Fran Costigan at The Institute of Culinary Education

Happy Thanksgiving!

My contribution to this week of turkey and over-stuffing is to tell you all about a vegan cupcake class I was invited to attend last Friday and I have a special recipe surprise! [PS you could try this yummy vegan GF treat this holiday].


I had taken a vegan dessert class about 10 years ago at the Natural Gourmet School with vegan dessert pioneer Fran Costigan and it was wonderful. Maple syrup was the main sweetener and everything we made came out moist and flavorful. Even then, she was using all natural and organic products--this is why she’s a pioneer folks!

The next time I saw Fran Costigan wasn’t until a few months ago, at the Steve Ettlinger’s Twinkie Deconstructed event, where she made a vegan version of the American classic Twinkie to great raves.

So you can imagine my delight when I was invited to attend Fran Costigan's "Great Vegan Cupcakes" class at the Institute of Culinary Education and learn about how to make dessert without butter, eggs or diary.


Fran Costigan is a classically trained pastry chef and thus she utilizes classic baking techniques.

-Her recipes directions call for precise measuring. As Fran says: “measure, measure, measure” to get consistent results every time you bake.

-Her method of measuring is the “dip and sweep”: dip the measuring cup into the flour and sweep your knife across to get an exact amount that isn’t packed.

-She suggests pre-heating your oven and having not one but two oven thermometers to gauge the exact temp of your oven and thus cook your treats to perfection.

-We used the French method of preparing our recipes called “mise en place” meaning to put everything in place before you start cooking/baking.

-She reminded us all to mix dry ingredients first then wet ingredient and don't combine the two until mixed first.

-She keeps all of her oils, nuts/seeds and flours in the fridge especially as natural/organic products can turn rancid quickly.


The class is welcomed by a fruit and bread plate [Assistant Erica made me a special bread-free fruit plate]:

Our organic ingredient and spice pantry:

Here’s the mise en place for the baking tools:

Here's the mise en place for our Vanilla Berry Cupcake:

Vanilla Berry Cupcakes ready to go into a pre-heated oven:

Many hands frosting cupcakes together:

A group meal at the end of class:

(From Left to Right) Assistants Victoria and Erica:

As a special treat, exclusively for Allergic Girl readers, I have the gluten-free cupcake recipe that Fran developed, which can be made into a cake as well as cupcakes.

Yield: 2 1/4 cups batter
This recipe is an adaptation of my most popular chocolate cake: My Chocolate Cake to Live For. Over the years, I have met so many people who are gluten intolerant and allergic that I just had to give this GF baking mix a try. The batter is extremely thin, but bakes up into a delicious, deeply chocolate, moist cake that anyone will enjoy.


1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Mix
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
1/4 cup light organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup organic canola oil
1/2 cup pure maple syrup, Grade A Dark Amber
1 cup chocolate or vanilla soy milk or rice milk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1. Position a rack just above the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Oil the cups and top of a standard muffin tin. If you choose to line the tins with paper liners, only the top of the tin needs to be oiled.
2. Place a wire mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Add the baking mix, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon to the strainer. Tap the strainer against the palm of your hand to sift the ingredients into the bowl. Stir with a wire whisk to distribute the ingredients.
3. Whisk the oil, maple syrup, soy milk, vanilla extract, and vinegar in a separate medium bowl until well blended. Pour into the dry mixture and stir with a whisk until the batter is smooth. This batter is extremely thin. It is odd, but don’t panic. You will notice a bean smell but this dissipates during baking.
4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cups, filing each about 3/4 full. Pour 1/3 cup water into any empty cups to insure even baking.
5. Bake for 13 to 15minutes, or until the cupcakes are well risen (the tops will be flat), and a cake tester inserted in the centers of the cakes comes out clean or with only a few moist crumbs.
6. Cool the tin on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife between the cupcakes and the inside of the cups and lift each onto the rack. Cool completely.

Notes: They are deeply chocolate and keep well in the freezer. Most tasters detected a flavor they liked—nuts? Liqueur I was asked, but not one thought gluten free.

Ice the cupcakes after they are cool [chilled is best] with any favorite icing:

Suggested Icings: Soy creamer or coconut milk ganache or Chocolate Cream Filling & Frosting, both found in More Great Good Dairy Free Desserts Naturally, by Fran Costigan


Thank you to Fran’s two assistants Victoria and Erica for a great job. I must extend an extra special Allergic Girl shout-out to Erica who is gluten-intolerant as well. Erica, knowing I had food allergies/intolerance, made it her business to make sure I had some fruit to start the class that hadn’t touched any nuts or bread. Then when it came time for the end of class meal, instructed another student on careful clean prep making sure I had an uncontaminated salad to eat. Erica was my allergen-sensitive angel, THANK YOU ERICA!


Fran Costigan's next class at ICE is “Decadent Creamy Dairy-free Pure Chocolate Desserts”, Tues Dec 3, 10am-2pm. In addition, I will be interviewing Fran in February which will be available over at So stay tuned!


ByTheBay said…
That recipe looks great! Have a great Turkey Day.

(BTW if your ears have been burning it's because I met your friend Linda Freeman and we talked about you - Thanks for telling her about the GF dining group!)
Gab said…
I think I picked the wrong week to start weight watchers :) This recipe looks fabulous!
Allergic Girl® said…
ms bay--so glad you and linda connected!

gabs, so glad that you like it, fran will be pleased. actually b/c there is no BUTTER i wonder how this might fit into a WW diet plan? regardless good luck to you on your early new year's resolution, WW works so well for so many people!
Gab said…
If my very rough point calculation is correct, and the recipe makes 12 servings, these come in at about 3 points each. Yay! It's less than my morning latte from Starbucks. This is totally on my list to make this weekend...
Allergic Girl® said…
oh very cool, pls let me know how it goes!
Sheltie Girl said…
Thanks for a great description of your class. The cupcake recipe sounds wonderful...I'll have to give it a try.

Sheltie Girl @ Gluten A Go Go

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