Foodbuzz

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Chestnut Cake


I have to admit, this one is a violation of the seasons. However, the can of chestnut spread has been calling from the pantry ever since I purchased it. I decided to put an end to it by finally making this cake. Also, I seem to be stuck in the realm of duo layers when it comes to icing or frosting my cakes. I like the taste as well as appearance, but that does not mean that I will not go back to the traditional buttercream.

The issue with the duo flavors is that the white layer is a whipped cream frosting, which is not the best type of icing in the heat of the summer. The remedy for that is some stabilizer and refrigeration.

Regarding taste and texture, this cake was a success. The blend of chestnut flour and butter created a tender and moist slice of heaven. Should you be a cake lover and not one for icing, I suggest making this in a 9x12 inch pan and just dusting with confectioner's sugar. If you like all the components of a layer cake, then you will find that the sweetened chestnut spread with the light whipped cream frosting is nothing less than delicious. Chestnut spread was new to me, but it has now been added to my "special" flavors list.

This is not an "everyday" recipe due to the specialty ingredient of chestnut, however, it is definitely one worthy enough to be at the top of the list when it comes to holiday baking.

Chestnut Cake
adapted from Chestnut Hill Tree Farm

Ingredients/Cake
1 or 2 sticks of butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
2/3 cup chestnut flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt

Ingredients/Topping
12 oz sweetened chestnut spread
2 cups heavy cream
2 tbs of stabilizer (optional)
2 tbs of sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
chocolate sprinkles (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease the interior of  one 9x12 pan or two 9 inch round cake pans. If making layers, Line the bottom interior of the round pans with parchment paper and grease the face up side.

In a small bowl, sift together the two types of flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter and sugar. Beat until mixture is fluffy and light. Add one egg yolk and blend on low speed for 30 seconds. Repeat the process with each egg yolk until all 4 are mixed into the batter.

Empty 1/3 of the sifted ingredients into the batter and fold in, using a wooden spoon. Then, using a small bowl, mix together the vanilla extract with the milk. Pour half of that mixture into the batter and stir together. Follow with 1/2 of the remaining dry mixture. Mix in the rest of the milk/vanilla blend and fold in the last of the sifted ingredients. Set aside.

Place all the egg whites in a bowl of a stand mixer and beat until stiff. Fold the stiff egg whites into the batter, gently, so volume is not lost. Fill prepared pan(s) with batter. For the two round cakes, the batter should be divided equally. I found that it worked out to 3 cups of batter for each pan.

Put pan(s) in oven and bake until top springs back when lightly touched and tester comes out clean. This takes about 30-35 minutes. If making a layer cake, let cake cool in pans about 10 minutes and invert onto to rack to finish cooling. Parchment paper can be removed right after cake is inverted onto rack. Regarding the 9x12 inch cake, it is served from the pan, so it cools completely in the pan.

During the cooling time, the sweetened whipped cream icing can be prepared. Pour the cream and vanilla extract into a bowl. Add the sugar and stabilizer (if using). Using clean/dry beater blades, beat mixture until cream is fully whipped and light. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the layer cake, spread 6 oz of the chestnut puree onto the top of one round cake, leaving a 1/4 inch border around the edge. Then spread the whipped cream frosting over the top, covering all the way to the edge. Place the other cake layer on top, the cover the top surface the same way as the other cake layer. Smooth the remaining whipped cream frosting on the sides, covering all the cake. As a last touch, if you prefer, cover the top of the cake with the chocolate sprinkles.

Frosting the 9x12 inch cake is just a matter of smoothing the chestnut spread on the surface and then topping with the whipped cream frosting.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tips and Notes:
1. The cake sides can be also covered with the puree, but special care has to be taken when frosting with the whipped cream so you do not mix the two. Refrigerating the cake for about an hour after being covered with the puree before frosting with the whipped cream to help stabilize it more.

