May isn’t the most holiday-heavy month of the year, and because of that, most people tend to associate it with one of two days: Memorial Day, which is a real holiday, and Cinco de Mayo, which is not. For people of the Southern persuasion, however, May is all about the first Saturday of the month: the running of the first leg of the Triple Crown, the most exciting two minutes in sports, Kentucky Derby Day. Big hats, mint juleps, blue grass, Hot Browns, mint juleps, bourbon, fried green tomatoes, mint juleps, etc. Oh, and there’s a horse race or something, too.
But you needn’t celebrate horse racing for only three days of the year. (Fine, just two days – only douchebag frat boys celebrate Preakness.)
Like most legacy cocktails, the history of the mint julep is clouded in the hangover of the past. The name itself is a mutation of the Persian word for “rosewater,” and we can see how far it’s come from that simple definition. Even just a debate over the proper preparation of the drink is equivalent to fightin’ words in some circles of the Deep South. Muddle the mint or no? Simple syrup or superfine sugar? Cracked ice or seltzer water? It hardly matters, since a long drink like the mint julep is little more than a bourbon delivery system anyway. Besides, we’re making cupcakes today, albeit those of the boozy, minty, julep-y variety.
My horse lost, by the way. Stupid longshots. Off to the glue factory, you worthless flea biscuit!
Vegan Mint Julep Cupcakes
I adapted and veganized this recipe from the one at Cooking and Booking. The proportions here will yield an even baker’s dozen.
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp pastry flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Wet Team A:
- 1/2 cup soymilk
- 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Wet Team B:
- 1/2 cup butter substitute, at room temperature (margarine works fine, but Earth Balance creams smoother and tastes better)
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon mint extract
- 2 egg substitutes (I used Ener-G egg replacer again, since the extracts and liquor already lend some fairly intense flavors)
- 1/4 cup Kentucky bourbon or other American whiskey
- 1/4 cup crème de menthe (Green crème de menthe will produce funky, grasshopper-hued cupcakes, while clear or “white” crème de menthe will render them paler and blonder)
Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners, or spray with nonstick spray.
Whisk the vinegar into the soymilk and let sit to curdle for at least two minutes.
This is an old vegan baking workaround, similar to the lemon juice trick we used with veganized red velvet cupcakes; curdling the soymilk thickens it somewhat and helps to mimic the consistency of buttermilk. The vinegar only makes your kitchen stink, not the cupcakes.
In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter substitute for a minute or so until creamy. Add the sugar and cream them together until the mixture starts to grab onto the beaters in big clumps. Add the egg substitutes and extracts and combine until smooth. Add half of the flour mixture and continue to mix until incorporated. Add the soymilk mixture, bourbon, and crème de menthe to the batter.
Kentucky bourbon is traditional for “proper” mint juleps, but you can use your favorite brand of whiskey when baking. Just remember that the alcohol is going to cook out and most of the more subtle, delicate flavors are going to be obliterated, so the best spirit for these cupcakes will be one with a long, slow finish. Because of their complexity and “peaty” notes, (not to mention it’s a waste of a decent wee dram) Irish whiskey isn’t really recommended for baking.
I used Bulleit for this batch, but I’ve also made them with Maker’s Mark, which renders a more subtle woodsy aspect to the cupcake, with soft notes of grass and chocolate…
Whoops. Almost forgot what I was writing about, booze or dessert.
Finish off with the rest of the flour. Mix in these final additions as little as possible, just until the batter comes together.
Divide the batter among the cupcake cups, filling them about three-quarters of the way up. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then de-pan and cool completely on a cooling rack.
This batter is nice and thick, but also pretty wet, which may affect the final baking time. It’s been rainy and humid this week in California, so mine took almost 22 minutes, which is dangerously close to overdone. Also, if you use green crème de menthe, the color it lends the batter is kind of fragile, so the longer the cupcakes are in the oven, the greater the chances of them developing a golden brown ring around their crowns. No biggie, though; that’s what frosting is for, right?
Top with mint buttercream, homemade or otherwise. A garnish of fresh mint makes for a nice contrast of colors, plus it allows you to write the cupcake off as a vegetable.