The perfect vegan white cupcake with bakery frosting

What's that saying?

'When the going gets tough, the tough get going.'

Well, part of that is right.

When the going gets tough, the tough bake cupcakes. Lots of them. With uber-rich, bakery-style frosting that gets a teeny bit hard on the outside but remains sugary and smooth on the inside. Yeah, that's what we do when life throws us a curveball in the Chubby Vegan household.

I've been a bit of a funk lately. Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's because I'm going to be the dirty 30 in a mere two months (and still don't feel like an adult!), I don't know.

What I do know, is this: I am a firm believer that there are few things in this life cupcakes won't make better. So I set out this time to create something really, really simple, but really, really sweet and really, really perfect.

The result is reminiscent of that white-on-white bakery birthday cake you used to get from the grocery store. You know, the one that's all dense and heavy with the super rich, almost overwhelmingly sweet frosting? Yeah, we busted out a dozen of those in our Chubby Vegan kitchen and lets just say I had to make MORE icing because the first batch didn't quite make it all on the cupcakes (OK, some of it ended up in my stomach. It was good, what can I say.)

Here's the secret: don't skip the vegetable shortening. I get it, you want to try and be healthy, but for reals peeps, it's a cupcake, make it right or don't make it at all. (Adorable cupcake trophy stand courtesy of my equally adorable and awesome boss!)

Bakery-style vegan white cupcakes with white frosting
(makes 12 dozen deliciously-iced cupcakes)
Cake ingredients:
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 stick vegan butter (we used Earth Balance)
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup vanilla coconut milk
1/4 cup vegan sour cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

Frosting ingredients:
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup vegan butter (softened)
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract

Cake directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place cupcake wrappers in a pan muffin tin. Cream together vegan butter and shortening until light and fluffy (with a hand or stand mixer). Stir in sugar and applesauce. Slowly mix in flour, baking powder and salt. Once combined, add coconut milk, vegan sour cream and vanilla extract. Fill cupcake wrappers a little over half full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or edges become a very light, golden brown. Set aside to cool.
Frosting directions: 
Mix shortening, vegan butter, vanilla, almond extract,and half of the powdered sugar with a mixer for *at least* five minutes (possibly up to 10 minutes depending on the power/speed of your mixer). Add the rest of the powdered sugar and beat just enough to mix in. Frost cupcakes as desired, store in fridge when not in use. 

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A few ways parenthood is actually a lot like college

This past week our family came down with a respiratory virus, well, mainly Braeburn, but the rest of us got enough of it to feel extra whiny and needy as well.  At two years old, my little boy has been sleeping through the night like a champion. Actually, since about four or five months old he’s been sleeping a good 10-12 hours every night.

So it’s pretty safe to say we’ve gotten accustomed to our shut eye in the Chubby Vegan household.

But between my own chest congestion, his and having to get up with him, our family has not received an adequate amount of Zzz’s this week. I’m telling you folks, once your baby starts sleeping through the night, those long nights you stayed up breastfeeding or rocking slowly fade away, and you convince yourself that it really wasn’t that bad, right.

WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. Not getting sleep is TERRIBLE. It is that bad. It’s worse!

Needless to say, some of our daily chores may or may not have gotten pushed aside at the mere possibility of a nap, whether it be five seconds or five hours.

And so a couple mornings ago, I woke up, took one look at my living room and realized, “Wow, maybe being a mother with small children isn’t all that different from college me.”

Remember those crazy parties in college? The one’s you stayed up far too late at, passed out on a couch with 11 of your bffs and then woke up the next day surrounded by mountains of beer cans and almost-empty liquor bottles? An uneven, stale-smelling, coating of Natural Light waxed your table, while store-brand red plastic cups remained overturned and ping pong balls from your beer pong tournament have mysteriously vanished forever?

Yeah, my house isn’t really much different than that scenario right now. Only, instead of crappy beer cans, I’ve got juice boxes and flavored water bottles littering my living room. I mean, seriously, at one point, I counted four empty juice boxes, three half-full ones, two empty water bottles and two full ones, plus a coffee cup for good measure all dotting our living room floor, tables and couches.

And it may or may not have taken me a good five minutes to scrub the thin layer of fruit punch off our coffee room table. Our living room may not be missing ping pong balls this time, but there are several toys that were eaten by the couch and may never, ever be heard again. (I’m not that sad about those toys)

Remember my whole whiny rant up there about the no sleep treatment we’ve been getting? Well, friends, the last time I skipped this many nights of snooze was definitely in my college days. My roommate and I used to stay up until two, three in the morning playing cards, coming up with inappropriate names for new taco bell items based on slang for women’s genitalia or just rehashing something stupid so-and-so did. And when that 8:30 class rolled around, our butts got up and went to it, for fear our advisor, Sister Eileen (yeah, our college advisor was a nun), would call us inquiring about our absence. Of course we later skipped our afternoon communications or journalism class to – of course not nap – but instead, reward ourselves with a smoothie for actually attending history of the English language.

