For many many months, my friend Julie has been making different requests for her birthday dessert. Last year I made her Apple-Cinnamon Muffins with Mead Frosting and a Honey-Swirl on top, and at one point she told me she wanted to have the exact same thing this year. And then she wanted a variety of other desserts – a list of which I honestly can’t remember at the moment (oops. Bad friend…). But that’s not important, because when she came up with the idea of Mango Cupcakes, she changed her mind completely and settled on that as her most favorite choice. Mango is her favorite fruit, and perhaps one of her favorite foods. Since then, I did a lot of research about making mango cupcakes, and never found much interesting material to work with; there are lots of recipes for mango muffins and cupcakes with chunks of mango in them, but neither of those sounded appealing. This felt like a great challenge that I was totally up for, so I was pretty thrilled that Julie selected mango as her birthday dessert wish flavor.
I wanted the cupcakes to taste fresh and tropical, and to let the mango flavor really shine. I wanted to try to replicate the silky smooth, juicy texture of fresh mangoes, and I thought very hard about how to accomplish this. I decided on a mango-flavored cupcake (without chunks of mango mixed in), and to fill the cupcakes with a homemade Mango Jam that would give the effect of juicy mangoes when you bit into the cupcake. The jam would also serve as a super fresh mango blast with each bite. It took me a long time to settle on frosting flavor. I debated between a brown sugar glaze, a cream cheese frosting, or just slathering the top with more Mango Jam…I couldn’t figure it out though. None of those ideas really fit. But then I remembered the perfect ingredient that I happened to have sitting in my cupboard, waiting for just the right use! Fresh Vanilla Beans that I had found in the bulk section of my local health food store. A vanilla bean buttercream would be perfectly paired with the mango cupcakes, and not overpower the mango flavor. And then I remembered that Julie’s favorite type of frosting is cream cheese…What to do? How could I decide? Well, I decided to brave it and mix the two together – and suddenly, I had the *perfect* frosting. It would be delicious on ANY cake, anywhere, anytime. It may just become my fall-back frosting recipe (especially since I’ve found vanilla beans in bulk and they surprisingly aren’t that expensive). Here is the final product of The Mango Cupcake Experiment, which was received with screams – yes, literally screams of joy!
Mango Cupcake Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tblsp. cornstarch
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup canola oil (or any lightly flavored vegetable oil)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup pureed mango
1/2 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
Whisk the almond milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside a few minutes to get good and curdled.
Beat together the almond milk mixture, oil, sugar, and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Add in the pureed mango and combine thoroughly. Sift in the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix only until no large lumps remain.
Fill cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full, and bake for 20-24 minutes till done (you can stick a toothpick in the center and it should come out clean). Leave in muffin tins for 3-5 minutes after taking out of the oven, so the cakes can set, and then take out of the tins and place on a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting. While you are waiting for them to cool, you can prepare your Cream Cheese Vanilla Bean Frosting (recipe below). When cupcakes are completely cool, cut a cone out of the center of each cake, and remove tops. This is where you will spoon in your Mango Jam, or if you choose not to make the Jam then you can also use this method and add extra Cream Cheese Vanilla Bean Frosting into the center of the cupcake, replace the cake top, and pipe more frosting on top. Both methods are beautiful and extremely tasty.
Cream Cheese Vanilla Bean Frosting Ingredients:
Vanilla Bean Frosting:
1/8 cup Earth Balance margarine, room temperature
1/8 cup Earth Balance vegan shortening, room temperature
1/4 cup tofutti cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out
1 tsp. vanilla extract
To make the frosting, cream together the margarine, shortening, and cream cheese until just combined. Add the powdered sugar half a cup at a time, mixing in each addition until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds, and whip until fluffy and smooth. It is a thick frosting. Keep tightly covered and refrigerated until ready to use, then pipe onto fully cooled cupcakes.
Check out the beautiful vanilla bean flecks in the frosting: