Lemon verbena became one of my all-time favorite herbs to grow about two summers ago. In our area, it can’t be found in grocery stores, so check your local nurseries and farmers markets; the latter is where I purchase mine to make these lemon verbana vegan cupcakes.
If you can’t find lemon verbena plants, you can certainly substitute lemon zest and juice, maybe the zest and juice of one large lemon? But then they’re just lemon vegan cupcakes – tasty lemon cupcakes, but lemon cupcakes nonetheless. I only make these cupcakes in the warm months when the plant is thriving, as its leaves impart an earthy and herby lemon flavor without the astringency of a lemon. I adore the flavor of lemon too; it’s just different.
Everyone loves these lemon verbana vegan cupcakes, even people who have never, to their knowledge, tasted anything vegan. One woman to whom I served one recently said it was one of the best cupcakes she had ever eaten!
Special Diet Notes: Lemon Verbena Vegan Cupcakes
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, optionally nut-free, peanut-free, optionally soy-free, vegan, and vegetarian.
- 1 cup soymilk or milk beverage of choice
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 cup fairly firmly packed rinsed and dried lemon verbena leaves (I find that the largest leaves don't impart as much flavor; perhaps use them for garnish)
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch (prevents the cupcakes from being too dense)
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup canola or vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ cup vegetable shortening (such as palm shortening)
- ¼ cup dairy-free margarine (soy-free, if needed)
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate (I use Minute-Maid; check to see that the brand you purchase contains no high fructose corn syrup if you avoid it)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract (omit for nut-free)
- Fresh lemon verbena sprigs
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Line a regular-sized 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake papers.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the milk beverage and vinegar.
- Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse together the sugar and lemon verbena leaves until tiny flecks of green are distributed through the sugar.
- Transfer the mixture to a medium size bowl, and add the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- Make a well in the center and pour in the milk mixture along with the oil and extract.
- Stir the wet and dry ingredients together with a wooden spoon until virtually no lumps are detectable.
- Using a scoop, fill the muffin cups only ⅔ full. That's all the batter you will have because filling them fuller can cause sinking.
- Bake the cupcakes on the center oven rack for 20 to 22 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of one comes out clean.
- Cool and then frost with Orange-Almond Buttercream Frosting.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the shortening and vegan butter.
- Add the powdered sugar, and combine on low speed so that you don't end up covered in white powder.
- Gradually increase the speed and when the mixture begins to look incorporated--it will be thick, almost like a dough instead of a frosting--add the frozen orange juice concentrate and extracts.
- Beat until smooth and creamy. If necessary, add more orange juice concentrate or powdered sugar to achieve the perfect texture.
- Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag, if using, and pipe frosting on top of cooled cupcakes, dividing evenly among them. If necessary, place the bag in the refrigerator for a bit to stiffen the frosting before frosting. Alternatively, swirl the frosting onto the cupcakes using a knife or an offset spatula.
- Serve cupcakes on individual plates or a platter garnished with lemon verbena sprigs.
- Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.