Recipe: Chocolate Chilli Cupcakes that everyone can eat

Hello again!  And hello new people who wandered over from Broadsheet Melbourne, which I gather wrote lovely things about me yesterday.  I am ridiculously flattered and delighted by this!  (So lovely not just to get a review, but a review that basically says that I am succeeding in doing exactly the things I am trying to do).

You may recall that I promised an exciting vegetarian / vegan friendly recipe about a week ago, and completely failed to deliver.  Why?  Because, I regret to say, my nettle pie with olive oil pastry turned out to be less than delectable when I tasted it.  To be blunt, it was awful.  I think perhaps nettles are a bit on the bitter side for my taste, though this may be just a case of the bad cook blaming her ingredients. So no nettle pie recipe for you, sorry.  (And this, I regret to say, was also a major reason for the week-long hiatus from this blog – I was sulking for days because clearly this pie was proof that I Can’t Cook At All.  Hey, I never claimed to be logical…) I do intend to buy nettles again sometime and try them in a different recipe, so we’ll see what happens. 

Instead, my dear readers, you will have to cope with a recipe I am developing for a wedding cupcake tower next weekend.  This one is gluten, nut, soy and fructose free, and also vegan, which you would think wouldn’t leave you with much to work with, but there is always chocolate!  And chilli! The spice level has been scientifically tested (I sent an email around to my scientists this morning looking for volunteer tasters), and deemed to be acceptable to all – which is to say, the true chilli heads claim it needs more chilli, but everyone else liked it.  Feel free to adjust the chilli level to suit your taste (but be aware that these cakes taste much spicier fresh from the oven, just in case you were planning to serve them as puddings with a chocolatey sauce).

These cakes taste warm rather than hot, even when they are at room temperature, and the chilli does stay with you a bit afterward, but is not burny, even if you are a complete wuss about chilli, as I am.  I have not yet developed the perfect icing for them (translation: something went horribly wrong with my usually fail-proof rice-milk ganache last night), but something with the personality of a chocolate cream-cheese icing would be about right.  I’ll add a link to that once I’ve figured it out.


Your Shopping List

1 1/3 cups rice milk (or other non-dairy milk of your choice, depending what you are trying to avoid and what you have in the cupboard, but probably not coconut milk)
1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 cup sunflower oil
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 cup brown rice flour (supermarket or health-food shop)
1/4 cup potato starch (definitely health-food shop, but cornflour would work in a pinch)
1/8 cup tapioca flour (also in supermarket, may be disguised as arrowroot)
1/8 cup cornflour (supermarket friendly – yay!)
1 tsp xanthum gum (health-food shop, no two ways about it)
1/2 cup cocoa powder – dutch process if possible, and fair trade if you can find it
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp bicarb of soda
1/2 tsp ground chilli
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt

Now what will you do with it?

Guess what?  You’ve already done the hardest thing in the recipe, which was finding the ingredients at the shops.   (This is the point at which I always have a moment of sympathy for people who have to be gluten-free all the time, because shopping must be an utter pain in the neck.  And other places.)

Put the rice milk in a large bowl with the vinegar, and set aside for five minutes to curdle a bit.  This is pure superstition on my part – the Post-Punk Kitchen girls do this with soy milk, but I’ve never noticed rice milk curdling much.  Still, vinegar is one of those chemistry-experiment ingredients, so it’s probably best to leave it be, even if I’m not quite sure what its role in this recipe is.

Edited to add: OK, it isn’t superstition, it’s chemistry, just as I suspected – see useful comment below for more information!

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper cases.  Now is also a good time to go measuring ingredients.

Beat the sugar and oil into the rice milk.

Sift the dry ingredients into the milk mixture, she says, with a laugh, because while that really would be a good idea, what with all those clumpy starches, I forgot to do that entirely and the recipe still worked.  Mind you, I did have to beat the whole thing a bit longer to get rid of the lumps.  Nobody likes lumps of bicarb, no matter how much they like chilli…

Beat everything together well – you’ll find that the mixture starts off very liquid, but quickly comes to resemble a cake batter.  And here, incidentally, is the one absolute advantage of gluten-free cooking, which is that you can’t over work the gluten, because it isn’t there!  Take that, muffin-makers!  (Why yes, I do have a bit of muffin resentment.  I like to blame the evil oven that I had for years, but I suspect I’m just not very good at muffins in general)

Put spoonfuls of mixture into the paper cases, keeping them reasonably smooth, because while these cupcakes do rise, they don’t change their shape much, and bake at 180°C for 20 minutes or until lovely and springy.

