Lemon Cucumber Cake with Lemon Frosting

A couple of years ago, I saved a recipe for a kale and apple cake. I mean…kale in a cake!? I figured I had to try it.

…I’ve still never tried it. But turns out that kale cake was a gateway to an awesome baking blog. Veggie Desserts is full of creative recipes, from parsnip cakes to cauliflower popsicles. I got hooked on the blog, and dreamt of the day I’d surprise my friends with vegetables in a cake.

IMG_3753And finally, that day arrived! I made four types of cake for my birthday this year, and simply had to include a veggie cake in the mix. As I pored over all the recipes I’d saved from Veggie Desserts, this Lemon Cucumber Cake caught my eye. It sounded intriguing, refreshing and delicious. It also sounded like it’d go well with cocktails—an important consideration when you’re hosting your birthday at a bar.

Making this cake was so much fun. I couldn’t predict quite what it’d taste like, but figured cucumbers are somewhat sweet, and would complement lemon. The cake turned out great, with a really nice texture and a sunny, tangy flavor. There’s a little bite from the lemon, complemented by cucumber puree.

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Cucumber puree

My friends really loved this cake! No one could quite place the flavor, but lots of people said the cake reminded them of a summery cocktail. I also learned that people were very open to the idea of a cucumber cake. That’s not always with the case with my more experimental recipes…and sometimes I just don’t tell people what’s in something before they take a bite 🙂

I only made one layer cake, then got some cupcakes out of the extra batter. The original recipes calls for gin in the frosting, but I omitted it and still thought the lemon frosting came out great.

Lemon Cucumber Cake with Lemon Frosting

Original recipe: Veggie Desserts. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: One 9-inch cake, two 7-inch cakes or three 6-inch cakes

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: 75 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

For the cake

  • Half a cucumber, keep the peel on (about 200g)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened (150g if you can weigh it)
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder

For the frosting

Note that this recipe assumes you’re making a “naked cake” with just the tops frosted. If you want to frost the sides, double the frosting. 

  • 1/3 cup butter, softened (75g or about 6 tbsp butter)
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice OR gin

Directions

Make your cake

  1. Preheat your oven to 325F
  2. Wash your cucumber, then cut it in half lengthways. Scrape out the seeds inside the cucumber. Then cut the cucumber into chunks, and puree until smooth
  3. Stir your lemon juice into the cucumber puree, and set that bowl aside
  4. Use your mixer to cream the butter, lemon zest, sugar and vanilla for a few minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy
  5. Add your eggs one at a time, beating in between
  6. In a separate mixing bowl, mix the flour and baking powder together
  7. Stir 1/3 of your flour mixture into the butter mixture. Then, add in 1/3 of the cucumber puree. Repeat this process until all of your ingredients are combined (puree, wet ingredients, dry ingredients)
  8. Pour your batter into a lightly greased cake tin
  9. Bake 25-30 minutes, depending on the size of your cake tin. Mine took 28 minutes for a 9-inch tin.
  10. Let the cake cool completely before frosting
Make your frosting
  1. Beat the butter, powdered sugar and lemon juice/gin together until it’s smooth and fluffy
  2. Frost away! Store any extra icing in the fridge until you’re ready to use it

 

Biscoff Gooey Butter Cake

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: gooey butter cake is one of America’s most underrated desserts. Its name actually makes total sense: the bottom layer is cakey, and the top layer is gooey. That texture combo makes every bite interesting… and the ingredient list makes every bite yummy, too. Gooey Butter Cake definitely lives up to its name, and you just have to try it to understand.

file_0032And then once you try it… what’s next? Experimenting with flavors and mix-ins, obviously. I found this Biscoff Gooey Butter Cake recipe by a stroke of luck. I was planning to bake for a birthday and someone suggested I use cookie butter. I do that pretty often and didn’t want to make a repeat, so I turned to Pinterest for some new ideas. Up popped this recipe that marries my love of cookie butter with my love of gooey butter cake.

There are a few types of Gooey Butter Cake recipes out there. This one uses a pretty standard cake base, and I liked it more than some yeasted versions I’ve tried in the past. You mix cookie butter straight into the “gooey” layer, giving it that signature almost-caramelized, sort-of-gingery taste. Every bite rewards you with a decadent gooey start and a soft, cakey finish.

