These dairy free chocolate cupcakes are made without milk or butter. Believe it or not, that is what makes these cupcakes incredibly moist and rich.
What I love about cupcakes is the same thing I love about muffins is that they are made in serving sizes.
Don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate cake, but the perk of cupcakes is that there is less cleanup after serving. No plates, no forks, not even a knife.
If you’re wondering where the name “cupcake” comes from, it’s because they were originally made in individual pottery cups and ramekins.
However, today “cupcake” is now use with any small, round cake that is about the size of a teacup.
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What You Need
CUPCAKES VS MUFFINS
You may be surprised to learn that the difference between muffins and cupcakes is actually up for debate.
I used to think that muffins are very large and much denser than cupcakes but I’ve also had muffins that weren’t as big or heavy.
So, what makes a muffin a muffin and a cupcake a cupcake? Frosting. Yup, that is the only consistent difference. Cupcakes have frosting and muffins don’t.
I also read that muffins have a quick bread type of batter where cupcakes use cake batter. While this makes sense, I’ve seen all kinds of batters used for cupcakes so I’m not sure I buy it.
Why use coffee?
Coffee really brings out the chocolate flavor in baked goods. In fact, when I was making my chocolate muffins, their flavor tasted flat until I added coffee to the recipe.
There are two reasons for this: First, coffee helps enrich the chocolate flavor. Second, the heat from the water helps bloom the cocoa.
Do you taste the coffee?
No. The coffee is just enough to really bring out the rich chocolate flavor but not enough to taste like mocha.
How to Make Black Coffee
Usually it is 1 teaspoon of instant coffee per cup of hot water.
Can Children have this since there is coffee in it?
All over the world, children generally do not have coffee because it isn’t good for them. Oddly, they are allowed to have soda drinks and energy drinks which is worse, but that is another topic.
In the case of this recipe, the small amount of coffee as part of a whole cake is not enough to be harmful.
Can I leave the coffee out?
Yes, but it may make the chocolate flavor taste less rich. So, make sure to replace it with hot water so you still bloom the cocoa.
CAN I USE DAIRY FREE MILK INSTEAD?
I think coffee is the best option for chocolate baked recipes but if you don’t want it, it’s not a must.
Instead, you can use oat milk, almond milk, coconut milk, or any milk you want and even orange juice is an option.
Also, if you want you can use your preferred milk and then add the dry coffee instead of using black coffee. Or you can do one cup of milk and one cup of black coffee if desired.
CAKE FLOUR VS ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
Cake flour is finer, lighter, and softer than all-purpose flour, as well as bleached, so the color is paler.
Most importantly, it has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour so cake flour produces less gluten.
I use all-purpose flour in all my recipes because it’s cheaper and most people have it on hand.
HOW TO SUBSTITUTE ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR FOR CAKE FLOUR
First, you can ignore any place that calls for cake flour and use all-purpose flour at a 1:1 conversion rate. I do this all the time.
The results will be a little less than perfect, but not very noticeable.
How to make your own cake flour
You can do this by removing two tablespoons for every cup of flour. Then replace the same two tablespoons with corn or potato starch.
Doing this will remove enough protein to create a lighter cake.
BAKING WITH OIL
In general, oil in baked goods makes for a superior texture than those made with butter.
Oil cakes tend to bake up taller with a better crumb. They also stay moist and tender far longer than recipes made with butter.
Furthermore, since oil is lighter than butter, the texture of oil cakes is lighter too.
Also, given that oil is 100% fat while most American butter is 15% water, it creates a more tender crumb.
This is due to the fact that the extra water strengthens the gluten, resulting in a crumb that’s more dense.
Which Type Of Oil to Use
I use neutral oils like canola oil, safflower oil, and vegetable oil. However, it’s not unheard of for oils with stronger flavors like olive oil or coconut oil to be used.
If using olive oil, I recommend using pure olive oil for its milder flavor and higher smoking point.
Baking with Oil Conversion Chart
If you want to convert your butter recipes to oil recipes, check out my baking with oil butter to oil conversion chart.
DO EGGS NEED TO BE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE?
The short answer is “no”. While a side-by-side comparison shows that baking with eggs at room temperature makes a better crumb, it’s not otherwise noticeable.
What are Eggs used for?
