Vegan? Yup. Tropical Papaya, Cashew & Coconut CupCakes with a Coconut Rum Caramel Layer


When you have a small number of weeks free between moving from one end of Ireland to the other for the mania and chaos of a new clinical practice block, you end up doing ridiculous things with your time.

Ever tried to put tofu in a cake?

Stop making that face, it’s nowhere near how you’re imagining.

I have an ongoing fascination with how on earth to make cakes without the conventional stuff – and not have them come out bland, cardboard-rough or just ‘off’ in the way that a lot of the supermarket ‘free of (insert sin here)’ stuff can be. I took inspiration from a recipe for a skinny muffin from Sally’s Baking Addiction (the site I’ll never stop plugging) – and played with it to turn out something without eggs, milk, honey or butter.

I made these and tested them on non-vegans before I went anywhere near a vegan. I’d like to say that was deliberate, but it wasn’t – the only vegan member of our family is not currently available for kitchen consultations. Results were mostly positive!

“This is gorgeous. No, it’s really really good. How did you do that?”

Anything I should warn you about? Well…these aren’t your typical fluffy cake cupcakes. Purists would hate these – they’d never pass muster in a WI cake sale, put it that way. They’re dense, fruity and sticky, and there’s…a lot going on inside the wrapper. If your palette runs towards the simpler flavour combinations, these aren’t for you. They’re a product of my over-enthusiasm for taste blending and flavour combining, turned up to eleven. If you like the sound of that? Go try.


Cupcake Ingredients (Make 18 small cakes):

260g Wholemeal Flour

50g Spelt Flour

20g Shredded Coconut

1 Tsp Baking Soda

1 Tsp Cinnamon

1/4 Tsp Salt

85g Maple Syrup

110g Light Muscovado Sugar

2 Large Very Very Ripe Bananas

60g Caramel Alpro Soya Yogurt

60g Silken Tofu

185g Hazelnut Milk

Splash Spiced Rum

100g Diced Dried Papaya & Coconut

50g Cashews

Vegan Caramel Ingredients:

100g Muscovado Sugar

125ml Alpro Soya Vegan Cream

1 Tbsp Coconut Oil

Splash of Spiced Rum

Vegan Buttercream Ingredients: 

75g Vegan Spread / Margarine

50g Coconut Oil

2 Tbsp Vanilla Extract

Generous dose of Spiced Rum

500g Icing Sugar

Gel Food Colour, Type to Taste



1. As ever, you know it: preheat that oven and line up one and a half muffin trays. Oven should be at 165 celsius if you’re pro-fan, and 185 if you’re anti-fan. As an extra precaution (vegan baked goods stick to liners like little limpets, yo) – take some oil (I used peanut oil) and use a grease brush to oil-paint the sides of the liners. Ignore your mother’s (half serious) suggestion to just use butter, instead.

2. Combine the first six (dry) ingredients on your cupcake list – the two kinds of flour, the coconut, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Whizz them in an electric mix or just go at ’em with elbow grease and a spoon – whatever suits ya. Peel, chop and fork mash or blend your bananas in a separate bowl, then dose bananas one by one with each additional wet ingredient – maple syrup, sugar, yogurt, tofu, hazelnut milk & rum. Dose the dry mix with half the wet, spin or mix to combine and add the second half, repeat.

3. Macerate your cashews in a blender. Remove from blender and tip into your cake mix. Finally, add in the papaya and stir through. Distribute into cupcake liners, and bake for 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cake comes out (relatively) clean.

4. For your caramel, place the sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan and dose with about half a mug of water. Put on heat, stir just til the sugar dissolves and monitor. Please for the love of god mind your face and your hands, because boiling sugar ain’t nobody’s friend. You want the sugar to be bubbling and copper coloured before anything else happens – about five to seven minutes depending on your hob. When that’s going on, throw in your cream and coconut oil and stir consistently til everything combines. Turn down the heat and stir for two more minutes, then hoik up your pot and go place it in a bath of cold water in your sink. Leave for one minute then take it out again to sit and cool.

5. To make the icing, fluff the spread and oil with an electric hand mixer and then dose with about half your sugar. Beat to combination, add vanilla, colour and rum plus more sugar; re-beat until smooth and tropical looking. Once your cakes are cool, drop a teaspoon of caramel onto each, and leave for about thirty minutes to cool. Lastly, spoon icing onto cakes, or bribe relative to spoon onto cakes because you’re tired now and they’ll get free cake for their efforts.




Pictured in company with Very Berry Vegan Cakes…

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