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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Chocolate Cupcakes with Coconut Icing (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, & Refined Sugar-Free) + Sugar Addiction is Real!

I usually play music while cooking, baking and while cleaning the aftermath of my creations. You can always determine how my cooking/baking efforts turned out by how I clean the dishes afterwards. I'm either having a dance party/concert or cleaning dishes with Aaliyah's song "Try Again" or Beyonce's "Best Thing I Never Had" playing in the background. True story.

So yesterday, after much anticipation and crossing my fingers that these cupcakes would come out blog-worthy, (I hold everything I make to a high standard to ensure I only give you the creme de la creme - and believe me - many things don't work out, so in the trash they go and my inner child comes out as I have a pity party, instead of a dance party, with myself and all the stupid dishes I have to clean), I had a mega dance party in my kitchen - just me, myself and I + the two loves of my life, my yorkies. Of course I didn't wait 30 minutes for the cupcakes to cool before trying them. I have no patience when it comes to the all important reveal. After waiting a long and torturous 5 minutes, this was the outcome: these vegan, gluten-free & refined sugar-free chocolate cupcakes came out better than the cupcakes that meet me in my dreams!

I had a legitimate concert going on in my kitchen. Singing with the whisk as my microphone and twirling my dogs around. I sang to my reflection in the oven as if I had a sold out show. I even busted into "the dougie" at one point. I can't believe I'm even exposing myself like this, but I had to paint the scene to help you understand how big of a feat this was!! Gluten-free vegan baking can be very challenging to get just right. It typically consists of many failures before finding the winner. But that's why I'm here - to save you that time and frustration. This cupcake recipe will not disappoint and will fool everyone who isn't vegan or doesn't eat a gluten-free or refined sugar-free diet!

An added bonus is the refined sugar-free component of this recipe. I have been so determined to exchange all refined sugar for unrefined sugar. I've talked about this before and probably won't ever stop talking about it because sugar is what triggers a negative response in my body immediately and causes all sorts of inflammation that manifests in different forms such as acne, dermatitis and/or infections, and other things we may not notice immediately like weight gain and high LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Sugar also provokes a psychological response as it stimulates the brain to release serotonin and dopamine, the neurotransmitters that make us feel happy, but then those levels plummet after a short period of time and thus we crave more sugar and then eat more sugar to feel good again. I know it has this affect on many others too.

These neurotransmitters are also released in the brain when other drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, are used. When we continue to put our bodies through this vicious cycle of ups and downs, the brain doesn't think it needs to produce these neurotransmitters anymore. This results in the depletion of serotonin, dopamine, endorphins (natural pain relievers), and norepinephrine (keeps us alert and energized). When we're deficient in these neurotransmitters, which are necessary for cell to cell communication to regulate our mood and appetite, all kinds of illnesses can crop up - addiction, depression, anxiety, insomnia, hormonal imbalance, candida overgrowth, adrenal fatigue, hypoglycemia, heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cancer

Other imbalances can also cause neurotransmitter deficiency such as caffeine, alcohol, hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, chronic stress, prescription drugs, food sensitivities, but all of these can ignite sugar cravings, not just consuming sugar itself. Excessive sugar consumption has been shown to cause illnesses and many illnesses cause sugar cravings leading to serious illnesses. It's a never-ending cycle unless you decide to stop it.

If you know you can't handle sugar, even unrefined sugar, whether it's shown through physical symptoms or psychological or both, stay away from it for awhile. Consume low sugar fruits like berries and green apples, lots of green leafy vegetables, stevia, and practice yoga and meditation to reduce stress. If you don't know how it affects you, try avoiding sugar for a week. See if you have withdrawal symptoms (headaches, brain fog, fatigue, lack of concentration). That'll give you your answer!

Sugar and desserts have always been my vice and it's been a struggle trying to kick the refined sugar out of my diet and keeping all dessert to a minimum, even those that are vegan, gluten-free and refined sugar-free a.k.a healthier desserts. Because I realized that even though I've said goodbye to desserts containing eggs, cow's milk/cream/butter, refined sugar, and gluten, it was like I was looking for another "acceptable" way to eat sugary foods. Just because what I indulge in now is healthier without all of the dairy, refined sugar and gluten doesn't mean it won't take a toll on the body. These healthier desserts tend to be high in fat, albeit healthy fats (from the coconut products), and sugar even though unrefined, which can still congest our digestive systems and cause inflammation if eaten in excess. Also, we're led to believe dried fruits are healthy but most have an incredibly high amount of sugar since it's been concentrated. Read more about how excessive sugar consumption wreaks havoc on our health on this blog post.

