Cantaloupe and Honeydew Cupcakes topped with White Chocolate-Cardamom Butter Cream and Chiffonade of Mint19

Posted by chockylit in Experimental Recipe,Other Fruits (Wednesday August 15, 2007 at 9:11 pm)

Cantaloupe and Honeydew Cupcakes topped with White Chocolate-Cardamom Butter Cream and Chiffonade of Mint

A reader emailed me requesting a recipe for honeydew cupcakes. I took a shot at it and sent her what I “would” do. I haven’t heard back if she tried it or how it worked out, but I did them myself with some minor adjustments. I decided to do both cantaloupe and honeydew. I thought the color combination would look nice.

I knew when I was first asked about honeydew cupcakes that this recipe would be a challenge. Melon flavors are pretty mild and not what you think of when you think of baked goods. I knew straight off that I would need a fruit filling as the cupcake alone wouldn’t be melony enough. The fruit fillings worked great, especially the cantaloupe. The cupcakes were very moist and dense. I expected that with the all the chopped fruit and the fruit puree and that was a price I was willing to pay to get the flavor I was aiming for. I felt using a standard butter-based recipe would have been too over powering. The frosting was sweet so I only used a little of it, smoothing it on as opposed to piping it on.

Considering what I was up against, I consider the cupcakes a success. I am especially satisfied with the cantaloupe cupcakes. I could really taste the cantaloupe and the overall experience was nice.

This was also Naomi’s first baking lesson. She was being fussy so I held her in one arm while I cracked eggs and mixed cupcakes with the other. She is doing great though — getting really big, smiling, sleeping better (most nights). It truly is amazing how quickly they change.

Lastly, I posted a table of contents to help you find recipes from the archives and enabled two new features that can be found at the bottom of each post – print this post and email this post. I also plan to do a thorough index. It will take a while, but it would be cool and helpful – no doubt.

Cupcakes
20 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 ounces honeydew, pureed
3/4 cup honeydew, diced
4 ounces cantaloupe, pureed
3/4 cup cantaloupe, diced

1. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a large sized bowl. Add sugar and mix to combine.
2. In a separate small bowl, beat eggs to break up.
3. Add the oil and vanilla to the eggs and mix to combine.
4. Add the wet to the dry ingredients, mix to combine.
5. Separate the batter into two, about equal sized batches.
6. Add the honeydew to one batch and the cantaloupe to the other. Mix to combine.
7. Scoop into cupcake papers with an ice cream scooper about 3/4 full.
8. Bake at 350 degree oven for ~30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Note: These cupcakes are moist. Be sure that they are fully baked before removing them from the oven. The cake tester (or toothpick) must come out clean.

Honeydew and Cantaloupe Cupcakes
baked cupcakes

Cantaloupe Filling

1 cup fresh cantaloupe, diced
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch

1. Add the cantaloupe and water to a pot. Cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat.
2. Stir together sugar and cornstarch then stir into the cantaloupe.
3. Cook until thick, about 5-7 minutes.

Honeydew Filling

1 cup fresh honeydew, diced
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch

1. Add the honeydew and water to a pot. Cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat.
2. Stir together sugar and cornstarch then stir into the honeydew.
3. Cook until thick, about 5-7 minutes.

Cantaloupe Cupcake with Cantaloupe Filling
cantaloupe filling

White Chocolate, Cardamom Buttercream

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1-2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1. In a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water, gently melt the white chocolate. Allow to cool for 2 minutes or so.
2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy.
2. Beat in the melted white chocolate.
3. Add 1 cup of powdered sugar, vanilla, and cardamom and beat at low speed, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl, until light and fluffy. Add more powdered sugar to arrive at the consistency and sweetness you like.

Assembly

1. Fill each cupcake with filling.
2. Smooth on frosting.
3. Chop some chiffonade of fresh mint and top cupcakes with a bit.

fresh fig and almond cupcake bombe14

Posted by chockylit in Experimental Recipe,Italian-Inspired,Other Fruits,Step-by-Step Photos (Sunday July 8, 2007 at 7:46 pm)

fresh fig and almond cupcake bombe

When I got the idea for this cupcake the weather in San Francisco was uncharacteristically balmy which got me thinking of ice cream. By the time I executed on the idea we are back in the typical pattern or blanketed in the chilling marine layer. None the less, this was a fun cupcake to make, the second along the idea of a “cupcake ice cream bombe”, my first attempt being the grean tea, lavender, honey bombe I made last summer.

