Vegan Cupcake Experiment: NaHCO3 Cupcakes

Vegan Cranberry Coconut Cupcake

"So this is what a vegan cupcake is like!?!" Throughout the entire process those words kept replaying in my mind. Now you have to understand, before this experiment when ever I heard the word vegan I would shudder, and it would conjure up a bad taste in my mouth. I've seen all these baker's, especially on Cupcake Wars, baking up vegan cupcakes and I could not wrap my mind around what it could possibly taste and feel like... I finally decided to put my fears to bake! Here's what I discovered: Five (5) differences between regular and vegan cupcakes!

1) Eggs make all the difference, without it baking powder and baking soda are your friends!

Because there are no eggs to whisk and trap carbon dioxide to help your cake rise, baking powder and baking soda is vital. 

Baking soda in scientific lingo is actual sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), it is used in baking as a leavening agent, which reacts with moisture and acid in batters and doughs to produce carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide causes batter to rise, especially at high temperatures creating the light and fluffy texture in cakes. It is important to notes that the main ingredient in  baking powder is actually baking soda, though their uses vary. 

Baking powder is often used in combination with baking soda for an extra boost. However, baking powder varies from baking soda in that it already contains the acid needed to activate carbon dioxide formation as well as starch which is used to reduce moisture in the baked good to prevent continuous acid and base (sodium bicarbonate) reaction and actually extend shelf life of the product.

Vegan Cranberry Coconut Batter
2) Moisture is mandatory, it's what holds this cupcake together!

Eggs, milk and other dairy products are the usual moisture agents in regular cakes. While you can use soy or almond milk, in my experimentation I used natural juices from fruit and water (I know water does not sound appetizing but it was not expected to add flavor). I do think however, that if you are making a vanilla cake or anything that does not contain pieces of fruit or nuts you ought to use some type of soy, almond or even coconut milk for additional moisture and flavor. Moreover moisture is mandatory for two reasons:

a) The baking powder and baking soda need some moisture to work.

b) To prevent the cake from drying out there needs to be an adequate supply of moisture. 

Note: To further assist in this department, I also used oil as the base for the batter instead of vegetable spread which can also be used inplace of butter in a vegan recipe. 

3) Timing is everything! There is a fine line between cake and cookie...

So because moisture is mandatory it follows that timing while baking is everything.  If your vegan cupcakes stay one minute more than necessary in the oven you can end up with a soft cookie, which is not bad, but could be if you really wanted cake. Because there is not a lot of moisture in the recipe I concocted, my cakes baked in less than 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Just out of the oven!
 Vegan Cranberry Coconut Cupcakes
4) Ovens with windows are very useful in this process!

You know the number one "rule" when making an angel food cake is that you have to be very quite while making it? Well when you're making a vegan cupcakes you must not open the oven before the cake have risen completely! Yup! On my first attempt I was so egar to see what was happening that I opened the oven before 15 mins had passed. The cakes looked great! There was a nice dome shape on top, but just as I was getting ready to close the oven door I saw the middles of my cupcakes drop like flies... :(  So they didn't finish with a nice round top... (See picture on the left)

5) Got to get the proportions right!

This goes for any type of cake. But I have to say my first two attempts at vegan cupcakes came out pretty good! Not to blow my own horn, but I've tasted regular cupcakes that were not as good. Nevertheless, I still need to tweak my proportions some, so I have a lot of vegan experimenting to do. My goal is to make a vegan cupcake that is just as good as a regular cupcake in taste and texture.

When I settle on a recipe I will be sure to share! However, I must say my perspective on vegan cupcakes has totally changed. After all, I'm not putting anything that tastes bad in the batters... Even though these cakes don't contain eggs or milk, which is a must have in traditional baking.

Have you baked or tried any vegan cupcakes? Share your experience or tips below!

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