BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Lost and Found

Organization doesn’t come naturally or easily to me. Growing up, my favorite filing system was to stash nearly everything in my designated “junk drawer.” Cramming everything from silly putty, scribbles on torn half-sheets of paper, old holiday decorations, underwear, and beyond occupied that small space; a veritable stew of everyday detritus. Delving into the depths of the junk drawer was a journey into uncharted territory. Each exploration through that wild mishmash was a genuine treasure hunt, yielding long-forgotten favorite toys or memories of happy occasions. The junk drawer was my earliest attempt to save everything near and dear to me, which ironically resulted in many more of those items getting lost.

You’d think I would learn from such a noteworthy mistake, and yet the junk drawer lives on, only in a digital format. Computers and memory disks and burned CD’s all have a random sampling of of past works, essays from high school mixed freely with more recent recipes and photos. Though the situation has improved greatly over the years, I still find myself sorting out the mess, sometimes stumbling upon a gem worth polishing back to its original luster.

Such is the case with these Oatmeal Cream Cupcakes. Originally shared merely as a photo in a review post, it was a killer recipe that was meant for prime time, not just late fringe. Shockingly little was said about the sweets themselves, which is a real shame considering what a hit they were, despite the failings of the original frosting. Inspired by oatmeal cream pies, a classic childhood treat that I never actually had. Compact, portable, and boasting comforting, simple flavors, it’s easy to understand their appeal even without firsthand experience. Soft, chewy oatmeal cookies can do no wrong, and with a smidgen of creamy frosting uniting two in harmony, such a fool-proof formula elicits a feeling of nostalgia even for this outsider.

Rather than going through the fuss of scooping, rolling, and patting out cookies, it just sounded easier to convert that concept into cupcakes. Having the opportunity to hone the original recipe further to better suit my evolving tastes, perhaps becoming lost in the virtual junk drawer wasn’t such a terrible misfortune to befall this file. Now, if only I could find the others missing in action…

Oatmeal Cream Cupcakes

1 1/2 Cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats, pulsed in food processor
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoons Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine, Melted
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
3/4 Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Optional Add Ins: For a less literal but more exciting approach to the original creme pie, consider adding up to 1 cup total of toasted, chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, and/or raisins.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 8-Ounces Package Vegan Cream Cheese
5 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine
2 Cups Confectioner’s Sugar
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line 12 standard muffin tins with cupcake papers.

Pull out your food processor and toss in the rolled oats. Briefly pulse to break them down, keeping the flakes fairly coarse, much like instant oatmeal. Transfer to a large bowl and add in the flour, baking soda and powder, salt, cinnamon and ginger, whisking thoroughly to combine.

In a separate bowl, mix together the oil, melted margarine, both sugars, non-dairy milk, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry, and stir with a wide spatula until just combined. A few remaining lumps are fine, as long as there are no large pockets of dry goods.

Divide the batter evenly between your prepared tins, filling them each about 3/4 of the way to the top. Bake for 18 – 22 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centers of the cakes pulls out cleanly. Cool completely before applying frosting.

Make the frosting by simply beating together the “cream cheese” and margarine in the bowl of your stand mixer until smooth, adding in the sugar and vanilla, and then whipping on high speed for a minute or two, until homogenous, light, and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically to make sure that everything is fully incorporated. Pipe or spread to your heart’s content.

Makes 12 Cupcakes

Printable Recipe


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Seven Strong

February seventh never fails to sneak up on me, craftily covering my eyes for a brief moment of pure terror, whispering “Guess who?” with an air of barely veiled menace. It’s an unremarkable date, wedged in between real holidays and coming just at the tail end of January’s madness, which is also something I can set my watch by. It’s BitterSweet’s birthday, or blogaversary if you will, and today makes seven years on the air. Enough to stun me into uncomprehending silence, the hardest part is knowing where to go from here. 2013 does mark a clear shift though, as the sentiment morphs and mutates, it has come to mean something else at last. No longer is my disbelief surrounding the blog’s survival, because after all of the sweat, tears, laughter, and joy, it feels real. It feels permanent. Who would be so surprised that their child has made it to their seventh birthday, after all? I would hope that’s merely a happy side effect of the overall goal.

Time continues to march forward, and as a sign of growing older and maybe, just maybe, a little bit wiser, I’m no longer fighting quite as hard. BitterSweet has proven that we can all move with the current, swimming rather than being swept away, but that’s only true because of the beautiful people I’ve met on this crazy journey. My faceless online escape has effectively put me fully situated in the spotlight, more public and social than ever; it’s another aspect of the process that I’m trying not to struggle against too much.

