Thursday, March 12, 2009

Highly Imaginative Cupcakes

I recently ran across the blog Cupcake Bakeshop by Chockylit, which has a fabulous collection of recipes. Sadly, the blog is no longer active, but it will still take me a while to work my way through all of the attractive combos.

I've tried the horchata cupcakes and the mooncake cupcakes so far. The cherry chocolate cupcakes with fennel cream cheese frosting may not be far behind. And if you made the green ube cupcakes with bubble buttercream, you could have a truly multicultural St. Patrick's Day experience.

Tres Horchata Cake

I made my own horchata, largely per Chockylit's instructions. While it was an interesting process, it was quite involved. If I make this cake again, I will use store-bought horchata. Being the thrifty cook that I am, I couldn't stand the instruction to discard the almond and rice after squeezing out all the juice. So I saved the glup and used it in bread, where it was quite tasty -- it would be an excellent base for cinnamon raisin bread.

Instead of cupcakes, I made a 9 x 13 cake. After baking, I poked holes all over it and poured about 1/2 cup of horchata over it. When cool, I frosted it with the horchata frosting. In the end, it was a very pleasant cake, but didn't really wow me.

Mooncake Cupcakes

The mooncake cupcakes (a white cake cushioning a dollop of red bean paste), on the other hand, were very fun and tasty. Not being inclined toward a lot of fuss and bother this time, I used store-bought red bean paste, which was quite sweet. I can see that it would be nice to make your own and reduce the sugar.

I essentially followed the cupcake recipe. Chockylit doesn't specify, but the cupcakes take about 20 minutes to bake.

We formed balls of red bean paste that were a bit more than a teaspoon. As directed in the recipe, I carefully spread out the first layer of batter, and the balls sank to the bottom of the cake. Another time I would leave the first dollop of batter in a mound and perch the red bean paste on top of that. Even though the ball of bean paste appears to stay pretty self-contained, its flavor permeates the cake in a pleasing way.

While the fashion in cupcakes these days seems to dictate a 1:1 frosting to cake ratio, I've never been able to stomach that much frosting. It is true that a thin layer of frosting has much less presentation pizzazz, but it's really what's wanted in this recipe. Even with a modest amount of frosting, the combined sweetness of the red bean paste, cupcake and frosting is nearly overpowering.

We made green tea sour cream frosting by adding about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of matcha powder in our typical sour cream frosting recipe. If I'd had more matcha in the house, I probably would have added more. As it was, it gave the frosting an elegant pale green tint. One recipe was plenty for a dozen cupcakes.

Chockylit specifies salted sesame seeds. I don't know if you can purchase them that way, but ours were unsalted. I tried mixing a little salt in, but it didn't really stick and anyway, I don't think it's necessary, as the plain sesame seeds are very savory.

I found that if you want to sprinkle the seeds on the cupcake, you need to do it immediately after frosting, before the frosting has a chance to set. If you are rolling the cupcake in the seeds, time is of less essence.

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