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.
Looking for something to do this weekend? Find what you need in our Weekend Entertainment Guide newsletter.
"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She originally made this for a vegan biscotti recipe.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