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I’m nuts for coco… and lime! Vegan (Gluten Free!) cupcakes

29 Mar

I’m back with another recipe, this time something a little different! They’re sweet and moist and oh-so delightful. They can be enjoyed with or without the decadent topping. And best of all, almost everyone can enjoy them because they’re egg free, nut free, dairy free, vegan and can even be gluten free (like my second batch) – Coconut and Lime cupcakes.


I just finished a season with Opera Queensland, working on Rigoletto, and we do all love snacks in the wig and makeup room. And as I love to bake, I thought a batch of cuppycakes would go down a treat while we packed everything away. Problem is, I bake old school…. hell I EAT old school. I eat meat and dairy 7 days a week, and while I’m quite accustomed to Gluten Free baking now, and have made many a vegetarian meal, I’ve never ventured to the Vegan side. But seeing as one of the other wonderful makeup artists is Vegan, another being Vego, I wanted us all to enjoy the treaties. And thus the journey to Vegan baking began.

I wasn’t too phased by using unconventional wet ingredients (like coconut oil) in the cakes themselves, what I was genuinely concerned about was the icing. I’ve seen some disastrous Vegan icings and if there’s one thing I don’t do, is ugly cakes. And after several failed batches of Vegan marshmallows 2 weeks ago, I was a bit put off. So began the research, and the testing. The most common thread with the icings was a switch from butter to vegetable shortening. It seems in America, a vegan baker has a wide selection of vegetable shortenings at his or her disposal. But here in Aus, we really only have one option… You might remember this little beauty from such events as ‘your 5th birthday party’. Gets around as a scary looking hard block in very eighties packaging… have you guessed yet?

Copha! Featured as the binding ingredient in chocolate crackles since the dawn of man, I never knew it was coconut solids. I tell ya, baking is all about the learning, kids! It is technically a vegetable shortening, but it is so incredibly hard until it’s melted there’s no way I thought it would work in an icing. Particularly after reading many online bakers condemn it as it won’t soften enough. Well I called bullshit and tried that little block of 100% fat, and it was BRILLIANT!!! And far cheaper than purchasing a softer vegetable shortening imported by a cake decorator supply store. Also, unlike buttercream, icing made with copha stays snow white. So now we’ve got that little doozy sorted, let’s get on to the recipe.


1/4 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup soy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract (not essence!)
1 tbs fresh lime zest
1 cup plain all purpose flour (can also use a Gluten Free plain flour mix, I like Orgran)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup dessicated coconut


  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C.
  2. Melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan over very low heat
  3. In a bowl mix together the caster sugar and melted coconut oil.  Add the coconut milk, soy milk, vanilla extract and lime zest.  Mix to combine ingredients.
  4. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and mix until smooth.
  5. Mix in the coconut to incorporate then fill cupcake liners about 3/4 of the way full.
  6. Bake for 23 to 27 minutes until the top bounces back when touched and a wooden skewer inserted comes out clean.
  7. Cool completely before icing.



1/2 cup copha
1 & 1/2 cups icing sugar (NOT icing mixture)
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp fresh lime zest
Soy milk to soften (approx 2 Tbsp)


  1. Heat the copha in a microwave for 15 to 25 seconds, just to soften slightly – don’t let it liquefy fully!!
  2. Beat with an electric mixer for a few minutes then add the lime juice.
  3. Add the icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time and beat for 5 minutes in between additions.
  4. Mix in a dash of the milk each time the icing gets too thick. This step is really up to you and how you want to use the icing. I like to pipe mine and have it hold shape well so I used approx 2 Tbsp of milk in total.
  5. Add the lime zest and mix to incorporate.
  6. Ice cakes, dress with toasted coconut chips and enjoy.

These are super light, moist and very delicious but they are in NO way a healthy alternative to regular cupcakes thanks in full to the high amount of coconut involved.  Next time I’m going to try making these choc by omitting the lime and adding cacao powder instead, or perhaps orange zest and poppyseeds for another fresh alternative. And remember, just use normal plain flour if yours don’t need to be GF, the results are even better. Mmmmm the possibilities ^_^



Red Velvet Cupcakes

17 Jun

The title is simple enough and one might assume, quite self explanatory – it’s cupcake time.  More specifically, Red Velvet Cupcake time!

There is a very good reason that these delightful morsels warrant a blog post of their own: they are sheer perfection!  The texture is as light as air, fluffy and moist and makes you think you’re eating a cloud.  They have a sweet, mild chocolate flavour that is not overpowering in the slightest.  You could quite easily eat half a batch in one sitting without blinking.  Of course we must refrain from such indulgent activities… or should we?

I have been making these little beauties for years, and every single time I take them anywhere, I leave with the same request: please can you email me the recipe?  I have even made them into a flower bouquet as a gift for a friend.

