My mom recently came to Seattle for a visit, and I had suggested to her that it could be fun to make a recipe together. This was especially meaningful to me since I learned to bake with my mom and grandmother. What better way to pay tribute to the main culinary influences in my life, than to share our love of baking together. We set off to pick some fresh blueberries, something that my mom had never experienced before. There is something so peaceful about connecting directly with the food you are cooking. We enjoyed a lovely afternoon together, gathering pounds upon pounds of blueberries. The task can often be tedious, but meditative if you choose to lose yourself in the moment.
We returned home to contemplate what we would do with all of these berries. A pie? Perhaps. A cupcake? Mmmhmmm. Why not combine the two? Yep. This was a wonderful idea, seeing as my mom has some serious Martha Stewart-esque decorating skills. I remember all of the amazing creations she would make while my brother and I were growing up. For every occasion, there would be artfully decorated sugar cookies to fit a party theme, or an insane array of delicious cookies for us to nosh on. But my favorite was always the angel food cake that she and my grandmother would make for my birthday every year. If only I could recreate that delicate almond flavored slice of happiness (in a vegan version, of course.) With all of this said, a creatively decorated cupcake seemed to fit our combination of baking skills.
After several batches, testing different textures and intensity of blueberry flavor, we finally found THE recipe. I also have to give a little tip of the hat to my husband for his contribution of taste testing. Such a difficult job, but he’s always a trooper
Here is our recipe, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Thank you mom, for the inspiration, passion and knowledge I have inherited from you. I love you, and I love our cupcakes!
Yields roughly 14 cupcakes
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (kept cold in the fridge)
Blueberry Glaze Ingredients:
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
3 large strips of lemon zest (try not to get any of the white pith, which yields a bitter taste)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
1/4 cup soy butter
5 tbsp almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
2 tbsp blueberry glaze
1/4 cup tofu cream cheese
3 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp maple syrup
Food coloring **
Small mint leaves for garnish (optional)
** A lot of vegans use things like turmeric, beet juice, or specific brands, such as India Tree, because colors like red use crushed beetles. Yep. However…I have learned that Wilton brand uses only plant based products in their colors! So, I use their concentrated icing colors, which helps to avoid thinning that can happen with standard food coloring.
Silpat Mat or Parchment Paper
Decorating Bag and Tips for Frosting (or ziplock bag)
First, make the candied blueberries. It’s best to do this ahead of time if possible and you can even make these a day ahead if you want. Combine the water and sugar into a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Cook until all of the sugar is fully dissolved. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the fresh blueberries and gently stir to coat with the syrup. Be careful not to break any on the blueberries. It’s important to keep the mixture from boiling, because the heat will break the berries as well. Cook for about 5 minutes. Strain the berries to remove the excess syrup (you can save this syrup for other uses, but it will not be a strong blueberry flavor since the berries are left intact) and spread the berries onto a baking sheet lined with either a silpat mat or parchment paper. Spread them so that they are in a single layer and set aside to cool. Once completely cooled, stick them in the fridge until ready to use.
Now, make the blueberry glaze. Combine all of the ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 15-20 minutes.
Strain through a fine mesh sieve, using a spatula to push the mixture through. Set aside to cool.
Next, make the cupcakes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line your cupcake pans with cupcake liners and lightly spray with canola oil. I had enough batter for 14 cupcakes, so I needed 2 pans.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the soy butter. Add in the sugar and mix until well combined. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt and cinnamon.
In a small bowl, dissolve the arrowroot powder in 2 tbsp of almond milk. Stir to combine. Add the mixture into the bowl with the soy butter and sugar and mix on low speed. Add in the vanilla and almond extracts and continue mixing. Add in the canola oil. Add in the flour mixture, about 1/3 cup at a time. Add in about 1 tbsp of the almond milk between adding in the flour. Once all of the flour mixture and almond milk has been added and mixed in, add the canola oil,lemon zest and blueberry glaze. Try not to over mix, but you’ll want all of the ingredients fully incorporated. Remove the bowl from the standing mixture and using a spatula, fold in the fresh blueberries.
Fill each cupcake about 3/4 full of batter. Bake for about 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Turn the pan around 180 degrees after 15 minutes to ensure even baking. Remove from the oven and allow the cupcakes to cool for 15 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Remove the cupcakes and place onto the wire rack to cool completely. Brush each cupcake with some of the blueberry glaze. This will give it a little extra flavor.
Now make the frosting. In the bowl of a standing mixer with the whisk attachment, add in the tofu cream cheese, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Mix until well combined. Add in the confectioners sugar, about a cup at a time and mix until smooth. If you want a thicker frosting (which is better for holding its shape when piped onto the cupcakes) then add a bit more confectioners sugar if the frosting seems too thin. Scoop a little bit of frosting onto a spoon and hold it upside down to see how well it holds together.
To make the pie crust color for the frosting, add in a bit of brown food coloring and mix until the desired shade is achieved. Spread a thin layer of frosting onto each cupcake, then put the remaining frosting into a pastry bag, fitted with a small, thin, rectangular slanted decorating tip. If you don’t have a decorating bag and tips, you can use a ziplock bag. Just fill it with the icing, squeezing all of it towards one of the corners in the bottom of the bag. Using scissors, snip off a very small bit of the corner of the bag. Pipe the frosting in a crust-looking pattern along the perimeter of the cupcake. Next, fill the center of the cupcake with a small spoonful of the candied berries. I also topped each with one very small mint leaf.