Iron Cupcake: San Francisco – PEPPER! Spicy Orange Szechuan Pepper Cupcakes

Yesterday I participated in my first Iron Cupcake: San Francisco Challenge! It was super fun, and the cupcakes were awesome! I totally got my ass kicked on the presentation front. 🙂 I’m already looking forward to the next month.

The secret ingredient this month was Pepper. I immediately thought of the Szechuan Peppercorns I’ve had sitting in my cupboard for… well, a really long time. Somehow, my mind immediately went: “orange!” I got this notion in my mind that since Orange goes well with cloves, cardamom, and other similar spices it would probably go well with Szechuan Pepper as well. I didn’t want the cupcake to be too peppery, so I made plain orange cupcakes, and then made an orange frosting spiked with the pepper. It turned out really really well. I ended up adding a little white pepper and a pinch of red chili pepper to add a little extra kick!

The orange flavor in these is really luscious. If you want, you can leave out the pepper and get some kick-ass orange cupcakes!


Orange Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes or about 24 mini cupcakes

1 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
3/4 cup Sugar
1 cup Butter, at room temperature (1 stick)
2 Large Eggs
3/4 tsp Orange Oil
Zest of 1/4 Orange
1/2 cup minus 1 Tbsp Whole Milk
1 Tbsp Orange Juice

Preheat oven to 375F
Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners

1) In a medium bowl, sift & whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
2) In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium, cream butter and sugar.
2) Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low until fully combined and smooth, then beat in orange zest and orange oil.
4) Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk, beating until just combined after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
5) Add orange juice and beat until just combined and no stray flour remains.
6) Divide batter among prepared cupcake liners. Bake until golden and a toothpick comes out clean, about 18-19 minutes for regular sized cupcakes or about 15 minutes for minis. When done, cool on a wire rack for about an hour. Cool completely before frosting!


You can frost these with my Spicy Orange-Szechuan Pepper Buttercream, below (or omit the pepper to get plain Orange Cupcakes). Or use the frosting of your choice! I imagine a chocolate frosting such as my Chocolate Creme Fraiche Frosting would go really nicely with these. You could even add some orange oil to your favorite chocolate frosting to up the orange-flavor ante!


Spicy Orange-Szechuan Pepper Buttercream
Makes enough to frost 1 batch of cupcakes (I usually have a little left over)

2 cups Butter (4 sticks), at room temperature
1 cup Powdered Sugar
Zest of 1/4 Orange
3/4 tsp Orange Oil
2 Tbsp freshly ground Szechuan Peppercorns
1 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp red chili (cayenne) pepper

In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar. With an electric mixer, cream together until smooth and fully combined. Add orange zest & orange oil and mix until fully incorporated. Add all 3 peppers, then mix until just combined. Voila! You’re ready to frost.




Hot Cocoa Cupcakes: The Recipe

TamsinCakes’ Hot Cocoa Cupcakes are moist, dark & chocolatey with a lightly sweetened, stabilized whipped cream frosting. I like to decorate them with chocolate curls & a piece of Cadbury’s Flake, ’cause that’s what I think of when I think “hot cocoa”. Brings back warm childhood memories. 🙂

I’ve written about them before, and some of you may have tasted them, but I haven’t shared the recipe yet. I wanted to make sure they were perfect, and I think I’ve got them pretty close. These cupcakes have been such a hit with tasters & customers that I know there are probably a lot of people who would like the recipe!

I’ve already posted the recipe for the delicious Whipped Cream Frosting, so I’ve just linked to it here. These would also be delicious topped with some Chocolate Creme Fraiche Frosting for some double chocolate action – yum!


(1 dozen)

3/4 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder (I use E. Guittard Cocoa Rouge)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C granulated sugar (I like the superfine “Bakers’ Sugar”)
1/2 C dark brown sugar, firmly packed
4 Tbsp unsalted butter (1/2 stick), room temperature
1 large egg (room temperature)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C lukewarm water
1/4 C heavy cream (room temperature)
1 Recipe Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting
Block of good quality dark chocolate (needs to be a block, not a bar, so you can shave off curls with a vegetable peeler or your favorite chocolate-curling device)
2 Cadbury’s Flakes, cut into 12 pieces

1) Preheat your oven to 375F, and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
2) In a small bowl, sift together cocoa powder, flour, baking soda and salt.
3) In a large bowl, cream the butter & sugars together using an electric mixer on medium speed. Make sure the sugar is free of clumps, as any clumps left in the batter will explode in the oven, causing some or all of the affected cupcake to spill over and turn burnt & crunchy. (This happened to me the first couple of times.)
4) Add the egg & vanilla to the creamed butter/sugar, mixing on medium speed until everything is fully combined & smooth.
5) Add the cocoa mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the lukewarm water & cream. Beat on medium-low speed after each addition, until everything is just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed, and do not overmix.
6) Bake for 17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out completely clean.
7) Cool on a wire rack, making sure the cupcakes are fully cooled before frosting. This is especially important with the whipped cream frosting, as it may melt & all the effects of the stabilization will be lost!

