My original idea was sort of a Southwest/Tex-Mex inspired cupcake- a jalapeno-peach cupcake. I even went so far as to actually make them. Sadly, the whole thing really lacked flavor... the cake, the frosting, everything. I had imagined something with the bright, grassy flavor of fresh jalapenos and the sweetness of peaches, but it was very bland and disappointing. So, I went back to the drawing board...
I really love Thai food, and how so many Thai dished combine nutty flavors with spiciness and a hint of sweetness. This is what gave me the inspiration for my second cupcake- a spicy sesame cupcake with chocolate cayenne buttercream.
The cake is a chiffon cake made with toasted sesame oil and studded with red chili flakes. The icing is a chocolate French-style buttercream spiked with just a hint of Cayenne. The cake is light and spongy with a toasty nuttiness that segways into a pretty decent burn in the back of the throat. The buttercream was freaking awesome! French buttercream is made with egg yolks whipped with a hot sugar syrup, combined with butter- It's sweet and rich, but very light in texture. I added cocoa powder and melted dark chocolate, as well as a tiny pinch of Cayenne. (The icing got many compliments!) The nuttiness of the cake was nicely complimented by the sweet chocolate.
The cupcakes were enjoyable, but not omigod!igottahaveone! I think, while I appreciate the spicy/sweet flavor combo, I like it better applied to savory foods rather than desserts. However, for the spice-junkie (especially ones that appreciate Asian cuisine) these would be the perfect cupcakes!
Toasted Sesame Cupcakes
Makes about 14 cupcakes
1 1/4 cups cake flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 T baking powder
1/2 T red chili flakes
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1 t vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
4 egg whites
Preheat oven to 300F. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and chili flakes. In a different bowl, mix oil, vanilla and yolks. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture a little at a time, mixing to make a smooth batter. In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites and salt until they form med-firm peaks. Fold half the whites into the batter. Once mostly incorporated, fold in the other half. Be careful to not deflate the whites too much, but be sure there are no streaks of white.
Line a muffin tin with cupcake wrappers. Fill each cup about 2/3 full. Bake for 10min, then turn and bake about 10min more, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle cupcake comes out clean. Cool before icing.
Chocolate Cayenne Buttercream
Makes enough for 14 cupcakes (at least)
5 egg yolks
2 T cocoa
pinch Cayenne pepper
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
10 oz room temperature butter, cut into chunks
2oz melted dark chocolate (I like Green and Black)
Whip yolks, Cayenne and cocoa powder until light and foamy. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat sugar and water to 240F. Once at temperature, carefully drizzle hot sugar into yolks, whipping constantly. Continue to whip the yolk/sugar mixture until the sides of the bowl no longer feel warm. The mixture should be body temperature or just below. While whipping, add the butter chunks one at a time. As one incorporates, add the next. Once the butter is all in, add the melted chocolate. If the icing is too loose, set the mixing bowl in an ice bath and continue whipping until it thickens. Pipe onto cupcakes, and sprinkle with chili flakes, if desired.
You can view the contenders and vote for your favorites (*cough*mine*cough*) starting tomorrow. I'll post the links once the voting begins.