Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World

July 16, 2007

Bikram Baking: Ginger Chocolate Chunk Scones

Filed under: Musings,Non-Cupcake Objects,Recipes — by isachandra @ 1:52 pm

When I have my period (I know, first the mouse droppings, now the period, can I be any more unappetizing? Unless that’s your thing…) I crave 3 things; ginger, chocolate, punching people.

Unfortunately, I can’t punch people. I don’t even really want to because I generally dislike physical contact. But I can take my aggressions out in the form of baking. Even if it is 98 degrees out and I have no air conditioning. I just think of it as similar to Bikram Yoga.

“Bikram Yoga, also known as Hot Yoga is ideally practiced in a room heated to 105°F (40.5°C) with a humidity of 50%.”

All of your tensions just kind of rise to the surface and you take it out on your product, in this case Ginger Chocolate Scones, ultimately resulting in a calm state of bliss. Scones are a perfect subject for Bikram Baking, because they are pretty forgiving and may take even better to impatience, frustration and lack of precision.

Preheat your oven, not to 350F, 350F is for weaklings. No. To 400F. You can take it.

Violently throw all of the your dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, fork a bunch of mise en place because the ingredients are so few anyway. Forget an actual sifter, just swish it all around with a fork, making nail-on-chalkboard noises as you scrape against the bowl. All the while make sure you are focusing on everyone that’s ever wronged you. Your racist 8th grade dance teacher? Fuck. Her. Screeeeeech. Your FedEx guy that refuses to ring your bell? Hope your polyester uniform is comfortable in this heat, sucker. Scraaaaatch. Dick Cheney? Well, let’s save that one for when we’re making pandowdy.

Now take that chocolate bar and just smash it with your knife. Remember that guy who said that vegans produce more methane than cows do? Your chocolate chunks should be just about the right size now.

By now some tensions have been resolved and the oven is preheated. You want out. But you know that just a few moments more and nirvana or some facsimile will be achieved. Add your wet ingredients, but eyeball those bastards because you can’t quite be trusted with glass at this point. Mix it up quickly. But channel all that impatience because you don’t want to over-mix. Is almost everything just moistened? Are there dustings of flour still left on the surface? Well, good.

Now breathe. Get it together. Gently fold in the chocolate chunks. Yes, it’s getting hot in here, but you’re not in a cramped city kitchen anymore, you’re in the Bahamas. Long before Colombus came and forked everything up.

Your baking sheet. Pristine and glistening like a sea, with a few nicks and the rough spots of history. Lightly grease it.

You have your wits about you now enough to grab a 1/4 measuring cup or perhaps an ice cream scoop. Of the earth but not attached to it. Grease that, too. Now scoop up that dough, however it falls, nice big sloppy scoops, and drop them out on your sheet, close together is fine, they will fit for it is their destiny.

Right then. Still a little anger left in you. Let it manifest itself as hope. Grab pinches of pebbly turbinado sugar and fling them onto your scones like so much fairy dust.

Now get those the oven for 15 minutes and find a room with air conditioning and wait. What are you crazy? Oh, and get someone else to clean up the mess you made.

Ginger Chocolate Chunk Scones Pile Up


3 cups flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

1 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch allspice

1/2 cup turbinado sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 1/4 cups non-dairy milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

About 5 ounces chocolate


June 4, 2007

Chief Cupcakes Inspector

Filed under: Cupcakes NYC,Decorating,Events,Musings — by isachandra @ 1:38 pm

I have lived in NY all my life and it is seemingly impossible yet indeed the reality that I had no idea what the Javits Center really was or where it was or what I was in for. It spans three city blocks and sits right on the West Side Highway, which I’ve surely walked dozens of times, so how could I miss it? I think that sometimes when you hear certain things so often (and “Javits Center” is certainly a phrase that pops up on NPR and infomercials several times a day) you just assume that you know what they are. Same thing with “school vouchers”, or “post structuralism.” I’m clueless, but if there was a lively dinner conversation about them I would just let context be my guide and assume I was an expert.

The Javits Center is the kind of building that strikes me as a wonderful structure to inhabit after the apocalypse. Steel beams, glass ceiling, glass everything actually. Terry, a convention pro, led the way as we roamed its emboothened (I just made that word up! It means “a large space that has booths”) aisles collecting books and comics, mango martinis and aprons. And I will never be for wont of a tote bag again. Thank god for swag.

