Saturday, May 31, 2014

Vegan pumpkin spice latte muffins with cashew cream cheese filling and espresso glaze

vegan pumpkin spice latte muffins with cashew cream cheese and espresso glaze - how to philosophize with cake

There is only one thing that’s more important in food blogging than good food, and that thing is good pictures. Obviously. A lot of food blogging seems to be centered around fancy cameras and heavily edited pictures, which is partly why I was so hesitant to start my own food blog. I had convinced myself that if I couldn’t take pictures for shit, I would never amount to anything. No one would read my blog, no matter how hard I worked or how much I wrote or how delicious my recipes were. It would be a very sad affair, overall.

Potato-quality pictures = potato-quality blog. source

Nevertheless, I signed up for Blogger and went ahead to post my potato-quality pictures with my glorious recipes (as you can see) and here we are. It hasn’t been overly sad as of yet, but still there is some internal pressure to post photographs that don’t look like, you know, doo-doo.

Well shit.

As it turns out, my all-knowing father had a copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 lurking in the basement on one of those strange stone-age discs that people used to love so much—a CD-ROM? I really have no idea. But no matter; we downloaded the software to my laptop, and, like a kid in a candy store, I spent all of last night frolicking around with presets and colors and tools. It was great. I mean, look at this.

Gorgeous. Pinned!

Now, I’ve had some experience using Photoshop in technology classes at school and such, but nothing that would be even remotely helpful for editing pictures of food. How do you even begin to do that? Do you, like, copy and paste sprigs of parsley onto the edge of plates and other shit like that?

So please forgive me for my, um, rather amateur photo editing skills. But I do think there was something gained in all of that frolicking. Observe this drastic change effected on a picture of my Irish cream chocolate cake truffles:  

Yuck. That looks fucking disgusting. Total potato.

Ah. So much better. Those truffles got sexy beach bodies now.

When I wrote the Thin Mint cake post, I was sorely disappointed by the pictures I had taken of the full cake. By the time I realized the edges of the plate were rather reminiscent of a toilet bowl (sorry), it was too late. The cake had been eaten.

But now, with Photoshop, past wrongs can be righted. We can create pictures that truly represent how delicious this cake was. Witness:

What the actual fuck is going on here...?

My nerves have been calmed by the smooth, rubbery, thoroughly-smudged surface of that frosting.

I also fixed up a picture of the mint chocolate chip pancakes, the first recipe I posted on this blog. Those crumbs went AWOL faster than you can say “ew gross”.

That is some perky chocolate sauce.

No I don’t know what’s up with that picture. Yes I know it looks weird. Deal with it.

I took the time out of my evening to make some adjustments on this already scrumptious-looking Finnish baked pancake as well. 

Please explain that little light thing in the background. Please.

Now I can breathe easy. Thank you. Hail Photoshop.

Don’t look so impressed; you’re embarrassing me. Here, have a look at this banana oat breakfast pudding (with chocolate peanut butter granola, obviously). Totally earth-shaking difference.

Mmm, concrete in a mug with wood chips scattered on top. glows with the light of a thousand angels!

Thank god for presets, is all I can say. There really is no end to their magic. View the magical transformation of this stack of funfetti pancakes

For some reason this picture makes me depressed.

Hold the fuck up. Those colors. Damn.



Please do me a favor and ignore the embarrassing front side of that cookie bar and direct your attention to the sweet, succulent caramel drizzle—it’s gorgeous, is it not? I even removed the crumbs from that little pool at the bottom. Truly a masterpiece. Belongs in the Louvre, if I do say so myself.

Yeah. Um. I have a lot of learning to do. Not only in the use of Photoshop, but in styling the food itself. That Thin Mint cake is ridiculously ugly, but it was probably the best thing I’d ever made—no exaggeration there. That said, I would like to communicate just how delicious that cake was through visuals. No one wants to make an ugly cake.

So we shall see. Literally.

I hope your appetite has not been ruined by all of those Photoshop disasters, because I have a great recipe for y’all today.

Last weekend, I stumbled upon the blog Sifting Focus via Pinterest—and boy was I inspired, rooting through the recipe archives. As always, there are too many cakes and too little time, so I settled for something simple and delicious-sounding, if not seasonal: pumpkin spice latte muffins.