All in all, I'm working to keep these healthier desserts as a treat every once in awhile. And let me just say, it makes it that much more special and enjoyable when it's only an occasional indulgence.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Coconut Icing

YIELD: Approx. 14 cupcakes
Cupcakes adapted from this recipe
Icing adapted from this recipe

For the cupcakes:

• 3/4 cup tapioca flour/starch (they're the same) *See note below on where to find these uncommon flours
• 3/4 cup sorghum flour
• 1/2 cup cacao powder
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1 tsp xanthan gum
• 1/2 tsp high-quality sea salt
• 1 cup regular unsweetened coconut milk *See note below if allergic to coconut
• 3/4 cup raw coconut nectar
• 3 Tbs virgin coconut oil, melted *See note below
• 1 Tbs vanilla extract
• 1 Tbs raw apple cider vinegar

For the icing:

• 1/4 cup coconut butter

• 1/3 cup thick coconut cream from the top of a full-fat coconut milk can (don't shake or stir to ensure the thick cream at the top and liquid at the bottom remain separated)
• 3 Tbs raw coconut nectar
• 1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• Unsweetened shredded coconut, to top cupcakes (optional)

For the cupcakes:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with 12 cupcake liners and if you have another cupcake pan, line 2 more or just wait until the first batch comes out and bake the last two cupcakes separately.

2. Sift all of the dry ingredients (tapioca flour, sorghum flour, cacao powder, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, and sea salt) into a large mixing bowl. Mix well. *As you can see above, I combined all these ingredients in a smaller bowl and just sifted everything together into a larger bowl.

3. Whisk all of the wet ingredients (coconut milk, raw coconut nectar, coconut oil, vanilla extract, and apple cider vinegar) together in a medium mixing bowl. *Those aren't all of the ingredients in that bowl. Just two. I took the picture in the middle of combining all of the ingredients. Call me Ms. Scatterbrained. 

4. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.

5. Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners about 2/3 of the way full. Smooth the top of the cupcakes with a wet spoon (to avoid sticking). *In the picture above you can clearly see I didn't smooth the tops of them, but when I baked the last 2 cupcakes separately, I did and they looked much prettier after they were baked. You also see the white coconut oil chunks that solidified while mixing but they melted in the oven.
6. Bake for 20 minutes. If you didn't make the icing ahead of time, make it while the cupcakes are baking. Directions are below.

7. After 20 minutes, make sure a toothpick comes out clean before taking them out. If so, take them out and let them cool for 5 minutes in the cupcake pan. Then, let them cool on a wire rack or just on the counter for another 25 minutes before frosting them. *You can see in the picture above the top center cupcake is the sole smoothed cupcake. Much more visually appealing but they'll taste the same regardless.

For the icing:

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a blender. Mix until smooth. Pour into a container with an airtight lid and let the icing chill for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator. Then, ice your cupcakes, top with unsweetened coconut flakes, if desired, & enjoy every yummy bite without the refined sugar high! :-) *See note below about blender

*Store the cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature. Store the icing in the refrigerator. You may ice them all at one time or ice them as you eat them.

I found all of the ingredients above at Whole Foods. I found the tapioca flour/starch in the bulk aisle to save money. I bought the Bob's Red Mill sorghum flour because I didn't find it in bulk. Other health food stores (Trader Joe's, Sprouts) should have these items too but your typical grocery store (Walmart, Target, Kroger, etc.) won't have all of them. Otherwise, you can find them on the companies' website or on Amazon - I provided the links above.
• My coconut oil is always really thick at room temperature so I have to melt it in the oven, so when it's combined with the other wet ingredients which are either at room temperature or cold from the fridge, the warm melted coconut oil can clump up. Don't worry about it! It'll melt when the cupcakes bake in the oven. If your coconut oil is already melted at room temperature without having to heat it up, you may not run into this problem.
• If you're allergic to coconut, you can substitute the coconut milk for almond milk or any other non-dairy milk. Instead of coconut oil, you could use grapeseed oil. Instead of coconut nectar, you could use pure maple syrup. It's hard to avoid coconut in the icing to get the same effect but these cupcakes are delicious without icing as well because they're a bit more dense than your typical cupcake so it's like a hybrid of a cupcake and a muffin. You could even spread some vegan butter on top. I'll be sure to come up with a coconut-free icing at some point.
• See this blog post for my thoughts on my favorite blender, the Vitamix, and you'll even find a small discount if you're interested in purchasing one. I also received a note in the mail from Vitamix saying that for the month of November, the reconditioned Vitamix blenders are being sold at exclusive prices ranging from $279-$349. Check that out on (I'm not affiliated with this company - just a big fan!). I'm not sure how the coconut icing will turn out using another blender. I'm curious so let me know if you try it!

"Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes." Carl Jung


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