2. I added 1 tbs of oil to the batter to insure a moist texture.

3. Chocolate is a great pairing with chestnuts, so covering the whipped cream topping with chards of chocolate is also an option.

4. The batter could be baked up in individual servings as well, using rings or muffin tins. Just be sure to adjust the bake time accordingly.
                           **LAST YEAR: Brownie Bread Pudding**

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Hummingbird Cookies


There are cake spin offs from cookie recipes and vice versa. Some of the spin offs prove to be a delicious genius idea and some miss the mark all together. Most of the cake to cookie recipes result in cookies with a cake-like texture. I have to admit, that type of texture is usually not my preference, but this recipe is tasty enough to make me reconsider that.

The special combination of flavors and texture in this recipe offers the best of both worlds. Without icing, the are subtly sweet with crunchy pieces of pecans and chewy bits of dried pineapple. If you are in the mood for something sweeter, top these gems with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle on some banana chips and pecans. Whichever way you decide to prepare them, they will quickly disappear. This recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Hummingbird Cookies
adapted from Southern Living

Ingredients/Cookies
1 1/2 cups of regular oats
2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped dried pineapple
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 medium sized ripe banana (mashed)

Ingredients/Frosting and Topping
1/4 cup cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz cream cheese
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup crumbled banana chips
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together the salt, flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Set aside. Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter, vanilla extract and brown sugar. Cream together until fluffy, beating for about 3-4 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. Add one egg and mix at medium speed for about 30 seconds. Repeat the process with the other egg.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in the mashed banana until evenly distributed into the batter. Pour in the sifted ingredients and fold into the batter until no dry streaks remain. Mix in the oats. Lastly, fold in the pineapple and nuts.

Place mounds of the batter 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets, using a tablespoon or small  melon ball scoop. Using a glass with the bottom dipped in water, press down mounds into flat circles, about 1 3/4 to 2 inches in diameter. Place prepared sheet in oven and bake for 10-12 minutes or until done. Cookies will have a golden edge and be firm on top when done.

Let cookies cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet prior to transferring to a rack. Frost cookies once completely cooled.

To make frosting, mix together salt, heavy cream and vanilla extract. Add cream cheese and beat for 3 minutes, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl when needed. Sift 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar into the cream cheese mixture and beat until blended. Repeat the process until all the powdered sugar has been mixed in.

In a small bowl, mix together the pecan and banana pieces. Using a knife or spatula, spread frosting onto the cooled cookies. Once a dozen have been frosted, sprinkle pecan/banana chip blend on top of the frosting and lightly press to adhere. Repeat the frosting and sprinkling process until all the cookies are covered.

Tips and Notes:
1. The recipe states to use a glass that is floured on the bottom to flatten the dough. The water method works much better.

2. I am in a high humidity area and the moist surface of the cookies (unfrosted) had me cautious about stacking them together, so I let them dry out overnight before storing. Also, I waited until the night before serving to frosted them.
                                **LASAT YEAR:Banana Fudge Bundt Cake**

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Bourbon Cherry Bars

In the heat of summer, a lot of us are taking advantage of the fresh berries at the store. A dessert made with fresh berries is always welcome, however, these types of items must be kept cold or served right away. The alternative to that is turning to the "dried" form of fruit. I am very picky when it comes to dried fruit. It must be somewhat chewy and gummy, not hard. Some brands miss the mark and the fruit part of your dessert is leathery instead of chewy.

Regardless if I plan to plump the fruit in a type of liquid or use it as is, I look for the biggest and freshest prepared pieces. I know the size is not an option when it comes to berries, but a bag that is clumped or stuck to the dried fruit inside is better than the alternative to a package that is loose and airy. Also, spending the time to seeking out big slices of dried apples or pineapple is well worth it.

Some people may see this recipe as a little "off season" but when it comes to tasty desserts, but seasonality has little influence on the decision to eat or not. One bite of the delicious layer of pecan topped with bourbon soaked cherries and a nutty glaze will give you the realization that eating a piece is the only thing to do.

