I was definitely intrigued by the nuts and seeds theme this month. I thought of lots of potential ingredients…I do a lot of stuff with almond flour these days, oh but sunflower seeds are Z’s favorite…hmm, but what about poppyseed? No, poppyseed is good, but too obvious. And then I had a Very Original Idea, which morphed into an Even Better Idea, which I am going to attempt as my second entry once I have more butter. But there were compenents that got knocked out by the evolution of the idea, namely salted caramel, and I couldn’t abandon something as awesomely delicious as salted caramel. So I brought in my good friend Mr. Cashew. Mr. Cashew and salt are friends from way back, and the rich smoothness of caramel pairs wonderfully with the almost creamy texture of cashews. And what was going to tie them all together? An awesome rich chocolate ganache, that’s what!
These cupcakes are really, REALLY awesome, and I definitely would make them again. I found a recipe for peanut butter cake – no chocolate, just a cake recipe that had a cup of peanut butter in the batter. Then I tweaked it around and substituted cashew butter (which is not cheap but so much nicer than peanut butter – can you tell I don’t really like peanut butter?) and ended up with sturdy but still mysteriously light-as-air cupcakes. I think beating the cashew butter into the rest of the batter really lightened it up and made it fluffy, and the extra fat the cashew butter added makes the tender cake melt in your mouth.
I filled each cake with a generous dollop of caramel pastry cream. I added 1/2 tsp fine sea salt into the batch along with the vanilla and butter and it was soooo good. Seriously, it was hard to keep myself from just eating the warm salted caramel cream with a spoon before I got the plastic on it. After plugging up the little holes in the tops of the cupcakes, I spread a rich chocolate ganache on top of them – if I hadn’t gotten confused and made the ganache too soon, I would have tried dipping the cupcakes, but the spreading went relatively well even after the ganache stiffened more than I wanted it to.
And then I topped them with whole salted cashews and a sprinkling of crunchy, awesome coarse sea salt.
These cupcakes kind of capture everything I love about cashews – their smooth, fatty, almost creamy richness; the way they blend so perfectly with chocolate, caramel and salt alike; just a hint of crunch. Light and snacky, but also substantial and filling. Yummmm…
Salted Cashew Turtle Cupcakes
First, Make the Cakes:
3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup hot water
1 cup cashew butter
In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure they are thoroughly blended, then add the vanilla. Sift together the dry ingredients and alternately add dry and wet to the batter. Once everything is well blended, add the cashew butter and beat on medium-high until completely mixed and light and fluffy. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 12-15 min.
Salted Caramel Cream (adapted from Lucy Vaserfirer’s recipe)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 cups milk
2 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 egg yolks
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
Combine water and all but 2 Tbsp of the sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil for 8-10 minutes, until dark and caramelized but not burned. While the syrup is boiling, prepare an ice water bath. Once the sugar is caramelized, dunk the bottom of the saucepan in the ice water to stop the cooking. Remove from the bath and slowly stir in the milk. Don’t freak out if your caramel totally seizes – the next step is to simmer over low heat until smooth, and it may take a while but all the hardened caramel will totally melt, I promise! Just stir gently until it’s smooth and darkened from the caramel. In the meantime, whisk together the cornstarch and 2 Tbsp sugar, then whisk in the egg and yolks. Increase the heat on the caramel mixture to medium and simmer, then pour into the egg mixture in one long, slow stream, whisking constantly. Return to the saucepan and cook over medium for a couple of minutes, whisking the whole time, until the mixture thickens and just begins to boil. Immediately strain it into a bowl and stir in the butter, salt and vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap pressed down onto the surface with a couple holes punched in it to vent the steam, like you would for a curd. Place in refrigerator and use once cooled.
8 oz. good quality dark or bittersweet chocolate chips (or a slab of finely chopped chocolate)
3/4 cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp butter, room temperature
Combine the cream and sugar in a saucepan and barely bring to a boil. Immediately pour it over the chocolate and whisk until completely smooth. Stir in the butter. If you do this right before you want to frost the cupcakes, you can dip the tops of the cupcakes in. If it sets up a little bit, you can still spread it with a knife, or pipe it.
Salted Caramel Pastry Cream
Whole Salted Cashews
Coarse Sea Salt
Cut a cone out of each cupcake and fill the resulting hole with the pastry cream. Trim the cone and replace just the top. Frost with ganache and decorate each cupcake with whole cashews and a sprinkling of coarse salt.
Voting isn’t open until the end of the month, but once it is you can go vote for these here.
Here’s the requisite prize info:
Our March ETSY PRIZE-PACK is from artists:
- A Bunnycake Easter Plushie by DOGBONEART, http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=21636297.
- A whimsical piece by CAKEASAURUS, http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5729584.
- as well as a pair of cupcake earrings from LOTS OF SPRINKLES at http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=6057281.
- a collection of all new printed cupcake liners, 200 in all from Sweet Cuppin’ Cakes Cupcakery, http://www.acupcakery.com/
- PLUS, IronCupcake:Earth can not forget our good friend, CAKESPY, http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5243382, who is now going to be doing a piece for our winner each month until further notice – sweet!
Last and certainly not least, don’t forget our corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS, http://www.fiestaproducts.com, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, http://blog.hellocupcakebook.com, JESSIE STEELE APRONS http://www.jessiesteele.com; TASTE OF HOME books, http://www.tasteofhome.com; a t-shirt from UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM http://www.upwithcupcakes.com/. Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers, http://www.1800flowers.com . And as a special thank you, we would like to once again thank DIANAEVANS – http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5599270 for her participation in the February challenge. An incorrect link was posted and we want to be sure that she gets the recognition she deserves. Thanks again Diana!