by Tea Master Daniela Cubelic
Need a hug? The power of this simple gesture & of connecting with another human being through our sense of touch is remarkable. To name just a few benefits, touch can relax the nervous system, lower stress hormones, boost immune function & strengthen resilience while simultaneously having uplifting & calming effects.
While it’s vitally important to support social distancing, we’re not able to hug many of our loved ones (& get hugged in return), during a stressful & uncertain time. When I originally created Chocolate Hug tea, I was inspired by the idea of a tea that embodied the comforting yet uplifting, heart-warming feeling that comes from a good hug. Recently, I challenged myself to go farther & Chocolate Hug Cupcakes are the yummy result. They really are designed to make you feel better & that’s even before they are ready to eat. Soothing vanilla, chocolate & lavender aromas waft from the oven while the cupcakes are baking & the effect is deeply comforting. Once they are ready to eat, they are initially more relaxing than you might expect. A little while later, you may find yourself feeling renewed, energized & maybe even a bit euphoric.
For these reasons, I have come to think of this recipe as an all-in-one:
- aromatherapy treatment
- hug from someone you love
- yummy treat
- spa session
… in cupcake form.
Here's the science behind what I’ve done:
The key ingredient is Chocolate Hug tea, a herbal blend that contains lavender, cocoa, mint, chamomile, anise & red clover. There’s additional cocoa in the cupcakes as well—not only does it make a tasty cupcake, but cocoa may boost endorphins, the brain’s natural opiates.
To make this cupcake, you’ll brew a tea concentrate by using a high proportion of tea, in a smaller than usual quantity of water. Several of the ingredients in Chocolate Hug tea have been associated with calming, uplifting & mood-boosting benefits. After steeping, you pulverize the tea leaves in a blender with oat milk.
Oats have been linked to the production of serotonin—a feel-good brain chemical that is also relaxing.
I’ve also deliberately tripled the amount of vanilla extract as compared to what is usual for a cupcake & it enhances rather than overwhelms the other flavour notes. More importantly, the vanilla has been added for “therapeutic" value—research suggests vanilla has natural anti-depressant & anti-anxiety qualities (use real vanilla extract in the recipe, not artificial vanilla flavour).
Now that you’ve learned all of this, you’re going to want to eat these straight out of the oven, but it’s best to wait until they have cooled to room temperature. I love gooey chocolate lava cakes & have trouble resisting desserts fresh out of the oven, so this recommendation isn’t about willpower! This cupcake’s taste, aroma, texture & sweetness are in perfect harmony when it’s cooled. Eaten hot, they don’t quite taste sweet enough, the texture & the mint notes aren't quite right & the vanilla & lavender notes are diminished.
They don’t take long to cool down—while you’re waiting, I suggest you make a relaxing cup of tea. Savour it, slowly enjoying sip by sip, while you continue to enjoy the lingering aroma of the cupcakes in the air. A tranquil cup of Angelwater, Lullaby or Chocolate Hug tea are perfect choices. Turn the Chocolate Hug tea into a tea latte, by adding a splash of heated oat milk.
Top with icing sugar, or for more mood boosting, anti-anxiety effects, dust them with this easy Matcha Icing Sugar.
Make these cupcakes for your sweetie, or make them when you miss the hugs of someone you love.
CHOCOLATE HUG CUPCAKES
dairy-free, gluten-free & vegan
makes 12 medium-sized cupcakes
¾ cup chilled, unsweetened oat milk (or other non-dairy milk)
½ cup water
2 tablespoons CHOCOLATE HUG tea
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
¾ cup + 1 tablespoon brown sugar (golden sugar or white sugar are fine if that is what you have handy)
⅓ cup neutral vegetable oil such as sunflower, grapeseed, canola, etc.
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup 1-to-1 gluten-free flour
⅓ cup cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 350° F & grease medium-sized cupcake/muffin tins with whatever oil you are using in the cupcakes.
Bring ½ cup of water to a full rolling boil & steep tea for 20 minutes. Do not strain tea leaves. Place in a heatproof container in fridge to cool down, while you prepare other ingredients.
2. In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, vegetable oil & vanilla extract, whisking lightly to combine. It’s ideal if you are using a bowl with a pouring spout, but if you don’t have one, that’s just fine. Later you can use a measuring cup or ladle to pour the cupcakes into muffin tins.
3. In a smaller bowl, combine all the dry ingredients together. Stir to mix. You’ll sift them together as you add to wet ingredients, so you’re just stirring them to get them reasonably well combined, knowing you’ll mix more thoroughly as you sift them later.
4. Place unstrained CHOCOLATE HUG tea (the tea leaves as well as the brewed liquid) in blender with chilled oat milk. Place lid on blender & turn to high for about 3 minutes to pulverize the tea leaves into the oat milk. After a few minutes, you’ll still see many specks of herbs & tea in the milk but the larger bits of leaf matter will have been made smaller.
Turn blender off & quickly stir in 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar to the tea leaves/oat milk mixture, then pour it into the bowl containing the rest of the wet ingredients. Stir lightly to combine.
5. Using a sifter or fine mesh sieve or strainer (if you don’t have a sifter), add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Add them about ⅓ or ¼ at a time, stopping to briefly & lightly stir them as you add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Lightly shake the dry ingredients side to side while they are passing through a sieve or strainer to combine, (or stir with a fork or spoon) to eliminate any clumps of cocoa or other ingredients.
Once all the ingredients are combined, stir just enough to remove any large clumps but beware of over-stirring as it will negatively impact the texture of your cupcakes. The final mixture is similar in density to a thick milkshake.
6. If your bowl doesn’t have a pouring spout, use a ladle or measuring cup to pour them into the cupcake/muffin tins. Working rapidly, pour the cupcake mixture into the tins, trying to ensure each has a similar quantity of mixture. If you are using medium-sized cupcake/muffin tins, it should fill them about ⅔ to ¾ full. Once you’ve filled them all, you can go back & even the quantities out if needed, by stealing a tablespoon from one to the other. This doesn’t need to be perfect, but they should generally each hold about the same amount.
7. Place cupcakes in oven & set a timer to 17 minutes. Check on the cupcakes at this point, by inserting a toothpick or fork into the centre. When it comes out clean, they are ready. If your oven tends to overheat a bit, they may be done. Otherwise, bake for another 3–5 minutes.
Remove from cupcake tins & let cool on a wire rack or paper towel.