Bourbon Cherry Bars
adapted from The Oregonian


Ingredients
1/4 cup orange juice
1 egg
1/4 cup bourbon
3/4 stick or 6 tablespoon of butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup plus 1/4 toasted, cooled pecans
2 cups dried cherries
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the interior of an 8 inch square baking pan. Line bottom and two sides of the pan with parchment, leaving an overhang on 2 of the sides.

To make the bottom layer, start by creaming the butter with the salt and only 1/2 a cup of brown sugar. Blend in the egg. Set aside.

Using a blender or food processor, pulse together the flour with only 1 cup of the pecans. Pulse until the mixture has fine pieces of pecans in the flour. Be careful not to over process the mixture causing the pecans to become a nut butter. Once the processing is done, empty the contents into the creamed butter/sugar batter and blend with a wooden spoon.

Put all of the pecan dough into the prepared pan and press into the bottom. Form it into a smooth, even layer covering all along the bottom of the pan. Place pan in oven and let bake for about 20 minutes. It will have a golden brown hue when done.

While the first layer is baking, create the second layer. Empty the cherries into a blender or food processor and pulse until cherries are chopped into 1/4 inch pieces. Take all the cherry pieces and place in a saucepan. Add the bourbon, remaining 1/4 cup of brown sugar, cinnamon and orange juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until all sugar is dissolved and mixture resembles pie filling. All the liquid is to be cooked out.

Smooth the cherry mixture over the pecan layer. Let cool completely before icing. Mix powdered sugar with 3-4 tablespoons of water and drizzle over the top. Then sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of nuts evenly on top. Once icing has set up, remove from pan by using the parchment. Then cut and serve.

Tips and Notes:
1. Using bourbon or a bourbon/water mixture for the icing is an option. Remember the bourbon will remain strong since the icing is not cooked, so do not over do it.

2. Don't panic because the bottom layer (prior to baking) is like a very thick frosting instead of a dough, that is the way it is supposed to be.
                                      **LAST YEAR: Peach Kolaches**
                              

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Neopolitan Zebra Cheesecake


This fourth of July finds me looking forward to a leisurely day without anything in particular scheduled. Sometimes the lack of a schedule is the best way to spend a holiday. It makes me think of the scene in the Crocodile Dundee movie. You know the one..where the tour guide is talking with Mick Dundee about time. Of course, Mick has no watch and is clueless to what time or even what day it is. Face it, just the idea of anyone leading such a carefree life does make us all jealous.

A lot of people are running around today, getting ready for guests. Since it is sweltering hot outside, a cold dessert can be a delicious escape. This ice cold creamy cheesecake, has a trio of the favorite flavors you find in a Neopolitan.

While this recipe has a lot of flavor to offer, it also includes an instruction for achieving the "artsy" zebra effect. Creating the flavor batters is a snap. The steps required for making the zebra effect requires time, especially if you measure each layer of batter. I initially started by measuring, but soon was pouring the layers without measuring. It turned out with a "zebra" effect, but not with 10 or 15 stripes as would measuring the batter by 1/4 cup increments.

As with any cheesecake, it requires several hours of chilling time prior to serving. Take this into consideration if you intend to make this 9 inch cake.

Neopolitan Zebra Cheesecake
adapted from Something Sweet

Ingredients/Crust
6 tbs melted butter
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar

Ingredients/ Filling
Chocolate Layer:
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
8 oz cream cheese (room temp)
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Vanilla Layer:
6 tbs flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
8 oz cream cheese (room temp)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk

Strawberry Layer:
1/2 cup strawberry puree (derived from 1 cup frozen strawberries, defrosted prior to puree)
1/2 cup sour cream
8 oz cream cheese (room temp)
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp natural strawberry extract
1/4 cup flour
red food coloring

To make the crust, stir together all the ingredients in a small bowl. Pour the crumbly mixture into a 9 inch springform pan and press evenly, forming a crust in the bottom and up the sides. Place pan in freezer until ready to fill.