Biscoff Gooey Butter Cake

Original recipe: Butter Baking. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: ~30 bars

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: ~1 hour

Cook Time: 35-40 min

Ingredients

Cake layer:

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Gooey layer:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten (beat them before you even use them!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup Biscoff spread, or other brand of cookie butter (ex. Trader Joe’s sells one)
  • 16 oz powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350F
  2. Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper
  3. Start with your cake layer: mix your flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl
  4. Add your egg, butter, milk and vanilla, then stir until it’s just combined
  5. Pour your cake layer into the prepared pan, and smooth it out so it’s nice and even
  6. Then comes the gooey layer. Start by beating your cream cheese until it’s smooth
  7. Add eggs, Biscoff and vanilla, then beat it again until it is completely smooth and looks creamy
  8. Add your powdered sugar in small batches, a bit at a time. Beat each batch at a low speed until it’s combined
  9. Pour your gooey layer over the cake layer, and spread out evenly
  10. Bake for 35-40 minutes (mine took the full 40 minutes). Your edges will look golden. The center may look a bit underdone, but it will set as the pan cools. The top should look a bit shiny–mine ended up flaking quite a bit, but it didn’t affect taste at all!
  11. Once the pan is cool, cut it up into bars

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream

My other blog turned 5 last week, and I decided to bake some cake to celebrate. Sure, I’ll take any excuse to make a cake – but I truly did feel like a celebration was in order. I started the other blog as a place to pen critical commentary and personal musings. It’s been such a gift over the years, and I love writing for it. If you’ve never checked it out, please do! But first: make these strawberry cupcakes.

File_005I’d originally planned to make a snickerdoodle cake and headed out to buy some missing ingredients. But when I saw strawberries were on a buy one, get one free offer, I just couldn’t resist. Between Pinterest and a very organized Google doc, I keep a long list of recipes to try. As soon as I saw the strawberry promo, I remembered a strawberry cupcake recipe I’d saved last year. Clearly the sale was a sign that it was finally time to make this recipe!

These cupcakes were so fluffy, so moist, so delicious. There is strawberry puree in the actual cake batter, adding a subtle fruitiness. The cake texture is really light, thanks to cake flour and extra egg whites. Next time, I’d add more chopped strawberries to the batter, and use the flour trick to coat my berries so they don’t sink to the bottom of each cupcake.

The original recipe included frosting made with freeze-dried strawberries. I decided to swap in a different frosting using fresh strawberries instead so I could use more of my newly-obtained berries. I really loved the frosting I used and suggest using it for your cupcakes, too.

I highly recommend reading through this whole thing before you start baking. Which, technically, I always recommend doing with recipes – but it’s really important this time, since there are a number of elements you prep and set aside, use later, etc.

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream

Original recipes:  Cake was from Sally’s Baking Addiction, frosting was from The Baker UpstairsI’ve added some modifications and rewritten the recipes with commentary. 

Yield: 24 cupcakes (original recipe claimed it made ~17 but I got 24!) 

Suggested equipment: Mixer, either stand or hand-held

Total Time: ~2 hours

Cook Time: ~25 minutes 

Ingredients

Cake

  • 15 strawberries (Berry size varies so much it’s hard to use as a descriptor, but you’ll want enough berries for the puree + berry pieces to fold into the batter. You can adjust berry quantity when you get to the final fold-in step) 
  • 1 large egg, room temperature, separated into the whites and the yolk
  • 2 additional egg whites, room temperature and separated out from the yolks (you won’t use the 2 yolks from these eggs) 
  • 2 1/3 cups cake flour (I highly recommend buying cake flour vs. using regular flour)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temp