I got the idea to use the crushed amaretti cookies from a Martha Stewart repeat I caught last week where the owner of Baked in Brooklyn used the same in a lemon tart crust. I have been wanting to do something with figs after having eaten a basket of them and the amaretti idea sealed the deal.

The cake recipe was completely off the cuff. I am not sure how it would translate to a full size cupcake (not sure how much it would rise and how full to the fill the cupcake papers), but the end result in the sheet pan was exactly what I was looking for, very moist and very almondy. I got the gelato recipe from here and I will admit it wasn’t what I was hoping for and didn’t resemble the fresh fig gelato I so enjoyed during one past trip to Italy. That being said, the resulting gelato was fine – I could definitely taste the fig, but I guess I wanted something creamier.

I am trying the cupcake for dessert tonight, so I will update the post with the “end result” a bit later.

Update: The flavor combination is great and I am loving the frosting. Very delicious. Not as tangy as cream cheese frosting, but not as sweet as butter cream. The fig gelato definitely needs to be creamier, but otherwise I am really liking this cupcake. I want to try it again, but with a non ice cream filling – almond cupcake with a fig filling that is.

Fresh Fig Gelato

14 ounces (350 g) perfectly ripe figs
1 lemon
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Peel the figs and blend the fig pulp with the juice of one lemon.
2. Combine the milk with the sugar and stir the mixture into the figs.
3. Freeze in an ice cream machine per the manufacturer’s directions.

fresh fig gelato
fig gelato

Almond Cake
9″x13″ sheet pan / 350 degree oven

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, unsalted/room temp
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, large/room temp
60 grams amaretti cookies
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Prepare a 9″x13″ baking sheet by lightly coating with butter, covering with parchment paper, then lightly coating the parchment with butter.
2. Beat butter on high speed until soft, about 30 seconds.
3. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4. Add eggs one at a time, beat for 15 seconds after each.
5. Using a food processor, grind up amaretti cookies to the consistency of sand but with some chunky bits.
6. Measure out flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium sized bowl. Add the amaretti cookie and whisk to combine.
7. Measure out the milk, almond extract, and vanilla. Stir to combine.
8. Add about a fourth of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine.
9. Add about one third the milk mixture and beat until combined.
10. Repeat above, alternating flour and milk and ending with the flour mixture.
11. Pour onto a prepared baking sheet and smooth out.
12. Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

prepped sheet pan
prepped sheet pan

amaretti
amaretti cookies

crushed amaretti
crushed cookies

almond cake made with crushed amaretti
baked cake

Mascarpone Frosting

12 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/2 stick butter
4-5 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Bring butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours.
2. Sift powdered sugar into a bowl or onto parchment.
3. Beat butter and mascarpone cheese at medium speed until creamy.
4. Add 4 cups of the powdered sugar, almond extract and vanilla. Beat until combined.
5. Add more sugar until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like.

Note: This recipe makes more than enough frosting. I tend to like to make a full batch and freeze the leftovers for later (better than not having enough frosting), but you would be safe to cut the recipe in half if you are not interested in having leftovers.

Assembly
Recipe make approximately 10 cupcakes
1. Cut two rounds of cake for each cupcake that fit in the cupcake paper.
2. Put a round in each cupcake paper.
3. Fill with fig gelato leaving room for the top cake disk.
4. Place cupcakes in the freezer and chill for 1 hour.
5. Frost with mascarpone frosting and top with a decoration. Store in the freezer.

cake disks
step 1

step 1 - cake disk
step 2

step 2 - fig gelato
step 3

step 4 - cake disk
step 4

step 5 - frost
step 5

Cherry-Vanilla Cupcakes39

Posted by chockylit in Other Fruits,Simple Recipe (Thursday December 21, 2006 at 12:11 pm)

cherry-vanilla cupcakes

These cupcakes are sweet! Very appropriate for kids or adults with major sweet tooth. They are yummy, though. I love the filling, but I recommend cream cheese frosting if you plan to serve them to grownups. I also intended to have speckles of vanilla bean throughout the cupcake, but my vanilla beans were dried out! Oh well, next time for sure.