For the chocolate layer, add all ingredients to a medium size bowl and beat until blended. Place in refrigerator. Then do the same with the vanilla layer and strawberry layer. The end result is three bowls of batter.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove crusted springform pan from the freezer. Pour 1/4 cup of the chocolate batter into center of the pan. Follow that with 1/4 of the vanilla batter, pouring it into the center of the chocolate pool of batter. Then do the same with the strawberry batter. Repeat this process until all the batter is in the pan. The end result will be several concentric circles, with hues of white, milk chocolate and pink.

Bake for 55-65 minutes. Cheesecake is done when the center barely moves when jiggled and it is no longer shiny. As you can see by the picture, the surface turns a golden brown. Once baked, turn off oven and leave cheesecake inside for about 1 hour. Then remove and place in fridge to chill for at least 3 hours prior to slicing and serving.

Tips and Notes:
1. Cream cheese is a solid mass, so when mixed with the liquids the end result is not a smooth batter. It will be very liquid with lumps of cream cheese. The batter resembles a watery cottage cheese. Even after baked, slices reveal little white dots of cream cheese (as shown in the picture). While it does not affect the taste, this situation does detract a little from the appearance.

2. For a less ivory look to the vanilla layer, try using clear vanilla extract.
                             **LAST YEAR: Key Largo Cupcakes*

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Chocolate Babka






I have a confession to make concerning holiday baking. Unlike most people, I do not have a secret stash of recipes that are on reserve for just the holidays. Sometimes special recipes are better received as a surprise than received when expected. Answering that question of "what is this for?" with "just because" always elicits a smile.

Today, I bring you a delicious recipe for chocolate babka. Since there are numerous recipes for this tasty and stunning dessert, I had to go through an evaluation process regarding the filling. After reviewing recipes with brownie bits, cinnamon and streusel, I came to the conclusion that I wanted a rich, dark chocolate filling. After all, this item should be more upscale and different from a coffee cake.

This particular babka recipe was exactly what I was looking for. It has just the right amount of decadent dark chocolate filling with a wonderful crunch of hazelnuts. Also, the Amaretto syrup soak does give the outer edges of babka a delicious texture. Regarding the dough, it actually stems from a donut recipe which lies somewhere between bread and cake.

Most of the time in this recipe is rise time and the chilling process for the dough. It rises 2 hours, chills overnight and then is formed and rises again 2 hours before baking. The recipe is in grams, so if you work in cup measurements, you will need a conversion chart. It makes 2 loaves, using two 5X10 inch loaf pans.

Chocolate Babka
adapted from Violet Bakery

Ingredients/Dough
3 eggs
125 grams butter
120 milliliters warm water
50 grams sugar
1 package yeast
2 tsp sea salt
500 grams flour

Ingredients/Filling
200 grams dark chocolate (60-70% cocoa bar or chips)
60 grams cocoa powder (I used dutch, but since type not specific either is acceptable)
160 grams butter
160 grams brown sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
160 grams finely chopped and toasted hazelnuts

Ingredients/Syrup Soak
160 grams sugar
200 grams water
4 tsp honey
2 tbs Amaretto
pinch of salt

For the dough, you will need a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Pour the yeast in the bowl and whisk in the sugar. Then add the warm water. Let sit for 2 minutes to dissolve and then stir. Sprinkle in the salt and then add the flour in 100 gram increments, running the mixer about 1 minute and scraping down the sides after each addition. Add the eggs, one by one and beat for 1 minute after each addition. Once all the eggs are blended, beat mixture for about 10 minutes on medium speed. While the mixer is running cut the cold butter into cubes.