And have I mentioned the clothes? Clothing everywhere. You would think our dryer threw up and we all lost the ability to fold and put away laundry in the Chubby Vegan household. I’d like to blame this on our respiratory issues; however, this is a pretty regular occurrence in our home. I like clothes. My daughter likes clothes. Therefore, we have far too many between the two of us. My husband owns probably triple the amount of t-shirts I own and our son has quite a collection of pants himself. The culmination of these events has led to mounds of clothing – dirty mingling with clean – winter interaction with fall fashion – and it’s gotten to the point where I find searching for my clothing in actual dresser drawers to be arduous and unnecessary.

I can’t help but think back to college when my roommate and I were less than zealous about putting away our outfits, and instead threw them on the large chair and ottoman we had in our room for overnight guests. It’s probably a good thing we didn’t have many overnight guests, or they might have been swallowed whole by our laundry pile – that or we would have had to put our skanky club shirts and skirts away – ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Ha.

And let’s talk about the cheap pizza and greasy Chinese takeout for a minute. Was there anything better in college than a pile of fried rice or lo-mein on a plate when you were sleep-starved and hung over? Absolutely not, well, except maybe for birthday cake ice cream. That stuff was pretty rad. The same taste holds true today when you’re sleep-deprived and feel hungover simply because you were up with a two year old screaming in your ear all night. You most certainly have no desire to heat food up yourself, which makes the crappy pizza crust and grease-coated noodles taste all the more refined. I’m serious folks, treat yourself to some take out on the giddy up. It’ll take you right back to your college days.

Ultimately, however, there’s one changed, but still interlinking connection between my mom life and my college days – and that’s the overwhelming sense of family. Whether it’s the one you birthed or the one you built for yourself while bonding over being away from home and starting a new adventure, few things feel stronger than the friendships you form during these pivotal years – the ones where you dream about having a family with your college best friends – and the ones where you actually start your family. You rarely feel alone, which might be the most important thing of all.

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I'm a crappy adult

Something hit me this month, folks.

2015 means I'm going to be 30. Like, in three months, I'm going to be entering my 30s. I'm not sure what age women are supposed to start lying, but suddenly 30 doesn't feel so young anymore. I think it's because when I was fresh, stupid college kid, I also pictured 30 as my "I'll be a grown up then" year. Like somehow I'd magically feel old enough to handle all the responsibility that comes with being an adult into today's world. But I wouldn't just "handle" it, I'd own it, I'd rock it, with the grace and beauty of a 30-year-old woman (who still looked so young she got carded when ordering drinks).

Let's go ahead and laugh about all that for a good minute.

Done, now? Awesome.

Turns out, growing older, aging - really are all relative - and your age is just a number.

Now I'm not saying this because I'm on the cusp of turning 30 and have a young, spry body and attitude full of vitality, no, I'm saying this because I'm going to be ushering in my 30s and I still don't make my bed or clean up my room.

There, I said it. I'm a crappy adult.

Am I the only one who pictured adulthood much, much different than this? I'm not even talking about the mountain of bills and responsibility, I'm actually talking about me. Me as an adult. Am I the only one who pictured myself being good at being a grown up?

You might be asking yourself "what precisely makes a good adult?"

Well, friends, probably not me. I mean, I'll say this, I've managed to keep not just myself and a small host of animals alive over the last few years, but two small children - so I think we can say I'm at least managing adulthood. I'm just not succeeding at.

When I was a teenager, I hated cleaning my room. I hated hanging my clothes up, making my bed, doing the dishes, sweeping the floor, essentially anything that involved effort that wasn't my friends or boyfriend, I didn't like doing it. Shocking, right?

Well, turns out, growing older does not make you enjoy those chores anymore than you did when you were 15. Who woulda thunk it?

I think I've been living in lalaland for the last 29 years. I mean, Im serious, folks. I kind of always thought I would get married, have some babies and then magically enjoy having a clean room. Or say, magically develop an interest in keeping the kitchen remotely crumb-free, but alas, I apparently missed the train to adulthood.

Turns out when you're a messy teenager you simply grow into a messy adult - possibly messier, because I have far more shoes and dresses than I ever did when I was growing up.

