Photography by Meghan Rodgers

Earth Day Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes Make a Mini Step Toward a Greener, Cleaner Planet

by Meghan Rodgers


April 11, 2022

Before the first Earth Day, a factory could spew huge black clouds of toxic smoke into the atmosphere or dump tons of toxic sludge in the water system. It was all perfectly legal.

There was no EPA, there was no Clean Air Act, and there was no Clean Water Act, so in short, there was no legal recourse to protect the environment.

One Democratic Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, was compelled to force these issues into the nation’s consciousness and onto the national agenda.

In a speech on September 20, 1969, in Seattle, Nelson said, “I am convinced that the same concern the youth of this nation took in changing this nation’s priorities on the war in Vietnam and on civil rights can be shown for the problem of the environment. That is why I plan to see to it that a national teach-in is held.”

He was right. There was a huge appetite among young people to create a cleaner world.

The “teach-in” Nelson campaigned for was eventually dubbed “Earth Day” and in its first year saw twenty million Americans demonstrating across the U.S. By December 1970, Congress had created a new federal agency to better manage issues pertaining to the environment — the EPA was formed.

Today, our understanding of creating a sustainable planet has grown, and a new generation must carry on the spirit of Earth Day to demand that world leaders take action against pollution and climate change.

Of course, small actions still and always will matter. Those reusable bags, cutlery, metal straws and refillable containers really do make a difference. So do bicycling, driving electric, taking mass transit, adjusting the thermostat a few degrees and buying energy-efficient appliances.

And of course, going vegan matters to the planet too. The majority of human-caused methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas, come from animal agriculture. If we all shift and embrace plant-based diets, we could cut methane emissions by as much as 45% — a big step in the solution to a more sustainable and stable planet, according to the UN.

That intro is a big wind-up for little cupcakes.

But, every big change starts with something small.

If you’ve been thinking about going vegan, today is the day! Let these mini cupcakes be one small, sweet step into your personal sustainability journey.


Earth Day Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes about 20-24 mini cupcakes
Earth Day Vegan Cupcakes are a great way to get kids in the kitchen this April 22!


1/4 cup + 2 tbsp water

1/8 cup applesauce or non-dairy yogurt

1/8 cup oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp cider vinegar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 + 2 tip sugar

1/4 tsp salt + a pinch

1/4 tsp baking soda

5-6 Oreos*, white centers removed

About 2 dozen fresh, small mint leaves

1 cup vegan frosting**, I like Duncan Hines Creamy Homestyle Chocolate Frosting

20 2-inch terra cotta pots (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat a mini cupcake pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together wet ingredients — water, applesauce, oil, vanilla and vinegar. Let stand for at least 10 minutes.
  3. As you wait, sift all dry ingredients into a separate bowl. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredient bowl, and stir until just mixed.
  4. Use a tablespoon to spoon batter into cupcake tin. Only fill about 3/4 of the way because they will rise quite a bit. (You want mounds of “dirt” — not mountains!)
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cupcakes pass the toothpick test, that is, a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Let cool for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. In the meantime, crush Oreo chocolate cookies using a mortar and pestle. Alternatively, place cookies in a small bag and crush using a rolling pin.
  8. Once cupcakes are completely cool, frost with your favorite vegan frosting and top with Oreo cookie “dirt.”
  9. Place finished cupcakes in terracotta pots and top with mint leaf to serve.

* Oreos are naturally vegan. No need to worry here.
** Many store-bought frostings are already vegan because they need to be shelf-stable, but not all. If you’re looking to guarantee yours is, do a little digging first.

Pro-tip on baking in terracotta: Terracotta is safe to bake in directly. Just make sure yours hasn’t been treated with glaze or waterproofing and hasn’t been used yet to grow planets, which often means traces of fertilizers or other harmful substances. If your pots are new and clean, just be sure to double the recipe so you have enough batter to fill the pots 3/4 of the way.


Meghan Rodgers is a media professional and writer covering travel, food and the environment. Find her writing on the food blog EverybodyCraves and her adventures on Instagram.