Ice with the icing of your choice, or pretend they are muffins, because they do kind of have that texture, and eat them plain.  For breakfast, if you are shameless like me.

Feed them to basically everyone, because they really are that allergy-friendly!

Cake, with very dodgy dairy-free ganache icing!


Obviously, you could make these without the chilli for a nice, plain chocolate allergy-friendly cupcake.  Nothing wrong with that.  And then you could use that as a basis for anything from choc-mint cupcakes to mini Black Forest cakes or whatever.  The sky is your limit!  And yes, you can use dairy milk if you are fine with dairy, and you can replace that whole list of flours and starches starting with brown rice flour and going to xanthum gum with 1 1/2 cups of plain flour, if you have no particular need to avoid gluten (yes, I know that’s an awful lot of different kinds of flour, but I like that combination because it gets a nice springy, cakey texture without a strong wholemeal or nutty flavour – a good, basic, background flour substitute, in other words).

Alternatively, you could make them more exotic again by adding a little orange zest, which I think would really complement the flavours well (though check this with your fructose-intolerant friends before using orange – I think citrus zest is  fairly low fructose, but tolerance levels do seem to vary from person to person).

I only had plain, supermarket-variety chilli on my shelves, but I’d love to try this with ground chipotle pepper, because the smokiness would, I think, be amazing with the chocolate.  In fact, I’m rather regretting that I don’t know more about South American cooking and what sweet spices or other flavours might work well here, but do you know what I just thought of?  These cupcakes are totally *begging* for an avocado-based chocolate icing like the one Hannah uses for her vegan brownies.  Though I will probably use something richer for the actual wedding cake versions of these cupcakes.

Be daring!


This time last year…

Review: McGee On Food and Cooking
On a Date with Ancient Ingredients – In which Catherine is Clearly Nuts
Recipe: Date and Pistachio Petits Fours (Mersu)
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11 comments for “Recipe: Chocolate Chilli Cupcakes that everyone can eat

  1. August 9, 2012 at 11:15 am

    The vinegar reacts with the bicarbonate of soda to form carbon dioxide, which provides lift. It’s a supplement to the baking powder; without those two ingredients, it would be a bit on the heavy side.

    • August 9, 2012 at 11:19 am

      Thank you! I thought it might be something like that (knowing bicarb is alkaline and vinegar acidic), but it’s good to know the mechanism for future reference.

  2. August 9, 2012 at 11:18 am

    And a further note – orange zest has no fructose in it. The fructose is only found in the juice/fruit itself; the zest only has the essential oils which give it that characteristic smell (mostly limonene, with an admixture of several other terpenoids).

    • August 9, 2012 at 11:21 am

      Better and better – I’m always very nervous about saying anything definite about fructose, because while people want me to make low-fructose food quite often, it’s difficult to find definitive information (especially as the most authoritative websites I have found to date are arguing with each other!).

      That makes very useful amounts of sense, however.

  3. August 10, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Congratulations!! And that icing would surely respond to the call 😉

    • August 10, 2012 at 10:47 am

      Thank you! I’m pretty excited about this (not having had any reviews before by people who weren’t already friends). And I will definitely try your icing on these cakes and see how it goes.

      Glad to see you are enjoying New York!

  4. August 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Think I might have to try this one. I’ve always wanted to try chocolate and chilli!

    • August 15, 2012 at 4:17 pm

      Do! It’s a very easy recipe, once you find the ingredients (or, you know, if you don’t need to be gluten-free or dairy free, you can substitute right back to the more easily found ingredients). I am evolving evil plans for a dairy-free chocolate and chilli ganache to pipe into the middle of the cupcakes so that they sort of explode when you bite into them…

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