Finally! It’s here. The quest for the honey graham cupcake has been completed! No actual graham crackers are needed to make these, for those living away from the land of commercial American products, yet they taste just like honey grahams, plus they’re vegan. That’s just a bonus.
I spent three days baking and plenty of time pondering the whys and wherefores of the sciency baking reactions and how to get them to turn out exactly how I wanted. Evidence of this lies in photos as well as my witness, Michael, who has willingly tasted a few exemplar specimens and listened to me process my constant cupcake thought streams. Thanks for the support, babe!
As an aside, I’d purchased two little packs of trail mix at Aldi today just because I got a kick ouf of the fact that they’re called “student feed” (Studenten-Futter), just like chicken feed that you’d strew around in the grass. The brand is even called Farmer. Haha! I just imagine someone taking trail mix around the schools when all the hungry school kids get out and students running around hungrily picking it up off the ground.
One of the trail mix packets had chocolate pieces in it, and Michael wanted to have it. I asked if he’d rather have this chocolate or a chocolate-covered cupcake. He said, “Which one do you want me to have?” I said, “Well, I’ve got about thirty cupcakes in the kitchen, so …” He said, “I’ll take the trail mix.” Darn! Maybe I fed him too many already.
Anyways, you can take this recipe and make it as is, and you should get great results. And I had to develop this recipe myself, though I used the vanilla crazy cake recipe from Sweet Little Bluebird as a starting point. You can see the results in the top left cupcake in the header photo. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t recommend that recipe as is because I found the oil flavor unpalatably strong. Of course, my cupcake didn’t use vanilla, which would help mask the taste of the oil, but I don’t think it would be enough to make a good vanilla cake.
After starting off with a half batch recipe based on vanilla crazy cake, I continued my experiments with radical changes. Whenever I’m looking to mimic the flavor of a mass-produced, store-bought item, I go to the ingredients list. The brand of honey grahams that I’m used to uses white flour, graham flour (a type of coarsely ground whole wheat flour), sugar, oil, honey, and leavener. The prominent tastes of a honey graham are sweetness, honey, and whole wheat. The texture is crunchy and crumbly. A cupcake obviously isn’t going to be crunchy, so I went for flavor.
The vegan recipe was the most fitting because it doesn’t have the strong flavor of butter nor milk and eggs which are typical cake ingredients but which aren’t true to the graham recipe and would mask the flavors too much. But the crazy cake recipe was way too soft as well as oily. My horrible, inedible mistake was try no. 2, top right in the header photo. I’m almost embarrassed that I thought it would work, but at least I tried, and now I know it’s completely inappropriate to try to use half bread flour in a cupcake to give it structure. Yes, I know it was a bad idea … now.
The two more successful recipes came with an almost total revamp including cutting down the oil, changing the leavener, flipping the ratio of white to whole wheat flours, and adding more honey. The one on the left had less water, and on the right had the full amount of water. The left was more of a muffin consistency and the right was perfect! The internet told me it couldn’t be done, but behold, the cupcake that tastes like a graham cracker without using actual graham crackers. Honey, whole wheat, and a little brown sugar to add depth. Light, fluffy, yet sturdy enough to hold up to any perfect topping you can imagine.
It’s so funny, though. I actually thought I had the perfect recipe, but I wanted to try it out again just to make sure it was reproducible and reliable enough to share with you! So I made it again a couple days ago, and it was even better … except a little flatter on top … And then it dawned on me that I’d written down my recipe wrong and had used twice as much leavener as I needed! But it seemed better, and of course then I had to do some more testing, and I was thrown into doubt as my “perfect” recipe theory seemed to have fallen apart. I think I made about five half-batches that day before I ran out of honey. Then I obviously had to go to the grocery store the next day to get more, come home and make three more half-batches, testing out a couple other combinations including, finally, making my original “perfect” recipe again and realizing that it actually was perfect. facepalm I should have trusted my instincts.
So you can thank me for making 60+ cupcakes just to hand you a perfect recipe. You’re welcome. I did have fun doing it, and it was honestly a pretty cheap experiment, not needing to use expensive ingredients like butter and things. I only threw out the most unworthy, those bread flour disappointments. I even kept the ones that I forgot to put half the sugar in; they’re more acceptable for breakfast. Really, the only reason I haven’t been eating the other ones for breakfast is that I knew I’d be eating at least three throughout the rest of the day for testing purposes. And I just put a bunch of them in the freezer. Yep, we’re pretty much set for a while here.
