I promised an update today, and it's still technically Sunday, at least where I live, so this counts. Well, the month of June is almost over, and so as a habitual procrastinator it’s time for me to submit my Cupcake Hero entry. This month cupcake hero is being hosted by April of Abby Sweets. The theme selected this month was a summery melon theme, which really threw me. A few weeks before this theme was announced, I was considering making melon bars (I made tropical fruit bars instead), I told a friend, about the idea and she responded “Baked melon? Really?” And it occurred to me that she was right, melon is not a flavor one typically associates with baking. I was left with a challenge.
How to flavor a cupcake with melon? This poses a number of problems. The first is what flavors to compliment it with? Melon is not an overwhelmingly strong flavor, especially if you are unlucky enough to get a tasteless melon. I got lots of suggestions, but it seems to me that pretty much any other fruit (banana, pineapple, coconut), would overwhelm the taste of the melon. Then a friend of mine suggested prosciutto and melon as inspiration. I didn’t think I would want to use actual prosciutto in my cupcakes, but matching the something salty with the melon sounded like a good idea, maybe in the form of a salted caramel frosting. As I was bouncing this idea around in my head, I continued to seek ideas for other kinds of melon cupcakes, people suggested pistachio, mixed fruit, Midori, and finally what I settled on, Green Tea (Matcha).
But of course, Green Tea and salted caramel really didn’t seem to go together, so what was I to do? Why, make two kinds of cupcakes of course! That’s right, this is another edition of Animus Cupcake where two cupcake recipes duel it out for supremacy. I don’t know if I’m actually allowed two cupcake hero entries, so only one of them may be an official cupcake hero contestant (If I had put this post up earlier I would have had people vote on which cupcake would progress to the Cupcake Hero battleground).
So who are the contestants? On the sweet and salty side we have Cantaloupe Cupcakes filled with cantaloupe curd and topped with salted caramel frosting with candied prosciutto (yes, you can candy prosciutto). On the Green tea side we have Cantaloupe and Matcha Cupcakes with a Cantaloupe and Matcha Swiss Meringue Butter Cream frosting. Post your votes as to which you think is the superior cupcake, or just ogle the pictures and wish you lived somewhere near me. Either way, I hope you enjoy the recipes.
About cantaloupes: I was able to use one large cantaloupe for everything in both of these recipes. Having a good cantaloupe was key. Here are the things I look for when choosing a cantaloupe: 1) The outside of the melon is sort of veined, between the veins the melon should be yellow, not green. If the melon looks green there, it is not ripe. 2) Push on the ends of the melon, it should give just a little. If the melon is rock hard, it’s not ripe. 3) smell the melon, a good melon will smell faintly through its husk, especially at the ends. If you’re sense of smell isn’t very good, put the melon in a plastic bag and close it. Take the bag with you while you do the rest of your shopping, and then open the bag and smell in. It should smell very strongly of cantaloupe. I did these three things before choosing the cantaloupe I used for this recipe, and got one of the most delicious melons I’ve had in a long time
Cantaloupe Cupcakes (I used the cake recipe from Cupcake Bakeshop)
Makes 15 cupcakes1 ½ cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3/8 cup vegetable oil
½ tsp vanilla
½ cup pureed cantaloupe
¾ cup diced cantaloupe
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in the sugar.
2. In a separate bowl beat together the eggs, oil, and vanilla.
3. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and beat to combine. The batter will be very dry at this point, don’t worry.
4. Whisk in the pureed cantaloupe. Fold in the diced cantaloupe.
5. Fill cupcake liners with a ¼ cup measure. Bake cupcakes for ~22 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean (the recipe at cupcake bakeshop says to bake for 30 minutes). These cupcakes are very moist, and somewhat sticky on top.
Makes about a cup, which is just enough to fill both cupcake recipes, if limit to 1 tsp of curd/cupcake3 egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
½ cup melon puree
1 tsp lemon
3 Tbs butter, cut into chunks
1. Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, melon puree, and lemon juice. Place the mixture over a double boiler and begin heating.
2. Stirring constantly, heat the mixture until it is hot to the touch, or 170 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Make sure you don’t not let the mixture get to boiling.
3. Remove the mixture from the heat, and let it sit for 30 seconds. Stir the butter into the curd until it melts. Put the curd into the fridge to let it set.