Frosting

  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons strawberry puree

Step by Step Directions

Make your cupcakes 

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Slice 8 strawberries and place them in a food processor or blender. Pulse until strawberries are a chunky puree, and then set it aside for now. Chop up the rest of your strawberries into small pieces
  3. Beat your egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form – it will take about 2-3 minutes but you need to keep a close eye on it. You’ll want to use a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment for this step. This handy tutorial shows what your egg whites should look like when you’re done. Set the whites aside
  4. Sift your cake flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Set this bowl aside, too!
  5. Then, using your mixer, beat the butter on high until smooth and creamy
  6. Add sugar to the mixer bowl, and cream the ingredients on high speed for 3-4 minutes until they’re very well creamed
  7. Add your egg yolk and vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until combined
  8. Switch your mixer to low speed. Start adding the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the whole milk. You should start and end this cycle with the dry ingredients. Between each addition, mix the batter until it is just incorporated. Don’t overmix!
  9. Decide how many strawberries you want to add into the batter, and chop up as many berries as you need to get there
  10. Measure out 1/3 cup of your strawberry puree. Refrigerate the rest for now – you’ll want it for the frosting
  11. Fold in the egg whites, strawberry puree and strawberry pieces. This is the time to adjust your berry ratio if you want fewer/more berry pieces!
  12. Once your batter is properly incorporated, pour batter into cupcake liners. I filled mine 2/3 of the way, even though the original recipe suggested to fill halfway
  13. Bake for 20-24 minutes, until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when lightly touched, and a toothpick in the middle comes out clean. Mine baked for 21 minutes but you should always start checking at the minimum time to see how your treats are faring
  14. Cool cupcakes in the pan for 5 minutes, then move them to a rack to cool completely. Make sure the cakes are fully cooled before you start to frost them!

Make your frosting and assemble 

  1. Beat your butter until it’s light and fluffy
  2. Add the salt, powdered sugar and vanilla, then mix to combine so it’s nice and smooth
  3. Add in your puree and beat the mixture until it is light and fluffy. Make sure the puree is well integrated before you stop beating the frosting – some bits of puree may be hiding on the bottom!
  4. Frost your cupcakes, and enjoy

A note on storage: These keep well in storage containers for a couple days. I actually froze a few, too, and they defrosted beautifully. Lots of bakers hesitate to freeze frosting but I sometimes do it out of necessity – in this case, because I wanted to save a couple cupcakes for friends. The cupcakes defrosted nicely and tasted great!

Funfetti Cake Balls

In the world of baking blogs, cake balls are not news. They were hot off the baking presses back in 2008, when Bakerella started wow-ing the world with her creative cake pop creations. I don’t think Bakerella invented the idea of cake balls, but she sure made them famous. She has since created an impressive assortment of creative, beautiful cake pops, both on her blog and in cookbooks.

I’m not here today to show you a stunningly creative cake pop – that’s far beyond my personal artistic scope. Instead: I’m going to teach you to make the cake balls themselves.

DSC07925I first made cake balls in 2010 for a friend’s birthday. It was like paying the cake forward, because a good friend had recently made them for MY birthday. They were a hit, and I thought about them a lot… but never made them again. I even bought ingredients for them a couple years ago – and then failed to ever make the cake balls happen. When you have a recipe list that’s nearing 400 recipes, sometimes things just don’t happen, no matter how much you scheme. For my birthday this year, I decided to finally revisit these delicious bites.

These Funfetti Cake Balls aren’t fancy – but they’re easy to make, easy to serve, and a true crowd favorite. I use Funfetti because it is just so, well, fun, but you could swap in any other flavor of cake and frosting. This is the perfect time to use mixes and canned frostings, by the way. You could definitely make your own if you wanted to, but the pre-made stuff is a nice shortcut for a recipe like this. Especially since you’re going to smash your cake into smithereens* to make the balls. This recipe is super easy, but do make sure to set aside time since there are a few different phases: make the cake, make the balls, chill the balls, dip the balls.

*Fun fact: Wikipedia’s description of cake balls is “reconstituted cake crumbs.” Technically correct, but what a funny way to describe it!

