Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Spiced Cupcakes with Citrus Glaze (Cupcake of the Month Series #1)

Everybody loves cupcakes, right?  Especially little tiny cupcakes that are just enough to calm your sweet tooth, the kind you can share with lots of friends.

Like these:

This is January's featured cupcake in my Martha Stewart 2012 Cupcake calendar.  The recipe is for Spiced Cupcakes with Citrus Glaze. They are delightful.  I did have to adapt the recipe a little bit, mostly because of availability of ingredients.

For one thing, I used skim milk rather than whole milk, as is called for in the recipe. This is mainly because that's what we use, and even if I only bought a pint of whole milk, 3/4 of the bottle would spoil before I could use the rest of it.  Because, really, we don't need to encourage me to make a full-calorie chocolate cream pie, do we? And I've tested whole milk versus skim milk in lots of recipes before, and it really didn't seem to make a huge difference in taste or texture.  So if you have whole milk, go for it.  But clearly you can use whatever milk you have on hand.

Secondly, I used cake flour instead of all-purpose flour.  Why?  Because I had over half a bag of it sitting in one of my canisters and I really needed to use it.  Cake flour can be substituted for all-purpose in a variety of baked goods, cakes (and cupcakes, obviously) being at the top of the list.  And again, I don't think it made that big a difference.

Lastly, I had to do a spice substitution.  The recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom.

Now, raise your hand if you've ever used, or heard of, cardamom.

I'd come across it in a couple recipes, but let me tell you something.

Cardamom must be ground from the seeds of a gold plant with platinum leaves. Because you can't find it among the "regular" spices.  Oh no.  It's in one of those special glass bottles on the top shelf of the spice section.  And you can't get a small bottle. No.  You have to buy a big bottle.  And that bottle is going to cost you upwards of $11.

Yes I know.

And the kicker is that ground cardamom has a shelf life of, like, negative three seconds, so unless you're going to make massive amounts of cupcakes and cookies that call for it, you're going to use that one 1/2 teaspoon and then end up with a bottle of flavorless brown dust.  Or so the internet tells me.

Well, I might like to go a little crazy with butter now and again, but I try to be frugal with my food and ingredient purchases when I can.  $11 for a bottle of a highly temperamental spice that I'm going to use once in the next six months just doesn't add up.

Fortunately, according to The Cook's Thesaurus, you can substitute equal parts cinnamon and nutmeg for the cardamom.

Spice and savings problem solved.

So now that I've vented my incredulity over the price of cardamom, I bet you want to find out how to make these tiny treats, right?

First, bring two sticks of butter to room temperature.  I decided I was going to get fancy and try the January baking tip, which suggests shaving butter with a cheese grater so it more quickly comes to room temperature, thus making it easier to cream.  Well, I decided to do this after letting the butter sit out for almost an hour.  Let me just say, this is clearly a tip to use only if you are taking the butter directly out of the fridge and intend to use it within the next ten minutes.  Because about halfway through each stick (yes, I did this twice) I gave up and just smooshed the butter into submission.

Next I added a cup of light brown sugar...

(So pretty, isn't it?)

...and creamed the butter and sugar together until they were light and fluffy.

Next I added two eggs, beating well in between each addition.  You do have to scrap down the sides of the bowl periodically.

In a second bowl I combined the flour, salt, and spices, then measured out a half cup of milk.

You combine the flour mixture and milk into the egg/sugar/butter mixture, alternating between three additions of flour and two additions of milk.  It will be lovely and velvety and smell amazing.

Now, the instruction card said to butter the cups of two mini-muffin pans, and based on the directions to bake both pans at the same time in the oven, along with the inference that you will then be done baking, I took it to mean two 24-cup mini-muffin tins.

I, however, have but one sad, lonely, 12-cup mini-muffin tin.

I know.

But I forged ahead. Since I only have the one tin, I decided to line the cups instead of having to wash and butter between batches.

It worked fine.  I also used my cookie scoop to transfer the batter to the cups, but I think my scoop is smaller than a tablespoon because my first batch was really small.  Then I overloaded the second two batches and only got 36 cupcakes all together.

And because I was working in batches instead of all at once, the batter settled a bit, so I got some areas that were really spicy or really sugary.

But that's okay.

Because I'm an over-achiever, I decided to peel every stinking cupcake wrapper off these little darlings before glazing them.

It actually didn't take that long and I was glad I did it.  I transferred the cupcakes to my smaller cake racks and set about making the glaze.

I combined powdered sugar and orange juice in a bowl and stirred it up until it was smooth.

Then I divided the glaze into three bowls and dyed them three exceedingly vibrant colors.

I used a teaspoon to coat the tops of the cupcakes with the glaze. It was lovely, smelled so orange-y, and dripped beautifully off the sides of the cupcakes.  Most of the glaze ended up on the paper towels I put down to protect my counter from extreme stickiness, but the end effect was amazing.

If you don't glaze the cupcakes they'll keep for a week in an airtight container.  If you do glaze, let them sit until the glaze is dry, then transfer them to an airtight container. They might last a week, but if you bring them to work (like I did), most of them won't last a day.


  1. I have some mini-tart pans. Do you want them?

  2. Your entries make me smile. The fact that I do not have a cupcake like this in my mouth right now does not make me smile.

  3. Katie, I'd ship you some but I don't think they'd keep! The best part is that, because they're minis, you don't feel terribly guilty about enjoying just one. I calculated that they're about 90 calories each. Which isn't bad, really.

    Perhaps we can arrange some sort of barter system... What sort of awesome historical costuming could I get if I kept you in baked goods for a year?