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Sticky Fingers Triumphs in Food Network's "Cupcake Wars"

Owner Doron Petersan bakes her way to (vegan) victory

All Animals magazine

by Arna Cohen

It’s take no prisoners when the nation’s top bakers cross spatulas on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, vying for $10,000 and the chance to show off their creations at a celebrity-studded event.


One of the few vegan bakers to compete on the show, Doron Petersan felt the pressure. “I … had to get a ‘wow factor’ times two,” says the founder of Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats in Washington, D.C. She also had to be funny. The winning sweets would be served at the 50th anniversary party of The Ice House, a Pasadena comedy club.

Petersan wowed the judges with her opening salvo, a chocolate-and-banana confection dubbed the Gilbert Ganache–fried. Three rounds later, Petersan took the top prize.

For the longtime animal lover—whose spouse is HSUS director of animal protection litigation Peter Petersan—the icing on the victory was showing that cruelty-free cuisine is “not that scary. … You can have all the luscious, decadent desserts that you’ve always dreamed of.”

While admitting that her competition cupcakes are a bit fancy, Petersan says that vegan baking is “no different, no more difficult” than traditional baking. And some treats—like the prize-winning temptation below—are worth the effort.


George Caramelin Cupcakes—18 servings


2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup brewed and cooled coffee
2/3 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons vinegar

Bourbon Caramel Sauce:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup bourbon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons nonhydrogenated vegan margarine

Vanilla Bean Bourbon Frosting:
14 ounces nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening
4 ounces nonhydrogenated vegan margarine
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1/3 cup bourbon

1. Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 325° F. Add 18 liners to standard cupcake pans. Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together coconut milk, coffee, oil, and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry and whisk until just incorporated. Incorporate vinegar. Do not overmix. Fill liners three-fourths full and bake until a toothpick inserted into each cupcake comes out clean, about 19 minutes. Cool completely.

2. Sauce: In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together sugar and water. Cover and bring to boil until mixture starts to turn brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add in bourbon and salt while stirring. Once bubbling stops, add margarine and whisk until melted and distributed. Cool completely.

3. Frosting: Using a stand mixer, whip shortening and margarine until completely combined. Scrape bowl so all ingredients are mixed thoroughly. On low speed, slowly add sugar a little at a time until incorporated. Add vanilla paste and bourbon and mix on low until incorporated. Scrape bowl and mix on medium-high until ingredients are combined and frosting is fluffy, about 2 minutes.

4. Assembly: Frost cupcakes and drizzle with sauce. Top with candied pecans if desired.

 For more recipes, visit humanesociety.org/recipes.

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