Top the cupcakes TamsinCakes style, with Whipped Cream Frosting, dark chocolate curls, and a piece of Flake – or however you like them!

Published in: on July 1, 2009 at 4:37 pm  Comments (3)  
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Red Chai Chocolate Cupcakes – with Recipe!

Red Chai Chocolate 1

I love chai, and I really wanted to make a delicious, new spin on chai cupcakes. I’ve also recently gotten into Rooibos (Red) tea. The idea of somehow combining the two was in the back of my mind when I was passing the tea aisle in the store and noticed that Yogi Tea makes a Rooibos Chai – perfect! I decided to use that in my cupcakes. Now to figure out how to incorporate it into the batter! I toyed with a few ideas, including grinding the tea leaves and adding them straight in, but settled on making a tea concentrate – basically a really concentrated cup of tea. If you decide to make these cupcakes yourself, you can do the tea concentrate with any chai you like, or even perhaps use one of those boxed chai mixes (although if you do that, you should probably decrease the sugar and/or honey in the recipe, as those mixes are usually sweetened).

As for the frosting, I was stuck for a while, wanting to do something a little unusual that wouldn’t be too sweet and would balance nicely with the chai. At first I was thinking of doing a cream cheese frosting, but I thought that wasn’t quite exciting enough… I also wanted to incorporate chocolate somehow, and wanted the frosting to have a slight tang to contrast with the sweetness of the honey in the cupcakes. Then it hit me – creme fraiche! I added a tub of creme fraiche to my usual buttercream recipe, and decreased the amount of egg whites, butter and sugar. For the chocolate flavor, I added a small amount of melted milk chocolate chips mixed with unsweetened cocoa. I usually use dark chocolate in my baking, but I went with milk this time because I wanted the chocolate flavor to be really light and subtle.

After I added the creme fraiche, I was mixing it in, waiting for it to become smooth & take on a nice sheen, when – oh horror – it started to clump! Then, rather than getting better, it started to separate and a huge puddle of liquid started to form, splattering me all over. I turned the mixer up to high, and kept mixing, just hoping it would eventually come together again. But no! It just kept getting worse. I was about to give up (and cry a little). Then finally, just a little, I saw the clumps start to smooth out, and the puddle start to dissipate – Yes!! I kept going, and it took a while, but finally it all came together and eventually even looked beautiful. And the frosting and the cupcakes lived happily ever after. The End.

Seriously though… The chocolate creme fraich frosting turned out even better than I was hoping. It’s lightly sweet, lightly chocolatey, with a richness and subtle tang from the creme fraiche. Totally delicious by itself (ahem) and with the chai cupcakes!

Red Chai Chocolate 2
Deliciously moist inside!

Deliciously moist inside!

Inspired by the Chai & Honey Cupcakes in Shelly Kaldunski’s Cupcakes

Tea Concentrate (Remove tea leaves from 5 bags Yogi Tea Rooibos Chai [or your tea of choice] into a small bowl, cover with 1/2 cup boiling water, steep 5 minutes, strain + cool)
1 1/4 cups All-purpose flour
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (I just use a dash & don’t measure)
1/4 cup honey
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup whole milk (room temp)
1 large egg (room temp)

1) Preheat oven to 375F, and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
2) Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl
3) With an electric mixer on low speed, mix together honey, melted butter, milk, and egg in a large bowl until smooth & fully blended.
4) Add flour mixture to wet ingredients, mixing with an electric mixer on medium speed just until fully combined & smooth. (Do not overmix.)
5) Add cooled tea concentrate and mix until just combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed.
6) Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 17 minutes, or until reddish-golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before frosting.


