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When the World Gets Ugly, Bake Cupcakes

July 10, 2016

close up cupcake.JPGThe world was very ugly this week. I don’t have a solution, and it was too awful to face, so I turned to baking because it always makes me feel good. I know it’s a cop-out, but it’s better than drinking, smoking or gambling, and everyone loves you for it, so it’s my coping mechanism.

This year has been pretty full of tragedy, so, I’ve been baking a lot.

I’ve been thinking about what I can do that might make a difference in the world. I’m not sure what that will be yet, but I have a few ideas percolating.

So, in lieu of a plan for world peace, I found a vegan recipe for banana cake that was absolute moist deliciousness. HEY, I SAID VEGAN — THIS IS BIG NEWS.  Who knew it was possible?  I used to think of vegans as spindly, Ichabod Crane types, who suck  the fun right out of eating, but this recipe (and some totally cool vegan friends) are forcing me to re-think that.

More cropped Nat and Milena copy

Milena and Natalie

My good friend, Allegra, who just had a birthday, is vegan.  Before she went to the dark side, she LOVED my Mom’s birthday cake with bananas, vanilla pudding, coffee and coffee icing. Needless to say it’s not on the Vegan Top Ten List.

Allegra’s daughter Natalie says, ” Vegans take the butter and eggs out of recipes and replace them with tears and lost dreams.” Before I tasted these cupcakes, I would have agreed, but I think I’m coming around.

Natalie’s sister, Casiana wanted to bake a birthday treat her mom would love, that was similar to my Mom’s coffee-pudding cake, only vegan.

Eviscerated cupckae.JPGShe found two recipes (one for Banana cake, and one for Coffee icing) then combined them in a banana cupcake. Plus, she ingeniously mixed together some mashed banana with a splash of vanilla and put it in the middle of the cupcakes.

Cupcake with filling.JPGShe cut into the tops of the cupcakes with a surgeon’s skill, (she plans to be a doctor)  removed a little of the middle, then put in a teaspoon of banana-vanilla filling, replaced the tops, and iced them.They were moist, banana heaven covered in coffee icing. I could have eaten five of them.

Natalie and Casiana are like daughters to me.  They used to take turns staying at my house for sleepovers when they were little. Allegra was a sweet friend and divorced mom, going to school for her Master’s degree. Anything I could do to help, I wanted to do for her.

#2 cropped Milena and Casiana.JPG

Milena and Casiana

I loved having those kids over as much as Milena did. We had sleep-outs in the backyard tent, we played, “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” in the kitchen and I watched them dance around the island to it like maniacs. I would often walk into my kitchen to find Natalie and Milena staging some kind of unsupervised science experiment, which always left me laughing  — and more cautious.


These kids and their older sister, Emma have turned out great. Their mom never stopped working hard and has always been very positive and involved in her kids lives.  It’s made all the difference. I know I’m digressing, but kudos to you Allegra. You are amazing.

As for this week’s sad events, my heart breaks because I got a little glimpse of what it can be like on both sides, after my, “Why Hello Officer,” moment. I know neither side is easy to be on.  All I can do is go back to my “Be the Best Example You Can Be,” post, add the words, police officer, to the list, and hope for the best. Here’s the quote:

“If you’re the only Latino, Chinese, Black, Italian, Muslim, Hindu, police officer, or whatever, then be the best example you can be, because you may be the one others base their opinions on.

It’s sad and unfair that people tend to base their opinions of a group, on the worst examples they see. But they can’t do that, if we don’t give them the chance.”

Next week I will probably go back to reading the paper cover to cover and listening to news radio nonstop, but for now, I’m enjoying some sweet, moist, carby, VEGAN banana cupcakes. If it’s possible for a vegan cupcake to be this good, then maybe there is hope for the world.

Casiana’s Banana Cupcakes with Coffee Icing (adapted from

2 cups flour (I use unbleached)

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup oil (I used canola)

4  medium ripe bananas mashed (2 cups)

1/4 cup water

1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 14 cupcake cups, or lightly grease one 9″ square baking pan. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and oil, then add the mashed bananas. Add the water and vanilla, stirring to combine. Add the flour mixture, stirring until just wet.