And this probably wouldn't be that big of a deal if my husband and I hadn't decided to spawn two little human beings. Two additional bodies that are simply doubling the clutter and mess and sure as heck have no desire to clean up (geez, wonder who they got that from). It makes it even more difficult because our daughter is finally getting smart enough to realize we're asking her to clean her room and put her boots where they go, but mommy can't seem to remember how to use a hanger or put her boots under the bench like she should. In fact, sometimes mommy leaves her boots on the coffee tables because she's apparently a 16-year-old girl trapped in an almost-30-year-old mother's body.

She hasn't said it yet. She hasn't asked yet why we make her pick up her toys and put things back where they go, yet mommy can't seem to even remotely follow the same guidelines, but it's starting to formulate in her brain. I can see the wheels and gears turning. She's close to discovering mommy is a very crappy adult and is utilizing double standards against her left and right.

And because she's my daughter, she's going to call me on it. And she'll probably do it with one hand planted on her hip and the perfect I'm-sassy-and-you're-going-to-listen-to-me tilt to her head (both of which she learned from mommy as well).

I may not be the most grown-up adult out there, but I've got the whole fiesty, hear-me-roar, I'm woman thing down.

So at least there's that.

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A letter to myself on my son's second birthday

Well mama, you've done it.

You have somehow successfully kept your rambunctious, teetering more than he's toddling, monster man alive for another year. These 365 days have been filled with a lot of ups and downs - and boy, do I mean a lot - but somehow you and your sweet bundle of bouncing baby boy have made it through mostly unscathed.

Sure, there were some scrapes and bruises, like the time he mini-minotaured his big boy head into your collarbone so hard it left you black and blue, or the time he stopped, dropped and rolled down your basement stairs, leaving his poor head scraped and both of you shook up. But the important thing is you made it.

You're not the same mama you were two years, before you had your little boy. That was back when you still worried about how you could possibly love another human being as much as you loved your daughter. Remember those days? You’d stay up late at night, fretting about how you would adjust to being a family of four; how you could open your heart enough to these tiny humans; how you would let this tiny baby boy know how much he meant to you while trying to meet the daily demands of being an already mother, wife and career woman.

Look at you, mama. Two years later and now you can’t fathom what your life would be like if you’d never had your son.

And speaking of that – remember how you hoped beyond all hopes that your “he” would be another “she.” You were so scared of parenting a young son; in fact, you still are a little bit, aren’t you? But the moment they laid your beautiful little boy in your arms, nothing else seemed to matter, did it? It didn’t matter what he was, just that you loved him and he needed you.

Try and remember that, mama. He needs you. Your tumbling-two-year-old toddler needs you now and will the rest of his life. When he’s struggling with a homework assignment, going to his first dance or picking the person he wants to spend the rest of his life with, he’s going to need you. Even though he seems like his own little person already, he will always need you – if only for the fact that you are his mother.

I know he doesn’t seem like your little baby anymore. He doesn’t coo – but “oooohs;” he doesn’t have that lopsided grin – but a bright, beaming smile; he doesn’t giggle – but boisterously laughs. I know that it’s scary because it feels like he might be your last baby – although you “know” he isn’t one anymore, but he is mama. He will always, always be your baby. Even once he’s had babies of his own, he’ll still be your baby boy. No one will ever take that way from you.

Remember mama, even though you find yourself longing for the days of sweet little baby toes, tiny baby clothes and even those marathon-nursing sessions where it seemed like your boobs were never actually in your shirt, there was a time when you were wishing for him to be two, when you were wishing for him to start becoming the tiny human he is. And the tiny human he is – is absolutely amazing.

He doesn’t love you like he did when he was born. What was once a familiar, safe love, is now a choice of love. Remember when he was a tiny baby and he’d grin and flail his arms as you came up to him? You used to melt over that teeny weeny smile. Do you know what’s even better than that, mama? When your son runs into the kitchen yelling “Mama, mama, what you doin?” And after listening to your long-winded reply you ask him “Brae, what are you doing?” And he walks up, wraps his arms around your legs, leans and says “lovin mama.”

Yeah, babies may have that intoxicating scent, but look what you have, mama. You have words. You have actions. You have a little boy who is absolutely head over heels for you. And he always will be.

Just know the road is going to be long ahead, but it’s going to be more than worth it. And regardless what the future holds for your family, revel in the amazing things this little boy has brought to your life, the love he has taught you, shown you, made you feel. Remember he brought you these things not because he is your first son or your last “baby,” but because he is Braeburn Abbot and he is every bit of everything wonderful in this world – in fact, he is your world – whether he's two months old or two years old.

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Thoughts from a Saturday morning

It’s Saturday morning. I’m sitting in a terribly uncomfortable plastic chair, one of the futuristic-looking ones you know will inevitably be one of the worst things you ever sit down on, listening to a little boy cry and watching another color on a table.

