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A Rocky Road to Sweet Success

Cruelty-free marshmallows are the crowning jewels of this sweet concoction

All Animals magazine, July/August 2010

  • Michelle Riley/The HSUS

by Arna Cohen

When Sara Sohn cut animal products from her diet nearly two decades ago, the then-13-year-old New Yorker was forced to give up her favorite food—Rice Krispie Treats. At the time, all commercial brand marshmallows contained gelatin, a common thickening agent derived from animal bones, tissues, organs, and other slaughterhouse byproducts of animals kept on factory farms.

Sohn pined for the sticky confection for years before deciding to create a cruelty-free version. She had no background in food science, but the result was so delicious that her friends urged her to make marshmallow production a full-time job. In 2005, Sweet & Sara was born and quickly made a splash in vegetarian circles.

Then disaster struck: Sohn and other animal-friendly confectioners discovered they’d been victims of false advertising. The gelatin “substitute” they were using—touted by its makers as free of meat and dairy—tested positive for high levels of animal protein. The discovery almost forced an end to Sweet & Sara, but Sohn was determined to persevere. After 10 months of trial and error, she hit on the gelatin-free marshmallow formula that she’s used ever since.

The goal of her business, says Sohn, is to make animal-free diets appealing by whipping up popular products as tasty as their more mainstream counterparts. Sweet & Sara’s marshmallows, Rice Crispy Treats, and Smores cookies are popular with herbivores and omnivores alike and have won accolades from Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray, VegNews magazine, and the Food Network. Three of the company’s signature treats are the crowning jewels on this rich cupcake recipe created specially for All Animals readers.

(For a full list of Sweet & Sara products, visit sweetandsara.com.)  

Rocky Road Cupcakes—makes 12 servings



1 ¼ cups flour
¾ cup sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
1 cup nondairy milk
1 teaspoon vinegar
1⁄3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup vegan chocolate chips (optional)
Sweet & Sara Vanilla Marshmallows

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Line one 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake papers. Set aside.
3. Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and optional espresso powder. Mix in the milk, vinegar, oil, and vanilla. Mix together until smooth. Add optional chocolate chips.
4. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about two-thirds full. Add one Sweet & Sara marshmallow in the center of each. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
5. Cool the cupcakes completely before icing with chocolate frosting (recipe below).


½ cup soy margarine, melted
2⁄3 cup cocoa powder
1⁄3 cup soy, rice, or almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners’ sugar


Sweet & Sara Mini Marshmallows
Sweet & Sara Rocky Road Bark (chopped into pieces)
Sweet & Sara Cinnamon Pecan Marshmallows
coconut flakes (optional)

1. In a large bowl, mix margarine and cocoa together until combined.
2. Add milk and vanilla; beat until smooth.
3. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar until desired consistency is achieved. Adjust with more milk or confectioners’ sugar if necessary.
4. For Rocky Road Cupcakes: Top with Sweet & Sara Mini Marshmallows, Sweet & Sara Rocky Road Bark pieces, or Sweet & Sara Cinnamon Pecan Marshmallows.
5. For Snowball Cupcakes: Top with coconut flakes (for a special touch, add natural coloring made from beets).

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