The nature versus nurture debate is one of the oldest debates in psychological circles. Are we the way we are because we are influenced by the people around us and the experiences we have? Or, in the words of Lady Gaga, are we born this way?

In this post, I care less about our personalities, and more about our mouths. Do we like the foods we like because we are genetically disposed to certain flavours or because we love the flavours we grew up on?

This question came to me in the week of my sister, Toe Jam Monica’s, birthday. We were not raised in a dessert family. We had baked goods around, but dessert was never an essential part of any meal; we rarely even had cake on birthdays. I’ll admit it here and now, I was a closeted dessertoholic. Every birthday, I just wanted the buttery icing on the fluffy, velvety cake. I wanted the fondant roses with my name spelled out in loopy electric blue ropes. I wanted the custard filling between layers of vanilla and the syrupy strawberries that seem to hold it all together. Instead I got some kind of root vegetable cake (carrot or rhubarb) or as my parents got more progressive maybe a small ice cream cake, if any cake at all. I’m not complaining because they probably saved me hours with Jane Fonda, but it was years before I actually came out of the gingerbread closet.

Now I’m out and here to help other closeted cakoholics. In honour of my sister’s birthday and dessert lovers everywhere, I’ve got two cupcake recipes that will blow your muffin top off.

I recognize these are not the healthiest desserts out there, but when cake is calling, these recipes are both vegan options.

Vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes
1 c (237 ml) soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 c (156 g) flour
1 c (198 g) sugar
2 Tbls cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c (78 ml) canola oil
2 Tbls red food coloring (liquid)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tsp chocolate extract (these two extracts are optional, just in case you can’t find them)

Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and line a cupcake tin.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the soy milk and vinegar and set aside to curdle (this is to imitate buttermilk. It is an important step because the vinegar gives the baking soda something with which it can react!)

In another bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Add the oil, food coloring and extracts to the curdled soy milk and whisk well to combine. Sift the dry ingredients into the wet and fold to combine, mixing just until large lumps disappear.

Pour into liners and bake 18-20 minutes.

Makes 1 dozen.

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting
1/4 c (58 g) margarine, softened
1/4 c (58 g) vegan cream cheese, softened
2 c (312 g) powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Cream together the margarine and cream cheese just until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar in half-cup batches, whipping thoroughly combined after each addition. Add the vanilla and whip until light and fluffy.

This recipe gives you the basic vegan vanilla cupcake receipe and a buttercream frosting with lots of variations.

Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes
2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c organic unbleached sugar
3 1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 c margarine (80% fat is best) – softened
1 c plain unsweetened soy milk (make sure soybeans and water are the ONLY ingredients)
1 t vanilla
1/4 c soy yogurt
1/4 c apple sauce
1/4 c silken tofu

Heat oven to 350F degrees.
Beat all ingredients in large mixer bowl on low speed, scraping bowl constantly, 30 seconds.
Beat on high speed, scraping bowl frequently, 3 minutes.
Pour batter into paper-lined medium muffin cups, filling each about half full.

Bake 20 minutes.

Basic Buttercream Icing with Variations
3 c unbleached organic sugar
1/2 c margarine, softened (80% fat is best)
1/4 c soy milk
1 1/2 t vanilla
1/4 c mashed cherries or blueberries or strawberries or raspberries

Mix margarine, milk, and vanilla.
Blend in sugar and mashed fruit of your choice.

Because I was definitely “born this way” with my sweet tooth, here are some gaga inspired cupcakes…