Fail-Proof Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Buttercream

by Angela (Oh She Glows) on May 12, 2016

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Good morning!  I hope your week is going well so far. It has flown by on my end. I’m back with a recipe today, and will be posting my 20 Weeks pregnancy update later today and Friday FAQs tomorrow.

As you may know, I’ve been busy revamping reader-favourite blog recipes and shooting new photography for the Oh She Glows Recipe App. As I re-test old favourite recipes, I often find myself improving upon them in various ways (such as easier-to-follow directions, better tips, the addition of metric units of measure, or simply by creating something that tastes even better!). I kept saying that I wished there were a way I could share with you guys both what I’m up to and the recipes I’m revamping! Then it dawned on me…well, why don’t I just share quick, mini posts doing just that? Initially, I brushed the idea off because I’ve never done “bite-sized” posts before, but it could be fun. With summer quickly approaching, short and sweet posts might be nice here and there! So why not turn it over to you, dear readers, and see if this is something you’d be into?

Basically my idea is this: I pop in with a mini recipe post sharing a recipe that I’ve revamped (or, occasionally, a new quick and easy recipe I’ve added to the app) along with one or two new photo(s). There will be a brief hello/update from me, and then the recipe! Boom. Bob’s your uncle. (Wait, do people say that anymore? lol) Anyway, I’d love to hear what you think!

I’m kicking off today with my all-time favourite vegan chocolate cupcakes from way back in 2011. I had a major craving for cake last week (thanks Shari!), so this seemed like the next logical recipe to revisit. I ended up streamlining the written directions/ingredient list, adding metric units of measure (weight/volume), and pairing the cupcakes with a salted buttercream frosting. I also tested a gluten-free version (using Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 flour), however I wasn’t happy with the outcome (the cupcakes were quite dense). I think I’ll have to work on a custom gluten-free flour blend in the future!

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4.8 from 42 reviews
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Fail-Proof Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

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These are my go-to, never-fail vegan cupcakes! They are the perfect cupcake for all of your celebration needs. You won't believe it when you see how much they rise while baking. I top them with a layer of salted buttercream and sprinkles for a festive twist. They never last long! For the fluffiest cupcakes use all-purpose flour, however the recipe is pretty forgiving so feel free to use white spelt flour or whole wheat pastry flour in a pinch (bake times may change slightly). Recipe updated from my 2011 version.

Yield
12 cupcakes
Prep time
Cook time

Ingredients:

For the cupcakes:
  • 1 cup (250 mL) unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup (220 g) natural cane sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) grapeseed oil*
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (210 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (27 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
For the salted buttercream:
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) vegan butter**
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (250 g) powdered icing sugar, sifted if necessary
  • 1 1/2 to 3 teaspoons unsweetened almond milk, as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
  • Sprinkles, for decorating***

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a cupcake tin with 12 cupcake liners.
  2. For the cupcakes: Add the milk, sugar, oil, vinegar, and vanilla into a large mixing bowl. With electric mixers, beat the wet ingredients on low speed until combined.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt until no clumps remain.
  4. Gradually add the dry flour mixture to the wet ingredients and beat just until smooth and no patches of flour remain.
  5. Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, about two-thirds full for each.
  6. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes, or until the cupcakes slowly spring back when pressed gently with a finger. A toothpick inserted into the centre should also come out clean. Cool the cupcakes on a cooling rack.
  7. For the buttercream: In a large bowl, beat the butter and vanilla with electric beaters until light and fluffy.
  8. Add the icing sugar, gradually, while beating on low speed. Now, add in the milk to thin it to your desired consistency, while gradually increasing the speed. I add a teaspoon at a time. If at any point you add too much milk and the buttercream becomes runny, simply add more icing sugar to thicken it back up. You want a nice spreadable consistency that is not runny.
  9. Add the salt to taste and beat again to combine.
  10. Once the cupcakes are completely cool, spread a thick layer of frosting on top of each, followed by a generous amount of sprinkles. Enjoy!
  11. Leftover cupcakes will keep for a couple days in a sealed container, or you can freeze them for up to 1 month. I freeze them uncovered at first and then once they are frozen solid, I wrap each cupcake individually in foil. Then I place all of them into a large freezer zip bag, pressing out all the air.

Nutrition Information

Serving Size 1 of 12 cupcakes | Calories 340 calories | Total Fat 13 grams
Saturated Fat 2.5 grams | Sodium 350 milligrams | Total Carbohydrates 54 grams
Fiber 1 grams | Sugar 39 grams | Protein 2 grams

Nutritional info includes the Salted Buttercream frosting equally divided between 12 cupcakes.
* Nutrition data is approximate and is for informational purposes only.

