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Chocolate Cupcakes, Dairy-Free

Updated: Oct 22, 2019

A dairy-free cupcake with coconut cream ganache frosting.

When you think of dairy-free cake, what comes to mind? Sponge cake? Margarine- or shortening-based cake? This version uses a combination of coconut oil and safflower oil (along with coconut cream) so it has the texture and full-flavor of a butter cake, without actually using dairy. Certain ingredients may take some sleuthing, so read the notes at the end for a discussion of options. (The ounce measurement of the ingredients is by weight, not volume.)

Yield: 28 cupcakes

3 large egg whites 11 ½ oz. coconut cream (see notes below) 3 teaspoons vanilla extract 14 oz. sugar 1 ½ ounces freshly grated coconut (or frozen grated coconut, see note below) 14 ounces cake flour 5 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 4 ounces safflower oil, warmed with 4 ounces virgin coconut oil (stir to blend)

Line 28 standard-size muffin cups. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a bowl, combine the egg whites, vanilla, and about a half-cup of the coconut cream.

Process the sugar and grated coconut in a food processor.

Sift the cake flour into a mixing bowl. Whisk in the baking powder and salt. Whisk in the sugar-coconut mixture. On low speed with a hand mixer or a stand mixer, beat for a minute, until all the dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Add the oils and the rest of the coconut cream. Beat on higher speed for ninety seconds. Add the egg white mixture in two parts, beating for thirty seconds after each addition. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to be sure the mixture is uniform. The batter will be a little thinner than heavy cream.

Fill each muffin cup slightly more than three-quarters full. Let the cupcakes sit for about fifteen minutes (this helps them to develop a nice domed top). Place in the 400-degree oven, and lower the heat to 375-degrees (if using convection, lower each setting by 25 degrees). After five minutes, check to see how well they’re browning. (The cupcakes on the lower rack may need to be placed on a cookie sheet to protect the bottoms if the lower half of your oven runs hot.)

When the cupcakes look set and golden, and when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, they’re done. This will take about 20 minutes. After twelve to fourteen minutes, check to see whether the cupcakes are browning too quickly. If so, lower the heat by another 25 degrees.

Turn them out onto a rack and let them cool completely.

Make the syrup:

1.5 ounces by weight palm sugar or white sugar (see notes below) 1/2 cup water 1 tablespoon coconut cream (see notes below)

Heat the water and sugar until the sugar completely melts. Stir in the coconut cream.

Assemble the cupcakes:

Poke holes in the top of each cupcake (this helps the syrup to penetrate better). Dip the top of each cupcake into the syrup, and hold the cupcake upside down in the syrup for a few seconds to let it soak in. Try not to submerge the paper liners.

Fill a pastry bag with Coconut Cream Chocolate Ganache that is at room temperature. The tip I used for the photo was the Ateco 828, which makes a nice swirl. Garnish with whatever you have on hand (I used whole almonds for the photo).

Store leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer.


For more information about coconut cream and Coconut Cream Chocolate Ganache, see here.

About shredded coconut: Most home bakers are familiar with dried, shredded coconut from the baking aisle of the supermarket. I don’t like the texture of that product because it is very dry and has a woolly mouth-feel. If you want to use it anyway, soak the coconut in some water or coconut milk before using it in the recipe. Some supermarkets carry moist shredded coconut, which has a lot of added sugar to keep it from spoiling. If you use it, decrease the sugar in the recipe accordingly. In my opinion, freshly grated coconut is the best. You can make your own. Simply buy a coconut from the supermarket (shake it to be sure it has liquid inside), crack it open with a hammer, pry the inner white flesh from the shell (a coconut tool is handy for this job), peel off any of the brown husk still clinging, and grate. Another option is to buy frozen shredded coconut with no sugar added (I buy it at a local Asian supermarket).

The palm sugar syrup is not strictly necessary for these cupcakes. I like to use it because it adds extra moistness to the cake and just a touch of extra flavor without making the cupcakes overly-sweet. Palm sugar has a distinctive, delicious flavor, and is a perfect harmony for the coconut, without the need for any additional flavoring extracts.

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