A blog is only as good as its readers, and I do fully believe that I have the best on the web. Any other awards or accolades are a bonus. Thank you for giving me reason to keep nurturing this space, feeding my own imagination in concert. Even for those who never left a single comment or let their presence be known, I’m so grateful that there’s someone out there reading. Thank you, thank you.

And so we move on, because who could be too surprised about something as predictably scheduled as a birthday? This wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last. For today, I’d be delighted to offer up a few party favors, starting with a big cookbook giveaway. Sharing books that I’ve reviewed and loved, I would be so happy to spread the joy and good food that they brought me. Up for offer are a single copy each of…

Let Them Eat Vegan! by Dreena Burton
Raw for Dessert by Jennifer Cornbleet
The Natural Vegan Kitchen by Christine Waltermyer
American Vegan Kitchen by Tamasin Noyes
Sweet Utopia by Sharon Valencik

If any of those titles caught your eye, leave me a comment detailing exactly which one you’d most want to win before this time next week, February 14th at midnight EST. Consider it an extra little dose of love, in case Valentine’s Day doesn’t quite deliver. Unfortunately, I must restrict this to residents of the US and Canada only for shipping purposes. There will be five winners in total, who will be chosen by a random number generator and contacted shortly thereafter.

UPDATE: It’s all over folks! The five lucky winners are as follows…

Let Them Eat Vegan – Julia H.
Natural Vegan Kitchen – Barb@ThatWasVegan?
Sweet Utopia – Anita
American Vegan Kitchen – Lovlie
Raw for Dessert – Natalie

Thanks for playing everyone! Don’t worry, you won’t have to wait another year for more giveaways… Keep your eyes peeled for more fun and freebies, coming soon.

In the meantime, what kind of birthday party would it be without a bit of cake? Since this is really all about you, my dear readers, I thought I would give out what the majority seems to want. Shockingly, despite my willingness to combine some crazy flavors and intricate treats, it’s still the easy, the classic, and the comforting that get all the attention. Thus, it’s about time I hit another staple out of the park, perfecting it into something that I would still want to eat in all of its unfussy glory.

Yellow vanilla cake, topped with dense chocolate fudge frosting, is about as classic as it gets. Rather than using the typical eggs and butter to impart that iconic golden hue, my cakes are tinted through a combination of turmeric and Yukon gold potatoes. Enriched and ultra-moist thanks to that tuber addition, the crumb is fluffy, tender, but sturdy enough to be baked into layers and stacked as well. It’s the birthday cake you always hope for but never quite get.

Well, this is for you, my friends. Thank you for making this birthday, and all the rest, possible.

Classic Yellow Cupcakes

3 Cups Cake Flour
1/2 Cup Potato Starch
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Turmeric
1 Cup Super-Smooth Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes
6 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine, Melted and Cooled
1/4 Cup Canola Oil
1 2/3 Cups Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 Cups Plain Non-Dairy Milk
2 Teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar

Chocolate Fudge Frosting:

6 Ounces (1 Cup) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
6 Tablespoons Hazelnut or Vanilla-Flavored Vegan Creamer
3 Cups Confectioner’s Sugar
1/2 Cup Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 Cups Non-Dairy Margarine, at Room Temperature
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line 28 – 30 standard cupcake tins with papers. Alternatively, if you’d like to make a layer cake, lightly grease 2 9-inch round cake pans.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cake flour, potato starch, baking powder and soda, salt, and turmeric, fluffing up the dry goods and thoroughly combining them all. Once the mixture is homogeneous, set aside.

While the mashed potatoes are still warm, mix in the melted margarine. To get the potatoes silky-smooth and perfectly lump-free, toss them into your stand mixer and beat them mercilessly with the whisk attachment. Continue stirring while adding in the oil, sugar, and vanilla.

Separately, combine the non-dairy milk and vinegar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure that everything is getting incorporated. Add half of the dry mixture into the stand mixer, along with half of the liquid. Start the machine in a low speed, and stir until mostly smooth. Finally introduce the remaining dry and wet ingredients, and mix just until the batter comes together with only a few lumps remaining. Be careful not to over-mix.

Fill the cupcake papers about 2/3rd of the way full and ease the pans into the center of your preheated oven. Bake for 15 – 18 minutes. If preparing cake layers, divide the batter equally between your two pans, and bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Bake until lightly golden on top, and a toothpick inserted into the centers pulls out cleanly. Let cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, place the chocolate and “creamer” in a microwave-safe dish, and heat on high for 1 minute. Let stand for 5 minutes before stirring vigorously, to allow any remaining chocolate chunks to fully melt. Keep stirring until the mixture is perfectly smooth. If stubborn lumps remain, heat at additional intervals of 30 seconds until, stirring thoroughly after each trip to the microwave. Let the chocolate stand for 10 minutes before placing it in your food processor along with all of the remaining frosting components. Pulse a few times to get everything moving, and then blend, pausing periodically to scrape down the sides. Allow 1 – 3 minutes of blending for the frosting to come together and whip slightly. Once the mixture is silky-smooth, transfer it to a piping bag and frost away!

