Was it pure heaven or pure torture, to be trapped in a room full of the dizzying scent of baking chocolate , caramelizing sugar, and melting butter, knowing I could not have it? At least, not yet. So I carelessly ate the leftover smudges of brownie and cake batter, scraping my bowl clean because there were no eggs in the batter and salmonella poisoning was really just not an option ( still had calories though…)
The best cupcake I’ve ever tasted in my life, barring my extreme affection for Red Velvet Cupcakery Key Lime cupcake, has been Doron Petersan’s Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Spiced Rum Frosting, matched with a strong Dark & Stormy ( recipe below). I had the extreme pleasure of taking a vegan baking class with Petersan, two time winner of The Cupcake Wars and owner of Sticky Fingers bakery in Washington, D.C., where I learned how to bake one of her award winning vegan cupcakes (sans coconut custard filling and cracked brown sugar brittle) and brownie from her latest cookbook, Sticky Fingers’ Sweets: 100 Super Secret Vegan Recipes.
The cupcake, an aromatic baked dream inspired by The Rolling Stones, is unbelievably vegan: the cake was warm, fragrant, and perfectly sweet- not trying too hard like it had to make up for anything just because it was vegan. The frosting was a mildly spiced, light, creamy whipped buttery sensation, a sweet cumulus cloud sitting atop a feather bed of cake. It reminded me of drinking a very light Hot Buttered Rum and chai all at once- but in cupcake form.
Creamy Sweet & Sara vegan marshmallows and crushed graham crackers lackadaisically topped the giant, steaming chocolate squares of vegan S’mores brownies. Marie Antoinette never experienced such absurd decadence as sinking her teeth into one of these brownies. It was not so much the flavor of the brownie that really made my heart race ( although that could have been due to the copious amounts of sugar and alcohol I’d already consumed), but the perfect texture.
Of course the brownie was sinfully chocolate-y and sweet, but it was so much more satisfying with the perfect balance of enough structure and texture- a 10 out of 10 mouth-feel. Once baked, the batter held a firm brownie shape, while the graham crackers, marshmallows and hidden chunks of chocolate chips broke up any uniformity; yet it was pillow-y soft, melt in your mouth smoothness. I am a brownie corners kind of girl, but even I reached for the soft middle of the pan. We washed down the s’mores brownies with Young’s Double Stout, a chocolate malt stout combined with real dark chocolate.
The best part about the whole experience was that it was uncomplicated. It was just as straight forward as non-vegan baking, except you could feel a lot less guilty about yourself after you finished stuffing your face. Vegan baking has gotten a lot heat for being “weird,” “hippie,” “health-obsessed” and the fact that it will “never taste as good as a real insert-various-baked-good-here.” But I challenge a “real” cupcake or brownie to taste even half as good as Petersan’s vegan ones.
Dark and Stormy courtesy of the White Horse Tavern
- 1/4 lime
- 2 ounces dark rum
- 10 ounces of ginger beer
- Lime wedge, for garnish, optional
- Fill a 12-ounce glass with ice.
- Squeeze the lime wedge over the ice in the glass.
- Drop the wedge into the glass. Pour the rum into the glass.
- Add the ginger beer.
- Stir lightly and garnish with another lime wedge, if desired