The Little Forager grows up

dessert, Tips and Tricks, Vegan

I am sure this is a familiar tale.

As a child I was a junk food forager. I was always on the lookout, ready to snatch up any stray Doritos or Little Debbies that might come my way. I was the kid with the healthy lunch. It wasn’t bad enough that my parents refused to buy me Reebok pumps or that we did not have cable, I also had no little bags of Fritos or Oreo cookies in my lunch bag. I know, worse has happened, but tell that to the 4th grader at the end of the lunch table who no one wants to trade with. It was a pretty sad scene, though not because I didn’t like what was in my lunch bag. There is nothing wrong with homemade chocolate chip cookies or burekitas that your grandma sent in a shoebox from Long Island. It was all quite tasty…just hopelessly uncool. Sometimes a friend would take pity on me and offer me a couple of potato chips or a Keebler smeared with some of that delicious orange cheese paste. But most of the time my junk food consumption was relegated to sleepovers and birthday parties, where I would try to eat enough to get me through the dry times.

My mom was a crazed health nut in the 80s. Our pantry was the least exciting place on Plymouth Avenue. Not a juice box or Fruit Roll-Up in sight. Hilariously, when I attended pastry chef school, decades later, I  found a former babysitter teaching there. She was very happy to see me and we had a jolly reunion during which she teased that all the babysitters would joke about how unfun the snacks were at the Darsa House. “We didn’t know anyone like that, back then.” She said, “You know…intellectuals.” (Hmm, I guess being a health nut has something to do with being an intellectual…I’m still thinking about that one.)

When we lived in Israel avoiding junk food was less of a problem for my mom. We shopped at the fruit and vegetable markets, had our dry goods delivered and school kids went home for lunch. Kids in Israel however, are much more independently mobile than they are in the suburban United States, and my friends and I would save our money and stop at the candy shop on our way home from school and consume delicious treats such as Bamba, Bissli and (my favorite) a milk chocolate confection called Mekupelet.

Years passed and I eventually found that my desire for junk food did have more to do with its forbidden-ness than its actual flavor. That being said there are some things you just can’t argue with. One them is the fact that Dr. Pepper tastes great over ice on a hot day and the other is that in spite of their product’s frighteningly long shelf life, those Hostess people really know how to make a cupcake. I cannnot emphasize how much these Faustess Cupcakes from Isa Chandra Moskowitz taste like the real deal. Bless you Isa, you are an inspiration to all of us who foraged for Cheetos as children only to grow into those carrot juice-drinking, veggie sushi eating adults who still feel a tug as they pass by the supermarket endcap with the hostess cupcakes boxes (perhaps the very same boxes) they were denied as children.

Faustess Cupcakes, from Vegan With a Vengeance, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

These cupcakes are not for the faint of heart. They are seriously chocolatey, sweet and a bit labor intensive. But they taste really, really good (I’m thinking of getting up and getting another one right now as a matter of fact). You will also need a couple of piping bags and tips, one medium and one very small, for filling and decorating these. Tips and Tricks: If you don’t have any and you don’t plan on baking enough to buy some, you can get creative. You can fill them with a small knife or tiny spoon, and decorate with a plastic baggie with a small hole cut out of the corner. They may not look perfect but they will still taste just fine.

The Cupcakes

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour (I used half whole wheat pastry)

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 Tbs black (also known as ‘onyx’) cocoa powder  or dutch process cocoa (see note).

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup plain rice or soy milk (I use unsweetened)

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a 12-muffin tin with paper liners and spray the liners with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powders (you really do need to sift them to get the clumps out), baking powder and soda and the salt.

In a large mixing bowl combine the rice/soy milk, oil, maple syrup, sugar, vinegar and vanilla and beat at medium speed with a handheld mixer for 2 minutes. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in two batches, mixing as you go, beat for about a minute more.

Use a wet ice cream scoop or measuring cup to fill the cup cake liners 3/4 full. Bake for about 28 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack. While cupcakes are cooling, make the fluffy white icing.

Fluffy White Icing

1/4 cup nonhydrogenated margerine (I used earth balance)

1/2 cup nonhydrogenated shortening (I used the Spectrum brand)

3/4 cup superfine (caster) sugar

1/4 cup plain soy milk powder (do not use low-fat and see note)

2 tsp high quality vanilla extract

pinch salt

In a medium-size mixing bowl, beat together the margerine and shortening with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Add the sugar and soy milk powder and beat for another good 10 minutes until very fluffy. Add vanilla extract and a pinch of salt and beat for another minute. Now do the ganache.

Chocolate Ganache Icing

1/3 cup soy milk

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 Tbs pure maple syrup

In a small saucepan bring the soy milk to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and add the chocolate and maple syrup (it is important that the heat be very low). Mix with a heat proof spatula for 30 seconds then remove from heat and stir until chocolate is fully melted and icing is smooth. Next make the icing for the squigglies.

Royal Icing for the Squigglies

I have to say that unless you really NEED that full ‘Hostess’ effect, these squigglies are a waste of ingredients. This recipe makes way more royal icing than you could ever possibly need for decorating the cupcakes. So it’s up to you. It certainly won’t make that big of difference taste-wise of you leave the cupcakes as they are.

2 cups of confectioners’ sugar

2 Tbs soy milk powder (see note)

2 Tbs water (I used a teeny bit more)

Sift the sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the soy milk powder. Add 1 Tbs of teh water and stir, then add the rest of the water a bit at a time until you reach a consistency that is slightly thicker than toothpaste. The icing should not be drippy at all, if it is add more confectioners’ sugar.

Assemble the cupcakes:

You will need two piping bags, one fitted with a small round, writing tip and the other fitted with a medium-large star or round tip. Fill the large-tipped bag with the Fluffy White Icing and the writing one with the Royal Icing.

Poke a hole in the center of each cupcake. I did this with an apple corer, which worked really well, but Isa just says to do it with your pinkie. Whatever works. Cram the tip of the bag with the Fluffy stuff into the hole and squeeze to get as much as you can inside without going over the top (you need to be able to cleanly cover the tops with ganache, so be careful).  Draw the bag out slowly as you squeeze and wipe any excess off the top.

Dip the top of each cupcake into the Chocolate Ganache Icing, tilting the pan as needed to make for easier cupcake coating. Place all the cupcakes on a flat surface (like a cutting board) and put on fridge to firm up the Ganache ~ 10 minutes.

Use these 10 minutes to practice your squigglies.

Remove the cupcakes from the fridge and make your squiggles on the top of the ganache. Return to fridge to set (don’t leave them for too long, or the fluffly icing in teh centers will firm up too much).


Note: Both the black onyx cocoa powder and the powdered soy milk are things I had to get online. I got the soy milk powder on and the cocoa at the

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