Ube Cupcakes with Bubble Buttercream45

Posted by chockylit in Experimental Recipe,Nuts,Pilipino-Inspired,Yams & Potatoes (Sunday June 11, 2006 at 9:05 pm)

This is definitely an experimental recipe… one that ended up tasting great, but, trust me, looked a bit funky.

I got introduced to Ube in the form of ice cream from Mitchell’s Ice Cream here in San Francisco. I was ready to finally try an Ube cupcake recipe, so I went to Pacific Super, an awesome Asian grocery on Alemany Street not too far from where I live, and bought nearly everything Ube.

I reconstituted Ube powder per the instructions on the packet, but didn’t like the taste very much at all. I boiled and mashed some fresh purple yams and they tasted much better. It was an easy decision to skip the powdered and go with the fresh.

One thing I didn’t do, that I noticed the few recipes on the net did, is add food coloring. After my red velvet experience, I have been anti-food-coloring-in-batter. In this case, I think I would have been better off to relax my newfound prejudice…

The yams were a deep purple blue, which was great, but when mixed with the yellow egg yolks and other ingredients, the batter ended up a ghastly green. Maybe a little red food coloring would have balanced it out. On the other hand, I can say that the ghastly green is natural! Maybe a half cup of smashed beets might do the trick, if anyone cares to experiment even further.

One definite keeper for me is the topping of peanuts crushed with a good amount of salt. This is something I stole from a caterer friend. The salty-sweet taste is very satisfying.

Ube Cupcakes
24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

3-4 small to medium purple yams (ube)
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil, grapeseed or vegetable
1/2 cup macapuno, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk milk

1. Peel and slice the yams into inch thick slices. Transfer into a medium pan, rinse, then cover with cool water. Bring to boil and simmer until tender. Mash with a fork
2. Crack eggs into a large bowl. Beat with a whisk until yellows and whites are combined.
3. Gradually add sugar and whisk until combined.
4. Add oil and whisk until combined. Add chopped macapuno and vanilla and stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
5. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in another bowl.
6. Add about a third of the flour mixture to the wet mixture and mix to combine.
7. Add about one half of the buttermilk and mix to combined.
8. Repeat above, alternating flour and buttermilk and ending with the flour mixture.
9. Scoop into cupcake papers about half to two-thirds full (depending on whether you want flat or domed cupcakes. Note that these cupcakes will don’t shrink. Two-thirds full will result in domed cupcakes.)
10. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

fresh ube (aka purple yam)
cooked ube

ube cupcake batter
ube cupcake batter

baked ube cupcake
baked ube cupcake

Bubble Buttercream

3 cups water
1/4 cup tapioca balls
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
5-6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Boil the water in a medium saucepan (I used the water from the yams).
2. Add the balls to the boiling water and boil for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Turn off heat and let the balls steep in the water for another 30 minutes.
4. Transfer balls to a sieve and rinse with cool water to remove starch. Transfer to a bowl and cover with cold water until ready to use.
5. Beat butter in an electric mixer until soft.
6. Add 3 cups of the sifted sugar and beat until combined.
7. Drain tapioca balls and measure out 1/2 cup. Fold into the frosting.
8. Add remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, stirring until combined.

Note: This frosting was very soft and almost looked a little curdled. It definitely has a not so pretty texture, but it tasted fine. The tapioca balls are a novelty and perhaps not necessary. There is the added interest of the chewy texture, but I am not sure it’s worth the sacrifice in the visual appeal. If you are looking for something picture perfect, definitely skip this recipe. It needs work.

tapioca balls
tapioca balls

1. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes.
2. Crush about a 1/3 cup of unsalted peanuts with about a teaspoon of salt. Sprinkle over cupcakes.

45 comments for Ube Cupcakes with Bubble Buttercream »

  1. I wonder if playing with the pH of your batter would affect the color (oh… just now checkin gyour link:like in your red velvet cake experiments)?