Funfetti Cake Balls

Original recipe: Bakerella (a.k.a. the Queen of Cake Balls and Pops). I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: 48 cake balls 

Suggested equipment: I used a mixer for my cake but you definitely don’t need to 

Total Time: 3 hours, including all the steps/wait times 

Cook Time: Depends on your base cake; my mix baked for 40 minutes 

Ingredients

  • 1 box cake mix (I like using Pilsbury’s Funfetti since it has sprinkles mixed into the batter). You’ll also need to gather whatever your cake mix requires to bake the cake. For mine, that meant water, oil and eggs.
  • 1 container ready-made frosting (I used Funfetti frosting, and love that it comes with sprinkles for decoration, though it wasn’t enough for all of my balls)
  • 48 oz chocolate candy coating (I used Candiquik)
  • Sprinkles to decorate the balls

Step by Step Directions

Bake your cake 

Obviously this step varies depending on which cake mix you buy! I like using a 9×13 pan since it’s the easiest to deal with, and you’re just going to crumble the cake, anyway. Make sure your cake is done by testing the center with a toothpick – it should come out batter-free. Once the cake is done, let it cool completely before proceeding. I actually baked my cake on a Saturday and finished up the balls on Sunday since it fit better into my schedule.

Make your cake balls 

  1. Crumble the cooled cake into a large bowl. Your pieces should be pretty small – check out the picture below to get a better sense of size
  2. Add frosting to the bowl until the crumbs are moist, but not totally wet. The wetter the cake crumbles, the harder it is to make the balls (I know, sort of counterintuitive). I used about 2/3 of the frosting can. You can throw the remaining frosting in the fridge after that because you won’t need it again
  3. Use a spoon to combine the frosting and cake crumbs together. I used a wooden spoon; the original recipe suggests using the back of a large metal spoon. You’ll want to mix until the frosting and cake bits are totally combined
  4. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper before you start making the balls
  5. Roll your cake mixture into cake balls about 1.5 inches big. They should be as round and smooth as you can make them – the prettier now, the prettier your final balls will be. I didn’t worry about making mine perfect since I knew the chocolate coating would hide some of the imperfections, but if you’re more aesthetically inclined, you should definitely invest time at this step
  6. Place your cake balls on the cookie sheets and let them sit for about 20 minutes.
  7. Then, cover the sheets with plastic wrap, and throw them into the fridge or freezer. If you choose fridge, they should chill for several hours. If you choose freezer, they should chill for about 15 minutes
  8. Once the balls are firm, you’re ready to dip! Be careful not to let the balls freeze entirely

Dip and decorate 

  1. Put your candy coating in a microwave safe bowl. Technically you can melt most coatings in the tray they come in – but it’s a lot easier to dip the balls if you put the coating in a bowl first since you have more depth to roll
  2. Take out a few balls at a time to dip, and leave the rest in the fridge so they stay firm
  3. Dip each ball in the chocolate, one by one. You can sort of just twist the ball around in the chocolate to get it covered. You’ll start to get the hang of the coating after a few tries. You should find the coating simple to use, so if you’re fighting the coating to stay put or it’s getting lumpy, use a bit of vegetable oil to thin it out. Mine started to clump up once I got through half my balls, so it did need thinning
  4. If you’re going to add sprinkles, do it immediately after dipping each individual ball. The coating dries super fast, so you’ll miss the opportunity to decorate if you wait to dip all the balls first before adding sprinkles, etc.

These went fast at my birthday, but there were a couple left the next day. They tasted just as good on Day 2 – just make sure to keep them in an airtight container. And remember, this is just the tip of the cake ball iceberg. For lots of fun decorative ideas, check out Bakerella’s slew of tutorials

Rosemary-Infused Cake with Blackberry Preserves and Mascarpone Frosting

I should make cakes more often.

People often ask me what my favorite thing is to bake. And I used to say that I wasn’t even sure, that I try new recipes every time and love experimenting in the kitchen. But today, let’s put a stake in the ground: my favorite thing to bake is a layer cake.

Layer cakes rarely make it to the top of my baking list, though, because they’re hard to carry on a bus and often hard to serve. I’ve noticed partygoers are more likely to casually grab a cookie than a piece of cake. Even cake’s single-serving cousin, the Cupcake, is oft doomed at parties, since people don’t always want to hold a cupcake while balancing drinks and socializing. Cake balls work well- but that’s another post, for another day.

DSC07941Despite logistical difficulties, nothing beats a layer cake from the perspective of personal satisfaction. Cakes are actually pretty simple to bring together once you know the drill, and frosting recipes tend to be simple too. When that cake is assembled, it sure feels good. Plus, nothing beats the deliciousness of a fluffy, light slice of cake.

