About six months ago, my mom took the plunge. She went vegan.

For the most part, this has no effect on me. We don’t live together, so I don’t need to watch what I buy at the grocery store. When she visits and we go to a restaurant, it’s pretty easy for her to find vegan options on the menu (guacamole tacos, 86 the cheese, anyone?). When we make homemade pizza, I just leave the cheese off half the pizza, and no one misses it anyway. Over Christmas, we just made sure there was guacamole at every function, just to make sure there was a vegan option for Mom, but it was no big deal. When my great-aunt made stew at my grandparents’ house, I just moved a bowlful to a smaller pot before the ground beef was added.

Thankfully, Mom isn’t one of those pushy vegans. (I’ve actually known several vegans, and none of them are pushy. But you hear about “pushy vegans,” so I feel like I should point out that my mom isn’t one of those vegans. She’s a normal vegan. Anyway.) She just eats what she wants/ can, and will chat with you about The China Study if you bring it up. So most of the time, she just orders the vegan option and is quiet, and I’m happy with that.

vegan chocolate cupcakes

But birthdays are different. Everyone deserves to have a delicious, gooey, rich, delectable, messy, awesome, makes-you-slap-your-mama chocolate cake on their birthday, even if they don’t eat butter anymore. I baked chocolate cupcakes for her birthday a few years ago, and since she drove all the way to Austin to visit me for her birthday, I felt like a vegan baking challenge was in order. Chocolate birthday cupcakes that still tasted like “OMG”, but with no milk, no butter, no eggs.

I set a few requirements: I have no intention of going vegan, so I wanted to avoid as many specialty ingredients as possible. I wanted these to be basic pantry cupcakes, cupcakes no one (including me) ever has to stress over. I want to be able to make these without thinking when I have a party to go to and I know a vegan friend will be attending, or when Mom comes back for a visit and we feel celebratory. I wanted these to be easy. A few hours of recipe reviewing later, I found my recipe.

These cupcakes are moist, super chocolatey, dark, delicious, and definitely feel like a birthday cupcake. My sister said, “Wow, these don’t taste vegan!” My mom took some home to share with friends. I promise you: If you make these cupcakes and take them to a party, no one will know your dirty little vegan secret.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from Epicurious
Makes 12 cupcakes

You will need:
1 1/8 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 c. canola oil
1 tsp. white vinegar
1 c. cold water

Preheat oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.

Whisk together all dry ingredients into a large bowl.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients.

Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, whisking until just mixed. Do not overmix. The batter will be very wet, but that’s okay.

Distribute the batter evenly among the cupcake liners. Bake until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean, about 25 minutes. (Note: My cupcakes didn’t really “dome” the way that cupcakes usually do, so I nearly overbaked them. Test them before you think they’re ready, in case you have the same problem.) Remove from the oven and let cool completely before frosting.

Vegan Chocolate Frosting
Adapted from About.com Dairy Free Cooking
Makes 2 cups, enough to frost 12 cupcakes
Note: The frosting was a little thin, but I think I could add more powdered sugar next time to bulk it up, or just chill it before frosting the cupcakes. It came out more like a thick ganache than something you could pipe through a pastry bag, but still fit the bill nicely.

You Will Need:
2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. dairy-free soy margarine, softened
1/4 c. plain unsweetened almond milk or soy milk
3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla

With an electric hand mixer, beat the powdered sugar with the margarine until well mixed and thick. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat until smooth.