    I like being able to read your inspiration in this cupcake! One of my favorite bubble tea flavors is the taro… :)

    making soda flavored cupcakes would be a fun run of plays too (Yum- I’m thinking Big Red!).

    Comment by McAuliflower — June 11, 2006 @ 11:35 pm

  2. Aweee… I moved to BC 4 yrs ago and you cant get Big Red. I had forgotten all about it, now I am going to have a craving from hell lol. MMmmmm soda flavoured cupcakes yum. I used to make a chocolate cola cake. It was made with coke and had the texture of a wacky cake but tasted even better. Hmm I wonder where that darn recipe is…

    Comment by Tessera — June 11, 2006 @ 11:57 pm

  3. I never dreamed of ube cupcakes, you are one very creative baker! The green colour was initially somewhat shocking, but it’s not that offensive. It could be a little surprise for everyone who takes a bite!

    Comment by risingsunofnihon — June 12, 2006 @ 1:12 am

  4. I love that color! In Paris we have the “pomme de terre Vitelotte” which is purple too, but it seems we can’t find purple yam… anyway I think it should be possible to try a potato cupcake don’t you? Thank your for this recipe!

    Comment by Stéphane — June 12, 2006 @ 1:32 am

  5. hey,
    wow this is interesting.
    i’m from asia, and i think ube is spelled as ubi here.

    Comment by aida — June 12, 2006 @ 11:04 am

  6. You know, I quite like that green colour. It’s not too yellow-ish greeny, which would be really sickly: perhaps it wasn’t quite what you were aiming for but hey, maybe you could develop the theme. Are there any green things which would have a complementary flavour? I have never tasted ube, so I can’t think of anything myself!

    Comment by chochotte — June 12, 2006 @ 12:06 pm

  7. You have such amazing and creative ideas and recipes.

    I have to make Ube Cupcakes…I love things that are weird and unexpected colors.

    Comment by aliastriona — June 12, 2006 @ 1:21 pm

  8. Looks interesting, though I don’t think I’ve seen a place in the Davis / Sacramento area (farmer’s markets included so far this season) selling Ube. I suppose the mutant coconut I can scour a few places for.

    Comment by Garrett — June 12, 2006 @ 3:30 pm

  9. I was surprised today. I brought the cupcakes to work expecting people to be turned off by the looks of them, but they were a big hit. I think the cake part wasn’t too sweet (which people liked), the frosting was very sweet, and the salty, crushed peanuts balanced it well…

    Seems like most of you are open to the green color as well!

    Comment by chockylit — June 12, 2006 @ 11:24 pm

  10. hi! I’m from Asia too–the Philippines, to be exact–and we have ube cakes at a lot of bakeshops here, but they mostly use purple food coloring to keep it, well, purple. Thanks for sharing this recipe! We have a coconut tree in our backyard, and we’re running out of ideas for using macapuno. I’m seriously thinking of trying this recipe soon. :)

    Comment by pj — June 12, 2006 @ 11:38 pm

  11. Like PJ im from the Philippines too and ube is a popular flavour there. I miss it quite a bit because you can’t get it everywhere here in Sydney.

    What an awesome idea to make ube cupcakes though, im just thinking of the taste and its making me drool.

    Comment by jenjen — June 13, 2006 @ 4:03 am

  12. I have used beets in cupcakes before to try to get around the food coloring issue…unfortunately the batter is an awesome fuscia/neon pink color, but it fades into not much of anything as it bakes…ph balancing would probably help the color, but that’s past my level…annd bright green is still a novel color for a cupcake ;)

    Comment by caitlinvb — June 13, 2006 @ 7:22 am

  13. hi chockylit!
    garrett just pointed me to your site and WOW, what a TREAT!!! i love the end result of your green ube cupcakes! very fun!

    what an amazing site! love it! i look forward to catching up on all your archives….