Eggs do three things in most recipes: they help bind the ingredients together, act as a mild leavening agent, and they add moisture.
EGG FREE OPTION
Eggs can be substituted with 1/4 cup of unsweetened apple sauce per egg. This means for recipes calling for 2 eggs, you’d need 1/2 cup of unsweetened apple sauce.
The reason applesauce makes a good binder is that it’s high in pectin. Pectin is a naturally occurring starch in fruits and berries that acts as a thickening agent and stabilizer in food.
This happens when combined with sugar and acid (if the fruit or berry isn’t naturally acidic).
Just keep in mind that it may change the flavor slightly.
ARE EGGS DAIRY?
No, eggs are not dairy. Dairy is milk and any food products made from milk, including cheese, cream, butter, and yogurt.
So, while eggs are an animal product, they are not dairy. In fact, eggs fall under the protein food group.
WHICH TYPE OF COCOA TO USE
When a recipe calls for cocoa, always use unsweetened cocoa powder, unless specified otherwise.
This allows you to have better control of the sweetness of what you’re making.
There are three basic forms of unsweetened cocoa powder.
NATURAL COCOA POWDER
Natural cocoa powder comes from cocoa beans that are fermented, roasted, processed at a higher heat, and milled into a powder.
It’s bitter, with a very strong and concentrated chocolate flavor.
This cocoa powder is acidic and is often used in recipes calling for baking soda, because the two react with each other to allow your baked good to rise.
This is most commonly used, and should be used, in recipes that simply say “cocoa powder.”
DUTCH-PROCESS COCOA POWDER
Dutch-process cocoa powder starts with cocoa beans that have been washed in potassium carbonate which neutralizes their acidity.
Since Dutch-process cocoa powder is neutral, it does not react with baking soda.
When baking, Dutch-process cocoa is often paired with baking powder.
Dutch-process cocoa powder can also be used in place of natural cocoa powder in recipes that don’t require leavening.
These include sauces, hot cocoa, frostings, ice cream, pudding, etc.
If you only have Dutch-process cocoa powder on hand, you can substitute it for neutral cocoa powder.
Just make sure to add 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar, white vinegar, or lemon juice for every 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder called for in the recipe.
RAW CACAO POWDER
Raw cacao powder is different from natural and Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder.
It’s pure powder from the cacao bean and isn’t nearly as processed as both natural and Dutch-process.
Cocoa is processed at high heat, which destroys much of the nutritional benefits of the cacao seed.
Also, cocoa powder is often alkalized during processing to reduce acidity. The result is a product that’s less bitter and more soluble when added to liquids.
Cacao powder, on the other hand, is made of fermented – not roasted – seeds that are processed at low temperatures and then milled into a powder, ensuring its nutritional benefits and its bitter flavor are preserved.
You can use raw cacao powder in recipes that don’t specify Dutch-process cocoa powder, however it is best not to try to.
Compared to cocoa powder, cacao powder has a stronger flavor, it is not as absorbent as cocoa powder, and it is more acidic, so it will react differently with baking soda.
HOW TO MEASURE FLOUR AND OTHER DRY INGREDIENTS
Using a dry measuring cup, scoop ingredients from the bag or spoon them into the cup.
Next, level off the ingredient by removing the excess with an upside-down butter knife.
The one exception to this is brown sugar. Brown sugar should be packed down and then any excess should be scraped off as well.
DRY VS LIQUID MEASURING CUP
Ever wonder why measuring spoons often come with a set of measuring cups? I used to. I didn’t see why we needed a set when we could have one large measuring cup.
After a quick search, I had my answer. I discovered that the large measuring cup is used for liquids, whereas the set is used for dry ingredients.
As it turns out, if you try to measure dry ingredients with a liquid cup, the measurements get messed up.
First, you pour the flour or cocoa in, next you shake it around to get it level, and then you add more.
By shaking it, you are causing the powder to settle, and when you add more, you end up using more than called for.
WHY SIFT FLOUR and Other Powder Ingredients
There are a number of benefits to sifting flour and other ingredients like cocoa ingredients:
It removes any unwanted debris and you can get a more accurate measurement than when packed tightly in a bag.
It also removes any lumps that can get into the batter and be hard to break up later, or be missed altogether before baking.
