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I found this recipe online for a chocolate cupcake recipe and I want to make it into a vanilla cupcake recipe. I know what you may be thinking "why doesn't she just find a vanilla cupcake recipe?" This one is vegan and it is the first one that I have seen that is even remotely basic with the ingredients and I am trying to make it as simple as possible for myself. If you could help me that would be lovely.

This is the recipe I am trying to change:

1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups water

I know this may seem simple but I am not the most experienced baker ever.

  • The reason why most recipes for vegan cupcakes don't use basic ingredients is that there is no basic ingredient which can substitute well for an egg. You can bake the above recipe, but it won't be very cakelike in texture. – rumtscho Feb 13 '15 at 11:18
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    Actually, that's a recipe called "crazy cake" or "wacky cake" and the texture is quite good. – Erica Feb 13 '15 at 19:30
  • Now I'm curious. Will try it soon to see what it's like. – rumtscho Feb 13 '15 at 21:15
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The recipe you've found looks like "crazy cake" or "wacky cake" (or "depression cake"), which is a fairly common egg-free cake. I've made it a number of times for a friend with an egg allergy and it's a very good vegan cake.

To make a vanilla version, leave out the cocoa powder and increase the vanilla extract slightly (1.5 teaspoons). There are a wide array of variations on this blog -- chocolate is the "original" (and most common version that I have seen), but vanilla, spice, lemon, and more all seem to be possibilities.

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Rather than a substitution what you really need to ask is what changes you need to make if you leave the cocoa powder out. Vanilla extract is a very concentrated liquid and the recipe already calls for 1 teaspoon of it, so adding more vanilla may not even be necessary depending on the result you are trying to get. Maybe an extra 1/2 tsp.

Cocoa powder is dry, leaving it out means you need to reduce the liquid a bit. How much is a good question, I'd take out 2tbsp of water and see if you get a good result.

One thing I'd definitely consider is taking the vinegar out. You need acid to react with the baking soda in order to get a rise, however white vinegar is a very strong flavor which won't work with the vanilla. In fact, I wouldn't use it even if I was making chocolate muffins. I'd substitute 1 and 1/2 tsp of baking powder (it's vegan) for the baking soda and vinegar. Baking powder is a mix of soda (sodium bicarbinate) and cream of tartar, which is a powdered potassium salt derived from wine making byproducts. Cream of tartar will add the acidity without much flavor. It will also give you a more consistent result as vinegars differ in acidity.

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    Rather than trying to adjust the liquid, the OP should substitute additional flour for the cocoa powder, and if removing the vinegar, use twice the volume of baking powder as the original recipe calls for in soda--this will already be acid balanced without trying to fuss with cream of tartar or another acidic element. Without any eggs or xantham gum or anything, I don't anticipate a stellar result from this recipe in its original or modified versions. – SAJ14SAJ Apr 6 '14 at 11:29
  • The baking soda and vinegar reaction is what leavens the cake, creating bubbles and "fluffiness." Would a non-liquid acid (e.g. cream of tartar) react the same way? – Erica Feb 13 '15 at 20:44
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    @Erica cream of tartar will react the same way, because both will dissolve in the water. You are right that acid-base reactions need to happen in a water solution, but acids always dissolve in water. It is also how baking powder works - the simpler type is just a mix of baking soda and cream of tartar in the correct ratio. – rumtscho Feb 13 '15 at 21:12
  • I like this recipe enough that it would be worth experimenting with cream of tartar to see how well it works. I imagine the vinegar was just a simpler go-to acid (while I do have cream of tartar in my well-stocked pantry, white vinegar is probably much more common). Thanks for the tip and info :) – Erica Feb 14 '15 at 19:58
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I would definitely try that, just by increasing the flour or decreasing the water to 1 cup to compensate for the 1/4 cup of cocoa you're not putting in. I make a recipe very similar to this (1 cup sugar, 1/3 cocoa, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup oil, whatever flour, whatever vinegar, the rest the same) about twice a week, and the cupcakes/muffins come out great. So great my father, who's a baker, kept commenting on how good the chocolate cake was (I used it to make a cake).

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