After the 10 minutes of beating, beat for an additional 10 minutes, this time dropping the cubes of butter into the dough. The end result will be a big ball of dough that has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Pull out a medium size bowl and oil the interior. Transfer the dough to this prepared oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours. Then, eliminate the air in the dough by punching down with your fist. Cover again and place in refrigerator to chill overnight.

The next morning, prepare 2 loaf pans by buttering the interior and lining the bottom and long sides with parchment paper. Set aside.

Now it is time to make the second component of this dessert. With the exception of the hazelnuts and salt, place all the filling ingredients in a medium saucepan. Set the saucepan over medium heat and whisk until every thing is melted and blended together. Set aside to cool for about 20 minutes.

Prepare a flat surface by lightly dusting with flour.  Divide the dough in half, placing one piece on the flat surface and returning the other piece to the refrigerator. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough on the flat surface into a 12 inch by 12 inch square. Spread half the filling onto the dough, leaving about 1/4 inch border, and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt. Then sprinkle half of the nuts on top.

Roll the dough up tightly, like a jelly roll with the seam on the bottom. Lightly press the top of the roll to make sure the bottom seam is sealed. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll lengthwise, forming 2-12 inch ropes. Twist the ropes together into one piece and place in prepared pan, folding under the ends. Repeat this process to form the other loaf.

Lightly cover each loaf with plastic wrap and let rise for about 2 hours. During rise time, prepare the syrup soak by putting all the ingredients in a saucepan. Then place over medium high heat and let come to a boil. Remove and stir. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place both loaves in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Then check on the loaves to make sure they are not getting too brown on the surface. At this time, you can lightly cover with foil if the loaves have the desired hue. Bake for another 15 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Remove loaves and place on cooling rack and immediately pour half of the syrup over top of each warm babka. Let cool completely before taking out of pan.

Tips and Notes:
1. Do not expect the filling to be smooth after melting everything in the saucepan, mine was grainy but was not that texture after baking the bread.

2. Both doughs should have an even amount of rise time in the last session. Form one into a jelly roll and set aside. Then form the other. Slice each into 2 pieces and then twist each and place in pan. Cover and  set the timer for 2 hours

3. Having the filling exposed to the surface does not harm the flavor of the filling. You can have a toasty bread-like surface or a surface with many threads of chocolate. For the most exposure of chocolate filling, twist each dough log with cut side face up.

4. There is a lot of syrup, but it soaks in quickly, so there is little chance of it running off the sides.
                                        **Last Year: Butternut Cookies** 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Circus Cookies






This post is dedicated to my Dad, the sugar cookie connoisseur of the family. To this day, my Dad can never get enough homemade sugar cookies. Dad, here's hoping that your day is better than expected, filled with lots of love and of course- many sugar cookies! Happy Father's day!

Making these little animals sure did transport me back to the days of childhood. The sweet, yet distinctive smell of homemade cookies filled the house while I peered over the counter to watch as my mom rolled out and cut the dough into different shapes. 

After the cookies came out of the oven, I was ready to eat. I was quickly told that they were not ready to eat. Disappointed, I thought that she made it up as a story to get me to go away, after all, the cookies were baked. Stubbornly, I sat and watched just to see what she was talking about.

Then my mom reached for a big white bag of powder and put several cups in a bowl. She added a few more ingredients and beat it all together. She moved to the cupboard, opened it and pulled out several containers. Some of the containers held brightly colored sugar and some had a rainbow of colored grain-like looking things in them. I curiously watched the artwork unfold as my mom iced and decorated the cookies.

This was the first indication to me that there was way more to baking than just making something that tastes good.

This particular recipe has its pros and cons in preparation, but these crisp little cookies have a almond-vanilla flavor that is unbeatable. Also, the almond bark coating is a must if you want the exact replica of the circus cookies that you find in the pink bag at the grocers. Note that the cookie dough must chill at least 8 hours, so allow for this time. The recipe makes about 4 dz little cookies. Be sure to read the tips at the end.

