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Meal Makeovers

Delectable Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

Just because you are a vegan, doesn't mean you have to give up dessert.

In my cupcakes, I have a few tricks for making them vegan. 

My favorite trick is using vinegar. I know it sounds weird, but vinegar is actually a great ingredient to use.

Just a tiny bit of it in your cupcake, and what it does is it react with the baking soda, which helps the cupcakes rise and makes them really moist and fluffy.

What you need:
* 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour plus ¾ teaspoon xanthan gum)
* 1 cup sugar
* 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* ½ teaspoon salt
* 1 cup cold coffee, water, or coconut milk
* ½ cup canola oil
* 2 tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar
* 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the vanilla frosting:
* 1 cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
* 3 cups powdered sugar
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 2 to 5 tablespoons soy, almond, or rice milk

Garnish:
* 1 ½ cups hulled and sliced fresh strawberries

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two (12-cup) cupcake pans with 14 cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together coffee, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisk until just combined. Do not over-mix.

Fill the cupcake liners about three-quarters full with batter. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean with a few crumbs clinging to it. Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting.

To make the vanilla frosting: Using a handheld or stand mixer, beat the shortening until smooth. With the mixer running on low, add powdered sugar, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon nondairy milk at a time, as needed, until frosting reaches a spreadable consistency. You may not need to use all of the nondairy milk. Beat on high for two more minutes until light and fluffy.

To assemble the cupcakes: Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, frost the cupcakes and garnish with sliced strawberries.

Makes: 14 cupcakes

Chloe Coscarelli, a vegan for six years, is the winner of "Cupcake Wars" on the Food Network. She graduated from The Natural Gourmet Institute and the University of California, Berkeley. Visit her website at chefchloe.com.