Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Vegan Surprise Cupcakes: Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Filling

As soon as I became vegan, I knew my grandmother's Surprise Cupcake recipe was one of which I simply had to make a vegan version. The light, sweet filling hides so neatly within the plain exterior of the chocolate cupcake. The flavors are simple, yet layered; and the combination has won over many a cream cheese hater.

The original cupcakes were served at countless special and not-so-special events throughout my lifetime: BBQs, birthday parties, Wednesdays, potlucks, camping trips. I often found myself saying, "You have to come to X because my mom is bringing her famous Surprise Cupcakes!" When advertising for my master's vocal recital, and using similar enticing statements, I did have to explain that the surprise was, in fact, something legal in all fifty states. Other than that caveat, I like to keep the surprise as secret as possible. There's a certain joy in watching a person discover something unexpected and then enjoying it.

It took a few attempts for me to create this recipe, and though I'm not quite convinced it's the one, the replica, it's a delicious near miss. The filling is a bit more creamy and delicate than the one I'm seeking, and there are a few more steps than I would like; but these are some darn good cupcakes.

To make this recipe, I combined techniques from several other bloggers. The cupcake batter was adapted from this one at instructables.com. The filling was adapted from this brownie recipe.

Original recipe card from my grandmother
For the chocolate batter:
2 cups warm water
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2/3 cups cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

For the filling:
1/2 package silken tofu
1/2 cup vegan cream cheese -- I used Daiya.
1 tsp Ener-G egg replacer
2 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/4 cup agave nectar
3/4 cup of chocolate chips -- I used Enjoy Life mini chips.

Chocolate frosting of your choice -- I made a batch of Chocolate Buttercream Frosting from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (Actually, I usually wait until midway through my preparations to preheat the oven; but my oven heats quickly, and this step just looks better at the top).

Make the chocolate batter:
2. Combine the wet ingredients in a large bowl (water, vanilla, oil, vinegar).
3. Sift in the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt).
4. With a spoon, mix all ingredients until combined, making sure to remove any lumps.

Make the filling:
5. In a separate bowl, beat the tofu with the cream cheese until fluffy.
6. In small bowl, whisk together the egg replacer and the water.
7. Add the egg replacer mixture to the cream cheese mixture along with the corn starch and agave.
8. Fold the chocolate chips into the cream cheese mixture by hand.

Assemble the cupcakes:
9. Line a cupcake tin with cupcake liners and fill each liner 2/3 of the way with chocolate batter.
10. Drop 1 rounded teaspoon full of filling into each cupcake. (I use one of these, but I think my grandmother probably used a regular spoon and her fingers).
9. Bake the cupcakes for 19-21 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
10. Cool completely.
11. Frost with your favorite chocolate frosting.

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