Beside me an army of caffeine-addled mothers engrossed in their smartphone, texting and making arrangements for little Rebekah’s ballet class and Jimmy’s soccer game, all while scrambling to order last minute birthday gifts from Amazon.

There are a few fathers dotting the premises, click-clacking on their laptops, stalking their email, looking for tickets to the Monday night football game and occasionally peering up to give the thumbs up to their children behind the glass.

My daughter has been in gymnastics for two-and-a-half months and I still feel like I’m never going to fit in here.

I still feel like I’m living some weird, alternate reality of what I thought my life would be. And the truth is, my reality is far more beautiful and tragic than I ever could have imagined.

That’s the thing about parenthood. You decide you’re ready for this tiny human being and all the sudden, whether you really are or not, they’re here. And I mean they’re REALLY here. Like, you have 10 tiny fingers and 10 tiny toes with equally tiny nails you’ll be clipping for what feels like the rest of time. And did I mention the tiny teeth? Super small mouths with small teeth and even smaller gaps to brush and floss. When you decide to become a parent, you’re going to spend a lot of time grooming a very wiggly, sometimes-volatile, TINY human being.

When I was younger, I was convinced I’d never get married or have children. It wasn’t that I had anything against the concept; it was simply unappealing to me. I wanted to write novels – I wanted to impact people with my words, all while getting fancy drinks with my fabulous friends and then hopping on a plane and getting lost in Europe somewhere for a while.

But then in college I met my husband and my single-girl status changed. And when faced with the idea of leaving my beloved college town and man behind, I made the first decision that derailed my could-be reality. I stayed in Cleveland and fell in love. I still got some of the fancy drinks with my fabulous friends, but eventually, even that wasn’t enough to keep me there.

All the sudden my nephew was born and I was aching to be near my family. Something magical happens when your sibling has their first offspring. You’re drawn together in this weird way over this screaming little overlord. And so we moved – not to somewhere where I would start my successful authorship, but home. To my home.

And then everything kind of fell in line from there. Fall in love, get married, have a baby, take some family vacations, have another baby and buy a home. The life I once envisioned slowly faded behind me and a sort-of pre-destined rhythm fell into place. I was doing what grown-ups were supposed to do. I was starting a family, fostering a career and creating life.

Having children changed me in ways I’ll never fully encompass. Someone once said having children is like allowing your heart to walk completely outside of your body; truer words have never been spoken. You feel every emotion humanly possible at full volume for these little people and slowly, pieces of you start to wash away, things that seemed so important slowly erode.

And almost five years later, you find yourself sitting in a lime-green room, staring through the glass as your daughter spins around the uneven bars. You hold your breath as she tiptoes across the balance beam and you close your eyes as she tumbles headfirst onto the sproingy floor. Becoming a mother has made me beautifully in-tune with the emotions and thoughts of my children, however; it’s also made my own feel completely abstract.

My aunt passed away shortly before Christmas and suddenly I was flooded with a gush of unfamiliar emotions and thoughts – my own. I wasn’t focused on whether Braeburn was receiving the proper amount of socialization, whether Pearyn was being alienated by our vegan diet during her classroom holiday party – instead, I was feeling my own uncertain thoughts in the pit of my stomach.

What if I didn’t do things right? What if, in my attempt to follow the appropriate path of life, I stepped off somewhere and disrupted everything? What if in trying to live my life the right way, I had lived it wrong for me?

Isn’t it amazing what death does to a person? I’m certain I don’t mourn or process in the healthiest of ways, but then again, how many people do? Losing someone seems to bring out this itch in me, this urge to ensure I’m being true to myself, making the most out of the days I have left, however many there are, but I’m then consumed by overwhelming guilt for these thoughts.

Mothers shouldn’t question these things. Mothers are good and patient and gentle – they’re not confused and scared and jumbled.

Of course having children wasn’t “wrong.” My babies are the two things I’m certain I did right in my life. Just because I didn’t envision them when I was a wreckless 19-year-old college kid doesn’t mean they weren’t part of my destiny. Who says I’m tied to that destiny, anyhow?

Who says we have to be tied to any destiny; who says we have to fit into any mold? I’m a mom, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a kickass writer of some sort, it doesn’t mean I can’t still get lost in Europe one day – it just means I have to do a little extra planning, wait a little extra time.  And just because we’ve had children or gotten married or started our careers, doesn’t mean we’re solely those roles; being human means being a culmination of things. How asymmetric would life be if we only let one or two roles define us? I’m not simply a mother, not just a wife and not only an editor, I’m this wonderful mishmash of those things and so, so, so many more.

I just need to do a better job of reminding myself of this. I need to do a better job of being all the things I want to be. We all do, really.

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