    Comment by iamchanelle — June 13, 2006 @ 7:41 am

  14. Hi :) Since you mentioned that tapioca was unsightly as a frosting ingredient, perhaps you can consider it as a filling? A chinese bakery nearby has taro paste and egg pudding as an option. Something to consider~

    Comment by aingeal is — June 13, 2006 @ 8:15 am

  15. I’m from the bay area, Filipino and love Ube. Thank you for trying this recipe! I emailed you awhile back to ask you if you’d tried these flavors (macapuno, ube) and so excited to see you did. I can’t wait to try out this recipe. Thanks!

    Comment by Anonymous — June 13, 2006 @ 8:15 am

  16. hey, these look neat.
    one of the above posters mentioned the ph level of your batter. i bet this is it. i know that blues in nature are very unstable colors…they cook out right away.

    i used to make a violet syrup from fresh picked wild violets. the liquid turns to green, but when a tiny bit of lemon juice is added, teh purple comes right back…

    maybe worth a try?

    Comment by kittee — June 13, 2006 @ 4:27 pm

  17. I added buttermilk (which is acidic) partly for that reason. I think that could come into play, but I also think its simple color wheel stuff. Egg yolks are very yellow and there were four of them in there. The ube is blue-purple. I have to believe the yolks were a factor. In addition, every recipe I saw used food coloring, I am assuming to compensate for this. It would be easy enough to test if someone was planning to make these.

    If you do, let us know!

    Comment by chockylit — June 13, 2006 @ 5:22 pm

  18. One idea might be to reverse ingredients: maybe a macapuno cake, with an ube frosting. Ube halaya (ube jam) could probably be incorporated into a frosting while still maintaining its natural gorgeous purple color and its strong ube flavor.

    Comment by sheryl — June 14, 2006 @ 7:35 am

  19. Hi Chockylit,

    You are a genius!! I have a deep deep love for ube and bubble tea, as I am Asian it was accessible until I moved. Unfortunately, I now live in Buenos Aires, Nutella is about as exotic as it gets. For your Arabian Night Cupcakes (oop, I’ve renamed them in my mind)I have to make my own pistachio cream from scratch. For this recipe would you approve of using taro instead? (They are smaller and the flesh is light grey) My other problem is of course the mutant coconut – looking at the picture I think it is flesh from young green coconuts. Needless to say, I need a substitute…please, any suggestion? Very helpless

    Comment by miss cupcake — June 14, 2006 @ 4:07 pm

  20. miss cupcake – you could totally use taro. i am fairly certain it would work fine. i am not sure about the mutant coconut. i think you could skip it (i barely noticed it in the recipe).

    Comment by chockylit — June 15, 2006 @ 9:38 am

  21. is there another frosting that you could suggest?? I can’t seem to find tapioca balls anywhere!! Unless I buy bubble tea and save the balls!! =) I love your blog BTW!!

    Comment by learningtofly — June 16, 2006 @ 11:18 pm

  22. Am I supposed to drain the ube and then mash it?? My batter looks a little thick??!!

    Comment by learningtofly — June 16, 2006 @ 11:53 pm

  23. chockylit??!!!!! !!!!???!?!?!?!!! !?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! & !!!!!!!!!!!!!?

    Comment by Anonymous — June 17, 2006 @ 8:59 am

  24. learningtofly.

    you should be draining and mashing the ube. my batter wasn’t very thick. are you sure you measured out everything correctly?

    you can completely skip the tapioca balls and you will end up with buttercream, which trust me, will be fine. like i mentioned in the post, the tapioca balls are purely gratuitous.

    Comment by chockylit — June 17, 2006 @ 9:21 am

  25. Sigh, Mitchell’s Ice Cream is one of the things I miss about SF. When we lived in Glen Park we were down there practically every week in the summer.

    Comment by Jennifer — June 19, 2006 @ 8:35 am

  26. Hi,

    I just found your blog–ery cool. I have a question for you–I noticed that you use soufle cups for cupcake papers. Could you please tell me what size you use? Thank you!

    Comment by Lera — June 20, 2006 @ 11:41 am

  27. 3.25 ounce for the regular size.