Circus Cookies
adapted from the Cooking Channel

Ingredients
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup of butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 lb almond bark or white chocolate coverture
sprinkles for decorating

Start the night before (or 9 hours prior to baking) by making the dough. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside. Place the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat together until fluffy and light in color. Add the extracts and egg to the mixture and blend on low speed with the mixer. Stop in increments to scrape down the sides. Once all is blended, fold in the sifted ingredients.

Shape the dough into a flat disc and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for at least 8 hours or overnight.

When the dough is done chilling, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line 4 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the baking sheets in the refrigerator.  Prepare a flat surface by dusting with flour and dust a rolling pin as well.

Take a piece of dough (about 1/4 of the mass) and place on flat surface. Re-cover the remaining dough and place in freezer. Remove 1 baking sheet from refrigerator.

Roll out the dough on the flat surface to a 1/8 inch thickness. The dough will be very soft and has a tendency to stick. Be generous on the flour. If the dough sticks to the flat surface, dust the top of the dough and use a bench scraper to scrape off and flip the dough. Dust again and roll out to proper thickness. Dip the cutting part of the cookie cutter in flour and cut out one shape. Keeping the dough in the cutter, move the cutter over the baking sheet and lightly press dough out of the cutter onto the sheet. Repeat process until baking sheet is filled and put filled baking sheet in freezer.

Continue rolling and cutting the dough until all is formed into shapes and placed on a baking sheet. Remove one sheet from the freezer to the oven. Bake until cookies have golden edges. Cookies take about 12-13 minutes to bake. Remove from oven and let cool for about 2 minutes then transfer to rack to finish cooling. Bake the rest of the cookies as instructed above.

For the icing, melt the coverture or almond bark in a double boiler. Once melted, you can ice the cookies by using a knife or dipping them.  If you choose to dip them, make sure you have a sheet of wax paper on a flat surface in order to place the dipped cookie on. If you just choose to ice the top, they can be placed back on the cooling rack . After dipping or frosting about 4 of the cookies, decorate with sprinkles if desired. Continue with the process until all cookies are iced/dipped.

Before storing, make sure that icing has set/hardened on the cookies.

Tips and Notes:

1. The emphasis on the amount of flour when rolling and the butter to flour ratio in this recipe, had me concerned so I added 1/4 cup more of flour when making the dough.

2. The cookies came out thin and crisp, but the icing seemed to be too heavy for the cookie. If I made these again, I would adjust for a thicker cookie.

3. I like more cookie than icing, so I did not dip the whole cookie in the icing. The top or half dipped is fine for a good icing to cookie ratio.

4. I was expecting a thinner consistency of the almond bark, but remembered that it is considered as a candy coating rather than icing.

                                       **LAST YEAR: Pesto Potato Rolls**
 


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Pineapple & Spice Cupcakes


I think sometimes that the health industry has gone too far.  Especially in the area of supplements/pills that you can take that have healthy benefits. I am not sure of whatever happened to actually eating something natural as opposed to taking a pill.

As I strolled through the "healthy supplement" aisle at the drug store, I saw cinnamon pills. Maybe I am wrong, but I do not think there are a lot of people that hate the taste of cinnamon. Think about it: cinnamon toast, cinnamon rolls. Yes, doesn't just the thought make you want to take a cinnamon pill instead? I think not. I also saw cardamom pills.

Today's recipe contains cardamom. It is one of the many wonderful spices brought to us by India that has lots of health benefits. I imagine right now in southern India, there is someone looking across their backyard which is filled with wild cardamom. Most of us are not so lucky and actually have to pay to have some of the same.

So, for these special cupcakes,we start with a base of cardamom cake. After that, I have added a pineapple curd filling. Then topped them off with a frosting that has a unique blend of goat cheese and butter nut flavoring. Since you are not here to taste these, I will give you the run down of what your taste buds are missing.... first you taste a lightly spiced cake. Then there is a pop of the tart flavor of pineapple. After that comes the frosting, which is tangy but is followed by a chaser of nutty flavor. If you are unfamiliar with butternut, I think it tastes about like Frangelico liqueur. The last part your taste buds experience is the crunchy walnuts on top. Enough said, so lets head to the kitchen!

