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I opened the bottle of your vanilla extract last weekend to bake some cookies and the difference in taste is extraordinary." – Judy

Vegan Lemon-Vanilla Cupcakes



First, I admit I’m not a vegan or even a card carrying vegetarian (though I lean in that direction), but I have friends who are and I like wowing them with a new dessert on movie nights. I also love learning new techniques, culinary styles and recipes from different cultures and regions. So cooking and baking vegan intrigued me.

What I don’t often mention is that I am a gluten-free baker. If you have gluten intolerance or an allergy to wheat (like me), you may have noticed that gluten-free flours make a much more delicate crumb than wheat flour. Why? Because gluten can make biscuits, cakes, and quick breads a little more dense and sometimes tough. While the protein strands work beautifully in yeasted breads by creating a dome that helps bread rise well, that same protein can also make delicate baked goods tough if the batter is beaten too much.  If you want to try baking gluten-free, I personally recommend Pamela’s Non-Dairy Bread Mix, which works fine for cakes and already contains xanthan gum. Substitute the flours 1-to-1. 

Also, if you have a dairy allergy or intolerance, I’ve found plant-based milks work just as well as dairy milk. For those of us with allergies and food sensitivities, there are now so many ingredients and prepared foods available for us to enjoy good food while sparing ourselves the misery of a reaction.

This recipe is a spinoff from one developed by the Food Network. I’ve tweaked it a bit, removed some of the white sugar, substituted coconut sugar, for the brown sugar, which gives the cupcakes both color and a bit of a caramelized flavor, and I changed it from vanilla to lemon for a mid-winter sparkle (instructions follow if you want all vanilla).

If you don’t want a lot of frosting, make half a batch as it will be plenty. Just add a nice dab of frosting in the center of each cupcake. If frosting’s your thing, have to it! I also strongly recommend using Miyako’s vegan cultured butter for the frosting as it’s much better than Earth Balance. However, Earth Balance works if you can’t find Miyako. And, if you don’t want frosting, these cupcakes speak for themselves.

For vanilla cupcakes, substitute 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste (or 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract) for the cake and 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract for the frosting.


Vegan Lemon-Vanilla Cupcakes




2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar or coconut sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use avocado oil as it’s bland and nutritious)

1 teaspoon Rain’s Choice pure Vanilla Extract

1 teaspoon lemon extract or natural lemon flavor*


1/2 cup vegan butter (Miyako is a good choice)

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

11/2 – 2 tablespoons lemon (or to taste)

1 teaspoon Rain’s Choice pure Vanilla Extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.**

Whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together the non-dairy milk, brown sugar (or coconut sugar), oil, lemon extract and vanilla in another medium bowl and gently fold into the dry ingredients until just combined. Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners.

Bake the cupcakes until they are golden and bounce back when pressed, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 – 22 minutes. Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

For the frosting – beat the vegan butter or margarine on medium-high in a large bowl until smooth, about 1 minute. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into the bowl then add 1 tablespoon milk and 1 tablespoon lemon juice and blend. Add more lemon juice and milk as needed so that the frosting is the thickness and tartness you want and is smooth. Frost and decorate the cupcakes as desired.


* I suggest lemon extract for the cake batter as the flavor carries well. You can substitute lemon juice if you prefer.

** This recipe makes 12 cupcakes if you have larger cupcake tins, or 18 cupcakes if you have medium cupcake tins. Fill each cup about 3/4 full.

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Patricia Rain
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I was given a small bottle of Rain’s Choice in a gift basket and I have been hooked ever since. The flavor makes all of my baking so much better! I will never use grocery store vanilla again!

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