Have a happy holiday and see you all next year!

Cupcakes
22-24 regular cupcakes / 375-350 degree oven

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
2. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
4. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add to mixer bowl. Add the milk and vanilla. Mix to combine.
5. Scoop into cupcake papers about half to two-thirds full (depending on whether you want flat or domed cupcakes).
6. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Note: These cupcakes tend to rise quite a bit and will overflow if you put too much batter in the cupcake paper. Keep it under two-thirds full. They also tend to pull away from the papers as they cool. It should be minimal if the cupcakes were baked enough and shouldn’t be an issue. (At least it isn’t for me.)

cooling cupcakes
cooling cupcake

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
6-8 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup milk

1. Sift powdered sugar into a bowl or onto parchment
2. Beat butter at medium-high speed until creamy
3. Add half of the sugar, the vanilla and the milk. Beat until combined
4. Gradually add remaining sugar until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like.

Cherry Filling

2 cups cherries, pitted, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch

1. Add cherries, water, and vanilla to a pot. Cook for 10 minutes over medium-high heat.
2. Stir together sugar and cornstarch then stir into the cherries.
3. Cook until thick, about 20 minutes.

cherry-vanilla filling
cherry-vanilla filling

Assemble
1. Fill each cupcake with filling. I used the “cone method”, but many methods will do.
2. Frost filled cupcakes.
3. Top with a rinsed and patted dry maraschino cherry.

cherry-vanilla cupcake

Pomegranate-Grapefruit Cupcakes31

Posted by chockylit in Cheese,Citrus,Other Fruits,Step-by-Step Photos (Saturday December 16, 2006 at 1:11 pm)

pomegranate-grapefruit cupcake

Pomegranates fascinate me. I think it’s their vibrant color and their elusiveness. I will admit, the thought of de-seeding a pomegranate deters me from eating them often. This is indeed a shame as they are tasty and apparently very good for you.

I managed to catch an episode of Martha Stewart over the Thanksgiving holiday in which she pleasantly showed us all how to “easily” and cleanly do the de-seeding. While her method of scoring, breaking open, and banging out the seeds over a bowl did direct most of the juice into one area and not all over the counter, it was still time consuming and I was quickly bored after getting through 3 or so of them. Still, what else are you going to do!

After toying with the idea of making a pomegranate filling, I opted to just mix the seeds in the cupcake batter. I actually liked the way this turned out. The seeds didn’t really affect the taste of the batter, but they retained their integrity. So when you bit into the seeds, they were all juicy and flavorful. The one thing I will note is that I couldn’t really taste the grapefruit. The cake part was very delicious, but not grapefruity. This could be good or bad, depending on how you feel about grapefruit. Next time around I would double the zest and see how that turns out. I might also flavor the cream cheese frosting with some zest and juice, but that is up to you.

Grapefruit-Pomegranate Cupcakes
24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup grapefruit pulp/juice
2 teaspoons grapefruit zest
2/3 cup (4 ounces) pomegranate seeds, from 1-1/2 medium sized pomegranates

1. Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
2. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
4. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
5. Measure out milk and grapefruit juice together. Add zest.
6. Add about a fourth of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine.
7. Add about one third the milk/juice mixture and beat until combined.
8. Repeat above, alternating flour and milk and ending with the flour mixture.
9. Mix in pomegranate seeds.
10. Scoop into cupcake papers about half to two-thirds full (depending on whether you want flat or domed cupcakes).
11. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Note: These cupcakes tend to rise quite a bit and will overflow if you put too much batter in the cupcake paper. Keep it under two-thirds full.

