be liberal with your bench flour

vegan cupcake stephanieklein

His vegan cupcakes are magic. No, better than magic. Because with magic, there’s always a trick up your sleeve, something you don’t always reveal. But my new friend Todd was willing, no, eager, to share and to teach. I promise you’d never ever know these were vegan cupcakes. No milk, no eggs, no butter. And no worries… we baked many a confection with plenty of animal solids. I’ll post more later, when my sugar coma has passed, and I’m finally off the elliptical. Okay, that was a lie. There is no elliptical. But I will write more later…

The recipe for the cupcakes is straight out of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, though be sure to use Valrhona cocoa powder–it’s high-quality, which is a must for something like these. For the ganache on top, he used vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips from Whole Foods, organic maple syrup, and organic soy milk. Seriously, these were outstanding.


Lately I’ve been wanting to learn to at least bake a few things really well–confections I could master, then bring to someone’s home for a special occasion. I want to learn to bake flourless chocolate souffle cupcakes, to bring Lucas and Abigail’s teachers for passover, a certain apple tart for Roshashonna, just to try a few things to warm the homes of my neighbors and friends. And there’s a certain calm that comes over me when I’m rolling dough, or pressing it into a tart pan with the heel of my hand. Then seeing the faces of my children light up, their eyes widening, "For me, mama?" I suppose it’s why we often bring baked goods when a new neighbor moves in. There’s a comfort to it.

When Todd offered to walk me through baking the Warm Mocha Tart from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet, I actually started to clap and might have jumped. "I’m just so excited! Thank you." Confession: I’ve never been one to make my own pie crust. It scares me. I think it’s to do with the time I tried and I literally had to scrape it off my countertops… with a razor. But this wasn’t pie crust… it was shortbread. This, I could do.

Let me say now that I fancy myself a cook, not a baker. I’ve never wanted anything to do with a system that called for 2 Tbl. minus 1/8 of a tsp. Seriously? That’s way too precise for this ad lib girl. But I realized this weekend, when baking with an actual scientist, he was less precise than I’d ever been. As long as I can remember, my mother was always leveling off measuring cups of flour with the back of a steak knife. She was so exact. But, he we were measuring the flour inside the bag! Using the inside walls of the bag to level! Shit, I can do this! And I did.

As the filling (butter, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, and heavy cream) came to a simmer on the stove top, I turned to his wife and said, "It smells like childhood in here. Like mothers and everything you wanted your home to smell like on a snow day." Totally. This is what you bake when you want your home to smell like sleigh rides. Last, I whisked in Medaglia d’Oro instant espresso powder and vanilla extract. Once the crust was ready, a large beaten egg was whisked into the chocolate (no tempering needed!), then he opened the over, and poured the filling into the crust, while it was still in the oven. That was the hardest part. You turn off the oven, but keep the tart inside for about ten to twelve minutes. This mocha tart might just be my favorite dessert, ever. And it’s not even hard. It is, without question, worth it. The crust is crisp perfection, as if passed over a bakery counter in Paris. I’m running out today to stock up on all the baking must-haves.




  1. Oh, Stephanie! Just became a vegetarian about a month ago and am trying to eat vegan as much as possible. Would love the recipe.

  2. wait, you beat an egg into it? Vegan means no eggs. Part vegan?
    And I adore the vegan truffles at Quack’s bakery (near our home here in Hyde Park) and I strongly suggest you pick some up some day. They are amazing!

    1. Author

      The cupcakes are 100% vegan. The Warm Mocha Tart from Bittersweet is not. The heavy cream and beaten egg were for the chocolate mocha custard that fills the tart, not for the vegan cupcakes.

    1. Author

      I’m sorry, but I don’t actually have that recipe. It’s why I linked to the book where you can get the recipe (and many others like it).

      1. It’s also a question of copyright if you’re not going to change the recipe at all.

        1. For ethical reasons, you may choose not to post another person’s recipe, but copyrights don’t actually apply to recipes.

  3. The reason you had to scrape the pie crust off your countertops was because you didn’t flour the countertops enough. (I use a 14″ square of marble that I bought at the place that did our granite countertops.) You more than likely didn’t flour your rolling pin either. (Use the french bread-making kind of rolling pin.) Trust me, once you get over the fear of making your own, you’ll think it’s a cinch, but keep in mind that you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince….mixing metaphors.

    1. Author

      Yes, it’s why I titled this post “Be Liberal With Your Bench Flour”– a phrase Baker Todd used often yesterday as we rolled out homemade matzohs.

  4. Oh, I love your food posts and this definitely made me want a cupcake. I’m kind of off sugar (but not opposed to animal ingredients!) but I like to bake from time to time so my solution is to bake for other people.

    I have been trying to be a true locavore lately. I wonder if you’ve ever dabbled in this. My sister is currently visiting from Austin and thinks I’m crazy. (She says she thinks “local” is the HEB that’s closest to her house.) Maybe it’s easier to do local food here in Berkeley. I’m not doing it so much to save the earth, though that would be nice, but because of the idea that humanely raised meat and produce picked ripe in season actually taste better. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  5. I am such a chocoholic! I so want to try this recipe. I am not vegan but I have tried some chocolate raw food desserts that were fabulous. Lovin the food post!

    Stephanie, do you miss fall and winter in NY? In your post you mention snow days. Do you try to make it feel like that down south with food, scents, and decorations for those colder NY seasons? I live up in NY and I am looking forward to the cool weather, the autumn leaves, and breaking out my cinnamon scented candles.

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