i have two non-bento posts lined up for this week… i hope my regular bento readers don’t mind!
this first post is a review of two new products that i received courtesy samples: wholesome chow vanilla cake mix and tropical traditions coconut oil. i am happy to say i loved both, and can tell you this only after putting them to good use in a true test… the cupcakes for my own birthday party! i made a vanilla cupcake with chunks of crystallized ginger, filled with homemade blackberry jam, and topped with vegan cream cheese frosting. these were a delicious combination of flavors, and while not low-calorie, certainly more healthful than typical store-bought cupcakes which contain processed flours and “bad” fats.
recipe and reviews below!
let’s start with the cake mix: wholesome chow’s vanilla cake mix is organic, gluten-free, GMO-free, and vegan. um, hello!?! that’s quite a list of buzz words. i was worried the mix would be too dense or dry, or wouldn’t taste like a normal cupcake. but i took the leap of faith and followed the package directions, and they came out beautifully — gluten-free baked goods are a little denser than gluten-containing ones, but in this case the moistness and richness made that totally OK. and they also rose nicely; when they were cooling in the cupcake pan, each individual cake had a perfectly domed top and a nice crisp outer edge. i chose the vanilla flavor as a canvas for the beautiful summer flavor of fresh-picked berries (i got the blackberries at kelder’s farm in kerhonkson, NY), but it had enough of a vanilla punch that it could stand on its own (or serve as the backdrop for other seasonal creations — maple-pear comes to mind for fall!). i would definitely buy this again, especially as the number of gluten-intolerant friends in my circle continues to grow!
now for the coconut oil: tropical tradition’s coconut oil is virgin, unrefined, and certified organic. i used this as the called-for oil in my cupcake batter and the hint of coconut flavor really complimented the vanilla and berry flavors. i was also quite pleased with the consistency; compared to another brand i have used in baking, this oil “seized” less when mixed with other liquid ingredients whose temperature was slightly lower than the melted oil, allowing for smoother blending. the resulting cakes were beautifully moist but not greasy, and felt indulgent (you know, because moist in a baked good usually means lots of butter or vegetable oil!) despite the health benefits of this particular oil. being healthy but not tasting healthy = A+++!
and last but not least, the recipe for these yummy creations…
blackberry jam-filled vanilla-ginger cupcakes (makes about 14 cupcakes)
- one package (approx. 1 3/4 cups) wholesome chow vanilla cake mix
- 6 tbsp. tropical traditions coconut oil
- 2 scoops or packets of perfect fit protein powder
- 1 1/2 cups almond milk (i used pure silk, unsweetened)
- 1 tsp. bragg’s apple cider vinegar
- 15 pieces of crystallized ginger (i used “chimes”), chopped
- 14 heaping teaspoons of blackberry jam (recipe below)
- approx. 2 cups cream cheese frosting (recipe below)
- 14 fresh blackberries for garnish
vegan cream cheese frosting – makes about 3 cups, you will not use the whole yield
- 2 containers tofutti better than cream cheese
- 11 tbsp. earth balance whipped butter spread
- 1/2 bag wholesome sweeteners brand organic powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp. simply organic vanilla extract
- approx. 20 drops sweet leaf liquid stevia, vanilla creme flavor
sugar-free blackberry jam — makes 2 half-pint ball jars; this jam has a fairly runny consistency and should be consumed within a week or so of making
- 5 1/4 cups fresh blackberries
- 2 1/2 cups sugar-free sweetener (e.g. granulated stevia, splenda for baking, etc.)
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons instant fruit pectin
- for the jam: over a low flame, mash the berries with the lemon juice and add the sugar substitute. bring to a boil and add the pectin. stir regularly at a low boil for approx. 20 minutes. skim off any foam and jar. chill before testing consistency; if necessary, re-boil and add more pectin (1/4 tsp. at a time) until it reaches desired consistency upon chilling.
- for the frosting: in a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter substitutes until blended. add the vanilla extract and vanilla stevia and blend until further combined. slowly add the sugar (about 1/4 cup at a time) until frosting reaches desired consistency.
- for the cakes: preheat oven to 350 degrees. in a large bowl, add the apple cider vinegar to the almond milk, and allow to stand for approx. 5 minutes. then add the coconut oil and chopped ginger. finally, add the cake mix and protein powder, blending just until you reach batter consistency (add more almond milk, 1 tbsp. at a time, if the batter is too stiff). distribute evenly into greased or lined muffin tins and bake for 18-20 min., until domes are golden brown and toothpick inserted into middle of cake comes out cleanly. allow to cool before filling.
- to assemble: using a teaspoon or grapefruit spoon (better because of its point), dig a small cone out of the top of each cupcake (the circumference of the opening should be about the size of a quarter; you can go about 2/3 of the way down into the cake). after creating a cavity in each cake, fill with about a teaspoon of jam per cake. discard the scraps from the dug-out cones (i “discarded” into my belly!); you will not need to “cap” the jam-holes (that sounds gross) as the frosting will keep the jam inside. put your frosting into a piping bag and decorate per your aesthetic preference; top each cake with a berry to let people know what’s inside!
thanks to wholesome chow and tropical traditions for these treats, which helped to make my birthday a very sweet one!