Then I realized that not only is the recipe full of eggs, there is a whopping two cups of vegetable oil in a single batch of about two dozen muffins—that’s approximately two shit-tons of oil, or a few more shit-tons of oil than I’d prefer to have in my muffins. Although I think that would explain why the ones in Sifting Focus’s photos look so insanely rich and (I apologize in advance) moist.

 If you’ve seen any of the other sweets on this blog, you know I am not one to shy away from fat and sugar and all of those other lovely ingredients that make the world go round. Breakfast food is an exception. I can stand putting two cups of sugar in a batch of muffins, but I’m afraid I had to draw the line at two shit-tons of oil—and so, at risk of sounding like a desperate dieter, I replaced seventy-five percent of the fat with applesauce. I also veganized these sugary bitches by using my favorite wonder ingredients: tofu and chia seeds. Sounds super yum, Baby June.

Miraculously, I don’t think much was lost in translation. The cake was very rich and dense, almost gooey (presumably thanks to the tofu), and the combination of espresso and spices lent a lovely flavor. They were wonderful on their own, unadorned, but obviously I had to add cashew cream cheese filling and espresso glaze. You know, for the gainz. 

This photo may or may not be edited.

Wow, appetizing pics, June.

But trust me. They’re delicious. Even my father, who would never pass up a steak or slab of bacon, gobbled these tofu-infused, vegan bitches right up. 

Check out those artistic splotches of glaze.

Then again, the massive amount of sugar might have helped.

Here is the recipe.

Pumpkin spice latte muffins

Adapted from Sifting Focus

Makes about fourteen muffins


Muffin batter

187 grams ● all-purpose flour ● 1 ½ cups

5 grams ● baking soda ● 1 ½ teaspoons

5 grams ● baking powder ● 1 teaspoon

3 grams ● cinnamon ● 1 teaspoon

1 gram ● cloves ● ¼ teaspoon

1 gram ● nutmeg ● ¼ teaspoon

2 grams ● allspice ● ½ teaspoon

184 grams ● applesauce ● ¾ cup

54 grams ● vegetable oil ● ¼ cup

200 grams ● granulated sugar ● 1 cup

230 grams ● canned pumpkin puree ● 7.5 ounces

6 grams ● espresso powder ● 1 tablespoon

124 grams ● silken tofu, blended until smooth ● ½ cup

15 grams ● chia seeds ● 1 tablespoon

50 grams ● water ● 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon

Cashew cream cheese filling

85 grams ● cashews, soaked in water overnight and drained ● ½ cup

20 grams ● maple syrup ● 1 tablespoon

4 grams ● vanilla extract ● 1 teaspoon

8 grams ● lemon juice ● ½ tablespoon

45 grams ● nondairy milk ● 3 tablespoons

Espresso glaze

30 grams ● coconut oil ● 2 tablespoons

3 grams ● espresso powder ● ½ tablespoon

23 grams ● full-fat coconut milk, room temperature ● 1 ½ tablespoons

60 grams ● powdered sugar ● ½ cup

Salt to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease ten regular muffin tins. In a small bowl, mix together 5 grams / 1 teaspoon water and 6 grams / 1 tablespoon espresso powder until dissolved. Combine other 45 grams / 3 tablespoons water with chia seeds in another bowl. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice. In a large bowl, whisk together applesauce, vegetable oil, sugar, pumpkin puree, dissolved espresso powder, tofu, and chia egg until thoroughly combined. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until combined.

Fill each muffin tin about ¾ of the way full, about 1/3 cup per tin. Bake about 25 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Wait ten minutes before removing from tins. Allow to cool completely before stuffing and covering in glaze.

To make cream cheese filling, blend all ingredients in a food processor (or a powerful blender) until smooth. You can fill the muffins however you want; I went the simple, if rough-on-the-edges route by cutting my own holes (as described by Baking Bites), but you can also use a piping bag (as described by Cookies and Cups). Either way, these will be delicious.

To make glaze, melt coconut oil and allow to cool slightly. Warm coconut milk slightly in the microwave, then stir in espresso powder to dissolve.  Stir in coconut oil, powdered sugar, and salt until combined. If too thin, add more powdered sugar. If too thick, add a bit more cream. Drizzle over cooled muffins and nosh. If you want, you can make candied pumpkin seeds a la Sifting Focus.

