Winery Visits

Vegan Cupcakes for A Bridal Shower at a Winery

Bridal Shower Photoshoot in the Vineyard The concept of “Vegan Baking” has often befuddled me.  One of the hallmarks of baking is richness—a richness that you get from high-quality butter, egg yolks, and whole milk.  And, well, Vegans don’t eat any of those.

But, what’s a girl to do when one of her best friends (and cosmic sister) is getting married?  Well, I made Vegan cupcakes. And Vegan frosting.  The cupcakes were chocolate, and I used Valhrona 100% cocoa powder. Valhrona is the premier French chocolatier and by far the richest chocolate available commercially, so I hoped that some of that richness would make up for the lack of dairy. The recipe was fairly straight forward.

The frosting was a little trickier. I adapted a recipe for Vegan vanilla frosting. According to online commenters, the frosting was too sweet. The dilemma with American frosting (and the reason why a meringue buttercream is preferable) is that you have to add TONS of powdered sugar to get the frosting to a workable consistency.  Vegan frosting is pretty much like other American frostings: powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and butter (or Vegan butter).  With a classic buttercream, you make a meringue, so the sugar has much less to do with the consistency. Classic buttercreams are definitely preferable, but not a possibility since they rely heavily on egg whites (eggs = NOT Vegan).

So, I replaced some of the powdered sugar with 100% unsweetened cocoa in an attempt to cut down on the sweetness of the frosting. The cupcakes were definitely a hit! I’d even recommend making them WITHOUT frosting—just dust them with powdered sugar and cocoa. They are delicious on their own! (Although for purposes of entertaining, most people dislike the concept of “naked cupcakes.”)

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

1 ½ cups cake flour

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ¼ cups water

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large regular bowl with a whisk), mix together the oil, vinegar, vanilla, and water until well combined. Add flour mixture to the mixer and mix until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary. Batter should look and feel more watery than normal cake batters.
  4. Pour batter into prepared muffin tin, filling each cup ½ to ¾ full. Transfer to oven and bake, rotating pan halfway through cooking, until a cake tester inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean, 20-25 minutes.
  5. Immediately remove cupcakes from muffin tin and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool completely before frosting.  (If you choose not to frost these cupcakes, dust with cocoa powder and powdered sugar immediately before serving.)

Adapted from Divvies Bakery Recipe in Martha Stewart’s “Cupcakes”

 Vegan Vanilla Frosting

1 ¾ cups confectioner’s sugar

½ cup dairy-free margarine, chilled

1/8 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon rice milk

  1. Combine 1 ¼ c. confectioner’s sugar, margarine, salt, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  2.  Add rice milk, continuing until well-combined. Slowly add remaining ½ c. confectioner’s sugar. Mix until well combined. Store in airtight container, refrigerated, up to one week.

Courtesy of Divvie’s Bakery via

me and the bride

Cheering for Love with Hydrangea Pompoms

Bordeaux Bound!

I am fortunate to have visited many intriguing regions of France--Provence and Burgundy, Normandy and Brittany, the Loire and Champagne, and of course, ile-de-France. I've always wanted to go to Bordeaux.  I'm very excited to tour wine-making Chateaux, and sample some regional specialities. There are over 8,000 chateaux and 13,ooo wine-makers.

The first vineyard in the Gironde region dates back 2,000 years (1st century A.D.)  However, it was nearly 1,000 years before the region became known for making some of the best wine in the world.  The "Golden Age" of Bordeaux was the 18th century--wines were exported all over the world (which was quite a feat for the time with limited modes of transportation).

The past 200 years have not been kind to the region, and in 1956, several strands of mildew and frost were particularly devastating.  Half a meter of snow fell on February 21, 1956, effectively destroying many vines. Those vines had to be replaced from outside of the region (and even outside of the country), forever changing the terroir and the wine that would be produced.

And for a bit of history...

One of my classes was studying slavery.  I brought some brochures about Louisiana, which of course had information about visiting plantations.  I explained to my students that the southeastern part of the United States was where the U.S. slave trade flourished.  They quickly responded, "Nantes, Bordeaux."  Apparently, the area in France that benefitted the most from the slave trade was Bordeaux.

I thought for a second. Well, let's see. Triangle trade--Europeans went to Africa and enslaved people. They then brought those people to the Americas. Bordeaux's southwest coast location made perfect sense.  The ships could easily leave Bordeaux and head to Africa.  This made me kind of sick to my stomach! I love how my students teach me things.

And there is not a country in all of Europe--(and also, America) that has not greatly benefitted from the fruits of the evils of slavery.

It doesn't make Louisiana food any less spicy. So I won't hold it against the grapes and wine produced in the Bordeaux region.