Birthdays are the time I’m most likely to indulge my love of layer cakes. And so it’s become a tradition that every year, I bake myself a birthday cake. I bring it to whatever birthday party I decide to have and share it with my friends. People always ask why I want to put so much effort into my own birthday- but it’s such a source of joy for me. Each year I “treat myself” to whichever cake I want the most from my “to bake” list. I throw caution to practicality, and even to ingredient cost- and just make what I want to make. A couple years ago I made Lemon Blueberry Cake, then last year it was this Cardamom Cake with Strawberry Filling.

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Interior shot (A very messy one!)

This year, I decided herb’s the word. I am a huge fan of herbs in baked goods, as you’ve likely noticed. And I’d been eying blogger Molly’s herb-filled cake creations for a while. So for the 2nd year in a row, I made a cake from My Name is Yeh. It was an excellent choice. This cake is fluffy, delicate, and delicious. The rosemary is just a faint hint, since it’s infused in the milk rather than baked into the batter in herb form. That delicate flavor is complemented by plump fruit in the blackberry preserves, and a creamy mascarpone frosting. My finished cake was nowhere near as beautiful as Molly’s original creation, but it sure tasted good. I was a bit apprehensive about bringing an herb cake to tons of people but hey- it was my birthday so I figured I got to do what I wanted! I was happy to hear that my friends really enjoyed this cake too… and kept going back to sneak more slices.

I can’t let another year go by before I bake another layer cake. So, I hereby declare that in 2016, I shall make more cakes, even if that means clutching onto a cake as I stand on an overcrowded bus, racing across town.

Rosemary-Infused Cake with Blackberry Preserves and Mascarpone Frosting

Original recipe:  My Name is Yeh. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: I used two 8-inch cake pans; Molly’s original cake uses three 6-inch pans. As a rule, you can split into as many pans as you like as long as those pans are evenly filled. And pay attention to bake time as you switch around the cake “volume” 

Suggested equipment: Mixer 

Total Time: ~1.5 hours assuming simple decoration 

Cook Time: ~20 minutes 

Ingredients

Cake 

  • 1 cup whole milk

  • 2 sprigs rosemary, washed and patted dry

  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour

  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Frosting 

A note: I ran out of icing to frost the sides and was cool with that but if you want to ensure enough icing, you might want to double this!

  • 12 oz unsalted butter, softened

  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese, softened

  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

  • a pinch or two of kosher salt

Step by Step Directions

Infuse your rosemary into the milk 

  1. Take out your butter so it softens up in time for the cake batter
  2. Place your milk and rosemary in a small saucepan and bring it to a simmer over medium heat
  3. Stir the mixture often, making sure it doesn’t start to curdle or “set” on the top
  4. Once the mixture has simmered, turn off the heat and let the saucepan sit uncovered for 15 minutes. You don’t want to throw the hot milk into your batter for two reasons: 1, the temperature might throw off your batter texture. And 2, you want to let the rosemary fully infuse into the milk!

Make your cake 

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Sift cake flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl
  3. In a separate bowl or your mixer bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy
  4. Beat the eggs into your butter mixture, one at a time
  5. Add the vanilla, yogurt and oil to the butter mixture and mix together
  6. Add your dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beat until smooth (about 1-2 minutes of beating action)
  7. Measure out 2/3 of your infused milk, using a strainer if you see any stray bits of rosemary floating into your milk. Some milk may have evaporated during the infusion so if that happened, you can add more plain milk to your cup to make it up to a full 2/3 a cup. I actually had leftover infused milk rather than lacking milk
  8. Pour the milk into your bowl of batter
  9. Grease and flour your cake pans, or line them with parchment. I prefer parchment myself
  10. Pour the batter evenly between your cake pans and smooth the tops
  11. Bake your cakes for 18-24 minutes. Mine took 20 minutes on the dot. You should rotate the cakes halfway through so they bake evenly
  12. The cakes are done when a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then invert them onto a rack to cool completely
  13. While the cakes cool- take out your mascarpone and butter to make the frosting

Make your frosting and assemble

  1. Use your mixer to beat the butter, mascarpone and vanilla together
  2. Add sugar and a pinch of salt, then beat the frosting again until it is light and fluffy
  3. Taste and adjust as needed- I ended up adding a second pinch of salt to taste
  4. Assemble your cake! Put 1 layer on a plate, and spread a thick layer of frosting on top. Cover that with a layer of blackberry preserves. Then, set a 2nd layer on top of that. Keep going until you run out of layers
  5. I then frosted the top with mascarpone frosting, too. Molly frosted her sides but I actually ran out of icing and decided to go for a “semi naked” cake look to compensate for that
  6. Decorate the top with sprinkles if you wish- and why wouldn’t you wish?!