Unfortunately, my muffins had rather flat tops compared to the pictures on the original blog post. It’s not absolutely terrible, since they taste amazing, but if I were to make these again I might try reducing the amount of tofu, or maybe adding a bit more baking powder. I’m no expert—it could have been anything. Just mentioning it in case you would like to try these. And you should, flat tops or not. 

Artisticness level over 9000!

You might notice another foray into Photoshop-land here, with my “Pin-able picture the length of a football field”, as Joy the Baker would say. And truth be told, I did not shoot the photo vertically. That is why it looks weird. I apologize. I will try to remember to shoot some photographs vertically next time.

It is for the betterment of our world. 

Just look at that cream cheese. Stunning.

But all’s well that’s stuffed with cream cheese and glazed with espresso and sugar, amirite?

Thank you for dancing til the end


  1. Hi June, the addition of tofu here was golden, great idea. I think the pictures are the hardest part of blogging. Yours look great.

  2. LOL, you're such a crack up! You have such a humorous way of writing and I love all the before and after photos. Amazing what a little Photoshop can do :) Before I got a fancy camera, I was embarrassed by my photos but I tell ya, a good recipe is a million times better than a good photo with a shitty recipe :) Your recipes look amazing - vegan pumpkin spice latte muffins?? Fuck yeah! Keep 'em coming, my dear!!

    - Julia (The Roasted Root)

    1. Thanks so much! Good to know someone understands my humor :) Although who knows, maybe someday I will have decent photos! :D

  3. I don't use photoshop....I probably should now that I've seen the magic in your photos ;) Honestly pretty pictures are great but a great recipe with ok pictures are maybe even better. People aren't as intimidated to make a recipe if the photos aren't so perfect, ya know? And yours looks like a great recipe indeed!

    1. I'm glad you think so! It really was amazing to see how Photoshop brought all of those colors back into the pictures.

  4. I was just thinking earlier today that I should learn to use Photoshop, and then lo and behold, I came across this post! Your sense of humor is amazing (or at least well-aligned with mine!) - great post!

    1. Yeah, I think Photoshop is great! There are a lot of cool features. And thanks for the compliment! :')

  5. You crack me up!! So funny. LOVE IT. and totally true about the fancy camera and editing. it's crazy. your recipes kick ass, keep up the good work.

  6. Ha! You're funny :) I used to use PS Elements, but switched to Lightroom. I literally have spent hours trying to edit certain photos. So frustrating! But it gets easier. Love the idea of pumpkin spice latte muffins, perfect for with a nice old cup of coffee!

    1. I've heard a lot of good things about Lightroom, it sounds pretty cool. But I do hope I will master Elements first :)

  7. Oh my gosh, you crack me up. I'm so glad you stopped by my blog so that I could visit yours. I look forward to catching up with you. :-) Awesome post...awesome blog!

  8. Haha, loving the little tutorial at the top, been watching epic meal time by any chance? :P
    I need those cupcakes in my life! Especially now that you've made them just that little bit extra epic :D They look fantastic and I love your blog ^ ^ Hope you've had a great start to your week :) x

    1. I've never watched epic meal time but it sounds interesting. :) Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Had me advice would be to focus on the equipment first - if you're doing a good job with the camera, lens, and lighting, you shouldn't need Adobe at all. Especially not for a blog. I find using Photoshop such a bore that I would probably only consider hours in front of the monitor if someone was paying me, which, with my blog, isn't going to happen anytime soon...

    1. Thanks for reading! And you're right--I actually borrowed my dad's camera, which is pretty nice but not as nice as some of the other cameras I've seen around different blogs. It's hard to make up for my lack of skill though. :)

  10. I guess the point I was trying to make is that if you have the right equipment and a little understanding of the basics, "skill" won't matter so is a highly overrated my humble opinion ;-) As much as I despise this book, Matt Armendariz's "Focus on Food Photography for Bloggers" might be a good place for you to start...

