I’m gonna go out on a limb here but maybe, just maybe, we should do the Ice Cream Cupcake Contest in like December. I get the whole “it’s summertime and it’s hot and we all want ice cream” thing but seriously, photographing these puppies in 85 degree weather is a wee bit difficult. Not to mention messy. And sticky. There’s still icing and ice cream all over my camera. I’m just saying…
As you know (or maybe you don’t) every year Cupcake Project and Scoopalicious host an ice cream cupcake competition. You make a cupcake, throw some ice cream on it and hope nobody else was as creative as you were (which, obviously, never happens because there are a lot of super creative people out there). Last year was my first year competing, and I made it to the finals with my Take 6 cupcake but a certain S’mores cupcake and ultimately a very yummy looking honey hazelnut and chocolate ganache cupcake took the cake (no pun intended). Stephanie, the maker of the S’mores cake, is judging this year so at least I don’t have to worry about her this time around.
Lately I’ve been on this white chocolate kick. I made a white chocolate dobos opera fusion cake at work a week or so ago and the idea carried over into my home life. I thought about making the cupcake 7 layers (like the dobos) but my better judgement took hold and smacked some sense into me. I wasn’t sure exactly how my cupcake was going to come together but then one night around 2am I randomly woke up and thought “cheesecake cupcake.” But not in actual cheesecake form. And I wanted the cupcake to be the graham cracker crust. So without further ado, my cupcake:
There’s cupcake underneath all that frosting, you just can’t see it here. My aim with the frosting was a whip cream consistency, so I decided to once again try to whip coconut cream. People tell me this works; I think they’re all lying. Maybe I’m just expecting it to do what actual cream does, or honestly just anything at all, but the only thing I ever see is the pretty design my whisk makes as the stand mixer spins its little heart out to no avail. So I morphed it into a coconut cream buttercream. The texture is much softer than typical buttercream, so that’s good. It’s still super sweet though as I had to use lots of powdered sugar to give it some volume, but that’s ok – it is a cupcake after all and cupcakes are supposed to be sweet.
Being that the frosting is super soft, it doesn’t hold up to the heat well. Especially if you just mixed it and are impatient and your kitchen looks like a war zone and all you really want to do is take the damn photo so you can finally eat dinner. I initially just put a dollop of frosting on top of the cupcakes and added my caramel sugar garnish, but two the of three dollops slid off before I could even turn my camera on. I got some photos of one of them at least.
The caramel sugar garnish here and in the first photo are the same thing. You just put some sugar in a pan and add enough water to make it look like wet sand. Then you crank the heat up full blast and wait. Absolutely no stirring. Stirring the sugar will likely cause it to crystalize, which will make it look like rock candy. Sure it’s pretty but once I crystalized a pot of like 16 cups of sugar at work… Luckily nobody was around to yell/ laugh/ bill me for it.
At some point the sugar will start to caramelize. You can swirl the pan a bit to even out the caramelizing. Depending on what you want to do with it, you take it off the heat when it reaches the caramel color you want, briefly place the pan in an ice bath to stop the cooking. You can “pipe” it out with a paper cornet, or use a ball whisk to make a nest of strands, or use cutters to make shapes (molds), etc, etc. But a word of caution: caramel is HOT! So have some gloves on if you can, and a towel and an ice bath in case you get some on your finger as shaking it off just won’t happen.
White Chocolate Cheesecake Ice Cream (vegan)
- 9 oz vegan white chocolate
- 8 oz vegan cream cheese, softened
- 6 oz extra firm silken tofu (Mori-Nu)
- 1 can coconut milk (full fat)
- 3/4 C organic sugar
- 1 T lemon juice
- 1 t vanilla extract
A word on the vegan white chocolate, it’s weird. It tastes fine but it has a different texture than normal white chocolate. It doesn’t melt like normal chocolate either. It melts down to a batter-like consistency but it doesn’t get liquidy (so just keep that in mind).
Place the chocolate in a double boiler (or bowl on top of a pan with water) and heat it gently until it’s uniformly melted. Place the cream cheese, tofu and melted chocolate in a blender and puree until smooth. Add enough coconut milk to help it along but let it get completely smooth before adding the rest. Once smooth, add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth again.