Cream Cheese Frosting

12 ounces or 1-1/2 packages of Philly cream cheese
1/2 stick butter
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Bring cheese and butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours
2. Sift powdered sugar into a bowl or onto parchment
3. Beat butter and cheese at medium speed until creamy
4. Add half of the sugar and the vanilla. Beat until combined
5. Gradually add remaining sugar (more if you have to) until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like

finished pomegranate jellies
pomegranate jellies

Pomegranate Jellies adapted from epicurious.com

1-1/2 cup (12 ounces) pomegranate seeds, from 3-1/2 medium sized pomegranates
1/2 cup water
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 (3-oz) packages Certo liquid pectin (not powdered)

1. Bring pomegranate seeds, water, sugar, and butter to a boil over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally.
2. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
3. Transfer about half the mixture into a blender and carefully blend for 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl then blend remaining.
4. Force the blended mixture through a medium-mesh sieve back into same pot, pressing on solids with back of a spoon. Throw away the solids.
5. Put an empty plate in freezer to chill.
6. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat and add pectin. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until it starts to thicken, about 45 minutes. To test, remove from heat, then drop a teaspoonful on the chilled plate and chill in the freezer for 1 minute. Tilt plate the plate. The mixture should remain in a firm mound and not run. If mixture runs, continue cooking and stirring and repeat the test every 5 minutes.
7. Remove from the heat and immediately pour mixture into a pan lined with plastic wrap. Gently tap the pan to eliminate any air bubbles.
8. Cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour, then cover surface directly with plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 1 week.
9. Remove from the pan and cut into desired shapes. Toss shapes in granulated sugar.

Assemble
1. Frost cooled cupcakes.
2. Top with a jelly.

scoring the pomegranate
scoring pomegranate

removing pomegranate seeds
banging out seeds

cutting a pomegranate jelly
cutting the jelly

tossing a pomegranate jelly in sugar
tossing in sugar

Mooncake Cupcakes (Bean Paste Filled Cupcakes with Date-Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting)57

Posted by chockylit in Asian-Inspired,Beans,Cheese,Experimental Recipe,Other Fruits,Step-by-Step Photos (Sunday September 24, 2006 at 12:12 pm)

mooncake cupcakes

I had my first mooncake this week – a dough covered, red bean paste filled sweet, purchased and exchanged during the mid-autumn moon festival which is being celebrated this weekend in San Francisco.

I have been prodded in the past to try something with red bean paste and have enjoyed other desserts made with the filling. So, it seemed like a perfect time to try it out. Red bean paste is sweet and earthy with a distinct “beanie” flavor, a good match for cupcakes.

I researched bean paste recipes and they all basically involved soaking, boiling, pureeing, and cooking the paste with sugar and oil. I cut back significantly on the amount of sugar and oil and liked the end result although it was less sweet and less thick than the commercial products I have tasted.

I stuck to a basic cupcake base, filled each with paste, baked them, topped them with a yummy date-pineapple cream cheese frosting and dipped each in lightly salted sesame seeds. The end result was delicious. Sweet, but a touch salty and the bean and sesame flavors shown through.

I also wanted to point out the addition of a new page on the right, baking basics & troubleshooting. Folks new to baking should definitely give it a read. And if any of you experienced folks have anything to add, please do!

Red Bean Paste

1-1/4 cups red adzuki beans
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar

1. Cover beans in cold water and soak uncovered, overnight.
2. Drain, transfer back to the pot and cover in 5 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
3. Drain and puree with a hand blender or in a food processor.
4. Press through a metal sieve. Note: This is time consuming work. The pureed beans become a thick paste and it takes some time to press through the sieve, clean off the underside, continue pressing until most of the bean puree passes through and the skins are left behind.
5. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add pureed beans and sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon for about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to cool.
6. After the paste has cooled, scoop out 3/4″ balls. I used a small ice cream scooper. Cover loosely with plastic wrap so they won’t dry out.

adzuki beans
red “adzuki” beans

pressing bean paste through a sieve
pressing paste through sieve

Cupcakes
22-24 regular cupcakes / 375-350 degree oven

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanillas

1. Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
2. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
4. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add to mixer bowl. Add the milk and vanilla. Mix to combine.
5. Fill each cupcake paper about 1/4 full. Smooth with the back of a spoon. Press in a bean paste ball. Top with more batter until about 3/4 full. Smooth with the back of a spoon.