Tips:

  • * You can also use melted coconut oil in this recipe, however make sure that all of your ingredients are at room temperature (no cold milk!) to prevent the coconut oil from hardening upon contact.
  • ** I use soy-free vegan buttery spread (by Earth Balance), however feel free to use any kind of butter you prefer.
  • *** Look for natural sprinkles (without artificial dyes), such as "Let's Do Organic" brand.

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{ 74 comments… read them below or add one }

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Jackie January 12, 2017 at 3:07 pm
Recipe Rating:

I made these last night to bring to a baby shower this weekend. I was a little skeptical about them not having a real binder, but the crumb turned out super soft and tender! My only complaint is they are not very chocolately. I added 1 tbsp extra of cocoa, even. Next time I would use at least 1/2 cup of cocoa powder, subbing out some of the flour. They were super easy to throw together though so will definitely try again!

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Jessica McNutt January 15, 2017 at 8:04 pm

Hey! I am wondering if this is adapted to a cake? I’m looking to make a cake for my sons birthday, and like the sounds of this – thanks!

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Angela Liddon January 18, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Hi Jessica, This recipe is wonderfully versatile and I’ve had success baking it many different ways—including as a cake. I have a recipe for a double-layer vegan chocolate cake (with instructions on how to make it into a sheet cake, too) in The Oh She Glows Cookbook on page 249, which was adapted from these cupcakes. Hope this helps! (And happy birthday to your son!)

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Harry January 18, 2017 at 11:22 am
Recipe Rating:

Thanks for the recipe, I will try this to night ! Love your blog!

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Riley February 4, 2017 at 11:37 am

Could I use this for a regular cake not cupcakes?

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Angela Liddon February 8, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Absolutely, Riley! This cake recipe is wonderfully versatile and I’ve had success baking it many different ways. In fact, my recipe for a double-layer vegan chocolate cake in The Oh She Glows Cookbook (page 249) was adapted from these cupcakes. Hope this helps!

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Michelle February 11, 2017 at 3:32 pm

Do you freeze the cupcakes with or without the icing?

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Angela Liddon April 3, 2017 at 11:58 am

Hi Michelle, You can freeze cupcakes with or without frosting–really, whichever makes the most sense for you at the time! If you’ve already frosted them with buttercream, I recommend freezing them uncovered at first and then wrapping each cake individually in foil once they’re frozen solid (and the frosting will hold its shape). Then I place all of them into a freezer zip bag, pressing out all the air. I hope this helps!

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Maggie February 22, 2017 at 2:16 pm
Recipe Rating:

Looks amazing! How well does these keep in the refrigerator if I make them the day before serving? Is it better to make the buttercream the same day I serve these? I’m making these for my birthday so just want them to be perfect. :-) Thanks for all your wonderful recipes! :-)

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Angela Liddon February 28, 2017 at 2:34 pm

Hi Maggie, Happy Birthday! The cupcakes (with buttercream) will stay fresh in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a couple days, so absolutely feel free to make them the day before serving.

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Isabella February 26, 2017 at 4:29 am
Recipe Rating:

I made these cupcakes and for some reason (It might be because I didn’t use the right sugar), the batter was really thin and didn’t seem to rise as much as normal cupcakes? Still really yummy though :)

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Sara Peshnak March 7, 2017 at 11:05 am

Can you substitute in a gluten free flour?

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Angela Liddon March 14, 2017 at 10:13 am

Hi Sara, I tested a gluten-free version using Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 flour, but I found the cupcakes were quite dense. I’m still hoping to work out a custom gluten-free flour blend in the future! If you try a substitution of your own, I’d really love it if you’d report back on how it goes.

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emma March 16, 2017 at 3:53 pm
Recipe Rating:

These are so good. I tried many recipes and this is the one! Thanks so much. I made them for a baby shower. I also tweaked the recipe to make vanilla cupcakes so omitted the cocoa and added a little more flour – perfect :)

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Angela Liddon March 17, 2017 at 9:11 am

I’m glad to hear the recipe was a hit, Emma! And so great to know they can be easily altered to become vanilla cupcakes, too.

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Lindsey July 20, 2017 at 12:08 am

I am in the same boat. Best recipe I’ve tested for cupcakes so far. Did you sub the same amount of extra flour for the cocoa powder? 1/3 cup? I was thinking of doing that but I didn’t know if it would work!

