Vegan chocolate cupcakes with strawberry filling

I grew up in a small town known for two things: outstanding BBQ tri-tip and strawberry fields. While it's been many years since I've sunk my teeth into a tri-tip steak (the only red meat I'd ever eat, if I were to eat it again, it's that good!), I still wait impatiently for the arrival of strawberries at roadside stands every spring. I learned about this recipe when I threw a vegan baking party -- every attendee brought a different baked vegan dessert so we could explore what was possible to bake without any animal products. This one was one of my top two favorites. Now that spring is here and strawberries are filling the shelves at the market, I wondered how to combine these two treats. The answer is this recipe for a cupcake so good even my tri-tip-loving family wouldn't know they're vegan.

Cupcake recipe adapted from Simply Scraps. Strawberry filling recipe adapted from The Oven Mitt.

© Jaymi Heimbuch
Ingredients for the cupcakes (makes 2 1/2 dozen):

3 cups flour (a gluten-free multi-flour blend will also work in place of wheat flour)
6 Tablespoon's cocoa powder
2 teaspoon's baking soda
1 1/2 cups raw cane sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons vegetable oil (I recommend you substitute this with applesauce for a healthier version. If you care only about the taste, however, then use the oil for a darker chocolate flavor, and use the applesauce for added sweetness.)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups cold water

© Jaymi Heimbuch
Ingredients for the strawberry filling (makes enough to fill about 2 dozen cupcakes):

2 cups of fresh diced strawberries
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons of corn starch (and maybe 1 extra teaspoon depending on total thickness)

Making the cupcakes:
1. Preheat your oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, sugar and salt until thoroughly mixed.

© Jaymi Heimbuch

2. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the vegetable oil, vanilla extract, lemon juice and cold water. Stir until completely combined and free of lumps.

© Jaymi Heimbuch

3. Grease your muffin tins with oil or nonstick spray. Fill cupcake tins to about three quarters full. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

© Jaymi Heimbuch

Making the filling:
1. While the cupcakes are baking, start your strawberry filling. Add strawberries to a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly as they heat up and begin to soften.

© Jaymi Heimbuch

2. When the strawberries are mostly liquid, add the sugar and corn starts and continue to stir constantly for a few minutes more as the mixture thickens. Stir until the sauce is almost jelly-like in consistency.

3. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.

How to get the strawberry filling into the cupcakes:
1. Using a paring knife, cut a cone out of the top of each cupcake, going deep enough to allow plenty of filling but not so deep that you cut through to the bottom.

© Jaymi Heimbuch

2. Remove the cone and fill the space with the strawberry mix almost to the top but not quite.

© Jaymi Heimbuch

3. Cut the "iceberg" portion off the cone you pulled from the cupcake so you have just the thin disk for the top and replace the "lid" over the strawberry filling. (Pop the remaining portion of the cone in your mouth because it's so perfectly bite-sized!)

© Jaymi Heimbuch

Decorate and serve! One thing to note: These cupcakes aren't as good hot as they are cooled off, so wait to dive in until they're at least room temperature. And they're really best the next day. I don't know why this is, but they seem to get sweeter and more chocolate-y over the course of a day or two (if they last that long).

© Jaymi Heimbuch
© Jaymi Heimbuch

Tags: Cooking | Recipes | The Cooking Project

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