    1. True, true, it's always nice to know the basics. I'm sure there are some very simple things I am missing in my pictures. :) So thanks for the suggestion! :D

  11. The muffins look and sound tasty!

  12. These muffins sound like breakfast heaven! I always enjoy your witty writing style : ) Photo editing programs are a food bloggers best friend for sure. I use Adobe Lightroom, they always offer a 30 day free trial if you're ever interested in checking them out. It's pretty user-friendly too. I also use a free photo editing site called Ribbet, it's great for doing fun stuff to your pics, like adding texts and effects and making collages and stuff. : )

    1. Thanks for reading! And thank you also for suggesting Lightroom and Ribbet, I'll have to check those out sometime. :)

  13. Hahahahaha the before and after photos were hilarious. I especially loved the smudged cake :)

    P.S. you should consider opening up comments to Name/URL so more people can comment on your posts :)

    1. Thanks so much! :) And I hadn't noticed that about the comments section, good catch! I don't want to prevent anyone from commenting. :D

  14. I let Josh do 100% of the photo editing (because omg so much work) but we honestly don't even do that much. Here's some semi-unsolicited advice: If you throw together a decent light source or use natural light, it should come together pretty nicely -- bonus if your camera let's you white balance, but we don't always even do that if we have nice natural light. Our camera is pretty old but was higher end when it was new. There's a "how to" on building a light source on my blog if you're interested, I think it cost like $8-10. This is also just personal preference, but I don't mind when there are crumbs or frosting smudges! I like photos of food to look like how food would actually be, which is crumby, gooey, and delicious. It does take a little bit of getting used to, but I think at least the styling aspect comes easily and organicaly the more you do it. I have a long ways to go, too, so we can make that journey together!

    1. Thanks for the lovely comment! I guess it's all fun for me (I love doing computer based stuff like this) but you're right, I should definitely try learning things like this. Right now I am baffled by concepts like "white balance" and "aperature" and such but hopefully I can learn. :)

    2. It makes you a little pretentious in the end though... I tried to whitebalance my sisters cell phone before letting her take a selfie
      (for the record, you cannnottttt white balance a cell phone, and I'm a total tool).

    3. Haha that is funny! Although I'm sure it makes photos better in the end. :D

  15. Omg, you are hilarious, June! Hahah, I was laughing all the way through your post! :D

  16. Haha, welcome to the land of photoshopped food! One you start 'shopping, you'll never go back! Mwahahaha! Seriously, though, I actually love me some editing. Nothing major, mostly for brightening + contrast + cropping--we could all use a little cropping help now and then. It's easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that all food has to look perfect, but at the end of the day, I've made too many dishes from blogs that looked great but were kind of disappointing...for me, taste still has to be #1!

    1. Thanks so much! And I agree, I think now I've seen how awesome Photoshop can make all those colors I'm gonna keep doing it :)

  17. Oh, man, I can totally relate! My photography was atrocious when I first started. Like, you couldn't even tell what it was I had taken the picture of. We all gotta start somewhere! Keep up the great work and ps- those muffins sound delish!

    1. Thanks so much! I hope I can improve too. :)

  18. I haven't baked with tofu yet! Your father sounds a lot like my father so if he liked them then mine would too. Unless he saw me putting it into the batter - I'd have to tell him it was cream cheese. ;-)

    1. Haha I never thought of that! Will have to try it next time :) I've loved the things I've made with tofu so far so I can vouch for it as a substitute.

  19. Haha, I honestly love your photos! No, seriously- It's refreshing to see a food blog that isn't painfully perfect. I want to know what people are really making, eating, and enjoying, and that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to look like a glossy magazine. I'm glad that didn't stop you from posting, and I think that all food bloggers can relate, too. I know that my earliest entries were far from appetizing!

    1. Aw, thanks! :') Glad to know you can relate.

  20. I wish I had the time & ingredients to makes these muffins--My sister (vegan) is visiting right now & and I haven't been able to bake anything yet for her to eat! Ah, well.

    And I love your detailing experiences with Photoshop...I use different editing software, but I don't even know half of what it all does!

    1. That's too bad, but I'm glad you like the post. :)

  21. I'm sure it has been mentioned before, but your captions are absolutely award winning. You are a legend.


    1. Haha thanks! I try very hard to make my captions worthwhile. :D

  22. It is crazy some of the great lengths that people go to to get good photos. Especially when we're talking spending hours changing small details. :) I am way in awe at the tofu in these. I've never used it in a baked good before but am having a very DOH! moment.

    1. Yep tofu has always worked well in my baked goods so I highly recommend it! Makes things a bit more dense and gooey, if that's what you like.