Makes 28 – 30 Cupcakes or 2 9-inch Round Cake Layers

Printable Recipe


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April Showers Bring May Berries

Though April may feel like a thing of the distant past, long gone and almost entirely forgotten, it was indeed a rainy one. Gloomy, grey, and wet, it teased mercilessly of a lingering winter, a chill that could not be shaken embedded deep within the core of every moment. Finishing with hurricanes and floods, April sure did go out like a lion this year. But May, oh, lovely little May, did she ever make up for the previous month’s cruelty. Literally overnight, buds on trees appeared and exploded in a flourish of aromatic petals and vibrant green leaves. A forecast filled with nothing but sun for a full week, paired with temperatures around the mid-60’s? I think I can manage with that.

For all the anguish and strife caused by the nature of April, it always feels worth it once we emerge on the other side, into the glorious warmth that is inseparable from spring. Little did I know, there is even more reason to rejoice at the arrival of May; Apparently, it’s also National Strawberry Month. Though this declaration strikes me as being a bit premature, since local strawberries aren’t quite ready for the picking for another week or two, I’m happy to take the opportunity to enjoy one of my favorite fruits even more than usual.

Keeping things sweet and simple, all I wanted was a comforting, classic, strawberry cupcake. Bolstered by a base of strawberry puree in the cake, and topped off with a fresh strawberry frosting, these straight-forward but satisfying treats allow the berries to truly shine. Nothing fancy, no unexpected ingredients or big surprises, but a dessert that quite nearly flew off the kitchen counter as soon as my hungry family laid eyes on it.

What’s worth noting here is the topper- My new favorite means of decoration, as demonstrated by a little red heart this time around. Can you guess what it’s made of, and how?

Yes, it’s strawberry fruit leather! Provided by Stretch Island, I knew I wanted to do something different with these natural fruit snacks, other than just devouring them on the go. Since I have yet to taste fondant worth eating, I’m thrilled to find that fruit leather make for an excellent substitute when it comes to cutting out simple flat shapes like this. All you need are small cookie cutter that fit the size of the leather, and any fruit-flavored confetti or sprinkle you desire is at your fingertips. Although I usually purchase Trader Joe’s fruit leather based merely on the price point, I must admit, the splurge for Stretch Island would be worth it… It struck me how much softer and more flavorful it was!

Since I’ve been very disappointed by various strawberry frostings in the past, most of which are either bland or watery, this topping seemed noteworthy, despite its simplicity. If you’re still feeling stuck for the cake, simply take your favorite recipe for vanilla cupcakes, and swap out the non-dairy milk for fresh strawberry puree. Try throwing in a few chopped berries for added texture, too!

Strawberry Frosting

1/2 Cup Strawberry Puree Reduction*
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
Pinch Salt
1/2 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

*The strawberry puree reduction is ultra simple to make, but you must have patience. Just take fresh strawberries (at least 1/2 pound, but it’s easier to work with if you start with more berries and make extra puree) and thoroughly puree them in your blender or food processor, until completely smooth. If you prefer your frosting to be seedless, go ahead and strain your puree before proceeding. Transfer the berry goo into a medium sauce pan, and set over medium-low heat. Allow it to simmer gently until reduced by half; the amount of time will vary depending on the size and shape of your pot, so make sure you keep an eye on it and stir occasionally. Let cool completely, and measure out 1/2 cup for the frosting.

Place the 1/2 cup of strawberry puree reduction into a medium sauce pan, along with the cornstarch and salt. Whisk vigorously to dissipate any lumps of starch before turning on the heat to medium. Continue whisking gently until the mixture thickens and large bubbles begin to break on the surface. This won’t take very long since it’s a small amount of liquid, so don’t walk away! It takes mere seconds for it to scorch miserably on the bottom. Let cool to room temperature, and then place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface. Move the whole pot into your fridge to chill thoroughly- This should take about 1 – 2 hours.

Once the thickened strawberry mixture is completely chilled, place the margarine and sugar (yes, granulated! Do not try using confectioner’s here) in the bowl of your stand mixer, and cream together until homogenous. Don’t rush this step, as thorough creaming ensures that the sugar granules actually dissolve into the frosting; Allow a solid 3 – 5 minutes here, depending on how cold the margarine is. Finally, add the cooled strawberry mix into the bowl, along with the vanilla. Scrape down the sides as needed, and whip on high speed until the frosting is smooth, creamy, and fluffy. Again, patience is key, so give it time and you will be rewarded!

Makes Enough to Frost 1 Dozen Cupcakes Generously

Printable Recipe

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