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Julia April 9, 2017 at 7:36 pm
Recipe Rating:

Just made these for a friend’s birthday, and they are incredible! The cupcake is light and fluffy, but the frosting is the best part. So creamy and delicious. I gave one to my roommate (who is not vegan), and she loved it!

Just a note: I didn’t have electric beaters, so I did the frosting by hand. It took a lot of work, but definitely worth it. I was able to get the right consistency (and a gnarly arm workout). Thanks for the recipe!!

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Angela Liddon April 10, 2017 at 10:24 am

Hi Julia, I’m so happy these were a hit, and happy birthday to your friend! I can imagine it was quite the arm workout, for sure. Glad to know the frosting worked out for you with a by-hand approach, though. :)

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Jessica April 12, 2017 at 8:25 pm
Recipe Rating:

Made these tonight for a shower on Saturday. Am eating one without icing right now. WOW! Light, moist, rich. The best homemade chocolate cupcake recipe I’ve tried.

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Angela Liddon April 13, 2017 at 1:28 pm

I’m so happy you like them, Jessica! Hope they’re a hit at the shower Saturday. Have fun!

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Natalie April 14, 2017 at 10:40 am

How many calories are these with and without frosting?

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Angela Liddon April 17, 2017 at 12:52 pm

Hey Natalie, I haven’t done that calculation myself, but you should be able to find out the calorie count using a free online tool like NutritionData.com or CalorieCount.com. Hope this helps!

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Laura April 14, 2017 at 6:56 pm

Hi,
Can I use gluten-free four and replace the cane sugar with coconut sugar?
Thanks:)

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Angela Liddon April 20, 2017 at 10:25 am

Hey Laura, I’ve tested these with different combos of GF flour and haven’t been 100% happy with one yet. I’m not a big fan of the all-purpose GF flour blends that I’ve tried, either. If you decide to experiment, please let us know how it goes! :) As to the second part of your question, I wouldn’t recommend substituting coconut sugar here, however, as it can be quite drying; the cupcakes likely wouldn’t be as moist and they might crack on the tops. But if that isn’t an issue for you, then go for it!

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Stacy April 15, 2017 at 10:01 pm
Recipe Rating:

Made these for the third time today. The first time I made them for a friends birthday as we are both vegetarians and this recipe just sounded fantastic. We were not disappointed and he loved them, as did I, so much so I made the next batch a month later for my birthday. Tomorrow we are celebrating my son’s birthday and of course I made a double batch of my favorite go-to cupcake recipe. I’m not planning on telling anyone they are vegan until afterwards. Thank you for this wonderful recipe and these sweet little sugar bombs of happiness.

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Angela Liddon April 17, 2017 at 12:38 pm

Aw, I’m so happy to hear this recipe has been such a success for you, Stacy! Happy birthday to your son! :)

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Claire May 1, 2017 at 7:38 am

I love the sound of salted buttercream! Looking forward to trying it out. Have you ever tried the cupcakes with gluten free flours?

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Angela Liddon May 2, 2017 at 12:46 pm

Hey Claire, I tested a gluten-free version using Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 flour, but I wasn’t totally happy with the result: I found the cupcakes quite dense. So, I’m hoping to play with a custom GF flour blend for this recipe in the future! That being said, I seem to remember a reader or two tried it with gluten-free flour (I’m not sure of brand/type) and enjoyed their results? If you decide to experiment yourself, I’d love to hear back!

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Erin May 29, 2017 at 10:17 pm
Recipe Rating:

Just made these for the first time- am hosting a vegan wedding shower at work. I didn’t have enough cocoa, so melted some vegan chocolate and threw it in with the wet ingredients. They turned out AMAZING! Even my picky hubby loved them.
Good job Angela!

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Angela Liddon May 30, 2017 at 10:15 am

So happy to hear that, Erin!

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Jacqueline June 4, 2017 at 1:20 pm

I made these for a party this weekend and they were such a hit! My friends could not believe they were vegan. I also added Watkins Raspberry Extract into the icing, which paired perfectly with the chocolate. Thanks Angela!!

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Amanda Renny June 20, 2017 at 4:39 am

These cupcakes are so good. Awesome recipe. I tried it at home and made a really yummy dish. Thanks for sharing such a lovely recipe. Please share some more vegan recopies.
small batch cupcakes frosting vegan

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Kayla Klajko July 13, 2017 at 4:53 pm

Do you mean like confectioners sugar when you say powdered icing sugar? :)

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Kayla Klajko July 13, 2017 at 4:56 pm

Oh, do you think these would be safe for baby’s first birthday? :) I’m trying to find a healthy yet yummy cake recipe for my sons birthday coming up in September ☺️💕

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Angela Liddon July 21, 2017 at 12:44 pm

Hi Kayla, I always say that if you’re unsure about any of the ingredients (especially any potentially allergenic ones), it’s best to consult with your pediatrician before introducing them. And yes, powdered icing sugar is the same as confectioners’ sugar. :) Happy birthday to your little one!