Mini Red Velvet cupakes, injected with buttercream, atop a rose stem and wrapped to keep fresh

Mini Red Velvet cupakes, injected with buttercream, atop a rose stem and wrapped to keep fresh

The finished mini Red Velvet cupcake bouquet

The finished mini Red Velvet cupcake bouquet

It seemed as though the mid 2000’s saw a peak in the interest of Red Velvets, and I first saw them on a segment on the Martha Stewart Show, about the Magnolia Bakery in NY.  I hadn’t tried them, but they looked delightful and so I set out to get a recipe.  I soon found that there are many variations on the Red Velvet cake, and I have probably tried them all – but the ONLY recipe that warrants any attention, is this one.

Eat me!

Eat me!

All the recipes I found & used were American, so I have taken the guesswork out of our differing measures by putting the vital ingredients into grams instead.  Get out your shopping list, friends, it’s time to bake!


  • 250 grams cake flour (plain) – you can also use 250g Orgran plain gluten free flour!!
  • 90 grams unsalted butter
  • 225 grams caster sugar
  • 1.5 eggs, at room temp
  • 3 tablespoons red food colouring (or 3 tablespoons water with a drop or two of gel colouring added)
  • 1.5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa – I like the Van Houten brand, found in the international section of Woolworths
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup buttermilk – don’t stress about the leftovers, just freeze it for next time
  • ¾ teaspoon cider vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda


  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees.
  2. Line 2 cupcake trays (the mix will make approx. 14 cupcakes).
  3. In a small bowl, sift the cake flour and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the egg beating well after the addition.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together the red food colouring, cocoa, and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well.
  7. In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk.  Add to the batter in three parts, alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but DO NOT overbeat.
  8. In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.
  9. Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake each tray for 20 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when touched lightly on the top.
  10. Let the cupcakes cool in the pans for 1 hour. Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
Step 6

Step 6

Step 9 - I do this with an ice cream scoop.  It ensures the perfect domed cupcake every time.

Step 9 – I do this with an ice cream scoop. It ensures the perfect domed cupcake every time.

Step 10 - the cracked tops are due to my use of Gluten Free flour - the finish is usually perfectly smooth.

Step 10 – the cracked tops are due to my use of Gluten Free flour – the finish is usually perfectly smooth.

Now when it comes to the icing, I like the traditional cream cheese frosting as the lightness of the cream cheese lends itself perfectly to the fluffiness of the cake and isn’t so sweet you get a toothache.  The recipe I am going to give you is something a little more special… salted caramel frosting.  Your saliva glands just filled your mouth with saliva, didn’t they?  Go on, admit it – mine do whenever the words ‘salted caramel’ are uttered, it is the stuff dreams are made of.  Get your shopping lists out again lovelies, it’s time for:

Salted Caramel:-

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup – this is otherwise known as Karo, and is found at health food stores or any good fruit store that also sells grocery items
  • ½ cup heavy cream – here in Australia we just call it ‘pure’ cream and is the stuff in the blue carton
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt


  1. Combine the sugar, water, and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan and stir over medium heat to dissolve sugar.
  2. Cook for 3 minutes over medium heat with the lid on.
  3. Take off the lid and increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.
  4. Swirl (do not stir) the liquid around the pan so that the caramel doesn’t burn.
  5. Keep cooking until the caramel turns an amber colour (NOT BROWN!) then remove from the heat and let stand for about 30 seconds. Set your timer! Don’t let it sit too long!
  6. Carefully pour the cream into the mixture in a slow steady stream while mixing with a whisk. The mixture will bubble up significantly and is very hot.
  7. Add the butter, lemon juice, and salt. Stir until combined.
  8. Stirring occasionally, allow to cool until thick like molassess, and warm to the touch, about 20 minutes.
Step 3

Step 3

I couldn't resist the urge to pick off the salty sweet remnants stuck to my whisk. Can you?

I couldn’t resist the urge to pick of the salty sweet remnants stuck to my whisk. Can you?

The finished salted caramel - perfect for drizzling over ice-cream

The finished salted caramel – perfect for drizzling over ice-cream

Salted Caramel Frosting:-

  • 115 grams butter, at room temperature
  • 115 grams cream cheese
  • 2 cups sifted icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup pre-made salted caramel


  1. Beat butter and cream cheese at until creamy.
  2. Slowly add 1 cup of the icing sugar into the butter/cream cheese mixture and beat until fluffy.
  3. Add the salted caramel and whip to combine.
  4. Add additional icing sugar until the frosting is the sweetness and consistency you desire.
Salted Caramel Frosting

Salted Caramel Frosting

Ta da!

Ta da!

The final step in your baking adventure is to ice the cupcakes however you choose.  A good swirl never did anyone harm, but for speed and ease I usually throw a star tip in the corner of a zip lock bag and pipe a lovely rosette on top.  Garnish with a few pearls and you’re done.

Now for my next act, i’m going to make all these 200+ calorie delights disappear!  Must be just about time to pop the kettle on.  Until next time…