Note: Baking these is a little tricky as they end up a bit full. I pre-heated the oven to 375 then turned it down to 350 once I put the cupcakes in. This worked out well; I lost only one to overflow… and it wasn’t quite lost… I did eat it after all.

smoothing out first layer of batter
smoothing out first layer

bean paste ball on top of first layer of batter
bean paste ball

scooping on top layer of batter
scooping on top layer

Date & Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces or 1 package of Philly cream cheese
1/2 stick butter, room temperature
3 to 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup dried dates, chopped
1/2 cup dried pineapple, chopped

1. Bring the butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours
2. Beat butter and cheese at medium speed until creamy
3. Sift powdered sugar into the bowl, add vanilla, then beat until combined.
4. Add chopped dates and pineapple and stir until combined

NOTE: You can add more or less sugar to get to the consistency and sweetness you like.

Assemble
1. Top cooled cupcakes with frosting.
2. Dip into lightly salted sesame seeds.

scooping frosting onto cupcakes
scooping out frosting

smoothing out frosting
smoothing out frosting

dipping into sesame seeds
dipping into sesame seeds

mooncake cupcake
inside of the cupcake

Cherry Chocolate Cupcakes with Fennel Meringue Frosting16

Posted by chockylit in Advanced Techniques,Chocolate,Herbs & Flowers,Other Fruits (Monday February 20, 2006 at 12:52 pm)

I wasn’t planning on baking this weekend. I was planning on “taking the weekend off”. But all it took was my friend asking, “What about cupcakes for Sunday night?”, and I was all over it. Any excuse to bake, I guess.

I was pressed for time, so I went with the cherry chocolate cupcakes again. Mostly because they were so good, my cousin hadn’t tried them yet, and I had all the ingredients. I did change the frosting from fennel cream cheese to fennel meringue because I was itching to use the blow torch.

The cherry chocolate cupcake is, I am convinced, a great recipe and a crowd pleaser. The meringue frosting is a bit tricky, and I need to work on the recipe some, but I am providing it here for the adventurous.

Fennel Meringue Frosting

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 egg whites

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of sugar and the water in a small pan over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
2. Crush the fennel seeds slightly with a mortar and pestle.
3. Add the crushed seeds to the sugar and let boil over medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until the mixture is somewhat syrupy. See step 6 for what to consider when cooking the sugar syrup.
4. Whisk the egg whites and 1 cup of sugar over a water bath in the standing mixer bowl until it reaches a temperature of 110 degrees fahrenheit. This only takes only a couple of minutes.
5. Transfer to standing mixer and whisk using whisk attachment at high speed until soft peaks form.
6. Drizzle fennel syrup into the mixer. This part can be tricky. For one, you don’t want the syrup too watery or it can deflate the meringue. But if the syrup is cooked too much it could harden. Aim for a soft ball stage. If you see the meringue start to deflate put less of the syrup in and all of the fennel seeds.

Note: Once again, I had a lot of frosting left over. So, I spread it out on a silpat covered baking sheet, threw it in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, turned off the oven and left it there while we ate dinner. The result was like a big fennel, meringue cookie that was crispy, chewy, and tasty.

Assembly
1. Pipe meringue frosting onto cupcakes using a large star tip.
2. Using a blow torch, brown the meringue.

Cherry Chocolate Cupcakes with Fennel Cream Cheese Frosting22

Posted by chockylit in Cheese,Chocolate,Herbs & Flowers,Other Fruits (Sunday January 29, 2006 at 11:58 am)

I am finding that the recipe development process starts with some ingredient or combination of ingredients entering my subconscious and sitting with me for some time. Eventually the full recipe will evolve after batting around ideas that may or may not translate into something tasty.

I had cherries and chocolate on the brain for a couple of weeks now. At some point fennel entered the picture, but I don’t recall when or why. I work across the street from the San Francisco Ferry Building which is fantastic place for seeking gastronomic inspiration. I purchased some dried, unsulphered, unsweetened cherries from Capay Organic, everything else I had in stock. I got ever so slightly experimental by soaking half the cherries in brandy overnight and left the other half alone.