Salted Caramel Frosting (also from the Cupcake Bakeshop)
Makes 3-4 cups
When I made this frosting, I made more of a burnt caramel frosting. This was mostly due to accident, but it tasted REALLY good. For making the caramel I chose a pan that looked thick, but evidently did not heat evenly. The result was that one side of the pan turned dark (up to 350+ degrees according to my candy thermometer), while the other side was still clear. The caramel by itself was pretty strongly burnt, but when mixed with the other frosting ingredients it was divine. The recipe I’m providing here is for the regular caramel frosting, but if you want to make it burnt, just let at least some of the caramel get very dark.4 Tbs water
1 cup sugar
2 Tbs light corn syrup
½ cup heavy cream
2 Tbs butter
½ tsp lemon juice
½ tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter (softened)
8 oz. fat free cream cheese
3 cups powdered sugar (the bakeshop recipe uses 5-6 cups, but I thought three was plenty).
1. Stir together the water, sugar and corn syrup in a deep saucepan, and cook covered over medium heat for three minutes
2. Turn the heat up to medium high and bring the mixture to a boil. You should no longer stir the caramel, but you can shake it to ensure even heating (I tried shaking to no effect).
3. Cook until the caramel turns an even amber color (to make it burnt, let at least some of the caramel turn dark brown, see the picture below to see what mine looked like). Remove the caramel from the heat and let it sit for 30 seconds.
4. THIS PART IS DANGEROUS. Wearing oven mitts and standing back, pour in the heavy cream. The caramel will bubble up a lot. Carefully stir in the 2 Tbs butter, lemon juice, and salt.
5. Pour off the caramel into a bowl, and let it sit until it is cooled and thickened. At least 20-30 minutes.
6. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese and two sticks of butter until fluffy. Beat in the powdered sugar until fully combined. Then beat in the caramel until fully combined.
Candied Prosciutto1 Tbs butter
1 ½ Tbs Olive Oil
4-5 Sheets thin sliced prosciutto
1. Heat the oil and the butter in a frying pan until it begins to bubble. Lay down the prosciutto in one layer on the bottom of the pan. The prosciutto will begin to crinkle and look like bacon. Cook it until it is dark and crispy.
3. Place the prosciutto on a metal wire cooling rack. Cover the cooked prosciutto liberally with sugar. I found the best way to do it evenly was to use a sifter/strainer to shake the sugar over the prosciutto (if you place the rack over a bowl, you can catch and reuse the sugar later).
4. Use a cooking torch to caramelize the sugar you have sprinkled over the prosciutto. Be careful when you do this. Also, the prosciutto will have residual grease from cooking in it, and may catch lightly on fire. Don’t worry about it, mine always seemed to go out immediately.
5. Once you have caramelized one side of the prosciutto, flip it over, and repeat the caramelizing process with the other side. When you are done you should have crispy, and caramelized prosciutto.
2 cups salted caramel frosting
2 Tbs caramelized prosciutto, finely chopped
1. Using the cone method, cut a hole in the top of each cupcake, and fill it with 1 tsp melon curd.
2. Fold the 2 Tbs chopped prosciutto into the frosting. The prosciutto will have a tendency to clump, so it’s easier to sprinkle it over the frosting than to just dump it all on.
3. Liberally frost the cupcakes.
Matcha and Cantaloupe Cupcakes (I based this recipe on one from Raspberry Eggplant)
Makes 12 cupcakes¾ stick unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
1 ¼ tsp baking powder
1 ¼ cups flour
½ cup + 2 Tbs cantaloupe puree
1 Tbs + 1 tsp matcha (green tea) powder
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a standing mixer cream the butter and the sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg, followed by the vanilla, then salt, then baking powder.
Cantaloupe and Green Tea Swiss Meringue Butter Cream3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) of butter
3 Tbs cantaloupe puree
1 ½ tsp matcha powder
1. Whisk the egg whites and the sugar together over a double boiler. Whisk constantly until eggs are foamy, sugar is dissolved, and the mixture is hot to the touch or registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Put the egg mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on high until stiff peaks form, and the mixture is cooled to room temperature. This should take 7-8 minutes.
3. Add the butter, 1 Tbs at a time, mixing completely after each piece is added. After the 3rd, 6th, and 9th tablespoons of butter, add one tablespoon of melon extract. Add the matcha powder along with the last Tbs of butter.
4. Continue beating until fully combined. The cantaloupe puree in the frosting will keep it from really coming together and being pipeable. Place the frosting in the fridge for at least an hour, and it will firm up.
1. Using the cone method, fill each cupcake with one tsp melon curd
2. Frost liberally.