Vegan s'mores inspired cupcakes

The shift is happening…mornings are darker and chillier longer, and the body’s circadian rhythm is easing off summer bounce. It’s tempting to stay curled up in bed longer..or in a sleeping bag. There’s still time for some seriously good camping, right? Or, at least for the flavor of it, with these decadent cupcakes.

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Chef F was obsessed with s’mores (and especially the marshmallow part) this summer, which is a little ironic because it’s the first summer in four years we haven’t been able to fit in camping at all. Or maybe not so ironic, but related. In any case, we got our fix with summer oven solar fun. It wasn’t nutritious, but the play of it was healthy.

When Chef F’s birthday rolled around, I wanted to celebrate with a nod to our s'mores science. One final s’mores experiment for the summer in the form of cupcakes. No, they’re not healthy. They’re vegan…but they’re pretty decadent. I did go for a moderate amount of pure maple syrup as sweetener, but piling on dark chocolate and coconut cream ganache that is topped with toasted marshmallow and a sprinkling of yet more chocolate and nut undoes any good intentions there. Still, the result is heavenly, and with all that towering sweetness has a way of reminding you to enjoy without over-indulging.

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Alongside yumminess we will repeat, these cupcakes were a lesson in flexibility. Do you ever find yourself getting attached to a vision of how something might be, to the point you miss the possibilities of what is? I mean, who doesn’t, right? We’re so often coached to visualize successful outcomes—in sports, love, life in general. It’s the “secret”, opening up your heart to the universe. And it’s really great thinking. But, it doesn’t work for me.

When you overthink. Everything. All the time. When you want to be invited to the party but find yourself desperately willing it to be canceled because of social anxiety, creating a schema for how something will unfold can easily backfire. All summer I had reminders of this. I’d plan an extra special day with Chef F, and find myself getting agitated and irritated when things went awry, and he wanted to do something else. Finally, I started throwing those visualized outcomes out the window completely, and noticed when I did that, things flowed so much better.

Of course, the strategies of setting goals and high expectations are invaluable. I abide by them wholly. But putting pressure to achieve the vision, be it Hallmark or Pinterest style, isn’t working for me and is something I am glad to abandon. Instead I’m adopting aiming for the best but rolling with what is and thinking on my toes as I do. Give my best self in any moment so there are no regrets, even when the moment ends up feeling like a failure. It’s the slightest tilt in mindset.

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Why is all this relevant to these cupcakes? Only because of the gloppy mess they look like when you first pull them out of the oven. Sagging, slippery marshmallow on a ball of brown. But sprinkle on some grated chocolate and chopped nuts…day is saved! And marshmallow-on-your-nose, chocolate-lipped, playfully delicious.

Vegan s’mores inspired cupcakes
12 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 3/4 cup pure maple syrup

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond or soy milk

  • 1/3 cup olive or canola oil

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

For the ganache:
-1 cup dark chocolate chips (vegan)
-1/2 cup coconut cream

For the topping:

-12 marshmallows
-grated dark chocolate and chopped nuts, to dust on top

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a cupcake tray with cupcake liners. Set aside.

  2. Whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl.

  3. Add the milk, vanilla, oil, applesauce and vinegar and mix in, stirring to form a smooth batter.

  4. Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners.

  5. Place into the oven and bake for 18- 20 minutes, or until cakes are nearly done. While the cupcakes are baking, prepare the ganache: in a small saucepan, gently heat the chocolate and coconut cream, stirring regularly. Remove from heat and let sit once ganache is thickened and smooth.

  6. After twenty minutes, remove the pan from the oven and quickly spoon about a tablespoon of ganache onto the center of each. Top with a marshmallow (you may want to press it a bit flat and place on its side). Return to the oven and bake a further 4-5 minutes until marshmallow is melty and browned.

  7. Allow the cupcakes to cool a few minutes, then top with grated chocolate and chopped nuts.