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Jac Hives August 2, 2017 at 10:09 pm

Hi – can the cane sugar be swapped for coconut sugar?

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Angela Liddon August 10, 2017 at 10:23 am

Hey Jac, I wouldn’t recommend substituting coconut sugar here, as it can be quite drying; the cupcakes likely wouldn’t be as moist and they might crack on the tops. But if that isn’t an issue for you then knock yourself out! If you need a sub, white sugar is your best bet for maintaining the recipe’s original texture, moistness, and flavour. Cane sugar is actually very similar to white sugar (the most similar of all vegan sweetener options, in fact!). You can substitute at a 1:1 ratio. Brown sugar might work, too, and maybe impart a richer flavour. Hope this helps!

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Sophia August 24, 2017 at 6:48 am
Recipe Rating:

I loooooove these! The cupcakes and frosting are bloody delicious. I will say that they get a little dry on day 2, but still freaking tasty!

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Jennie F September 20, 2017 at 10:47 am

These look amazing! I’ve been struggling to find an excellent vegan cupcake recipe, and several people pointed me towards these. However, we have a chocolate allergy to consider (crazy, right?!) – I could leave out the 1/3 cup chocolate to make them vanilla…but what would I sub in as a dry ingredient? just more flour? thank you!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) September 21, 2017 at 8:31 am

Hey Jennie, Thank you! Unfortunately, these don’t adapt well to a vanilla version that I know of. My vanilla attempts were a bit gummy. Cocoa powder doesn’t absorb as much liquid as flour does, so if you add 1/3 cup more flour the batter will probably be quite dense and possibly dry. Your best bet is probably looking for a vegan vanilla cake recipe online, but if you do any experimenting please let us know how it goes! :)

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Claire October 11, 2017 at 1:39 pm

Does the cupcake recipe double well?

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Angela (Oh She Glows) October 13, 2017 at 11:03 am

Hey Claire, Oh good question. I don’t think I have doubled it before! If you try anything please let me know how it goes.

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Holly October 23, 2017 at 8:11 pm
Recipe Rating:

Just made these tonight for my daughter’s birthday tomorrow. Mmmmmm soooo delicious!!! The icing was made with coconut oil instead of vegan butter. I actually wanted the coconut flavor and it worked with coconut flakes on top!! Oh so yummy. Because for me, nothing complements chocolate better than coconut!

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Holly October 23, 2017 at 8:12 pm
Recipe Rating:

i meant to give this a 5 star rating. Sorry about that. It’s worth the raving reviews! Nice and light and fluffy too!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) October 24, 2017 at 6:30 am

hey Holly, Oh I love the coconut oil + flakes idea…great combo with chocolate for sure. I just saw your rating too, thanks so much for your feedback! Happy birthday to your daughter. :)

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Holly November 20, 2017 at 10:38 am

I just saw your comment just now. Thank you :-) She loved them!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 20, 2017 at 1:47 pm

That’s great news! Thanks Holly :)

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Jane November 3, 2017 at 1:04 pm
Recipe Rating:

So yummy! I subbed real butter for vegan butter (we stay away from fake foods) and these were terrific. Thanks!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 4, 2017 at 6:36 am

Hey Jane, I’m so glad you enjoyed them! Thanks for trying them out.

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Asha Pritchard November 6, 2017 at 2:46 pm

I made these for a charity bake sale at work and they went down so well ☺ even with non-vegans! The sponge is lovely and moist but fluffy at the same time. Definitely going to try and make a full cake using this recipe too.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 6, 2017 at 6:32 pm

Oh that’s great news! If you have my first cookbook, there’s a great 2-layer chocolate cake recipe which was adapted from this recipe. :)

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Laura January 2, 2018 at 5:33 am
Recipe Rating:

I am not vegan but i made these last night and they taste amazing! they’re really dense (in a good way), rich and if i didn’t know they were vegan I don’t think i would be able to tell. I adapted the frosting recipe as I wanted to make that chocolate too, but I’m sure it would taste! Would definitely recommend this recipe

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 2, 2018 at 7:46 am

Hey Laura, Oh that’s so great you loved them! We do too. :) I heard from a blog reader last week that she made it into a themed birthday cake for her little one’s birthday. It’s quite a versatile recipe as a base. Thanks for your review!

