Crazy Chocolate Cupcakes (Vegan!)

mo cupcakesMy goddaughter Maureen, also known as Mo, just turned three. Mike and I traveled to Maryland this weekend for her party and Mo and I baked these cupcakes together, which was great fun. She’s very good at mixing, but even better at eating. At the end of her party, she sat down by herself at the table and proceeded to eat all of the icing off of two cupcakes…a girl after my own heart.

Mo’s mom, my cousin Barb, sought a recipe that was both dairy-free and egg-free to accommodate some guests with food allergies, and she got this recipe from a friend whose sons can’t have milk or eggs. Cakes like these are also known as Depression Cakes, given the scarcity of dairy products and eggs during the Great Depression. As always, the resourcefulness of bakers never ceases to amaze me; the end result of this recipe is a delicious, moist cake that reminds me somewhat of devil’s food, but better. And, because there are no animal products in either the cake or frosting recipes, these treats are vegan! 

Note: the recipe below yields 36 cupcakes with enough frosting for generous portions on each cupcake. 

Crazy Chocolate Cupcakes


  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 15 tablespoons vegetable oil (7.5 ounces, just shy of one cup)
  • 3 cups water


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix until well-blended, then make three wells for the wet ingredients.

Place vinegar, vanilla, and vegetable oil in the wells; add water and mix until batter is smooth. The mixture will bubble slightly when you add the water; just keep mixing until you get a smooth consistency in the batter, which will be fairly thin.

Using a 1/4 cup measure, fill each cupcake about half-full. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Frosting


  • 1 cup shortening
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 cups powdered sugar


In a mixing bowl, combine shortening, 1 teaspoon vanilla, water, and 4 cups powdered sugar. Mix on low speed, then increase to medium-high and beat for 10 minutes, until smooth. Add remaining powdered sugar and additional teaspoons of vanilla extract, beating until smooth.

About Maureen

mo bakingMo is an active three-year old who loves her parents, her dog Sukey, making messes, and referring to herself in third-person. She’s an avid fan of bacon, enjoys watching Octonauts, and has been known to wear tutus over skinny jeans.



4 thoughts on “Crazy Chocolate Cupcakes (Vegan!)

  1. Good to have a vegan dessert in my recipe box when my NJ friends come to visit (he is vegan, she is just vegetarian.) Looks tasty. My question is: what purpose does the vinegar serve? I am just curious.

    1. an excellent question! vinegar is an acid, which activates the baking soda, creating a gas that makes the cake rise during baking. most cakes use milk or buttermilk as the acid, but vinegar is a good option for vegan recipes.

  2. I am only now realizing that I could have just multiplied the measurements into 1 large batch instead of setting you up to make 3 small batches of batter….duh. It was such a treat to have you and Mike attend Mo’s birthday, but an even bigger treat to have you baking with Mo! She loves helping in the kitchen, and had so much fun mixing ingredients with you. And the cupcakes were fabulous! 🙂 Thank you again!!!

    1. it’s totally okay! i actually think keeping the ingredients separate and doing them in smaller batches contributed to the fluffiness of the cupcakes…i’m not sure if we’d mixed everything, then let it sit while the first batches were baking, if they would have been as fluffy. i was so glad to get the chance to bake with mo…and that we were able to be a part of her birthday celebration!

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