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Chocolate Cupcakes with Cashew Coconut Cream

Posted Nov 15 2011 2:04pm
Over the weekend we celebrated my birthday. Celebrating a birthday during the month of November in the North West is sometimes a challenge. I really enjoy doing things outdoors, but I've come to realize that the weather will always be icy cold and most likely rainy, so I should just do whatever I really want because there are just some things you can't predict or change. So when a friend mentioned a trip up to Lopez Island a few weeks ago, I made no hesitation and we started planning.

We woke before the sun rise on Friday and made our way North on I-5 for a 2-3 hour drive. The sunrise that morning was beautiful. A magnificent crack of deep orange sitting just below very dark blue-gray clouds outlining Mt.Rainier. Our first stop before getting on the ferry to Lopez was at Deception Pass . The water was crystal clear blue and looked icy cold. Just as we stepped out from the car we felt the first droplets of rain and bundled up into our coats and boots for a walk down the trail to the beach. We combed the shoreline, watched the diving birds and seals, and chased the tides while running around the rocky shores. It was beautiful.

Soon we found ourselves on the ferry where we slowly rocked across the Puget Sound through all the islands before finally reaching our destination. The first thing you see when getting off the ferry is all the tall evergreen trees lining the cliff edges, soon you find yourself in yellow wheat fields where fluffy sheep are grazing and old farm houses are in the distance. My first thought was "how am I going to leave here?" It's so beautiful, even in all its gray and rain. There are no fast food restaurants or ugly billboard ads, only the locals who wave every time you pass them, we waved back.

We stayed with family that one of our friends had on the island. It was nice to cozy up each evening after a full day of wandering around the grassy cliff side shores of Otis Perkins Park, Shark Reef Park, Iceberg Point, and Lopez Hill. It pretty much poured rain the entire time we were there, but I still had such a great time and now we're trying to figure out how soon we can go back.
The day before we left I wanted to make a little birthday treat to pack along with us. Since we were going to be doing a lot of driving I figured cupcakes would be easier than a full layer cake. I debated about the frosting. I was originally going to make a light coconut whipped cream type, but wasn't sure how it would travel. Instead I settled on making cashew coconut cream and frosting them after arriving so they wouldn't get messy if tossed around.

The cakes themselves are practically sugar-free, using only a little honey. They have a nice chocolate flavor and the cake is a little denser than regular chocolate cake, almost bordering a cake-like brownie.
The cake and frosting can easily be made vegan by substituting the honey for agave of maple syrup. I think the only change I would make in the future would be the frosting, maybe using coconut butter in place if the coconut milk for a stiffer version. This cake is also great for using up an last bits of pumpkin puree you may have around. It doesn't taste anything like pumpkin and since I used a yellow banana (instead of a super ripe speckled one) it barely tasted of banana at all. 

Chocolate Cupcakes with Cashew Coconut Cream
loosely adapted from My New Roots
makes 12 cupcakes

for the cake
1 1/4 cups light spelt flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons flax meal mixed with 6 tablespoons water
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 small banana, mashed well
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

for the frosting
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 1 hour
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners

I a large bowl sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium bowl combine the flax mixture, pumpkin puree, honey, vanilla, mashed banana, and apple cider vinegar, mix very well. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and slowly fold in just until the dry ingredients are fully wet, do not over mix. 

Pour batter into the paper cups, filling about 3/4 of the way full. Place in the oven and bake for 20-23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Prepare the frosting.
Drain the soaked cashews and place in a food processor. Add the coconut milk, honey, and lemon juice. Puree until very smooth, stopping to scrap down the sides if necessary. Store in refrigerator until ready to use. Stores for about 1 week.
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