You can let the mixture cool down in the fridge for awhile at this point. When you’re ready to freeze, depending on what kind of ice cream maker you have, you may have to freeze it in two batches. My maker is just small enough where all of this wouldn’t fit in at once. After the ice cream is spun it honestly needs about a day to setup properly, so make the ice cream well ahead of when you need it.
In my opinion, this is the best vegan ice cream I’ve ever had. I always use low fat coconut milk because I’m health conscious but I threw calories to the wind for this project. Cheesecake isn’t supposed to be healthy anyway. This ice cream is rich and creamy and full of flavor. Definitely a keeper! I think omnivores would even be impressed.
Graham “Cracker” Cupcakes (mostly vegan)
These are mostly vegan because I put honey in them. I know honey isn’t technically vegan but I don’t have a problem with using it. Bees are going to make the stuff whether we’re eating it or not so… If you don’t want to use honey feel free to sub in agave or some more sugar.
- 3/4 C graham flour (or whole wheat if you can’t find it)
- 3/4 C whole wheat pastry flour
- 3/4 t cinnamon
- 3/4 t baking soda
- 1/2 t baking powder
- 1/2 t salt
- 1 C soy mik
- 1 t apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 C non-gmo canola oil
- 1/2 C sugar
- 1/4 C honey
- 2 T blackstrap molasses
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 2 T applesauce, optional (for moisture)
Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan if you wish or just spray it with PAM. I did both because I wanted to be able to see the cake and didn’t want cupcake liner indentions on it, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get them out of the pan so I lined a few – they came out just fine.
Pour the milk and vinegar in your mixing bowl and set it aside to curdle.
In another bowl, mix together your dry ingredients.
Once your milk is curdled add the rest of the wet ingredients and whisk to combine. Fold in the dry ingredients in 3 increments, partially incorporating between additions. I did this because graham flour is high in protein and I didn’t want to risk working the gluten too much and end up with tough cupcakes.
Portion the batter into the cupcake pan. I used a 1/4 cup scoop and got 12 cupcakes out of it. Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick comes out clean, mine only took 18 minutes which is pretty quick. Let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
Coconut Cream Buttercream (vegan)
- Cream from 1 can of full fat coconut milk
- 1/4 C vegan stick butter, softened
- 1 t vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- Powdered sugar
To get the coconut cream out of the can without getting all the water you have to cool the can in the fridge overnight; the cream will rise to the top as the water sinks to the bottom. Don’t shake the can before opening it. Scoop the cream off the top and stop when you hit water.
Cream the butter with the paddle attachment in your stand mixer. Once it’s super creamy (wet) add the coconut cream, vanilla extract and salt. Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. I ended up using between 4 and 5 cups of powdered sugar. It’s fairly goopy right after you mix it but if you let it sit in the fridge for awhile it will firm up to a pipeable consistency.
I made my ice cream a few days before I made the cupcakes (yes, my husband waited DAYS before he could have one of these cupcakes, he’s so patient). Once I spun the ice cream I lined my cupcake pan with plastic wrap and portioned out 1/4 cup scoops of ice cream into each cavity. After those were frozen solid I removed them from the pan so I could use it to make the cupcakes.
After the cupcakes were baked I sawed off the tops of them to make them flat and plopped a molded ice cream on each one. You can smooth the ice cream out with an offset spatula or your hands if you have to.
Let these setup again before frosting them. You can use an 802 or 804 tip to pipe the dots/ petals. I tried using a leaf tip but the icing is too soft to hold (it looked like a wilted flower). You can pipe the icing straight out of the fridge; it doesn’t need to be tempered like normal buttercream.
Since the ice cream is pretty much incased by the frosting you have a few minutes before any major melting will occur. But it definitely will melt, and when it does the frosting will slide off in sheets like ice slipping down the side of a glacier.
These are some yummy cupcakes though. It’s the first time I’ve had the graham cracker flavor in something other than a cracker, but it’s a nice change from the typical cupcake flavors. The cake isn’t overly sweet either, so it creates a nice balance with the decadent ice cream and sugary frosting. If I were to serve these at a party I think I’d leave them unassembled and then scoop the ice cream right before serving and do a simple piping job.
Well, keep your fingers crossed for me. There are a lot of creative entries so it’s going to be tough to judge! If you make these cupcakes let me know what you think of the graham flavor without the cracker crunch.