* * *
Remember all those issues I was having with trying to get someone to bake me a vegan wedding cake? I had practically resolved myself to baking my own when I got an email from a vegan-network-friend of mine who lives on the Northshore. One of her friends opened up a bakery in Mandeville a few months ago, she wrote, and baked vegan cupcakes pretty regularly.
To which I said, YES PLEASE THANK YOU.
My parents are not so into the idea of a cupcake tower for the wedding, but they'll suck it up. I admit, I did have my heart set on a "real" cake for a while, but a delicious, gorgeous, vegan presentation is what it comes down to.
And after my meeting with KC of KC's Babycakes, I am absolutely convinced that it's exactly what I'll have. She came highly recommended from a trusted source, which is always good. But you just never know, particularly with vegan baked goods I think, until you sit down and sink your teeth in. This is precisely what I did last Monday. KC spent two full hours with me, and as those of you who know me are well aware, that is a LONG time to spend with me when I'm really excited about something. I sampled six (count them, six) different flavors of her vegan cupcakes. Somehow, each was more extraordinary than the last. You want to hear about them, don't you?
Cookies n cream: a crazy moist rich chocolate cupcake with just a hint of almond, topped with an intensely sweet vanilla buttercream speckled with crumbled oreo-style cookies, crowned with a whole cookie nestled in the middle for good measure. This is an excellent showcase for just how good a simple (but extremely well-baked) chocolate cupcake can be.
Coconut and Coffee: a subtly flavored caramel brown coconut cupcake, slathered in rich coffee buttercream then rimmed with a ring of toasted coconut shavings. Gourmet, doubtless; this cupcake is somehow simultaneously exotic and extravagant while also being comforting and homey. It may be KC's favorite of her vegan creations; me, I am having a very difficult time choosing a favorite.
Vanilla Chocolate Swirl: a basic made fancy, two moist and delicious cakes marbled in the cup and topped with a generous helping of vanilla buttercream, finished with miniature chocolate chips. It's hard to describe how decadent this cakelet is as it sounds so simple, so you'll just have to believe me.
Lemon Macadamia: a lightly lemon cupcake punctuated with chunks of real macadamia nuts, topped with a pungent, bright frosting made with real fresh lemon juice, and finally rimmed with colored sugar for a look that is both sophisticated and fun. (This one happens to be modeling the cupcake wrapper I've chosen - "Aloha" from Paper Orchid. Many thanks to KC for cluing me in on this new cupcake trend!)
Banana Split: here's where we really start getting crazy! A cupcake with a banana bread like consistency - because it's made with real banana, making it ultra dense and moist with true banana flavor - but sweeter and with mini chocolate chips in it. Then topped in a lush twirl of delicately banana flavored buttercream frosting. The cupcakes I tasted were sprinkled with pecans and then topped with a cherry, which was a great finish. However, to be more friendly to my nut-allergic guest(s), for the wedding they'll be drizzled in chocolate ganache before being cherried. Too divine!
Wedding Cake: a flavor that I *believe* was developed just for me! In case you don't know, in New Orleans there is a flavor actually known as "wedding cake flavor" - you can order it at any good snowball stand. It's generally a creamy almond flavor, and it's been a tradition at Nola nuptials since anyone can remember. This cupcake did not disappoint. A perfectly dense, moist, rich, creamy lightly almond and vanilla white cupcake, topped with wonderfully rich almond buttercream, and finished with the most darling candy pearls you'd ever wish to see. Simple and elegant, this is the flavor that really made the set for me. We'll also have a 6" cake atop the tower that will be baked from this batter. I really couldn't be more pleased with how this one came out.
I'll stop killing you with cupcake descriptions now - except to say that we actually haven't decided between doing the cookies n cream described above, or a classic red velvet. I didn't get to sample KC's red velvet, but based on what I've seen and tasted, I have zero doubt that it is exquisite. And I can't help thinking of some kind of chocolate-and-strawberry concoction... Maybe a small groom's cake? What can I say? Life is full of so many difficult decisions.
Some day soon I'll tell you what happens when you take a dozen of the fabulous cupcakes described above over to the only vegetarian restaurant in town (Cafe Bamboo), have a couple of Abitas, and start getting generous. But that, loves, is a story for another day.