If you sift the powdered ingredients together, it helps combine them and mix more evenly with other dry ingredients like sugar.
Sugar may seem very basic if you’ve baked before, but I’ve been asked about it before, so I’m explaining.
There are many different types of sugar, including white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla sugar, powdered sugar, turbinado sugar, and demerara sugar.
When a recipe – any recipe, not just mine – says “sugar” without specifying anything else, it is regular white sugar.
White sugar (sometimes called granulated sugar, table sugar, or white granulated sugar) is made of either beet sugar or cane sugar, which has undergone a refining process.
It is the easiest to find and most commonly used.
Brown sugar is white sugar with molasses added to it.
It is commonly used in chocolate chip cookie recipes, and it’s rare for a recipe that calls for brown sugar not to also call for white sugar as well.
When a recipe calls for “brown sugar” but doesn’t specify what type (light or dark), it is referring to light brown sugar.
In my recipes, you can use whatever type of brown sugar you have on hand whether it is dark brown sugar, light brown sugar, or demerara sugar – which is very common in Israel.
Just keep in mind that the flavor and color will be slightly different depending on what you choose to use.
Turbinado sugar is better known as “raw sugar”. But, despite this name, the sugar is not really “raw.”
Instead, it’s partially refined sugar that retains some of the original molasses.
The term “raw sugar” may also give off the impression that it is somehow healthier.
In reality, turbinado sugar is nutritionally similar to white sugar.
Demerara sugar is very popular in Israel and is especially delicious in tea, but is also used for baking.
Unlike white sugar, demerara sugar undergoes minimal processing and retains some vitamins and mineral.
However, it is still not much healthier than white sugar.
Vanilla sugar is not very common in the States. However, it is common in Israel and parts of Europe.
This is sugar that sat for an extended period of time with vanilla beans, giving it a vanilla flavor.
This type of sugar is common in the United Kingdom.
It has a finer grain than white (granulated) sugar and larger than powdered sugar.
Caster sugar is often called for in recipes for delicate baked goods like meringues, souffles, and sponge cakes.
You can use a 1:1 conversion rate between caster sugar and white (granulated) sugar.
Powdered sugar, sometimes known as confectioners’ sugar, is a sugar with a powdered texture.
This sugar is rarely, if ever, used for baking. Instead, it is used for dusting desserts and making frosting and icings.
In some countries, you can also find powdered vanilla sugar.
It is made the exact same way regular vanilla sugar is made. However, the sugar used is powdered instead of granulated.
Vanilla Extract vs Vanilla sugar
In my recipes, I don’t specify what kind of vanilla to use.
The reason for this is that in the States, vanilla extract is exclusively used.
Meanwhile in Israel, along with many European countries, vanilla sugar is common.
In most, if not all recipes, both vanilla extract and vanilla sugar can be used.
In recipes where vanilla sugar can be used instead of extract, you can replace them 1:1.
Replacing Sugar with Honey
If you’d prefer to use honey instead of sugar, you can do so with pretty good results.
Honey can be two or even three times as sweet depending on the honey, so for every 1 cup of sugar, you can use 1/2 to 2/3 cup honey.
Since honey adds liquid, you need to remove some to balance it out. For every cup of honey remove a 1/4 cup of liquid.
Also, it burns faster than granulated sugar, so you want to lower the baking temperature by 25 F or 4 C. In addition, check it early and often to avoid burning or overbaking.
Types of Vanilla
Vanilla comes from a pod commonly known as a “vanilla bean”, which comes from the vanilla orchids.
Vanilla pod has been used for flavoring since the Aztecs, and was introduced to Europe by a Spanish conquistador, along with cocoa.
Vanilla extract is created by soaking vanilla beans in alcohol for some time. This is the most commonly used type of vanilla.
Vanilla sugar is common in Europe and some parts of the Middle East, like Israel.
It is made from vanilla beans sitting in sugar, vanilla bean powder mixed with sugar, or sugar mixed with vanilla extract.
In some countries, like Italy, you can also find vanilla powdered sugar which is used for confections.
Vanilla paste is generally a specialty item. It is a thick paste that contains a blend of the scraped-out vanilla pod seeds and vanilla extract.
You can use it as you do vanilla extract and it will leave flakes of vanilla bean like you see in vanilla bean ice cream.
