Fig and Quinoa Cupcakes

Quinoa is some kind of wonder food (at least according to my daughter’s pediatrician) as it’s a unique complete protein and is gluten-free. My husband eats it often as a part of his generally healthy diet. It was his birthday this week so I thought to incorporate one of his current favorite foods into a cupcake.

I wanted this recipe to have quinoa in it, but I didn’t want it to taste healthy. It is a cupcake after all. So I started with a basic cake recipe, swapped some flour for cooked quinoa, and called it a day. The resulting cake was moist and tasty with a nice crunch/chew from the quinoa. It did however not rise up so much and shrunk a bit after cooling.

But that didn’t bother me in the least. What was to be fig filling became a fig layer and it all worked out great. I cooked up some figs with vanilla and sugar (they weren’t super ripe), layered some of the cooled mixture on each cupcake, and topped that with a dollop of cream cheese frosting. All together a tasty treat that everyone enjoyed.

As a final note, I used black quinoa I bought at Whole Foods. I tried the black as I thought it would look more interesting than the plain. Having tried both, it’s also a bit crunchier (in a good way) and nuttier. There is also red quinoa which would likely work just as well.

Quinoa Cupcakes
26 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

3/4 cup quinoa
1-1/2 cups water
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1-3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Rinse the quinoa well in a fine sieve under a stream of cool water. This will remove a natural coating that tends to make quinoa bitter.
2. Bring the quinoa and water to a boil, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Remove lid and cook off any remaining liquid. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
4. Beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
5. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined.
6. Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
7. Measure out the milk and vanilla and stir to combine.
8. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar and beat to combine. Add about a half of the milk/vanilla and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet and finishing with the dry.
9. Fold in the cooked quinoa.
10. Scoop batter into cupcake cups about 3/4’s full. Turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake cupcakes for about 22-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Note: These cupcakes won’t rise up very much due to the weight of the quinoa and will contract some with cooling.

Quinoa Cupcakes

Fig Filling

16 ounces figs, chopped
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons sugar

1. Add figs and water to a medium saucepan.
2. Add the vanilla and stir in the sugar and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer.
4. After 10 minutes mash the figs in the pot with a potato masher.
5. Taste and adjust with more sugar if needed.
6. Cover and refrigerate until cool about 2 hours.

Fig and Quinoa Cupcakes

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
1-1/2 packages of Philly cream cheese
3-4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Beat butter at medium speed until creamy.
2. Add cream cheese and beat until combined.
3. Sift 3 cups of the powdered sugar into the butter and cream cheese. Beat until combined.
4. Add more sugar until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like. I used 4 cups.

Fig and Quinoa Cupcakes

1. Top the cooled cupcakes with a layer of fig filling.
2. Frost with a dollop of frosting.
3. Top off with a slice of fig.

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