Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Holy Cannoli Batman

A few days ago I was searching for cupcake inspiration. I ran through any number of ideas, some of which I plan to make, but none of which lit my fire right then. Desperate, I reached out to friends and acquaintances looking for inspiration. I got some pretty good ideas (Crème Brulee) and some pretty bad ones (fish), but still couldn’t find anything that I really wanted to make right now. Finally, someone told me about something called a Cannoli Cake, which is apparently very popular right now. It is a sponge cake, brushed with some kind of alcohol syrup (recipes vary), and filled and frosted with a ricotta based frosting, like a traditional cannoli. While I wasn’t a fan of the cannoli cake methodology, I liked the cannoli idea in its broadest strokes. I knew pistachios were a traditional ingredient in a cannoli, so I decided to go with a pistachio cake, which I would both fill and frost with a ricotta based frosting (essentially cannoli filling. To me, one of the joys of the cannoli is biting into it and having the filling burst into your mouth, so these cupcakes needed to be filled with the ricotta as well as frosted with it. I used a modified version of the pistachio cupcake recipe from Vanilla Garlic.

I was very happy with how these cupcakes turned out. I’ve never made cannoli before, and I’m not Italian, so I have no traditional family recipe for the filling. Instead I amalgamated recipes I found online in a way I thought I would enjoy. I thought they tasted a lot like cannoli that I am used to. The one thing they were lacking was the crunch of a traditional cannoli. I’m not really sure how to go about adding that though. I also would have liked to use some pistachios in the filling/frosting, but I ran out in making the cake (I actually had to substitute in 1/3 blanched, unroasted almonds in their place). Also, this frosting is not quite stiff enough to be pipable. You might be able to add more sugar too it to fix the problem, but I didn’t want to make it too sweet.

Pistachio Cupcakes

Makes ~15

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
¼ tsp vanilla
½ cup whole milk
¾ cup of unsalted, unroasted pistachios (shelled) (If you don’t have enough/any pistachios, substitute blanched, raw almonds)
1 cup AP flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

1. Preheat your oven to 350. Prepare cupcake pans. Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Incorporate the eggs one at a time, mixing fully after each addition.

2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, grind the pistachios until they are chopped finely. Be careful not to over-mix, or you risk turning them into pistachio butter. Add the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt, and pulse several times until combined.

3. Add the milk and vanilla to the butter mixture, and beat to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Set the mixer to low speed and add the flour/nut mixture in several small doses. Do not wait till each amount is combined to add the next amount. Once all the flour is added, scrape down the sides of the mixer and beat the batter for 30 seconds so that it is fully combined.

4. Fill the cupcake liners using a ¼ cup measure. Bake the cupcakes for 16-20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Set aside on a rack to cool.

Cannoli Filling

This makes more than you will need for 15 cupcakes, but I’ll bet you can find something else to do with it.

30 oz ricotta cheese (My Kroger just sells it in containers this size)
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
2-3 Tbs Orange Liqueur (Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, etc) (use orange extract if you prefer, but use much less)
½ tsp finely chopped orange zest
½ cup miniature chocolate chips

1. Whisk together everything but the chocolate chips. Add more sugar or orange flavoring till you get it to your taste.

2. Fold in the chocolate chips.

3. Fill the cupcakes with the filling using the cone method. This is a cupcake that is about the filling, so try to get a lot of space in there to fill. Frost the cupcakes with the same stuff.

4. Sprinkle the tops of the cupcakes with chopped pistachios if you so choose (I didn’t).

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