I took this recipe recently posted on Flickr by MarionQuaggatuggu. I divided the batter in half and folded in drained and chopped brandy-soaked cherries for an adult version and folded in chopped plain cherries and Valrhona chunks for a kid-friendly version. The result was more than I could hope for – rich, moist, dense, but flakey cake with a deep chocolate flavor and the occasional texture variation and kick from the brandy-soaked cherries. I preferred the brandy version personally.

For the fennel cream cheese frosting, I decided to make a syrup to add to my standard cream cheese frosting recipe. I used just a couple tablespoons of sugar and water with a teaspoon of fennel that I crushed slightly with a mortar and pestle. I boiled the mixture down until it was very syrupy and added the whole thing to the frosting. The syrup was delicious and the frosting was fantastic. I loved the overall flavor combination of the cake and frosting and consider this a keeper.

Cherry Chocolate Cupcakes
14 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

1-1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup flour
3.6 ounces dark chocolate, 1/2 of a 200 gram bar of Valrhona 61% cocao
15 tablespoons butter
4 eggs
3 tablespoons cocoa powder, unsweetened
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup dried cherries

1. Chop cherries and transfer to a small bowl. Cover in brandy and set aside to plump overnight.
2. Melt chocolate and butter over a water bath
3. add sugar and stir, let mixture cool for 10 minutes
4. Beat in an electric mixer for 3 minutes
5. Add one egg at a time, mixing for 30 seconds between each
6. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and a pinch of salt into the mixture and mix until blended
7. Fold in cherries drained of the brandy
8. Scoop into cupcake cups and bake at 350 F for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean


baked cupcake

Fennel Cream Cheese Frosting

2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
12 ounces or 1-1/2 packages of Philly cream cheese
1/2 stick butter
3 cups sifted powdered sugar

1. Bring cheese and butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours
2. Heat sugar and water in a small pan under medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved
3. Crush fennel seeds slightly with a mortar and pestle or with the back of a heavy pan on a cutting board
4. Add seeds to the sugar and let boil over medium-low heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until the mixture is syrupy. Set aside to cool.
5. Sift powdered sugar into a bowl or onto parchment
6. Beat butter and cheese at medium speed until creamy
7. Add half of the sugar and the fennel syrup. Beat until combined
8. Gradually add remaining sugar (more if you have to) until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like

Note: I had a lot of frosting left over. Recommended uses include serving alongside sliced fruit (I had it with papaya and banana) or french toast. It can also be frozen for future use (use within a month or so). I store it in a freezer bag and when ready, transfer the bag to the refrigerator to thaw.


fennel seeds, cherries, & chocolate

Assemble
1. Top cooled cupcakes with frosting.
2. Decorate as you wish. I topped the cupcakes with a pastillage star.

I got this basic pastillage recipe from the internet. I was looking for something that didn’t have any special ingredients like gumtex or glucose. I wasn’t up for a ride to the cake supply store. I found this pastillage difficult to work with. I couldn’t get it very thin (I think partly because it was slightly sticky) and a lot of my shapes cracked when I went to remove them. The recipe makes plenty though, so I had enough shapes that worked out alright and still have two balls left over.

Pastillage

1 package gelatin
2 ounces cold water
1 pound powdered sugar
2 ounces cornstarch
0.02 ounce cream of tarter
gel food coloring

1. Stir gelatin into the water. Let stand 5 minutes, then heat until the gelatin is dissolved.
2. Sift together the sugar, starch, and cream of tartar.
3. Place the gelatin and the water mixture in a bowl. Add part of the sugar mixture and stir with a spoon until it is absorbed. Add food coloring and continue stirring.
4. Add remaining sugar in stages, stirring to combine.
5. Hand knead mixture to a smooth, pliable paste. This stage takes a while, can be messy (I kept it in a large bowl), and may require some splashes of cool water to bring the mixture together. Add water slowly or the result may be too sticky. If that happens, add a bit more powdered sugar.
6. Divide paste into three balls. Wrap two of them very well with plastic wrap. Pastillage must be kept covered as it dries quickly.
7. Roll out one ball at a time, using cornstarch to prevent sticking. Cut out shapes with cookies cutters or whatever you have. Dried them on parchment. Delicate designs will likely crack when you go to remove them from the parchment. The simpler, the better.

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