    Comment by chockylit — June 20, 2006 @ 11:45 am

  28. ¿Qué te puedo decir? Son increiblemente maravillosos! Estoy fascinada con todas tus recetas y estoy por comenzar a hacer los de zanahoria con naranja. Felicidades!! Muy buen trabajo!

    Comment by Fabbys — June 21, 2006 @ 11:54 am

  29. ¡Gracias! Me adulan. Y buena suerte con los cupcakes de la naranja de la zanahoria.

    Comment by chockylit — June 21, 2006 @ 9:15 pm

  30. So much fun!!!

    As a chef and a devoted cupcake fanatic, I love to experiment with unusual flavor pairings (strawberry /basil; lemon/thyme/lavender; avocado/lime, classic rose/raspberry..I enjoy your site a great deal. I would like to try this with egg whites only and increase the fat content..possibly using organic coconut oil ( also, asian)….However, I love the green color of your final product, could you make a slightly sweet Ube filling for the cupcake?? Imagine the color combination! We make a sweet potato filling using Fromage Blanc and vanilla sugar…hhmm so many possiblities. If it works, I will be sure to sing your praises…

    Comment by cupcakoligist — June 22, 2006 @ 6:45 pm

  31. Hi! This is actually a very common Filipino dessert. Filipinos have ube cupcakes and ube cakes in their dessert repertoire. You may be able to do better by omiting the ube powder all together, and using ube jam. You can get this at Filipino or other Aisan stores. THis will make your cake very moist. Good luck!

    Comment by Anna M. Rosete — July 28, 2006 @ 12:58 pm

  32. better yet, go to goldilocks bakery (filipino bakery) and ask for their ube-macapuno cake…

    saves a lot of trouble…

    the martian green cupcake of yours is really hilarious (in a good way)… don’t give up!

    cheering you from manila!

    Comment by julsitos — July 30, 2006 @ 12:34 pm

  33. I am into cupcakes recently have been logging back to your blog so often. It is really an inspiration to me. Keep up the fantastic job.

    Regarding the Ube, I had the same encounter as you did. I made some muffins and was shocked that the Ube turned green immediately on being added to the batter. After baking, I was contemplating whether to eat them as they look like Incredible Hulks in disguise. I threw every single one out without tasting them. Yup it is definitely the pH. I did a test of mashed Ube with baking powder and bicarbonate soda. Both samples turned a ghastly green.

    Comment by Rusti — July 31, 2006 @ 1:00 am

  34. ohman. that is wild! this is reminding me of playing with a chemistry set as a kid. only a lot tastier I presume…

    great blog! cheers

    Comment by belledame222 — August 2, 2006 @ 3:05 pm

  35. I made the recipe, but I added the ube last and the batch I made was just brown on the outside instead of “ghastly green.” :) I also used a bag of grated purple yam (less than $2 at the local Asian/Filipino store) instead of fresh yams. I liked the suggestiion of using ube halaya.

    While the macapuno made it good, I didn’t think the purple yam didn’t really live up to its expectations in terms of taste. Maybe I’m just used to the artificially-flavored and -colored Goldilock ube flavored “mamon” (sponge) cakes.

    Comment by blue — August 9, 2006 @ 12:28 pm

  36. do you have any idea how many cups of mashed yams 3-4 small yams makes? I haven’t seen fresh ube in the stores around my house, but i did find frozen mashed ube, so i’m curious as to what the conversion would be.

    Comment by AnnoyedWabbit — August 18, 2006 @ 2:55 pm

  37. I just have to tell you how inspiring it is to see tapioca pearls in a cupcake- what an inspired choice! Is this common? I’m often found drinking Bubble Tea and I always wondered if there were other uses for those chewy bubbles of goodness. Wonderful!

