So-Called Cupcakes & Concerts in the Park

My friend Kayla has invited me to the Austin Symphony’s Concerts in the Park series multiple times since I moved to Austin. Multiple times. But if I’m not being very intentional with my time and my energy, by the time Sunday night rolls around on most weeks I am completely peopled-out and ready to curl up in my Fortress of Solitude. As with most of the items on the list, I added the symphony to the 30 by 30 as a push to go out and do it at least once, the same reason I put “try new gluten-free recipes” on the list because I know that my tendency is to fall back on the old standbys.

And because I was feeling especially ambitious this week, I decided to do those two things at once.

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[it would be fair to say that I'm excited about the new Trader Joe's in my neighborhood]

These cupcake/muffins* are gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and absolutely delicious. They are not SCD-friendly; the recipe that they’re based on is, but because we are currently in a fasting period, I had to veganize the recipe with some non-SCD legal ingredients: a flax egg and Trader Joe’s vegan cream cheese, which is coconut-based but does contain soy and corn (ingredients here).

*more on that later

Step One: make a flax egg

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Or rather, make four of them: 12 Tbsp of ground flax + 4 Tbsp of warm water.

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Whisk together until gloopy (and clump-free).

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Allow to set in fridge for at least 20 minutes (ideally, an hour).

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Step Two: make frosting

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Empty tub of cream cheese into a bowl, and add honey. Just however much honey you feel is right (clearly, I did not measure it). What does that look like to you? About 1/3 cup? We’ll go with that.DSC_1702To that cream cheese/honey mixture, add 1/4 tsp. of lemon juice and a handful of smashed strawberries (even when baking, I cannot resist my inner urge to just wing it).

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Resist the urge to polish off the whole bowl right there and place it in the fridge next to the flax eggs. This frosting will soften quickly at room temperature, so it’s best to keep it chilled as much as possible.

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Step Three: Cupcakes!

Preheat oven to 325F & assemble your dry ingredients.

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(pictured here: 2 1/2 cups of almond meal, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt)

Step Four: zest a lemon

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Step Five: reevaluate why you’ve never owned a lemon zester

No, really, you can get the job done with a grater, but it probably won’t be as fun.

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And if you accidentally flip the measuring spoon and send lemon zest flying all over the kitchen, that’s okay…it happens to the best of us.

(I mean, I’m sure it does. Right?)

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Step Five (for real this time): add all ‘wet’ ingredients together in blender

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Accept the fact that you can’t keep the background clear in every shot. You’re only just keeping the dishes clean because you’re running out of space, and in a kitchen the size of a closet, there are only so many places where things can go.

To the 2/3 cup honey, 1/3 cup melted coconut oil (aka, coconut oil at room temperature in Texas), 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, 2 tsp. vanilla extract, and 1/2 tsp. of hard-won lemon zest, add your flax eggs.

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Mmmm. Goopy.

Step Six: Blend!

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The directions say to “Puree on medium speed for 20 seconds or until frothy and smooth.”

I let it go for almost a minute, and this is about as frothy as it got.

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The directions also instruct you to combine both dry and wet ingredients together in the blender, and blend for another 30-45 seconds.

If you’re like me and don’t own a blender quite that large, feel free to improvise with a food processor.

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Pour your blended ingredients into a bowl and “gently fold in” 1/2 cup of finely chopped strawberries.

Don’t feel bad if you need to go and Google what ‘folding in‘ means. You go ahead and do that. We’ll wait.

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Now, at this point you’ll have a batter that looks kinda questionable but smells incredible.

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Step Seven: Divide out batter

Fill each cup about 3/4 full. This recipe makes 12-14 regular sized muffins, so you may end up having some leftover.

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Step Eight: Bake!

The recipe says 16-18 minutes, but mine took nearly 25. That may be my oven or just the quirks of this particular version of batter. I recommend setting the timer for 16 minutes, and if they don’t pass the toothpick test, check them every two minutes. Almond-based baked goods are surprisingly easy to over-cook.

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Step Nine: Allow to cool completely.

I cannot stress this enough – your frosting will be a messy melted mess if you attempt to apply it to cupcakes that are even slightly warm.

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Step Ten: Pipe that frosting onto those cupcakes like the TOTAL PRO that you are. Yeah!

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(it’s totally not obvious that you have never piped anything onto anything before)

Add some flair. Surround them with strawberries. Repurpose that bento box you never use. YOU ARE ROCKING THIS.

Viola! You’ve just made cupcakes.

Er, rather, the consensus was that these lacked the lightness and fluffiness one typically associates with “cupcakes.” I think there might be a few reasons for that: 1) Using almond meal in place of almond flour. This was mainly due to budgetary restrictions, but also because it’s usually an adequate substitute. In this case it might have been just a tad too heavy. 2) Using ‘flax eggs’ in place of actual eggs. 3) Totally misreading the teeny-tiny font on the original recipe, and only using 1/4 tsp baking soda when it called for 3/4.

In the end they came out incredibly moist and wonderfully flavorful, by far the most delicious frosted strawberry *muffins* that I’ve ever made.

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And once they were complete & all nested in their box, it was time for the symphony!

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[This is where I live now. Still getting used to that...]

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Each of the concerts in the park focuses on a specific component of the larger orchestra, and this week’s performance was a string quartet. We heard Schubert and Mozart, Gershwin and Handel

They even played a little Zeppelin…

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They closed the evening with Ashokan Farewell, one of my all-time favorite pieces. The weather was perfect, cool and breezy. The adults were laid back with their drinks and snacks, dogs lounged around on the grass, and the kids were dancing. I don’t know if I’ll make the symphony a habit – it is still a lot to get myself together to go out on a Sunday night – but I do know this: it really could not have been a lovelier evening.

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