It's that time of the year again for my cupcake extravaganza. Well, actually, this year is not so much an extravaganza than a good experiment. The amount of baking and varierty from last year's birthday cupcakes got a little out of hand as I was quite ambitious. Since I've been very busy with different areas of my life, I decided to cut back on the complexity but stay away from the same-old-same-old. For friends in my skating club, I baked a couple dozens of ice-cream cone cupcakes in conservative flavours (chocolate cake with mocha buttercream, coconut cake with vanilla buttercream) that were packaged individually so that my friends can choose to enjoy the cake later at home.
For friends at work, I made cupcakes inspired by traditional asian flavours that I grew up enjoying. These flavours can be a little challenging to uninitiated palates but since many of my coworkers are either asian or tasted my baked goods numerous times before, I wasn't worry that they might find the flavours too weird. First up was a green tea pound cake topped with azuki bean buttercream. This is an encore from last year's selection because I was very pleased with the result of mixing sweetened azuki bean paste with buttercream. The other two flavours were results from a shopping excursion at T&T Supermarket. I love to browse at supermarkets, paying close attention to every little merchandise available. In a large ethnic grocer such as T&T, I can always count on finding unexpected discoveries.
This time around, I found in the frozen section packages of ready-to-use sweetened black sesame paste for filling mochis. It is the perfect companion to the roasted grinded black sesame that I use regularly on my breakfast cereal. I made a black sesame cupcake using pound cake with grinded black sesame and buttercream flavoured with black sesame paste. The result couldn't be more perfect as every bite of the cake was intensely flavourful.
Another great find at T&T was frozen packages of Philipino taro (ube). This deep purple root vegetable is often associated with creamy dessert in the asian sweet kitchen such as ice-cream. I had never worked with ube before but I was determined to replicate one of my favourite ice-cream flavour in the form of a cupcake. The only way that I could do so was to taste-test at every stage of cooking and experiment until it is "just right". I figured as a root vegetable, I probably want to make the ube into a sweetened paste to incorporate into the buttercream. I couldn't tell if the defrosted grated ube was cooked, so I tasted a little...it was indeed raw and tasted rather gross. I decided to steam the grated ube until it tasted cooked. To sweeten the mashed ube, granulated sugar just doesn't cut it because it was simple sweetness without richness. Instead, I took a cue from halo halo and mixed condensed milk and coconut cream with the mashed ube to form a rich and delicious purple paste. The buttercream did not have even a drop of food colouring...the light purple was due to the natual colour of the ube paste. I can think of so many uses for the ube paste that my mind is already filled with ideas.
Isn't it wonderful to explore new uses for old favourite flavours?