I was sad when it was announced that Iron Cupcake: Earth was no more. It was a significant factor in my getting seriously interested in pastry, leading me to experiment with recipes and learn how to make a real buttercream. It was on hiatus for a while as its fate was being determined, and I really missed the challenge and fun of making creative cupcakes at home.
Luckily, there’s a new cupcake competition starting this month, and it’s called Mystery Box. I happened to come across a tweet announcing it while I was coincidentally thinking about searching for cupcake inspiration. The timing couldn’t be better, and the first month’s theme? Totally my thing.
The theme for July 2010 is tea, something I enjoy immensely. I’m drinking tea right now, as a matter of fact. The hardest part was deciding on a tea to use – since you can only enter once per month, I knew I’d have to come up with something really good. I think I did just that.
I chose to flavor the cupcakes themselves with Thai tea, which is a fun choice because not only does Thai tea have an addictive, mysterious flavor (ingredients vary but there’s always some anise or other licorice-y spice in the mix, though it doesn’t taste like licorice), it also contains red and yellow dyes which make the tea bright orange when steeped. I hoped that both the color and flavor would carry over into the cupcakes once they were baked. As you can see, the color definitely shows. I’ve never seen cupcakes this color before!
I steeped the tea into the milk for my standard white cupcake recipe, using a lot to keep both the color and flavor strong. Happily, it worked perfectly and I was rewarded with bright orange, feathery-light cakes with a distinct Thai tea flavor.
In keeping with the Thai theme, I filled the cupcakes with pineapple jam. Since it was so sweet, I added a little tang by way of a smidge of tamarind paste, and a kick of spice via a pinch of cayenne pepper. I made a white chocolate coconut ganache to frost them with, though I wasn’t quite patient enough with it and it ended up as more of a glaze. It’s very sweet, though, so I think the glaze-y amount is perfect. To emphasize the coconut flavor and add texture, I also sprinkled them with toasted shredded coconut.
Thai Tea Cupcakes
First, Make the Frosting:
- 150 g good quality white chocolate
- 75 g coconut milk
Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Heat the coconut milk until it steams, either in the microwave or in a saucepan. Pour the coconut milk into the white chocolate and gently whisk until fully emulsified. Chill until thick and almost set up, stirring a couple of times to ensure even thickening.
Then, Make the Cakes:
- 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp milk
- 1 1/2 Tbsp loose Thai tea (I bought mine at Kalustyan’s and it’s incredible)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 egg whites
Pour the milk into a small saucepan and heat until boiling little bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan. Remove from heat and stir in the tea. Cover and let steep for 5-7 minutes. Strain thoroughly into a measuring cup, measuring out 1/2 cup. Cool thoroughly.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the milk and dry mixture alternately in thirds, mixing slowly and scraping down the bowl between additions. Once everything is blended, add the egg whites and mix on a medium-high speed for no more than 2 minutes, until the batter becomes somewhat fluffy. Spoon into lined muffin tins and bake 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean and before the cupcakes start to brown at all. Allow to cool fully before filling or frosting.
Now Get That Filling Ready:
- 3 Tbsp pineapple jam (you can make your own or use store bought, just find a good quality jam that only contains fruit, sugar, water, pectin, etc….no HFCS or anything)
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1/8 tsp tamarind paste (optional but awesome)
Use a spatula to fold the pepper and tamarind thoroughly into the jam.
Let’s Toast Some Coconut:
- 1/4 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut (that’s the really tiny stuff)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Spread the coconut out on a small baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Stir thoroughly to evenly distribute any browned areas, and continue toasting for another 3 minutes or so, until most of the coconut is a light golden brown. Set aside to cool.
Time to Put Them Together:
If you’re not used to working with extra soft cupcakes you might want to chill or even freeze them first to make the cake less crumbly. Use a small round cutter to punch out the middle of each cupcake, reserving the “lid” to each one and trimming them to 1/4″ thick. Place a blob of filling in each cupcake and replace the lid.
Prepare the frosting in a piping bag. Pipe some onto each cupcake in any style you wish, or let it become more fluid and “flood” the tops (you’ll have some serious cleanup to do on the paper if you go this route but it’s awfully pretty). Top each cupcake with a generous amount of toasted coconut.
Keeps well refrigerated up to a week or well-wrapped and frozen for a month or more. Allow to come to room temperature before devouring. Makes 10 full sized cupcakes.
For all the info on Mystery Box, head on over to Sweetest Kitchen.
The winner of July’s Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge will receive prizes from:
- Bake It Pretty; $5 electronic gift card
- Beanilla; Tahitian vanilla fleur de sel & 3 organic Indonesian vanilla beans
- Rishi Tea; the new Tsuki tea pot and 2 tins of tea
- Soapylove Glycerin Soap Design; a Soapy Pop
- Sweet Cuppin Cakes; a prize pack worth $25
Thank you to all our prize sponsors!