Featured recipe: Vegan chocolate cupcakes with buttercream

DSC06858We consume more chocolate around Halloween than during any other time of the year. That’s why FTOÉ spends so much time promoting Fair Trade options leading up to Halloween.

The added perk is that Fair Trade chocolate is even more delicious than conventional chocolate, and this recipe proves it. It’s also really adaptable for your Halloween needs: you can decorate these cupcakes with skull sprinkles or spiders, orange frosting or black. And what better way to get the kids involved than getting a little help with decorating?

This recipe is great for those who have sensitivities to dairy, eggs and nuts, as it’s 100% vegan and nut-free. These cupcakes are also 100% light, fluffy and delicious! Let us know how you made these your own in the comments, and Happy Halloween!


Vegan chocolate cupcakes with buttercream

[Vegan, nut-free]

Makes 12 standard cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

1 cup Fair Trade turbinado sugar [1]
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Fair Trade salt
1/4 cup Camino natural cocoa powder
1 cup tap water
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (Fair Trade, if possible) [2]


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Mix together sugar, flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder (sifted, if lumpy). In a small bowl, whisk together all of the liquid ingredients, then beat them into the flour mixture. Beat by hand until there are no lumps left.

Line 12 muffin pans with liners and divide the batter evenly among them. The cups should be about 3/4 full. Bake the cupcakes for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched with a finger. Let cool completely before frosting.


For the buttercream:

1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup vegan margarine (such as Earth Balance)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (Fair Trade, if possible) [2]
Food colouring, if desired
1-1/2 cups Fair Trade powdered sugar [3]


With an electric mixer, beat the shortening and margarine until it’s looking light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and beat one minute longer, scraping down the sides of the bowl twice. If you’re using food colouring, you should also add it at this point. Beat in the powdered sugar on low speed until combined. Then, on medium speed, beat the icing until the colour is very light and the icing looks like it has a whipped consistency. Gel food colouring can be adjusted at this point, but once the icing is whipped, liquid food colouring could make it “collapse” (the air could be deflated), leaving you with a very thin, dense icing. Proceed with caution!

Once your icing is ready, use it right away. You can spread it onto the cupcakes, or if you prefer, use a very large star tip and piping bag to pipe the icing onto the top for very professional-looking results! (Here is a link to a tutorial, if you’re not familiar with this method.)

Decorate your cupcakes and serve! Will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Past that point, it is best to refrigerate them.



[1] Wholesome Sweeteners and Camino are both Fair trade and Organic certified, and widely-available in Ottawa. Check your grocery’s organic aisle, or consult our Fair Trade Finder to see which small businesses near you carry these products.

[2] Fair Trade vanilla extract is not easily available in Ottawa anymore, but you can try Market Organics on York Street. They have carried Fair Trade vanilla in the past (the brand was discontinued) and might have been able to source a new type.

[3] The only Fair Trade powdered (icing/confectioner’s) sugar that FTOÉ knows of that is available in Ottawa is Wholesome Sweeteners. You can purchase this at most small specialty food stores such as Herb and Spice shop, Market Organics, Kardish and Rainbow Food.


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