake.  You are essentially tiping a triangle-esque shape.  
  4. Once there is a ring of larger leaves bordering the edge of the cupcake, complete another set of slightly smaller leaves inside the larger one.  Do this once again, if desired.
  5. Complete your sunflower with some chocolate chips in the middle!  Voila!

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     I hope you enjoy making these cupcakes as much as I did!  They’re also fun to eat, too…

     For more information on my girl Emily, you can visit her memorial fund website.  She was truly an amazing soul.  I hope I’ve inspired you like she’s inspired me time and time again.

Peace, Love, Cupcakes ❤

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