Imitation Vanilla, otherwise known as artificial vanilla, is made from synthetic vanilla.
This is the compound that naturally occurs in vanilla beans and gives it its flavor.
Can I use imitation vanilla?
Many will tell you that you should use high quality vanilla, just like they say you should use the best cocoa.
However, most of us will probably not be willing to pay the hefty price that comes with exceptionally high-quality ingredients.
Overall, vanilla is very expensive, so the extract is as well.
So, if you’re not going to get regular quality vanilla extract, you might as well use imitation vanilla.
GLUTEN FREE OPTION
Buckwheat flour is easy to find compared to most other gluten-free flours, and it adds a nice earthy nutty taste.
The downside is that it has a distinct flavor, so the change will be noticeable.
It’s also darker, so the color won’t be the same. Substitute cup for cup.
Rice flour can also be used and can be found in most Asian and health food stores.
White rice flour has a mild flavor and doesn’t change the color of the muffin or quick bread.
Since it doesn’t have much flavor, it’s best to use it with ingredients that do. Substitute cup for cup.
Oat flour is made from whole oats that have been ground into a powder, which can easily be done at home.
It gives more flavor and a chewier and crumblier texture than regular all-purpose flour.
Substitute 1 cup of all-purpose flour for 1 1/3 cup Oat Flour. To make 1 cup of oat flour, blend 1 1/4 cups of oats in a food processor until finely ground.
Note: oats must be marked gluten-free because they can get cross-contaminated in the factory.
BAKING AT HIGH ALTITUDES
The higher the altitude, the lower the air pressure, and the more difficult it is to bake recipes.
Increase 15 to 25°F. Since leavening and evaporation happen more quickly, the higher temperature helps set the structure of baked goods before they over-expand and dry out.
However, the baking at higher temperatures means products are done sooner, so decrease by 5-8 minutes per 30 minutes of baking time.
Adjustment for 3000 feet
- Reduce baking powder: for each teaspoon decrease 1/8 teaspoon.
- Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 0 to 1 tablespoon.
- Increase liquid: for each cup, add 1 to 2 tablespoons.
Adjustment for 5000 feet
- Reduce baking powder: for each teaspoon, decrease 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon.
- Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 0 to 2 tablespoons.
- Increase liquid: for each cup, add 2 to 4 tablespoons.
Adjustment for 7000+ feet
- Reduce baking powder: for each teaspoon, decrease 1/4 teaspoon.
- Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 1 to 3 tablespoons.
- Increase liquid: for each cup, add 3 to 4 tablespoons.
Baking with Humidity
Humidity can have a big impact on how your baked goods come out.
This is because when humidity is extremely high (think 70 percent or more), baking ingredients like flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda soak up moisture from the air.
This can negatively impact the outcome of your cakes, cookies, yeast breads, and quick breads.
There are some things you can do to try to save your baking.
Try to counterbalance the additional moisture
To help counterbalance the additional moisture your dry ingredients soak up from the air, try reducing the amount of liquid in the recipe by about one-quarter.
If the batter or dough looks too dry once all the ingredients are mixed together, add additional liquid tablespoon at a time until you have the desired consistency.
This is not usually possible to do for cookies, but it does work for cakes and breads.
Store Ingredients in the Fridge
If flour and sugar are stored in the refrigerator or freezer rather than in a cupboard or pantry, they are better protected from humidity.
As an added benefit, keeping these ingredients cool also helps keep them fresher longer, in addition to helping them stay bug-free.
For best results, let them warm to room temperature before using.
Bake for Longer
If you bake your goodies for a few extra minutes, it can help the liquid to cook off.
To avoid overbaking, continue testing for doneness every couple of minutes for breads, quick breads, cakes, cupcakes, and muffins. Cookies, on the other hand, need to be checked every minute.
Use Air Conditioning
To help lower humidity levels on humid summer days, air condition the room for at least an hour before you start baking.
Cooler air isn’t able to hold as much moisture as warm air.
Store your baked goods in an airtight container
Humidity can also ruin your fresh-baked goods because when they are left out they can absorb moisture.
To avoid this, store them in an air tight container or resealable bag.
How to Store Cupcakes
Store frosted cupcakes in your airtight container on the counter at room temperature. Storing cupcakes in the fridge will dry them out faster.