Bake cupcakes for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out dry. If baking a cake, bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Banana Filling

Eviscerated cupckae

Once you cut off the moist little peaks, you get to eat them!

1 large banana

1/4 tsp vanilla

Smash the banana with a fork and add the 1/4 tsp of vanilla. When the cupcakes have cooled enough to be handled, take a sharp paring knife and cut a circular hole in the top of the cupcake. Cut off the top of the peak, leaving the “lid” intact.  Place a teaspoon of filling in the hole, then place the cupcake top back on.

Surgically altered cupcake.JPG

The surgically altered frankencake.

Then when the cupcakes have all been filled, and re-covered, ice them with the Coffee icing.

Vegan Coffee Frosting

1/3 cup margarine

4 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 to 1/2 cup of espresso (cooled)

A few dashes of salt

The directions in say to beat the margarine until it’s light and fluffy, but I didn’t have the time or patience to do that.  (I beat it for five minutes and it still didn’t get fluffly, so I said forget it.) So, my icing wasn’t much like buttercream. It was more thick and viscous, but it was good! I added the powdered sugar, vanilla and espresso and it was fine. I always add a little salt to icing because I think that balances out the sweetness. The icing went on nicely, looked and tasted good. Go ahead, impress your vegan friends with this!Pretty banana cupcakes


  • Reply
    July 10, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    I was a strict vegan for three years, Interestingly, my health has improved greatly since I STOPPED, but I actually ate a lot of great food whilst eschewing anything with eyes (except black-eyed peas, of course). I am processing this world, as well, Fran. I feel as if we’re all just fiddling as Rome burns. Sigh.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      July 10, 2016 at 11:43 pm

      I know. The world is a little overwhelming. I’m working on figuring out what to do, we may need a three hour conversation to figure it out.

  • Reply
    July 10, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    Can’t wait to try these cupcakes, when it gets cool enough to turn on oven. I’m not vegan, but I have a couple in my life.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      July 10, 2016 at 11:42 pm

      I agree. I bake very early in the morning so the house doesn’t heat up too much, or late at night. It’s an addiction.

  • Reply
    Monica Muehsam
    July 10, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    Before I saw this recipe I doubted I would ever try anything Vegan on purpose, but these look SO good! And it came with an important message- thanks Fran!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      July 10, 2016 at 11:41 pm

      Monica, I said the same thing! But they really are amazing. Even if you just made them plain, they are good. I’ll bet they’d be good with cream cheese frosting, but that would blow the whole vegan angle.

  • Reply
    Mandy Gustafsen
    July 10, 2016 at 1:17 pm


    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      July 10, 2016 at 11:40 pm

      Honestly Bob, they’re so good, they don’t even need frosting. They’re delicious and moist without it and really easy to make!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      July 10, 2016 at 11:40 pm

      I’ll make them for you sometime Mandy!

  • Reply
    Bob Erbeck
    July 10, 2016 at 10:34 am

    The cupcakes look and sound scrumptious, and I’ll bet they are!

  • Reply
    July 10, 2016 at 8:17 am

     That was a nice article. Was Allegra’s father in the pharmaceutical business ?

    From: At Frans Table To: Sent: Sunday, July 10, 2016 8:56 AM Subject: [New post] When the World Gets Ugly, Bake Cupcakes #yiv6636809295 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv6636809295 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv6636809295 a.yiv6636809295primaryactionlink:link, #yiv6636809295 a.yiv6636809295primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv6636809295 a.yiv6636809295primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv6636809295 a.yiv6636809295primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv6636809295 | Fran Tunno posted: “The world was very ugly this week. I don’t have a solution, and it was too awful to face, so I turned to baking because it always makes me feel good. I know it’s a cop-out, but it’s better than drinking, smoking or gambling, and everyone loves you for it,” | |

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      July 10, 2016 at 11:39 pm

      No, he wasn’t, but I’ll bet she wishes he was. No, she came by her name without the benefit of big Pharma.

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