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Natalie Roizman February 1, 2018 at 8:58 pm

I would like to make these for a vegan family member but won’t have time to make them to day of, or even the day before. Would the cupcakes freeze well do you think? Thank you!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) February 2, 2018 at 11:17 am

Hey Natalie, Yes they should freeze just fine (cool them fully and then tightly wrap). I’m not sure how the frosting freezes though.

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Natalie Roizman February 5, 2018 at 1:21 am

Thanks Angela, I will try to freeze the cupcakes and I can make the frosting a day or two ahead of time which should be fine in the fridge for a couple days I should think. I’ll let you know how they turn out!

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Karm February 9, 2018 at 1:11 pm

Thank you! Ur a lifesaver, my son is allergic to dairy, eggs and nuts. And it can be challenge to celbrate birthdays when I myself am not a baker. But thank you for sharing this amazing recipe I have been using it for last 5 years and now he feels involved in class celebrations because I freeze a batch and send in his lunch box when needed. Thanks again ❤️

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Angela (Oh She Glows) February 10, 2018 at 8:14 am

Aww that’s so sweet Karm…just picturing your son being able to celebrate with his class is so touching. Thanks for sharing!

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Michele Friel February 26, 2018 at 4:57 am
Recipe Rating:

oopsie, I couldnt stop eating the batter!
served these along with your carrot cake at dinner party to none Vegans and at the very end it came up in discussions that I was a plant base eater and they were all shocked! No one had the slightest idea. Can I reach through my computer and give you a hug for making my life easier?

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Angela (Oh She Glows) February 26, 2018 at 7:46 am

Awww that’s so sweet! Thank you Michele :) I’m so thrilled to hear this.

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Dori March 25, 2018 at 5:45 pm

Recipe looks great and easy to follow. I would like to make these gluten free for my daughter’s b-day party. I don’t normally cook gluten free and am unfamiliar with how to do so.
Can you please tell me how to make the cupcake portion gluten free. I’m assuming I’d swap out the flour, but I’ve tried using several gluten free flours and don’t have much luck. Any assistance is much appreciated.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 26, 2018 at 8:40 am

Hey Dori, Thank you! I have tried to make a gluten-free version before using all kinds of different flours and store-bought mixes and I never arrived on anything that I really loved enough to share. I’m so picky with my baked goods. If I do I will definitely share! :)

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Karla Lindic April 9, 2018 at 7:04 pm

Can I use soy milk or coconut milk? My daughter in law has a nut allergy. No almond milk.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) April 16, 2018 at 7:52 am

Hey Karla, I think any plant milk should work okay as long as you like the flavour! If using soy milk, there will likely be curdling when the vinegar is added…just to warn you :)

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Elisa April 10, 2018 at 6:33 am

Hi there!
Can’t wait to try these but just had one question… the apple cider vinegar in the recipe, what is it used for? I thought perhaps to make buttermilk but the recipe doesn’t mention it? Help!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) April 17, 2018 at 7:25 am

Hey Elisa, The vinegar is there so it can react with the baking soda and help the cake rise. I used apple cider as it’s a bit sweeter than other varieties. Hope this helps!

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Ian C August 25, 2018 at 7:48 am

These are bliss. So light and fluffy and yum. I used olive oil and it worked well too. Thank you!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) August 27, 2018 at 2:58 pm

So glad to hear that Ian…thanks!

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Angela N August 27, 2018 at 1:35 pm

Yes, please work on a gluten free version as these look great!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) August 27, 2018 at 2:55 pm

Thanks Angela! Will do :)

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Elizabeth September 11, 2018 at 12:05 pm

Is it possible to substitute the cocoa powder with cacao powder?

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Angela (Oh She Glows) September 14, 2018 at 6:30 am

Hi Elizabeth, I haven’t tried it, but I can’t see why not! Cacao and cocoa powder tend to be interchangeable in many recipes. I’d love to hear how it goes!

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Stephanie Pin October 10, 2018 at 12:55 am
Recipe Rating:

I made these today f0r a dinner tomorrow night. Super easy to make and I love that there is not a lot of ingredients. less ingredients the better! The frosting was so delicious. I added orange natural food coloring and black sprinkles to make it real festive since halloween is around the corner. There is two reasons why I didnt give this recipe five stars. 1. The cupcakes weren’t very high 2. For some reason the cupcake was sticking to the liner.
Other then that FANTASTIC

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Angela (Oh She Glows) October 15, 2018 at 7:52 am

Hey Stephanie, I love those festive touches…thanks for sharing! I’m happy to hear the cupcakes were a hit.

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