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A non-vegan's assessment of the vegan Ho Ho cupcake from Watercourse Foods Bakery

Indulging in the vegan Ho Ho cupcake offered at Watercourse Foods Bakery 214 East 13th Avenue, is like a guiltless return to childhood. True, we can't guarantee that it's low-calorie, but the dairy-and-egg-free sweet manages to improve the Hostess snack cake by using organic and sustainable ingredients and forgoing anything refined or hydrogenated. Given that the cupcake incorporates cake, creamy filling and a shiny chocolate glaze, that's a noteworthy feat. Liz Thomas, manager of the bakery, is evasive about revealing specific ingredients, but did let us in on this:

"I normally try to keep what makes the filling creamy a secret, but I guess it's okay to tell you that we use wild harvest unicorn tears." She adds that the animal's mythical creature status allows its byproducts to be considered vegan.

In the case of the Ho Ho cupcake's filling, the unicorn tears taste quite a bit like soy milk. It's a rich, thick frosting that occupies a layer between the cake base and the ganached lid, with a peek-a-boo dollop appearing on top. The cake texture is dense and moist and the sticky glaze coating has a nice bitter chocolate bite. Dissecting the individual components, the cake is a bit heavy and the soy flavor in the filling a tad pronounced, but eaten as a whole, the treat magically transforms -- must be the unicorn tears -- into a perfect Hostess replication. Except without all those unpronounceable fillers.

If Ho Hos aren't your thing, keep an eye on the display case for the bakery's flavor of the day cupcakes, inspired by the whim of the baker. A recent trip turned up a blueberry pie cupcake and a vanilla variety covered in bright icing violets. The cupcakes and other vegan and gluten-free desserts can be found at Watercourse Foods, City, O' City and starting June 6, Sundays at the Old South Pearl Street Farmers' Market.

Vegan Ho Ho cupcake: $4.25

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