11 September 2010
Coconut Rooibos Cupcakes
These are some fantastic cupcakes, people. My inspiration for the mods to the recipes I used came from a new tea from Victorian Pantry. Steve, the owner, uses a unique, personalized blend of coffee that he has roasted just prior to shipping. He now offers a selection of specially blended teas that I decided to try. Obviously, I am using the coconut rooibos as the flavoring in the cupcakes.
Rooibos is a South African red herbal tea and has a light, unique flavor. It also looks pretty, tinting the water red. Since it's herbal, it's also caffeine free. Coupled with coconut, how can you go wrong here? My only concern was getting the flavor from the tea to come through in the cupcake completely. To do this, I decided to infused the liquid in the recipe (the milk in both the cupcakes and frosting) and let the milk for the cupcakes come back to room temperature.
You may notice specks. Specks in the frosting and specks in the cupcake itself. That's because I chose not to strain the tea leaves because I liked the look. There really is nothing wrong with eating the tea leaves (I already ate a cupcake and didn't die) and it looks pretty.
For the cupcake, I chose a recipe from Joy of Baking for vanilla cupcakes. Unfortunately, the cupcakes were a little on the dry side. I kind of figured, using only 1/4 cup of milk, and I should have increased it to 1/2 a cup. Or I don't know, because it would have ruined the yield. Anyway, they rose nicely and had perfect domes. I added 1 1/2 teaspoons tea leaves to the milk after it had been scalded.
The flour frosting I made is something many of you might think unusual. It's more like a Swiss meringue buttercream than a standard buttercream, though instead of an egg white-sugar mixture you make a quick pudding with flour, sugar, salt, and milk. To this mixture, right in the pot, I added 1 1/2 teaspoons tea leaves. Once the pudding mixture has cooled (I beat it for a bit, let it set, beat some more, etc.), you add in all the butter and beat until the butter emulsifies into the pudding and thickens to a frosting.
A few tips: This pudding only turns the texture of a paste. It won't be thick, but should still pass the spoon test. Make sure the butter is at room temperature -- a bit cool, but can easily be indented with your finger. If it's too soft, the frosting will be soft.
My overall thoughts on this recipe is that it made a good amount for just 12 cupcakes with just a bit extra. It seemed less temperamental than a Swiss meringue buttercream, as you can add all the butter at once and I didn't have any issues with separation. I made a pastry cream frosting a while ago for the Hostess Orange Cupcake birthday cake and really liked it, though it's not quite as sturdy. Anyway, it's really easy and delicious.
As for the tea itself, the flavor was light with a floral note, and had a smooth coconut essence. I felt it was enhanced by a bit of sweetener. The scent was incredible, and I have to say its one of my new favorite teas.
Next time you want a dessert with a unique twist, get creative with the flavorings by adding different teas to the mix. Even if you aren't a big tea drinker, you will still appreciate how tea enhances baking.