2 large egg whites (room temp)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp, cut into 4 pieces
7.5 oz creme fraiche
3 oz milk chocolate chips, melted + 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (combined & slightly cooled)

1) In a heatproof bowl (or the top part of a double boiler) combine egg whites and both sugars. Set over a pan (or bottom of double boiler) of simmering water. Whisk until sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. (The mixture should have a slightly thick, syrupy consitency.)
2) Remove sugar mixture from heat and scrape into a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on high speed until mixture is white and glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes.
3) Add butter, piece by piece, beating constantly on medium speed until combined.
4) Add creme fraiche, and continue to beat on medium speed until the mixture looks thick, smooth and slightly glossy, about 2 minutes. If the mixture separates & looks lumpy or wet (this happens to me every time), increase speed to high and continue to beat until the mixture has come together and is smooth, thick & slightly glossy (this can take a while, but don’t get discouraged – it will happen).
5) Finally, scrape in the slightly cooled chocolate and mix, on medium speed, until thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary (about 1 minute).

Spread the frosting thickly onto the cooled cupcakes with a butter knife or a small spatula. If you like, top with a small piece of bittersweet chocolate.
Published in: on June 17, 2009 at 9:14 pm  Comments (3)  
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TamsinCakes on Flickr + Adventures in Stabilized Whipped Cream

Want to see more cupcake photos? Now you can! TamsinCakes is now on Flickr:

There is also now a Flickr “widget” on the right-hand column of the blog (beneath the Twitter feed); check there to see if I’ve added new photos, and then click through to see more!

Adventures in Stabilized Whipped Cream

Light & fluffy Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting!

Light & fluffy Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting!

It’s been an exciting week here at TamsinCakes, as I’ve been fiddling and tweaking to perfect my whipped cream frosting. I quickly learned that just using sweetened whipped cream was not going to cut it; after even 30 minutes, the whipped cream would start to deflate and sag. I want my cupcakes to look pretty for longer than that, so I decided I had to find a proper way of stabilizing the whipped cream so it would stay put and not deflate at room temperature.

After doing some research, I discovered (with the help of this recipe) that the key was adding just a touch of gelatine at the end when whipping the cream. This worked wonderfully. The whipped cream came out light and fluffy and without any difference in taste, and it held its shape remarkably well without looking at all stiff.

Happy with my results, I went on to use the stabilized whipped cream frosting (quite a mouthful to say! Let’s call it SWC frosting for short) on my next batch of Hot Cocoa cupcakes. In my eagerness, I just couldn’t wait to frost them, and didn’t cool the cupcakes as long as usual. I think you can guess what’s coming…

The cupcakes looked great. Beautiful, fluffy white whipped cream on top. And then I put them in their carrier to take them to some testers. And all SWC frosting hell broke loose!! The warmth from the cupcakes heated the cream, destroying the gelatine’s hard work and causing the frosting to ever… sooo… sloooowllllyyyyyy…… run down the sides of the cupcakes. I watched it happen, powerless to do anything, and cursing my earlier haste. They still tasted great, but the whipped cream never did set up again, remaining gloopy and messy. These were not fit for my lovely testers, so I kept them for the family (who wolfed them down).

This tragedy *sniff* reminded me that in baking, you simply must be patient no matter how excited you are!! (Not my strong suit, let me tell you.)

Sadly I didn’t get any photos of the SWC disaster (I was too ashamed).

I made a new batch of cupcakes and SWC frosting this morning, and waited long enough this time. 🙂 The result was great!

Stays light and fluffy on the cupcake! :)

Stays light and fluffy on the cupcake! 🙂

Stabilized Whipped Cream Recipe

1 tsp Gelatine
1/4 cup Hot Water
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
3 Tbsp Confectioner’s Sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp Vanilla

Large mixing bowl (glass works well), Electric mixer, Small microwave-safe bowl

1) Place mixing bowl & beaters from the electric mixer in the freezer for 15 minutes or so to chill. Chilling the bowl and beaters make the cream whip up faster and with more volume.

2) In the small bowl, combine the gelatine and hot water, stirring well until gelatine dissolves. If it’s not dissolving, pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds or so and then stir again. That should do the trick. Let the gelatine cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes.

3) Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla in the chilled mixing bowl. Whip with the electric mixer on low speed until cream starts to thicken, about a minute.

4) Gradually increase speed up to medium-high. Continue to whip cream until the beaters leave visible (but not lasting) trails in the cream, then add the cooled gelatine slowly, beating continuously.

5) Continue whipping until the cream is light and fluffy and holds soft peaks. Be careful not to over-beat it so the cream doesn’t become lumpy.

You’re done! The SWC should hold its shape and be easy to scoop with a spatula. It can be made a day ahead, and will get even more solid when refrigerated. The SWC can easily be piped onto cakes/cupcakes using a regular decorating bag. 🙂

Have fun!

Published in: on June 5, 2009 at 2:50 pm  Comments (8)  
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