April 1, 2009

Spinach and Sardine Cupcakes

I'm been wanting to make a savory cupcake for a while but needed some inspiration to get me started. When my son Alex showed some interest in a can of sardines at the store recently I knew I had to make something special with them. The spinach pasta for the recent Daring Baker lasagna made me think of the perfect combination, spinach and sardines!

For the cake, I chose a simple onion and thyme flavored sponge cake that wouldn't overpower the toppings. The trick was to have just enough sugar to keep the cake tender and yet remain savory. If I made it again I might use caramelized onions in place of the onion puree to give a richer flavor but using sweet onions was good enough for this first try. For the frosting, I would have loved to use whipped cream with spinach puree but with Alex's dairy allergies that wasn't an option. Instead I made up fresh mayonnaise lightened with extra lemon juice to cut through the fattiness of the sardine.

Yes, these will be intimidating for your kids to take the first bite. Encourage them to go for the head first and the brave ones will step up to the challenge. Just think of how packed with minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D these little fish are!

-Nutritional facts for sardines
-Pacific sardines get a best choice rating from Seafood Watch
-If eating the whole fish isn't for you, try this Sardine Pate recipe on TriniGourmet

Update: Of course, don't really make this recipe. Any cupcake flavor with green frosting will do. The fish on top are fondant with luster dust and black food color and here's how to make them. They did look disgustingly realistic once you bit the head off though. Special thanks to Rachel from one of my favorite sites, Cupcakes Take The Cake for this post. You can't fool all of the people all of the time but fooling even just one on April Fool's Day is the best!

Spinach and Sardine Cupcakes
For Oscar
Makes 12 cupcakes

Cake ingredients:
1 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 large sweet yellow onion, peeled
1/4 cup melted margarine (or butter)
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar

Topping ingredients:
1 cup neutral oil (if you prefer you can use a flavorful oil like extra virgin olive oil)
1 egg (to be safest use a pasteurized egg)
2-3 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons smooth pureed spinach
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
canned whole sardines for garnish

-Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and line a cupcake tin with papers.
-Sift together the flour, baking powder, thyme, onion powder and salt and set aside.
-Take the onion and the melted margarine and process together in a food processor until it forms a smooth pulp. Set this aside as well.
-Separate the eggs for the cake and place the yolks in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Add 2 tablespoons of the sugar and beat until very light in color and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they foam. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar while whisking until the whites form stiff peaks.
-Add the margarine and onion pulp to the yolks and beat to incorporate. Fold the flour mixture into the yolk mixture just until combined. You don't have to be very careful with your folding at this point.
-Take one third of the whipped whites and mix into the yolk and flour combination. Add another third of the whites and carefully fold until only a streak of white is left. Add the final third and fold until no whites are visible.
-Spoon into the cupcake papers filling only half way. These will rise quite a lot.
-Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick entered in comes out clean.
-Cool completely.
-Make the spinach mayonnaise to frost the cupcakes by beating the egg with the salt and half of the lemon juice and then drizzling in the oil gradually until a thick and creamy base is created. Once the mayo is nice and thick add the spinach puree and more lemon juice and salt as desired.
-Frost each cupcake with the spinach mayo and then top with a plump whole sardine. Be sure to pat the sardines off with a paper towel to remove any excess oil before adding.
-Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for later.

My son Alex is fearless and went right for the head.
There was no way to keep Abbie away from these during the picture taking.