    Comment by Jeff — August 30, 2006 @ 6:44 am

  38. the green color looks unusual for a cupcake..here in the Philippines it looks more of a rice cupcake though (puto)anyway, anyone knows a blog for brownies..i plan to launch by year-end my own creation, a walnut fudge brownies, the best-ever, the ultimate…

    Comment by adrianmario — September 6, 2006 @ 12:46 am

  39. hi Chockylit,

    i like yr cupcakes which look easy to bake (cos i hv not tried them yet.) & beautifully decorated & hope is not too difficult to do it.

    may i know what is macapuno? if i can’t find it in Australia, is there any substitution for it?



    Comment by yoke — April 1, 2007 @ 6:23 pm

  40. i really love your recipes, they’re well-written and i just adore those photos.
    what camera do you use?

    anyway, i’m filipino and UBE has been one of our family’s favorite desserts (especially my dad).

    i dunno, but i was thinkin maybe you could mash the ube more to incorporate the ube better and possibly get a bit of the “ghastly green” color off of the cakes…

    here in the philippines we have sweet ube jam that (i believe) doesn’t use artificial colorings and yet the hue of the whole product stays a deep purple- or if you can get your hands on some of the jam you could use THAT.

    if you could (i’m no food expert- haha i’m only 18 and don’t have any formal training- but what the heck), i’d suggest that you either:
    1. make an ordinary vanilla cupcake and fill it with strips of macapuno and mashed ube/jam before you replace the tops and maybe use a simple whipped cream frosting (as the ube jam and macapuno are quite sweet)
    2. include just the macapuno in the batter and use the ube jam as a filling.

    both suggestions are presumably sweet (given that you use JAM)- so adjust it accordingly.

    there’s this filipino dessert that makes use of macapuno, ube, and a simple flan (“halo-halo”… “mix-mix”) on shaved ice and i believe that macapuno, ube, and milk (maybe even cream) really go well together.

    there now.

    i hope this helps.

    your site rocks!

    God Bless you!

    Comment by jamesvaughnn — April 2, 2007 @ 8:40 am

  41. I’m a Filipino and I came upon your blog just a few hours ago. I was quite happy to see that your recipes have fused together Western and Asian ingredients.

    If you have the chance, take a vacation here in the Philippines and see how ube jam is made. It is mixed continually in an open fire for hours until the right consistency is reached. Also, ube cakes and other ube-flavored recipes are quite popular and available everywhere. Another ingredient you should try is pandan. It’s great when infused with coconut milk, which is usually made into a summer cooler as well.

    You have a great blog! It’s inspired me to experiment on cupcakes as well!!

    Comment by gelav — June 10, 2007 @ 8:36 pm

  42. I found your blog a couple months ago & this is the first recipe I tried. What a fun recipe to make!

    I already made this a few times. And I just made it again for St. Patrick’s Day! (All natural, no food color!). I think it is combination of the baking soda & buttermilk that turn the cake green. I have tried using just eggwhite, it’s still green. Then I used self-rising flour, with milk/coconut milk & the cake stay purple/lavedar.

    For the frosting, I use coconut cream cheese instead.


    Comment by veritassima — March 19, 2008 @ 2:36 pm

  43. how many cups did the yams make? i would really like to try out this recipe, but use the jars of ube paste that they have in stores. i love your blog, btw. i can’t wait to try this one out! :)

    Comment by melissa — March 23, 2008 @ 9:49 pm

  44. these sound amazing, and i’m willing to forgive the odd color (or experiment w/lemon juice or food coloring) but i’m just wondering, after you cook the ube at what point do you add it into the batter? am i just crazy and missing where it’s clearly written in the recipe?

    thanks, i love this blog btw and i can’t wait to try so many of them! it might be a summer project of mine…

    Comment by kt — July 4, 2010 @ 10:34 pm

  45. I’m very excited to see this recipe! I’m Filipino (and also in SF) and I grew up in the Philippines. Over there ube is common in a sticky rice form and as ice cream. I’ve never seen it used this way. Impressive :) Great blog!


    Comment by Melody — January 20, 2012 @ 2:54 am

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