5:43 PM EDT, June 5, 2012
Rhee Lightner of Williamsport is adventurous in the kitchen. She loves to bake.
It can be challenging enough to bake a light, fluffy cake, but Lightner faces an additional challenge: She's vegan, and doesn't use eggs or dairy in her cooking.
"I've been vegan for a couple years. I think it was a natural transition. I had been vegetarian for 12 years," she said. "Started seriously baking when I was 27. Went vegan at 29."
Getting cakes to rise without using eggs requires creativity. Lightner uses several substitutes — flaxseed, commercial egg replacer, tofu, bananas.
"Sometimes the texture is different. They typically will do the same thing an egg will do," she said. "Also, I use oils and nut butters instead of butter. And coconut oil and coconut milk."
Lightner said she likes the combination of almond, vanilla and citrus in her Biscotti Cupcakes. She decorates them a bit elaborately, with icing, homemade candied fruit and toasted almonds.
She originally made this for a vegan biscotti recipe. But she's not a huge fan of biscotti. So she adapted the recipe to a cupcake. Friends raved.
"People just went ballistic whenever I made them," she said.
To augment the citrus flavor, Lightner said she typically makes an orange compote to put on top. But that, she added, seemed over the top for the Herald-Mail contest.
— Chris Copley, assistant Lifestyle editor
1 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup flour
1/4 cup almond flour
Zest of lemon, lime and orange
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
3/4 teaspoon anise seeds
1/4 cup toasted almonds, finely chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon anise extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put paper liners into 12 cupcake cups and spray with canola oil.
In a medium bowl, whisk together almond milk and apple cider vinegar. Set aside.
In another bowl, combine flours, zests, baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, salt, anise seeds and almonds.
Add sugar, oil and extracts to milk. Mix well. Combine wet ingredients and dry until no large lumps of batter are found. Evenly portion into cupcake liners.
Bake for 15 to 17 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then turn out of pan and cool on wire rack.
Ice cupcakes when cool.
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup Earth Balance buttery sticks
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 teaspoons anise extract
1/2 teaspoon anise seed
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon almond milk
Use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Put sifted powdered sugar, buttery sticks, shortening, extract, seeds and salt into bowl.
Combine on low speed until blended, then increase mixer speed, scraping the sides and bottom of bowl with spatula. Add almond milk, mix until fluffy.
Color with food coloring if desired.
Zest of 1 citrus
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup toasted almonds finely chopped
Use a veggie peeler to remove zest, scrape pith off back of peel with a paring knife. Cut into strips.
Boil 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Add peel, and reduce heat to simmer for 3 minutes.
Remove from heat. Cool. Strain through sieve, separate pieces of rind on wax paper and toss in 1/4 cup sugar.
To toast almonds, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put whole almonds on baking tray and bake for 8 to 10 minutes — 8 if you want them lightly toasted.
Top cupcakes with icing, rim edges with almonds, top with candied orange in center.
— Rhee Lightner entered this cupcake recipe in The Herald-Mail's second annual Cupcake Contest. Look for additional Cupcake Contest recipes in upcoming Food sections during June.
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