vegan cupcake disaster

I really hope what they say is true–that practice makes perfect–because after last night’s cupcake disaster, I could really use some consolation. I suppose this–my vegan baking project going south (and fast)–is a rite of passage for me. Raise your hand if you’re vegan and you’ve attempted to bake before and shit just did not turn out. Probably all of you.

I’m not sure what came over me but I decided hey, I know enough about vegan baking to head into the kitchen and just freakin’ freestyle it. There are several reasons why I should not be baking: 1) I am trying to lose weight and nothing sweet lasts longer than 12 hours in my presence. 2) I am a recipe-follower, not a recipe-maker. 3) While I have been following recipes for cookies and cupcakes for years and have a pretty good idea what goes into a recipe and in what quantity, that has no bearing on vegan baked goods! That’s a whole ‘nother ball game!

But against my better judgment, I headed over to the kitchen anyway. The craving for sweets knows no bounds. While these suckers just did not turn out presentation-wise, the taste was delicious! Even omnivore-approved! But let’s not forget: they didn’t rise properly, they fell apart, the frosting was more of a runny dip than anything that would even resemble frosting. But since they tasted so good, it had me wondering: why do we concern ourselves so much with presentation? It’s all going to get mashed together in our bellies anyway. I understand wanting baked goods to look nice for parties, events, but if it’s just you and your significant other at home, what does it matter if it leaves a little (or a lot…) to be desired in the looks department?

Without further ado, I present to you the recipe. If you don’t care how things look, follow this to a T and you will have a proud little army of cupcake rejects in your kitchen. Or, since you probably have a better handle on vegan ingredients, adjust the measurements and add/subtract to come up with something that will hold together long enough to get the cupcake wrappers off these little suckers.

Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes with Cream “Cheese” Frosting

Cake Ingredients
1 cup vegan margarine (I used Smart Balance light)
¾ cup granulated sugar (**you probably want to substitute organic/vegan sugar but I didn’t have any on hand**)
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp ground flax seed + 3 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup almond milk
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Frosting Ingredients
3 tbsp vegan margarine
3 tbsp Tofutti vegan cream “cheese”
2 ½ cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla


1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together vegan margarine and sugars with electric mixer until just blended.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk ground flax seed with water until mixture is gelatinous.

4. Add flax seed mixture, vanilla, vegetable oil, and almond milk to creamed margarine. Blend with electric mixer until smooth.

5. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Whisk until blended.

6. With electric mixer, add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and blend until smooth.

7. Spoon into cupcake tins until they are half full. Makes approximately 12 cupcakes.

8. Bake 20 minutes.

You can see that they don’t appear to have risen properly. The middles are sunken in.


1. While cupcakes are cooling, blend vegan margarine, vegan cream “cheese”, vanilla and 1 cup confectioners sugar with electric mixer.

2. Add remaining confectioners sugar little by little until fully blended.

As the texture of this frosting made the use of a pastry bag obviously out of the question, I attempted to frost using the aid of this spatula. After that failed attempt, I decided to try dipping them in to the frosting. This tactic worked with all but one cupcake–this little guy decided to jump ship. (“Cupcake overboard!” I yelled from the kitchen.)

At the end, these little rejects were the only cupcakes left standing. Between the one I taste-tested to see if making the frosting would even be worthwhile to the few that crumbled and fell apart pre-frosting and then the lone soldier that committed frosting suicide, this is all I had left in all their hideous glory.

But trust me on this–they tasted good. So good. I just need to figure out why the ground flax didn’t work well as a binder and why the flour + baking soda didn’t help the batter rise and why the frosting wasn’t destined to ever become fluffy.

I guess I should probably read up on Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World to get a better handle on things before attempting any other freestylin’ recipes.

Console me and tell me about your biggest baking disaster, and did you revisit the recipe to correct it at a later date? Have you ever baked something that had as poor a presentation as the cupcakes above but tasted ridiculously good anyway?

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8 thoughts on “vegan cupcake disaster

  1. Just yesterday I baked some individual vegan quiche muffins that looked much like your cupcakes…. and I’ve been vegan and baking for years so do not feel bad. They still tasted wonderful though.

    My advice is to maybe follow tried and true vegan baking recipes for when you are serving others like at a party and save the experimentations for when its just you having fun in the kitchen.

    Post Punk Kitchen is a great resource for baking….once you have followed enough recipes, you will get a feel for what is going to work and what is not going to work for various things like binding the cake together, or helping it rise, or keeping things moist, etc…

    PS I would eat up your cupcakes! they still look delicious to me.

    • Aww, thanks! I’ve perused the website a lot but I really need to invest in Isa’s books. These cupcakes were a fun experiment but I’m such a perfectionist that I can’t help feeling like I failed (even though they really did taste excellent). 🙂

  2. ellen says:

    i’ve definitely experienced the imploded cupcake before when adapting to a vegan or vegan/GF recipe. at least they still taste good!

    here is one of my more spectacular baking fails: i’ve since made some wonderful vegan and GF chocolate chip cookies using babycakes recipes 🙂

  3. My favorites are all from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, but I did have that issue once when making the Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes…one of the batches had that concave top, but I think I figured out why. I had one new shiny non-stick cupcake pan, and one older cupcake pan (that had never been non-stick). The cupcakes came out fine in the shiny new one, and I read later that the darker, older pans don’t distribute the heat as evenly as something with a shiny, conductive surface. Either way, they tasted awesome. And the pumpkin ones in that book were gone in record time last time I made them! That’s one of my favorite cookbooks of all time!

    • I definitely need to get my hands on Isa’s books. I’ve checked out the website a lot but I really need to peruse the full volume(s) of recipes. I loooove pumpkin everything so my mouth is watering just thinking about pumpkin cupcakes. Yum!!

  4. Melissa says:

    If you haven’t bought Cupcakes Take Over the World book, you should DEFINITELY get it. I have it and Cookies Take Over the World, but Cupcakes is hands down the best book ever! Seriously, if I could freaking FIND my copy (it’s either at my parents’ house or my boyfriend’s, which means it’s probably lost in the abyss AKA I’ll have to buy a new copy), my horrid baking projects I’ve had wouldn’t have ever happened.

    I’ve made probably 8-10 different types of cupcakes from Isa’s book and they’ve all been freaking delicious/amazing/fantastic/came out perfectly… etc. etc. Even hardcore “never gonna ever eat anything vegan… ever” people have raved about the carrot cupcakes from her book.

    Anyway, that was a huge plug… my bad. As you mentioned, you already saw my most recent baking disaster. So bad my friends up here have refused to let me ever bake vegan for them again, which is truly tragic, as Isa’s cupcakes that I make are magical… :-/

  5. Breanne says:

    I was looking for some consolation after a vegan cupcake disaster. This post was hilarious. I attempted to make some vegan vanilla cupcakes ( with almond flour because I didn’t realize I was out of all-purpose flour. I had just bought the (expensive) almond flour to experiment with some other recipes so I thought “this could be good.” I even thought I was preventing a disaster by looking up the substitution rules. Well, the batter was not cupcake friendly. About 10 min in the oven and part of the batter was overflowing while the other half stayed at the bottom. I had no idea what was going on! The part that overflowed ended up a nice crispy brown (seriously) and it smelled so good….so I decided to scrap it all out of the cups (don’t worry, I didn’t give this to anyone) and taste it. It was like an almond crisp crumble. Needless to say I didn’t even get to the frosting. I re-made them the next day with the all-purpose flour and they turned out great!

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