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When the going gets tough, the tough get vegan

August 9, 2010 · 105 comments

I’m a believer in the Like Water For Chocolate phenomenon. By this, I mean that your mental state of mind when cooking can be carried through in the food you produce. Baking after your football team has just won and you’ve received a surprise package in the mail will produce a cake that is more enjoyable to eat than one you baked while thinking about your property manager as you spend a second day with no hot water and your multiple phone calls unanswered.

(Let’s for the moment gloss over the passionate quail dish that resulted in a scene in the novel that in turn resulted in a scene in our English Lit class of girls snickering into their books)

It is therefore quite remarkable that my latest cupcakes turned out at all, let alone turned my baking world upside down. You see, I had no faith in them. It didn’t matter that the recipe they are adapted from was spruiked by Mr. P of Delicious Delicious Delicious nor the recipe that he adapted his from was so well presented on Let Her Bake Cake. The recipe just didn’t make sense and seemed doomed to failure.

I mean, no butter? No eggs? No milk?

See? Not an egg to be found.

I can only think that my lack of faith was offset by my desire for these to work. The one-bowl-and-a-whisk method appealed to my inner sloth, and the el cheapo list of ingredients appealed to the sloth’s tightarseness.

It is thought that the original cake recipe comes from either the tough times of WWII or during the Great Depression when rationing or simply a lack of money meant butter, eggs and milk were luxury items. Whilst these days such items are readily found in most bakers’ kitchens, the recipe has found a new incarnation as a vegan cake recipe in addition to being a cake for tightarse sloths.

I tweaked Mr. P’s version of the recipe from spiced chocolate cupcakes to a choc-orange recipe. If you’d rather not have the orange component then simply omit the orange zest and use 300mL water instead of the water and juice. I think next time I make these I’ll up the cocoa content slightly so you may also want to do this. In fact, the recipe seems delightfully tweakable – add whatever spices or flavourings you like, and play around with the 300mL liquid.

No, I see no teethmarks

Mr. P served his spiced cupcakes with a spiced cream cheese frosting but I used the vegan alternative he suggested. At first I tried to make this using Nuttelex spread. Do not do this. Do not even entertain the thought. The resulting frosting had such a pervasive wrong taste to it that no amount of free pouring of vanilla extract or ground cinnamon could cut through. I then found some soy butter and tentatively tried again, this time with delicious results.

The cake itself is super moist and soft with a great crumb. The chocolate flavour was a little muted with the spiciness of the icing taking over a little, but the orange managed to bust through quite nicely. I’m seriously blown away by this recipe. I think it may even have become my go-to chocolate cake recipe, given the great results you can get from minimal outlay of money and energy.

One thing is for sure – these babies are definitely making an appearance at my Cupcake Day for the RSPCA sale next Monday. Yep, am pushing myself a little more this year and offering vegan and gluten-free options so really the only excuse you can have for not coming to indulge is if you have diabetes, in which case I’m terribly sorry for showing you these photos.

I’ll be selling my wares at UWA from 3pm Monday 16th, so if you’re interested in coming along just get in touch with me and I’ll give you more details. If you can’t get along, I strongly suggest you give this recipe a crack yourself. Just don’t go adding any passion inducing rose blossoms to the mix unless you’re in the mood for setting a shower block on fire and riding off naked into the sunset with a Mexican revolutionary soldier.

(P.S. – this recipe will forever be known as the one that finally inspired my housemate to comment on a post. Such is the power of these cupcakes)

Choc-orange Vegan Cupcakes


  • 225 g plain flour
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 35 g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 75 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
  • zest of 1 orange
  • juice of the orange and then enough water to make up 300ml liquid (my juicy orange had around 150mL juice in his belly)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line a 12 hole cupcake tin with cupcake papers.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl using a whisk.
  3. Add everything else to the bowl and whisk to create a smooth batter. Do not over-work the mix.
  4. Fill the cupcake papers around 3/4 full with the mix. You may find it easier to do this by first pouring the mix into a jug.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre of a cupcake comes out clean.
  6. Immediately remove cupcakes from pan and cool on wire rack. Allow to cool completely before icing.

Impatiently cooling cupcakes await their icing coats

Dairy-free Spiced Icing


  • 100 g soy butter (I used Kingsland brand)
  • 250 g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp allspice


  1. Mix everything together with a wooden spoon until smooth, then pipe or spread onto cupcakes. Super easy and delicious!

The icing makes me think of hair, but in a tasty way.

Step 7. Photograph a half-eaten one while eating another behind the camera


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