Happy New Year, guys! I hope your holidays were fabulous. While they were way too short (aren’t they always?), I certainly enjoyed a break from work…and the never-ending baking I was doing leading up to Christmas. I must have baked over 300 doggie biscotti! While I was exhausted by the time the holidays arrived, the dogs were pretty happy.
How is it already mid-January already? (Crazy!).
I thought I’d start the new year off with something a little different on here: a recipe! I know that I usually just share road trip stories with you guys, but because I don’t globe-trot as much as some folks do, I thought I’d branch out a bit and include some of my other love with you, too: FOOD. And more specifically…Baking.
Like these. Coconut Cupcakes, anyone?
Because when I’m not on the road, you can usually find me in my kitchen baking up a storm.
I’ve run a dog bakery here in my hometown (for over a decade) and I now bake for humans as well, too (but not dog cookies, don’t worry). I also do some recipe-testing on the side, which I’ve discovered I love. I got my first crack at it last year helping fellow blogger Anna (of The Yellow Table) with her fabulous Kickstarter-boosted cookbook. It was a blast!
I’ve been thinking of starting a food blog for awhile, but two blogs sounds like way too much work. And, since many of my favourite bloggers cover several different things on their blogs, I figured a mix of food and travel was a great idea. One of the very first blogs I ever started reading (The Pioneer Woman) writes about everything on her blog including food, travel, her ranch, homeschooling and decorating (to name but a few) and she’s got more followers than most (if not, all?) bloggers on the interweb. So having variety can’t hurt your blog too much, right?
If food isn’t your thing, don’t worry– you’ll still see plenty of travel stories on here. I hope you’ll stick around, and maybe even enjoy a brownie whilst carousing my travel stories.
I bake mostly gluten-free these days, but that’s just because I’ve discovered I’m fairly gluten-intolerant (makes me burp like a trucker, it ain’t pretty). So, over the last few years I’ve done a lot of experimenting in attempt to create gluten-free versions of all my ol’ favourites. As a result, I’ve discovered my niche: baking for those with allergies or on special diets such as grain-free, nut-free, dairy-free, vegan, AIP, FODMAP and Paleo. It can be challenging, but I love it.
If you don’t need to avoid gluten, just substitute regular flour for the GF flour mix in my recipes.
Okay, without further ado…. let’s make some cupcakes!
I’ve been trying to come up with a good gluten-free vanilla cupcake for a while now and I think this is it. It’s funny because I’m a HUGE chocoholic, but when it comes to cupcakes I actually prefer vanilla. (Crazy, I know…)
These cupcakes are fairly light and fluffy (even for gluten-free) and taste just like a regular cupcake (pretty close, anyway). My friends (who are also my taste-testers– *hi guys!*) tell me they don’t really notice a difference at all (Woo hoo!).
If you’re not a fan of coconut, just substitute the coconut milk with another milk of your choice, and skip the shredded coconut. These are great topped with my fave coconut buttercream (recipe below), regular vanilla buttercream or a simple coconut whipped cream (great if you’re trying to eat fewer carbs). I find there’s enough sweetness in the cupcake, so the whip cream is a nice contrast.
I’ve discovered the secret to a great buttercream that I thought I’d share with you guys (in case I’m not actually the last person to know about this–haha): whip it like no one’s business. Yep, it is time consuming (I usually beat it for 5-8 minutes), but it really makes a difference. The extra mixing yields a frosting a little more like a Swiss Buttercream–which uses egg whites to get that light, creamy texture (many professional bakers use this type of frosting). But since I’m not a big fan of egg whites (see here and here, lest your curious), I rarely make that version.
Thanks for reading and checking out my first food post, guys! I hope you enjoy the cupcakes. Please do let me know if try them. Dana xo
Vanilla Bean & Coconut Cream Cupcakes
1 ½ cups Gluten-Free flour (this is a good one)
¾ to 1 cup sugar (I generally lean on ¾ cup, but I like a less sweet cupcake)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if it’s in your flour mix)
½ teaspoon salt
8 Tablespoons coconut oil, room temp*
2 large eggs, room temp
½ cup coconut milk (can is best, but carton is fine).
1 Tablespoon vanilla bean extract (or reg vanilla)
Shredded unsweetened coconut– for sprinkling on top (toast the coconut for a more wonderful flavour)
*if coconut oil is liquid, place in fridge until it’s soft and butter-like in consistency. Or, use butter/shortening instead.
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
2. In medium bowl add flour mix and whisk well (I always whisk gluten-free flour really well first), then add sugar, baking powder and salt.
3. Add coconut oil (or butter, if using) to the flour/sugar mixture and, with a hand mixer, beat on low-speed until thoroughly mixed. It will be crumb-like in texture, similar to coarse sand. Add in the eggs, one at a time, and mix until blended.
4. Pour in the vanilla and then slowly add coconut milk. Beat on medium for about a minute or so, until batter is fairly smooth (since GF flours don’t contain gluten, you don’t have to worry too much about over-mixing). If batter’s too thick, gradually add an extra couple of teaspoons milk (you probably won’t have to add extra milk if you’re using reg vanilla extract). Batter should resemble a soft frosting when it comes together.
5. Fill liners with batter to almost ¾ full. Bake for about 17-20 minutes–but I usually check them in about 15 minutes. When they’re slightly golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean, they’re done. Allow them to cool completely.
6. Frost with coconut buttercream (below) or your favourite frosting.
½ cup butter, softened (room temp)
½ cup coconut oil (place in fridge if it’s liquid, until it reaches a butter-like texture)
2 to 2-½ cups icing sugar (start with 2 cups and add more if needed).
¼ tsp sea salt
1 TBSP vanilla bean extract
2 TBSP coconut milk (or, even better, coconut cream).
1. Using a mixer, beat the butter and coconut oil on high for a minute or two.
2. Turn speed to low and add confectioners sugar–but only a half cup at a time to gradually incorporate the sugar into the butter/oil. Add salt.
3. Slowly mix in vanilla and coconut milk (or cream) and continue to beat on medium-high for a minute or two. After it comes together, increase speed to high and continue to beat for several more minutes (aim for 5 or more minutes, for best results).
4. Frost cupcakes and top with shredded toasted coconut, if desired.