Sunday, April 13, 2014

Gluten Free Cupcakes with Veggie Colored Frosting

Growing up as a kid my mom, sister and I would always dye eggs this time of year.  Our mom being the natural artist that she was would create the most beautiful designs. It was hard to compete, considering the only artistic ability I have is to draw stick people, but it was fun and I have great memories of sharing this tradition with my mom and sis. 

I have never liked eating eggs and never understood how you could dye them, and then several days later peel and eat them.  The food coloring would seep through the shell and the white of the egg would be purple, blue or grey.  Luckily for me I got to skip that part and now since I am vegan, creating beautiful cupcakes is my new tradition.

My hubby wanted gluten-free cupcakes and so I purchased a bag of Wholesome Chow Vanilla Cake Mix.  I've tried making gluten-free products from scratch, but it is really expensive.  By the time you purchase all the starches, g-f flours, xantham gum, etc., you're looking at a substantial cost.  Of course if I had a gluten intolerance then this would be fine, but they end up sitting in my pantry and then I just throw them out.  Wholesome Chow has the best packaged gluten-free products on the market, at least in my opinion.  Another brand that is suitable for Passover because it doesn't contain leavener is Manischewitz Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix. It comes with a chocolate frosting but you can omit this and use the buttercream recipe below.  This product is not vegan but you could substitute flax eggs in the recipe.

So what to do about the food coloring and frosting the cupcakes?  There's no way I would ever use commercial food dyes and the organic/natural plant-derived dyes are too expensive. I did an internship at a bakery once and I watched how much food coloring they used in everything and I would never eat their cookies, cakes or cupcakes...especially their red velvet.

So instead of spending a lot of money, I decided to use what was in my fridge and the buttercream turned out beautiful and delicious.  Yes it takes a little bit more work because you have to juice the vegetables first, but you can still obtain beautiful pastel colors or even vibrant hues using vegetables.  Plus everything was organic!  Here's what I did:

Purple:  Red Cabbage
Green:  Spinach with a pinch of spirulina (could of used more spirulina to get a darker green--be careful though so that it doesn't taste like the ocean)
Red:  Beet
Orange:  Carrot (I also reduced the carrot juice down to a puree to obtain a darker hue)
Blue:  Red Cabbage and a 1/4-1/2 tsp of baking soda
Yellow:  Turmeric (I used about 1/4 tsp with 1-2 tsp water to make a paste)

Now you would think that by using vegetables and spices that it would impart these flavors into the frosting, but it is ever so faint and when you combine it with the cupcake you can't even tell.  Kids would love eating these even if they helped you make them and knew that they were made with vegetable juice!

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 - 3 Tbsp almond milk (or more to obtain desired consistency)
3 cups sifted organic powdered sugar

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and shortening on medium speed until combined and creamy.  Add vanilla extract, almond milk and then with speed on low, add powdered sugar until combined.  Once combined, increase speed to medium and then whip until creamy and fluffy about four minutes.  Portion buttercream evenly into six bowls and then start out adding 1/2 tsp vegetable juice to each bowl and whip with a spatula until creamy.

Note:  Because of the acidity of the vegetable juice, it will look as if the buttercream will start to curdle.  This is why it is good to start with a small amount and add slowly and beat with a spatula until creamy.  For all of the above colors, I used no more than 1 tsp veggie juice to each to get the desired effect.  Also, you can use all Earth Balance and not the Spectrum Shortening, however the shortening holds the buttercream at room temperature longer and so you do not need to worry about refrigeration.

I hope you'll give this recipe a try and start a new holiday tradition with your family!

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Passover and Easter!     

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