J and Little E celebrate their birthdays very close together, and one of the joys of having a birthday that falls within the school term is having the chance to celebrate one’s birthday in class.
However, with public awareness of food allergies on the rise, many of the preschoolers at J and Little E’s kindergarten have to adhere to very strict diets. This poses a challenge for parents who want to bring a special snack to school as a treat for all the kids. Usually, the preschoolers who have multiple allergies are left out of the celebrations, watching forlornly in the corner as everyone else tucks into a delicious store-bought cake with multicoloured icing.
Since Becky suffers from a peanut allergy, I like to try my best to bring a birthday treat to school that every little kid will enjoy.
Here’s my recipe for Very Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes – suitable for children with lactose-intolerance, egg allergies and nut allergies – the most common allergies amongst children.
To make the cakes fluffy without using yeast or eggs, vinegar is used as a substitute – this reacts with the baking soda to make lots of fizzy bubbles that make the batter fluffy! (SCIENCE!!!!) For this reason (science), this batter needs to be used immediately and cannot be kept in the fridge or freezer, as the tiny bubbles will collapse in the cold temperatures or dissipate with time. This means that the cupcakes will turn into crunchy – very, very, crunchy – “biscuits”.
By the way, you can also substitute the flour in this recipe for gluten-free all purpose baking flour, for all the gluten-intolerant kids out there (there were some in J’s class this year). In Singapore, gluten-free flour is available at Cold Storage and Fairprice outlets – I bought mine from Fairprice Finest.
Ingredients (makes about 14 cupcakes):
- 1 and 3/4 cups plain flour (or gluten-free baking flour)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup unsweetened soy milk
- 1/2 cup canola or olive oil
- 2 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp white or apple cider vinegar
- Preheat oven to 170C.
- Mix all the dry ingredients together (flour, baking powder, baking soda and sugar) in a large mixing bowl.
- Add in all the wet ingredients (soy milk, oil, vanilla, and vinegar) and beat until smooth. The batter is quite runny so don’t worry.
- Divide the batter into the cupcake cases. Fill each case two-thirds full – this is more than one would normally fill a cupcake case, but it is because these cakes do not rise very much.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until they are done.
Just a few things to note:
1. Vinegar evaporates during the cooking process, so that the cakes don’t have any lingering sour taste. However, this means that when you are opening the oven to remove your cakes, you may be greeted with a stinging cloud of vinegar to the face (I speak from painful, painful experience) – so lean well away or open your oven from the side! Or wear goggles! (Because, SCIENCE!!)
2. This version of cupcakes is a low sugar version (yes, 1 cup of sugar is ‘low’ in this case to combat the otherwise bitter-tasting vanilla extract which is used in liberal quantities instead of butter to give the cake a pleasant flavour) because I intend to add royal icing to the top of it. If you like your cupcakes to taste sweet, feel free to add up to 1/4 cup more sugar in!
3. You can use 2 cups of self-raising flour instead of flour with baking powder and baking soda – just remember that it will unsuitable for kids with gluten-intolerance and egg allergies!