Store cake in the fridge to keep the mascarpone icing nice, but let it sit out for a little bit before serving so it isn’t totally firm when you serve. I noticed the rosemary flavors actually got stronger over time and sort of melded into the frosting from the cake on Day 2. I think I liked the cake better on Day 1 but it still got rave reviews at my office on Day 2!

Tahini Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

You know when a recipe catches your eye, and you just can’t stop wondering about it until you finally get to make it? This cupcake recipe has been on my mind ever since I saved it last year. It’s from one of my favorite blogs, My Name is Yeh. Blogger Molly posts compelling recipes accompanied by gorgeous photos and engaging writing. She posts many great, creative recipes but I am particularly fascinated by her cakes. I always want to make layer cakes and rarely do, largely because I simply don’t want to schlep a cake across town to share it with coworkers or friends. Cupcakes, on the other hand, are a conveniently portable treat. So when Molly posted a recipe for Tahini Cupcakes, I knew I had to make them.

Tahini Cupcakes may not be something you’ve seen before, but trust me, you’re going to want to try them. Tahini is made from sesame that’s ground into a peanut butter-like consistency. It adds a nutty flavor to both the cake batter and chocolate frosting in this recipe. If you don’t tell anyone what’s in the cupcake, they probably won’t be able to guess offhand. One of my friends figured it out because the taste reminded her of halva, a dense confection that’s often made with sesame paste. The rest of my tasters couldn’t pinpoint the star ingredient: they just noticed a nutty taste and a slightly different texture than other cupcakes. Regardless, they liked what they tasted and asked for more.

Cupcakes are one of my ultimate comfort foods- the combination of cake and frosting is so fulfilling in both texture and flavor. Yet, these cupcakes are comforting in a different way than most. It’s less about being a sugarbomb, more about culinary adventure. Tahini adds a depth to the treat that you just don’t usually get, and the sweetness is a bit more subdued than you’d find in a more classic flavor combination. The winning texture play of cake/frosting is still there, and the frosting is chocolatey enough that it can satisfy a chocolate craving.

My boyfriend declared this his favorite cupcake ever for both its texture and its taste, so I suppose I should make another batch soon. I also want to try out some of the other tahini recipes Molly has shared, like these tahini chocolate chip cookies she just posted this week. She also has a recipe for chocolate tahini cake with rosemary buttercream– clearly I’ll need to try that one, too.

Tahini Cupcakes with Chocolate Tahini Frosting 

Source: My Name is Yeh

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Suggested equipment: a mixer is helpful for the frosting

Total Time: ~1 hour

Cook Time: ~15 minutes 

I broke the original recipe into a few more detailed steps and wrote my own commentary below.

Ingredients

Cupcakes

  • 2 c sugar
  • 2 1/4 c flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 c liquid buttermilk OR dried buttermilk (you’ll have to follow the instructions for measurements on your specific brand’s packaging, see note below)
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs flavorless oil, like canola or vegetable oil
  • 6 tbs pure tahini (see note below)  
  • 3/4 c water (if you’re using dried buttermilk, you will need to add additional water beyond this ¾ cups. Your buttermilk’s packaging should provide instructions for how much water to add)

 Frosting 

  • 1 c unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c tahini
  • 3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 c powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • A pinch or two of salt
  • A pinch of cinnamon