And, yes, these containers are all full, minus the 16 or so that I fully frosted and decorated, the 6 that I threw away because they were awful, the 13 sitting on a drying rack to cool, and the countless number that Michael and I had already eaten.
Honey Graham Cupcakes
Yield 12-14 regular-sized cupcakes
Fluffy, moist, tastes just like my favorite commercial brand of honey graham crackers, and even vegan too! No actual graham cracker crumbs required. These go perfectly with s'more-themed toppings or just dipped in plain milk chocolate.
- 1 Cup whole wheat flour (5 oz, 141 g)
- 2/3 Cup all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached (3.6 oz, 102 g)
- 1/2 Cup light brown sugar, packed (4 oz, 113 g)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 Tb vegetable or other neutral oil (30 ml)
- 1/4 C + 2 Tb honey (90 ml)
- 1 C water, room temperature or cool (4 fluid oz, 118 ml)
- Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C and line a standard-sized muffin tin with cupcake liners.
- A standard size is one which takes a 7cm cupcake liner, which is the measurement at the top opening.
- The height of your cupcake liners will affect the outcome of the cupcakes. This recipe makes 12 cupcakes using a 3-cm tall liner. Taller liners or less batter in each liner may result in a higher dome.
- Mix together all the dry ingredients plus brown sugar in one bowl. And mix together the liquid ingredients in another bowl.
- Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix quickly and efficiently just until fully blended. There should be no dry flour remaining.
- Portion evenly into your cupcake tin, and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes, depending on the pan you use, whether light or dark and also depending on the material of the tin.
- You may turn the cupcake tin around at 8 or 9 minutes if your oven has uneven heating, but do this very gently as disturbances in the tender, partially-risen batter may cause collapses or unsatisfactory rise.
- They will become a light golden brown color because of the slightly alkaline batter as well as the addition of honey.
- Try not to over bake because this may cause the cupcakes to shrink up and pull away from the liners upon cooling. This is relevant for any cupcake recipe. You will know they are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out cleanly. If desired, you can also do a pre-test which involves every so gently pressing a finger into the dome of one of the cupcakes. If it does not spring back at all then they need another minute. Leave them for the extra minute and then do the toothpick test.
- Remove cupcakes made with liners to a cooling rack after only 1 or 2 minutes so that they do not continue baking.
- If they have not overflowed on top of the tin but are just lightly pressed up against the top edge of the mold, gently pull away the edges from the tin. It should come away easily and not mar the cupcake. Avoid using a knife for this as it is unnecessary and may actually damage the cupcake.
- Let cool completely before frosting or dipping in chocolate or ganache. If stored in an airtight container un-dipped, they may develop a sticky top, which is normal for any moist cupcake recipe but does not affect the dipping or frosting process.
Because this recipe does not contain many structural stabilizers such as eggs, it is very sensitive to dry:liquid ratio. Sugars also perform a role as a liquid, so don't try to cut down the sugar, as it will result in a tough product. I can attest, as I accidentally omitted half the sugar in one of my trial recipes.
Also, the best way to measure the water would be to either weigh it or use a dry 1 cup measure, as it's impossible to overfill it; whereas, in a liquid measuring cup it is too easy to accidentally add too much water. On the other hand, if you accidentally put in slightly less water, the only consequence may be a slightly less fluffy texture and a taller dome like a muffin. They will also become stale more quickly because their moisture comes primarily from the water, with only a scant amount of oil.
If you prefer an absolutely flat-topped cupcake, double the amount of leavener and put slightly less batter in each cupcake liner. They will turn out great, I promise! Just flatter. And with a more intense golden color from the extra alkalinity of the extra baking soda.
If you don't have baking powder, an almost equal substitute would be 1 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp vinegar. I do think the flavor of the muffins using both baking powder and soda is slightly better.
Ask if you have any questions about your results! I did so much experimenting with different variables in this recipe, that I will most likely be able to help troubleshoot any issue.