The Popularization Process

I was really excited when I heard about this month’s Mystery Box ingredient. It’s something that I feel is underrated and unfairly mocked, even by food professionals (such a shame). I think it’s lovely and actually just misunderstood.

White chocolate is a unique ingredient, and while dark and milk chocolate have hordes of rabid fans, you’d hear those same hordes echoing horrible sentiments like “I hate white chocolate” and “white chocolate is gross” or even “white chocolate isn’t REAL chocolate.” Lately I’ve taken up the cause and have been stubbornly defending what I know to be a special, delicious ingredient. And it is TOO real chocolate!

not white...?
Where's the white chocolate?

However, as with many things, sometimes it takes baby steps to get people to like an ingredient that they’ve completely dismissed. That’s why I was so elated when I learned that you could CARAMELIZE white chocolate to make it extra special!

But what IS it?

I ended up using white chocolate in the form of a caramelized ganache. Easy to make, easier to eat. Since caramelized white chocolate just screams for salt, I topped each cupcake with a random sprinkling of large crystal sanding sugar and coarse sea salt.

fruit & nuts
What's with the cherries and almonds?

The first time I ever made caramelized white chocolate, I decided that, while it looks like peanut butter, it tastes decidedly more like toasted almonds, if anything. I chose to make an almond flour cake, though not a gluten-free one. I wanted the natural almond flavor more than the density. For that toasted flavor I craved, I toasted the almond flour in the oven before using it, which worked perfectly.

Such a warm and inviting looking cupcake.

Instead of my usual filling-in-a-hole-in-the-middle style, I went for a muffin-ier approach in these cupcakes and added fresh chopped cherries to the batter just before baking. Honestly they weren’t my first choice, as much as I love cherry and almond together; I would have preferred apricots. But I just barely missed the end of apricot season by about a week as I waited for the weather to cool down enough for me to turn on the oven, and just went with the cherries from the bodega downstairs. They definitely do the trick, though, adding a sweet, juicy note to the almost-savory cupcakes. And they gave me the inspiration to use these sexy red wrappers I bought recently.

in pieces
Quite elegant, actually.

A few notes about the ganache: while it eventually sets up to the point where it will hold its shape enough to pipe, that takes at least 24 hours in the fridge. Even after that point it’s very soft and melts easily. I prefer to use it as a glaze – you get plenty of the unique caramelized flavor while not overdosing on sticky sweetness.

You may also notice that I used milk as the liquid in the ganache instead of the usual cream. I felt that the white chocolate was fatty enough and any more fat would make it too greasy and slick in the mouth, and I think that was the right choice, considering how buttery-moist this cake recipe is.

Half sweet, half savory, totally awesome.

Toasted White Chocolate Cherry-Almond Cupcakes

First, Make the Ganache:

  1. 200 g chopped white chocolate, divided
  2. 75 g milk

Caramelize half of the white chocolate in a shallow baking dish or sheet pan set in an oven at 250F. Stir every ten minutes and bake until the chocolate is a deep peanut butter color and fragrantly caramelized (don’t worry if it looks grainy, that’s normal). Allow to cool, then transfer to a double boiler over simmering water. Add the rest of the white chocolate and melt both together completely. Meanwhile, heat the milk in the microwave until it’s steaming hot (less than 30 seconds). Remove the melted chocolate from over the simmering water and gently stir in the hot milk until it is completely combined and emulsified. Chill in the refrigerator, stirring once every hour or so, until it is thick, spreadable and no longer runny.

Then, Make the Cakes:

  1. 68 g almond flour
  2. 4 oz butter
  3. 4 oz sugar
  4. 2 eggs
  5. 1/4 tsp vanilla
  6. 46 g AP flour
  7. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  8. Pinch salt
  9. 1/3 cup chopped fresh cherries (from about 8 cherries)

Preheat the oven to 325F. Spread the almond flour out on a small baking sheet (I put mine in a pie tin so I wouldn’t accidentally sweep any away when I was stirring it) and toast, stirring every 2 minutes or so, until it’s fragrant and moderately browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in the eggs and vanilla, scraping down the bowl between additions. Sift together the dry ingredients and, with the mixer off, add all but about 1 Tbsp at once, then mix slowly until the dry is just incorporated. Scrape down the bowl, then toss the chopped cherries with the leftover 1 Tbsp of dry mixture. Gently fold the cherries into the batter. Bake in lined muffin tins for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

To Assemble:

  1. Cupcakes
  2. Ganache
  3. Sanding sugar
  4. Coarse sea salt

Use a small spatula or butter knife to smoothly spread a layer of ganache on each cupcake. Sprinkle lightly with both sugar and salt. Keep refrigerated (the ganache will set up fully once refrigerated overnight).

Makes 8 cupcakes with some ganache left over.

The winner of August’s Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge will receive prizes from:

Thank you to all our prize sponsors!


  1. Oh my goodness, this sounds like my exact favorite combination. I’m not so excited by white chocolate but this new caramel idea sounds wonderful and almond/cherry is my favorite!

  2. This is so flippin’ interesting. Caramelized white chocolate? I never knew such a thing existed! I’ll try it out using your instructions. :)

  3. I’ve never heard of caramelized white chocolate before, so thanks for sharing it with us! I’d love to eat one of these cupcake right now, they look great! Good luck in the competition! :)

  4. What a brilliant idea to caramelize the white chocolate. I’ll also claim ignorance that such a thing even existed. Your combo looks tasty and is certainly a unique one!

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