Anyway, long story short, we signed books, gave out cupcakes and shmoozed. And if anyone ever told me that Clinton’s Chief Weapons Inspector would be helping me decorate cupcakes someday I probably would have thought, “Yes, of course he will.”

Scott Ritter finds cupcakes of mass destruction

Terry and I being foot soldiers

What’s that lurking in the background?


April 22, 2007

On Earthday Cupcakes, Grandmas and Napkins

Filed under: Baking Porn,Decorating,Holiday Cupcakes,Musings,Other People's Cupcakes — by isachandra @ 12:49 pm

Earthday cupcakes

Earthday cupcakes from Madness Rivera in the Vegan Cupcake Pool

On Earth Day 1990 I awoke to my best friend telling me that my grandmother had just died. The day before my cat had died and my boyfriend had cheated on me with a green haired girl who was always at every punk show.

But Earth Day that year was a big deal. It was the 20th anniversary of the holiday, and although the day wasn’t really on the radar in the 20 years since 1970, the 80s were over and I suppose people were thinking that it was as good a time as any to stop snorting cocaine and go green again. So I went to Central Park with my anarchist youth collective as I had planned, there was no point sitting around in Brooklyn crying when I could be in the park with my friends. Crying.

One of our first orders of business once on the Upper East Side was to go cardboard box surfing. That is, you flatten out a cardboard box on the sidewalk, run towards it as fast as you can, jump on it and see how far you can slide. Depending on the sidewalk and the slipperiness of the box it was usually only a few feet, maybe 10 if you were really little and really lucky.

A woman with an expensive baby stroller and big sunglasses shouted at us, “You are doing this on Earth Day?” Of course, these boxes were destined for the garbage dump, any amount of surfing on them wasn’t going to make the environmental situation any worse. In fact, kudos to us for finding fun with garbage instead of sitting home, playing video games and using electricity.

Once in the park, a comfortable distance from where the B-52s were playing, we lay in the grass and did whatever teenagers do on the grass. I rolled over onto my back, away from my friends and looked up to the sky through my purple tinted sunglasses (can anyone but a teenager appreciate the world through colored lenses?). I thought about my grandma and my cat. Since that time, my first instinct whenever a loved one dies is to look up at the sky and wonder “Where the fuck did you go?”

The last time I had spoken to my grandma she had asked me to bring her mirror and make-up to the hospital. I thought of how she wasn’t just able to say that she wanted to see me one last time. I felt guilty because I never did bring her make-up and mirror and how I should have known that what she really meant was that she loved me, even if I did paint my face white and dye my hair purple. I thought about how I don’t want to grow old that way – afraid to tell people I love them.

Garbage was accumulating all around us, and it wasn’t ours. Hoards of people were making their way through the park, dropping McDonald’s wrappers and Budweiser empties and whatever else they didn’t want to deal with. I picked up a McDonald’s Earthday napkin and read the missive on it. It talked about how McDonald’s was committed to the environment and how the napkin was whatever percentage recycled material.

Did you ever make a promise to yourself that you will never forget? I can remember a few. For some reason when I was walking up my elementary school stairs in second grade I stopped, looked at the building and thought, “Never forget this day.” And I haven’t, it was March 9th. I have no idea why I wanted to remember it, other than that I was catching on to the fleetingness of life. But on Earth Day, April 22nd 1990, in the grass in Central Park, I thought it again and this time I do remember what I was thinking.

Don’t believe the lies that napkins tell you, don’t grow old and afraid of love, don’t ever stop looking up at the sky and wondering.

I had some sense at the time how hard these things would be, but 17 years later- exactly 2 times the age I was then- I’m trying to get back on track. I don’t want to disappoint that 17 year old because I feel like she’s the wisest person I know. Also, she might kick my ass if I don’t follow through.

October 26, 2006

The Cupcake Prayer

Filed under: Events,Musings — by isachandra @ 11:33 am

God, grant me the serenity to bake 6 dozen cupcakes in my shoddy oven whose temperature keeps fluctuating and burning the bottoms. The courage to call my landlord and tell him I need a new oven. And the wisdom to know what he will never get me one because what does he care?

Don’t forget, MooShoes tonight for the VCTOW release party. Free cupcakes and soymilks. If my oven cooperates.

