Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Pudding Cupcakes

See those glorious specks in the browned butter frosting? Perfection!

At the end of my whirlwind trip to London last year I found myself with a few hours to kill in Heathrow Airport. You know how they tell you to get there hours before your flight is scheduled to leave? Yeah, that's good advice if the wait in the security line is longer than five minutes or there's a problem with your ticket. Otherwise you'll be sitting there becoming increasingly hungry and might find yourself tempted by the overpriced food vendors. After I polished off a bacon, tomato, cheese, and ketchup baguette I was still ready for more. Must have been emotional stress eating at the thought of leaving my beloved London. Although it seems silly to visit an American chain while overseas, I gravitated toward the Starbucks kiosk in search of a festive holiday drink to end my dream vacation. I try to avoid desserts from chain stores that don't specialize in baked goods but while I was scrutinizing the menu for differences between the US version and the UK branch, a certain item caught my eye in the bakery case: a Christmas pudding cupcake.

Frankly, it didn't look that impressive and the photo I snapped of it is even more underwhelming but I found myself unable to resist anything with the word "cupcake" in the name. I was intrigued by what their version of Christmas pudding in cupcake form might taste like. Turns out the answer to that was simple and easy to sum up: delicious. I wish I had clearer memories of the flavors involved but I remember that the cake contained just the right amount of raisins to be reminiscent of Christmas pudding without being overly dense. The frosting was of the kind I would happily eat with a spoon straight out of the bowl, delicately flavored and paired nicely with the cake. Aside from confusion over the name I think it's something that would sell nicely here in the US.

I promised myself I'd try to recreate it in my own kitchen once I got home but somehow that plan fell by the wayside as I plunged into the holiday season. So here I am a year later unable to recollect the delicious details. After my suggestion to take a trip to England purely for the purpose of taste testing another was ruthlessly shot down by my husband, I decided to come up with my own interpretation of a Christmas pudding cupcake that may or may not resemble Starbucks' version. No matter as these are delicious concoctions in their own right.

Surprisingly, no one else out there on the internet seems to have tried this concept so I had to start completely from scratch. Of course, to add to my problem there just have to be hundreds of widely varying Christmas pudding recipes out there. I should also say that the one time I had Christmas pudding it wasn't my favorite, so I wasn't eager to completely copy the stuff. Just capture the essence in a more cake-like form. From my research, I came away with the thought that the defining characteristics are dried fruit in the form of raisins, cranberries, dates, etc. and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Booze is a popular addition but since I don't own any of the traditional ones like rum or brandy I left that aspect out. I think it would be a welcome change to my recipe if you'd like to try it for yourself. I started with a sticky date cupcake recipe from the indispensable 125 Best Cupcake Recipes and went crazy from there. I substituted raisins and dried cranberries for some of the dates, decreased the overall amount of fruit, threw in some mixed citrus peel, and added the necessary spices to give it that holiday flair. The cake's a little denser than I envisioned so perhaps next time I'll try it with a more traditional vanilla cake recipe as my starter, but the denseness does work with the spices and fruit to emulate a good old fashioned fruitcake. There's just the right amount of fruit in each cupcake and the unexpected citrus burst from the mixed peel is the kicker.

And browned butter frosting? Why did no one ever extol the virtues of browned butter to me before? Damn, is this stuff good. Very, very sweet, but a perfect match for the spiced cake. Quite a winning combo to get me into the holiday spirit!

Christmas Pudding Cupcakes
Recipe adapted from 125 Best Cupcake Recipes by Julie Hasson

1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped dates
1/8 cup mixed peel, chopped
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk

1) Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 12 muffin wells with paper liners.
2) In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine raisins, cranberries, dates, and water. Cook until fruit is soft and water is absorbed. Stir in mixed peel. Set aside and cool.
3) In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg.
4) In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together granulated and brown sugars and butter until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture, beating until combined. Add milk and fruit mixture, beating until smooth.
5) Scoop batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and tops of cupcakes spring back when lightly touched. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on rack.

Browned Butter Frosting
Recipe adapted from The Sister's Cafe

1/3 cup unsalted butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2+ Tb heavy cream

1) Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking, stirring constantly and watching closely, until butter just starts to turn golden (4 to 6 minutes). Butter will get foamy and bubble and you will see black flecks start to form toward the end. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature.
2) Beat butter and powdered sugar with an electric mixer until combined. Add vanilla and gradually add cream until frosting reaches the desired consistency. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

These are especially delicious served warm, so feel free to pop them in the microwave.



Mim Smith Faro said...

These sound delish. I might have to try them over the Christmas break.

Sue said...

Christmas pudding cake in cupcake form; what a great idea!

Lisa said...

Wow! Looks amazing! Great job creating this idea on your own too!

Stacy said...

You always have the best cupcakes posted! And great stories to go with them :) Thanks for linking up today!

The Answer Is Chocolate said...

Sounds wonderful and that browned butter frosting has so many possibilities! Thanks for linking up to my Open House!

AllieMakes! said...

Oh! That recipe looks lovely! I really must give it a go! I hope your trip was lovely!
Thanks for linking up to Making It With Allie! I can't wait to see what you have for next week!

Bella said...

Yummy, as usual I think I gained a pound just looking at this.

Thanks for sharing at **Amaze me AUgust**

Bella :)

Judy said...

My mum is from England and would make Christmas pudding for us with a sixpence hidden in it. Whoever got the sixpence in their serving would have good luck for a year. I like the idea of Christmas pudding cupcakes...it sounds simpler to serve up :)

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

wow, this looks sooo delicious!! thank you so much for sharing the recipe!!