Pineapple & Spice Cupcakes

Ingredients/ Pineapple Curd
adapted from Alaska From Scratch

1/3 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
pinch of salt
2 tbs cornstarch
2 tbs butter
1 cup of strained pineapple puree

Ingredients/Cardamom Cupcakes (makes about 20-22 cupcakes)
adapted from Chowhound

3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks butter
2 egg whites
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 1/2 cups sugar

Ingredients/Goat Cheese Frosting
from Flourtrader

6 oz goat cheese (room temp)
2 tbs milk
1 tsp butternut flavoring
2 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup butter (room temp)
1/2 -3/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts

Start by making the pineapple curd. Whisk the egg yolks together in a medium size bowl. Then sift in the cornstarch and stir. Add the pineapple puree and the sugar. Mix together and empty into a mid-size saucepan. Place the saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly. As it heats up, it will thicken. Once your spoon leaves a streak in the bottom of the pan, it is done cooking. It will be as thick as custard. Remove from heat and add butter. Stir until the butter is melted into the mixture. Let cool to room temp, empty into bowl and cover. Place in refrigerator until ready to use.

For the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the top edge of 12 muffin cavities of a muffin tin(s) and place paper liner in each cavity.

In a small bowl, sift together baking powder, flour, cardamom and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and cream together by beating for about 3 minutes, taking a moment or two to scrape down the sides. Mixture should be fluffy and pale.

Add one egg white and beat for 30 seconds. In separate intervals, repeat the process with the remaining egg whites and each egg. Once completed, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Then beat again, this time on low. As you continue to beat, add the extract and then slowly stream in the milk. The end result will be a curdled-looking batter.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, fold the sifted ingredients into the batter. Then fill the lined cavities with the batter, using an ice cream scoop or spoon. The cavities should be about 2/3 full. Place tins in oven and bake for 8 minutes, rotate and bake for an additional 8-12 minutes more, or when tester comes out clean.

After baking, place tins on rack for about 2 minutes to cool. Then take cupcakes out of tin and place on rack to completely cool.

As they cool, you will make the frosting. Place the goat cheese and the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth and creamy. Add the milk and butternut flavoring and beat again for 10 seconds. Stop and scrape down the sides, then repeat the process 2 more times. Lastly, you will add the powdered sugar in 1/2 cup intervals, beating to combine and scraping down the sides at each interval until all the powdered sugar is combined into the dairy frosting.

To assemble, use a pairing knife and core out a hole in the center of your cupcakes. Then fill a piping bag (coupled with a large tip) with the pineapple curd and fill each cupcake. Once all the cupcakes are filled, frost the cakes as desired and sprinkle with toasted walnuts. Now they are ready to serve.

Tips and Notes:

1. Regarding the pineapple puree, it took about 3/4 of a peeled, cored, chopped pineapple to make 1 cup. The pineapple was pureed in a blender and pressed through a sieve.

2. I had some left over after making the cakes. I consider the curd the best part of the cupcakes, so I easily found a use for the rest of it. You can also put a layer of curd on top of the cupcakes before frosting to use all of it up.

2. The recipe states that the batter makes 2 dozen. Mine, when filling the cavities as instructed came out to make 20.

3. These are not fancy, decorated cupcakes. However, if you desire something more like that, add more confectioners sugar to the frosting to get it thick enough to pipe onto the cupcakes. Of course you also will have to increase the recipe ingredients.

4. I used the Lorann brand of flavoring, which is much stronger than the regular flavoring so you will need to add more if using another brand.

5. Do not overbeat when adding the milk and extract, this will put more air into the batter and makes for a flatter cupcake.
                                      **LAST YEAR:Pecan Cream Cups**