October 20, 2006

Muffins Vs. Cupcakes: Round One

Filed under: Musings — by isachandra @ 3:00 pm

This is perhaps the subject of most inquiries of cupcake artisans. My stock answer is the sugar and fat ratio; cupcakes have more of both. Also, in my mind anyway, cupcakes are not as leavened and have a finer crumb as a result of thorough mixing, whereas muffins are quick mixed and have a bigger more crumbly crumb. As for the history of it, well, in my years of disciplined research I have determined that no one really freaking knows.

The invention of baking powder in the 19th century gave way to both muffins and cupcakes. They were both just little cakes. It seems that cupcakes may have started out the same way pound cake did. That is, it was the amount of flour, sugar, fat in the batter – 1 cup. It wasn’t until the “health food craze” of the 60s that muffins became thought of as a healthier cake.

And so it is our generation’s ideas that will determine culinary history, will we let muffins turn into cupcakes?

October 4, 2006

View From The Cupcake Tower

Filed under: Cupcake Towers,Musings — by isachandra @ 10:14 pm

What does it mean when non-vegans enjoy eating vegan food? Even omnivores like it. It’s a compliment of the highest order. Every vegan cookbook promises it. I am happy when vegans are enjoying their food; that’s why we started the cooking show, to keep vegans well-fed and entertained, not to convert anyone. And yet, try as I might to deny it, I’m reluctantly waiting for that omnivore seal of approval.

Years ago, I was a waitress at a restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn. When it came time to make my staff lunch there was always an audible sigh from the chef, and sometimes worse. Cooking for the vegan. On the occasions when we had some downtime, I’d go back to the kitchen and he’d teach me chef things – the proper way to cut an onion, how to flip a pancake. We’d argue about sexism, politics, and soup stocks (he always used veal stock in his vegetable soups). One day I decided to bring him in some of my own soup. It was one of my specialties, a light tomato-based chickpea soup with fresh coriander, baby potatoes, and veggies. He took one bite and before it even hit the back of his throat he said “I can tell this is vegetarian.”

Of course he was expecting something, it was written all over his face. He was expecting it to “taste vegetarian,” which, to his sensiblities, was a bad thing. Did he recognize the the notes of roasted onion, the leek and mushroom that I used to make the broth? Was he able to savor the tomatoes that I had gotten from the farmers’ market that very morning, blanched and peeled myself, all simmered and garlicky? How about the chickpeas I had soaked and boiled, the way they burst open on your tongue?

No. He wanted the veal stock box. He needed to taste the box. Spoon to lips was only a handful of seconds, but the tension was probably that of a boxer’s before a big fight, only completely unfair because I wouldn’t even get a chance to throw a real punch. The fight was fixed. It was going to taste like a handful of grass to him.

And so I learned a valuable lesson. Never tell them it’s vegan. Not until after the compliments have come in.

At this point in my life it’s mostly hard to avoid because I’ve written a cookbook. After 16 years of eating the food I make, my friends and family know that it’s going to be good. They know that my cookies are going to disappear; it isn’t even a big deal, they’re just cookies now. And so it was interesting to bake the cupcake tower for my friend’s wedding last weekend. Most of the guests didn’t know the cupcakes were vegan.

It was thrilling to watch them, smudged brushstrokes of frosting not yet wiped from their chins, and see their expressions as they took one bite, then another, some going back for seconds with a little cake still left in the wrapper of the first. Little girls in frilly dresses twirled on the dancefloor, cupcakes in hand.

It made me think of the cognitive dissonance that humans face everyday as they buy their cold, dewy cartons of milk, the happy cow painted on the front. It’s so hard to give up what we’re used to. We’re so convinced that we can’t let go, that this is the way it always has been and this is the way it always will be, that our little glass of milk doesn’t make a difference, and even if it does, who cares? Why should we even care? Plus, there is no way we can live without meringue. But who even really likes meringue?

And so I suppose the bottom line is that’s why it’s more important when a non-vegan likes our food. Because we feel we’ve changed something, set a mind on a different course. Of course, it doesn’t mean that the taster will never eat dairy again. They might not even remember the experience in the minutiae of their everyday life. But the next time they’re presented with a vegan cookie or a soup, their mentality will be different. The fight won’t be there; enjoying it will come easier. And that is the paradigm shift, the one little grain of sand, one of those “little things” we hear about, the ones that they say count. I’m sure that the first simple cell that ever existed seemed insignificant, not that anyone was around to notice, but now look at us, a bunch of simple cells running around doing who knows what.

I know, enough with the talky talky, make with the cupcake tower.

Click “more” for the rest of the pho-tos.


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