Ingredient Notes 

  • Tahini:  Make sure you buy pure tahini. You might also find 20151219_170330tahini sauce, tahini dip, etc. You want to buy tahini that lists sesame as the sole ingredient. Trader Joe’s, for example, sells a tahini sauce that has garlic in it too- great for hummus, not so great for cupcakes. I got my tahini via Smart & Final from a brand called Roland. Specialty groceries may have it, and Whole Foods usually sells it. I’ve read it’s wise to aim for the freshest tahini you can find, as sometimes tahini gets rancid on-shelf. (If you accidentally buy tahini sauce, I implore you to bake the cupcakes anyway and let me know what happens- experiments can net surprisingly delicious results!)
  • Buttermilk: I tend to use dried buttermilk so I don’t have to buy new cartons of liquid buttermilk every time I need it. It’s cheaper and easier, though I’m sure some bakers would tell me the results aren’t as good. I haven’t had an issue with taste in the past, so I used dried buttermilk here too. If you sub in dried buttermilk for liquid buttermilk, follow the extra notes in both the ingredients and recipe. You’ll add the dried buttermilk when you’re mixing dry ingredients and then add extra water to the original recipe for the “liquid” aspect. Measurements can vary by brand so I left measurements out here- you’ll want to read your can’s instructions for help

Step by Step Directions

Make your cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line and grease your cupcake pan and set it aside (I only own 1 muffin tin so I did two rounds of baking vs. 2 pans at once)
  2. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients (including the dried buttermilk if you’re using it)
  3. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, oil, and tahini (You may need to stir your tahini a bit before adding it in; it gets lumpy in the container but the separation is natural and you should stir it to a smoother consistency before adding it to your batter)
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix to combine.
  5. Stir in the water (this is when I added my additional water for the buttermilk)
  6. Pour your batter into cupcake pans and throw them in the oven
  7. This is when I set out my butter so it’d soften in time to make the frosting!
  8. Cupcakes will take 15-18 minutes to bake. Mine were exactly 15 minutes but you should always check for doneness by sticking a toothpick into a cupcake’s center and checking if it comes out clean
  9. When the cupcakes are done, let them cool for a few minutes in the pans and then transfer to a wire rack to cool fully.

Make your frosting 

  1. Beat together the butter and tahini
  2. Beat in the cocoa powder
  3. Beat in the powdered sugar
  4. Add vanilla, salt, and cinnamon
  5. Taste and make adjustments as desired- I added a bit more salt
  6. Frost your cupcakes, and add sprinkles if you want. And really, why wouldn’t you?

I took a ton of pictures, and most of them came out even worse than usual. Sorry! 

 

 

Web-Hopping Vol. 7

How is it the weekend again?!  Every time I sit down to write a round-up, it boggles my mind it’s already been another week. Time sure does fly. Sadly I still didn’t manage to bake anything this week. I’m slowly getting my new kitchen settled in, though, and I feel optimistic I’ll be able to start baking again next week. So let’s say the recipe posts will start again after that, shall we?

‘Til then- let’s salivate over links!

cakeSunshine Cake: I had the most wonderful cake this week at a San Francisco bakery and can’t wait to go back and try other flavors. I got off a bus at the wrong stop, and was rewarded with the delicious scent of Moscow and Tbilisi Bakery. I was in the process of buying a meringue pastry when I noticed their gorgeous Sunshine Cake, a combination of orange cake and fresh cream, jellied fruits and dried fruits. I just couldn’t resist adding a piece of cake to my order. It has to be one of the best slices of cake I’ve ever tasted. Good cake is hard to find, my friends. Especially layer cake. I don’t find many bakeries that truly do a good job with all of the layer elements.

From the Culinary Concoctions by Peabody blog

Key Lime Pie Thumbprint Cookies: I’m not into pie itself, but I love these pie-inspired cookies. I have a few friends who specifically love lime desserts so this will be a good recipe to hold onto.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars: This link floated by me on Pinterest and while it’s absolutely not new to me, I want to share it anyway. Best pumpkin chocolate chip cookie/bar recipe I’ve tried so far. I’ll probably blog about it soon… it’s going to be one of the first things I make once my kitchen is back up and running!

Carrot Cake with Nutella Frosting: Carrots and Nutella in the same recipe? I’m in!

Pumpkin Gingerbread Chocolate Chunk Muffins: I am a huge fan of gingerbread, and love how this muffin recipe takes that delicious flavor over to gorgeous muffins. Adding chocolate chips is never a bad idea, either.