It’s no secret that I love small batch baking. Being able to whip up a small batch of tasty baked goods has saved the day on more than one occasion. Just a couple of weeks ago, we invited a couple of friends over for dinner on a weekday evening. My husband was in charge of dinner, and I was in charge of dessert. This dinner date was a bit of a moving target and was rescheduled a few times, and it had been a really chaotic week… Long story short, I forgot they were coming until the day they were coming and had not prepared anything for dessert.
I take my normally pretty impressive scheduling powers very seriously, so when I got home from work and realized I forgot, I was immediately horrified. My first instinct was to panic, but then I just pulled this recipe out of my back pocket: fudgy, moist, decadent Small Batch Chocolate Cupcakes with Cherry Almond Frosting (All Vegan!). They are fast, impressive, made with pantry-staple ingredients, and incredibly tasty. I didn’t have time to cool and frost 24 cupcakes, but I did have time to cool and frost four. Small batch chocolate cupcakes to the rescue!
What Makes These Vegan Cupcakes So Special?
There are few things more disappointing (in the dessert world) than dry chocolate cake. These small batch chocolate cupcakes are the complete opposite. Moist, fudgy, and with a tender crumb, these chocolate cupcakes do all of that without any eggs or dairy.
Natural unsweetened cocoa powder lends deep chocolate flavor that’s enhanced by the addition of hot water or coffee. The addition of a hot liquid “blooms” the cocoa powder, giving it a more intense flavor and keeping the cupcakes moist. Both coffee and water work well, but coffee is my preference. Hot coffee makes the chocolate taste even more intense and, well, chocolatey.
Chocolate and cherry are an unstoppable pair, and cherry and almond are best buds, so what happens when you bring them all together? Magic. The vegan frosting uses just a few ingredients: a few frozen sweet cherries, plant butter, organic powdered sugar, almond extract, and the ever important pinch of salt. The almond flavor is not overpowering but beautifully enhances the cherry flavor. The sweetness of the frosting with the deep chocolate flavor will make your taste buds dance.
Making the Small Batch Chocolate Cupcakes
One reason this is such a great back-pocket recipe is that it uses standard pantry ingredients. Chances are, if you look in your cabinets right now, you’ll find just what you need to make these fudgy chocolate cupcakes.
This recipe follows the pretty standard procedure of mixing wet ingredients into dry, with one exception (we’ll get there). First, you’ll put your dry ingredients–organic granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt–into a bowl. As you’re mixing, be sure to break up any big clumps of cocoa powder. (If you really feel like overachieving, you can sift your cocoa powder. But I find that some casual clump-breaking with a spoon does just fine for this recipe.)
Next, you’ll add some of your wet ingredients, but not all. To the dry ingredients, add almond milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Other milks–plant or dairy–will work, just as other neutral oils will work. Be mindful, though, that oils or milks with strong flavors will add that flavor to the cupcakes. When you first mix all of these ingredients together, you’ll notice the batter is slightly grainy. Keep stirring until it looks shiny and smooth.
This is where we’ll divert from the standard wet into dry procedure. There is one more wet ingredient on the list, and that is the hot coffee or boiling water. As I said above, either will work. Coffee will produce a deeper, more intense chocolate flavor, but if you don’t have coffee on hand, don’t worry. Water will still produce a wonderful and flavorful cupcake.
Pour the hot coffee or boiling water into the batter–slowly–and begin to stir–gently. It’s hot, after all! You do not want to get splashed by the hot liquid and have half of your batter fly out of the bowl. Take your time to incorporate the batter and the hot liquid. Soon they will come together, and you will have a beautiful pool of chocolatey cupcake batter. It will be thin, and that’s what we want.
Fill four cupcake liners or reusable baking cups (we love these by OXO) with batter, about two-thirds full. Bake for 19-22 minutes. To test the doneness, insert a cake tester or toothpick into the center of the cupcake. It should come out free of crumbs when the small batch chocolate cupcakes are done.
They’ll need some time to cool (waiting for four cupcakes to cool is a lot easier than waiting for two dozen!), which is the perfect time to make the cherry almond frosting.
Making Creamy Vegan Cherry Almond Frosting for Small Batch Chocolate Cupcakes
Just as coffee makes chocolate taste more like chocolate, almond extract makes cherries taste more like cherries. It’s amazing. For this creamy vegan frosting, we are using frozen sweet cherries, which are easy to come by in the grocery store and keep for quite a long time. It doesn’t use many cherries, so you could even pull out cherries from a mixed berry bag of frozen fruit if that’s what you have on hand.
To start, you’ll thaw the cherries and loosen their juices. Microwave the cherries for about one minute on a lower power setting. I used 80% power. The goal is to thaw the cherries so that they are soft and mashable and so that their juices flow. Then, mash the cherries to create a sort of puree.
As the cherries cool a bit after their trip to the microwave, start mixing the plant butter and half of the powdered sugar (slowly, unless you’d like everything to be covered in powdered sugar). It won’t become creamy at this point but should start to blend together. If it’s a little clumpy right now, that’s fine. Next, add about one tablespoon of the cherry mixture along with the almond extract, remaining powdered sugar, and pinch of salt, and mix again. Now it will really start to come together to create a smooth, creamy, sweet frosting.
This recipe produces a good amount of frosting, enough for a substantial heap of icing on each of the four chocolate cupcakes. If you want less frosting, you can halve the recipe.
Spread, swirl, or scoop the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes, and enjoy! Be prepared to hear a delighted “yummmmmm” come from whoever who takes a bite.
A Few Notes:
- I like having cherry pieces in the frosting to give a burst of flavor as you enjoy the cupcakes, but if you prefer not to have the fruit pieces, just strain the cherry mixture so that only the juices remain.
- Remember, if you don’t have coffee on hand, don’t fret! Boiling water works as well.
- To halve the frosting recipe, use 2 tablespoons of plant butter, 1/2 cup organic powdered sugar, a pinch of salt, and about 3 frozen cherries. It’s not super easy to half 1/8 teaspoon of almond extract, so either use the full amount for an extra almondy frosting, or just use one or two drops (literally).
- The unfrosted cupcakes can be stored at room temperature, but the frosting should be refrigerated. Store frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator.
- These small batch chocolate cupcakes make the perfect companion to Meu’s unbelievable Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole. Give them both a try and let us know how it goes in the comments!