Tender, rich chocolate cupcakes filled with a lush fig vegan caramel and topped with a fluffy vanilla vegan frosting will surprise and delight!
Not Just a Special Occasion Bake
Chocolate and caramel is a combination so well loved that one would think it shouldn’t be tampered with. But it turns out good things can come out of putting a spin on an old favorite. Use either Orchard Choice and Sun-Maid California Golden Dried Figs or Mission Dried Figs in this recipe, though we prefer goldens for their mild nutty sweetness, but our Mission Dried Figs are delicious too.
While these cupcakes are dressed up enough for the holidays and celebrations where you’re keen to satisfy vegans and non-vegans alike, these fig laden treats with vegan caramel and vegan frosting are too good to save for just those special occasions. They really are perfect anytime!
Surprise Inside: Fig Caramel
The fig caramel filling for these cupcakes starts off with the old fashioned sauce gone dairy-free for a delicious vegan caramel. Begin by caramelizing the sugar in a pot. As it simmers away, it begins to develop a beautiful golden amber color. This point is critical because it can go from a nice light color to being burnt and unusable in a matter of seconds.
Once it’s an amber color, remove the sugar from the heat and add in the refined coconut oil. Refined coconut oil is neutral in flavor. While unrefined coconut oil can be wonderful in vegan caramel, it competes too much with the lovely delicate flavor of the dried figs we’ll be adding.
Next, we add coconut cream – this bit is dramatic as the mixture sputters aggressively so take care. Next, a bit of salt, vanilla extract and whisking, and we have ourselves a luscious vegan caramel. But of course, we don’t stop here! Once cool enough to handle, blend the caramel with some golden figs for fig caramel, one of the best fillings to ever meet the inside of a cupcake.
The Secret to Baking Vegan Cupcakes
Speaking of which, these chocolate cupcakes aren’t just any chocolate cupcakes. They are tender, moist and have a deep, rich chocolate flavor. Baking without eggs is quite simple when you have your leaveners in the right quantities – a combination of baking powder, baking soda and a bit of vinegar creates the lift and gluten tenderizing for a perfect crumb. And the hot coffee? It’s added to force the cocoa to bloom, intensifying and deepening its flavors.
Last Step: Vegan Frosting
Making a vegan frosting involves a few small hacks—namely, using vegan butter sticks (not the tub-style) and non-hydrogenated shortening. After beaten until smooth, you will beat in 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar at a time until fluffy. This vegan frosting is vanilla flavored, so beat in the vanilla for one minute longer, adding in plant-based milks like oat milk or soy milk, one teaspoon at a time until the texture of the vegan frosting is pastry bag ready, beating for a few more minutes. Just keep in mind that it’s easier to pipe on slightly firm frosting rather than soft.
The finale is a swirl of classic vanilla vegan frosting. It’s the perfect compliment to chocolate and really allows the fig caramel to be the feature of these simple yet decadent sweet treats!
Then, you’re ready to fill with fig caramel and swirl on the vegan frosting. cupcakes that leave quite an impression from Bronwyn Fraser.
Chocolate Cupcakes with Fig Caramel and Vegan Frosting
For the Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes:
- 1 1/2 cups (210g) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup (63g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon (4g) baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon (4.5g) salt
- 1/2 teaspoon (3g) baking soda
- 3/4 cup (188ml) oat milk (or other unsweetened plant-based milk such as soy)
- 1/2 cup (125ml) canola oil (or other neutral oil such as avocado)
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup (188ml) hot coffee
For the Fig Caramel:
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (63g) water
- 6 tablespoons (82g) refined coconut oil**
- 3/4 cup (188ml) full-fat canned coconut cream*** (no gums)
- 1 cup (140g) Orchard Choice® or Sun-Maid® California Dried Figs (preferably Golden Figs for a lighter filling)
- 1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
For the Vegan Frosting
- 1/2 cup (114g) vegan butter sticks (room temperature—not tub style)
- 1/2 cup (92g) non-hydrogenated shortening
- 3 1/2 cups (350g) confectioner's sugar
- 2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract
- 1-2 tablespoons (15-30ml) oat milk (or other plant-based milk such as soy)
- 6 dried figs (cut in half, for garnish)
For the Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup standard muffin tins with paper liners.
- In a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and baking soda together, whisking to blend.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the plant-based milk, coffee, oil, vinegar and vanilla extract. Add this to the flour mixture and whisk just until combined. Do not over-mix.
- Fill the paper liners about ⅔-¾ full with the cupcake batter. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean or with a few cooked crumbs. Cool the bases in the tray for 5-10 minutes and then transfer each cupcake to a cooling rack. Let the cupcakes cool completely before filling and frosting.
For the Fig Caramel
- Whisk the sugar and water in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, stop stirring. Allow the mixture to simmer for about 8-10 minutes until it starts to become an amber color. During this time if the sugar starts to crystallize on the sides, carefully brush the sides with a pastry brush dipped in water to dissolve the sugar. Swirl the pot gently if the caramelization is not even. Keep an eye on it as the change in color happens quickly, and it can burn very easily.
- Once you have a nice light amber color, turn off the heat and add the refined coconut oil, whisking well. Whisk in the coconut cream taking care as the mixture will bubble vigorously. Stir in the salt and vanilla extract. Let cool until safe to add to the food processor.
- Cut stems from the dried figs; chop the figs. Add them to a food processor and pulse until their skins are broken down, scraping down the sides.
- Stream in the warm caramel and process until the figs are blended. The seeds will remain intact. Pour the fig caramel into a jar and let it come down to room temperature before filling the cupcakes.
For the Vegan Frosting
- In a stand mixer with a balloon whisk (or with a large bowl and beaters), beat the vegan butter and shortening together until smooth. Add in the confectioners’ sugar, one cup at a time. Beat for 3-4 minutes, scraping down the sides occasionally. Add in the vanilla and beat another minute. Add the plant-based milk a teaspoon at a time beating well after each addition, until the frosting is a pipe-able consistency. Slightly firm is easier to manage than too soft. Beat for 5 minutes more.
To Assemble the Cupcakes:
- Using the wide end of a frosting tip, an apple corer or small knife, remove the centers from the cupcakes – the cavity should be about ¾ inch wide, and ¾ way into the cupcake.
- Pipe the centers of the cupcakes with the fig caramel.
- Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes and garnish with a slice of dried fig.