September 21, 2008

Citrus-Basil Cupcakes for Iron Cupcake Earth

I struggled a bit with this month's Iron Cupcake Earth challenge ingredient, basil. Nothing struck me as a the perfect sweet combination for a basil cupcake. I wanted to bring some cupcakes to a park outing with my parents so I decided to just go super simple and combine citrus and basil.

I started with the agave cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. This is a moderately sweet, golden cake that I knew would be moist and tender and not conflict with the basil flavor. I pureed the soymilk for the recipe with a what seemed like a lot of basil leaves. The color of the resulting strained liquid was less than appealing so I added green food coloring to get a bright green color. This unfortunately did not bake true. The cakes were golden on the exterior with a mucky green interior. The basil flavor in the cake didn't carry through and was lost in the slight touch of lemon.

Thankfully, there was better luck to be had with the frosting. I read recently about the advantages of using stick Earth Balance instead of tub for vegan buttercreams and made that switch. This helped stablize the frosting a great deal. I balanced the powdered sugar's sweetness with both lemon and orange juice. The small amount of chopped basil in the frosting gave a surprising amount of basil flavor which combined well with the lemon and orange zests. Alex loved the frosting and I can see myself using it again on a different cake. I fried a few basil leaves for decoration and their transparent, stained glass look was a pretty touch.

I wasn't thrilled with the final cake color,
I like to call it moldy guacamole

Citrus-Basil Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes

2/3 cup soymilk
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
green food coloring, optional
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup neutral oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

-Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake papers
-Blend together the soymilk and basil leaves until fully pureed. Strain out the leaves and add food coloring until it reaches a bright green. Add the vinegar and allow to sit for a few minutes.
-Add the agave nectar, oil and extracts to the soymilk mixture. In a separate bowl sift together the dry ingredients. Add the dry to the wet and mix until combined.
-Fill the cupcake papers two thirds of the way full. Bake 18-22 minutes until set in the center, check with a toothpick or bamboo skewer.
-Cool on a wire rack and frost.

Basil-Citrus Frosting
For 12 cupcakes

1 cup Earth Balance margarine, stick form
2 1/2 - 3 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon orange zest

-Beat the margarine til light and fluffy.
-Add the powdered sugar, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the orange juice. Beat until smooth and fluffy.
-Add the basil and citrus zests and beat until smooth again. Add the remaining tablespoon of orange juice as needed to make a smooth, fluffy frosting.
-Pipe on cupcakes and decorate with a deep fried basil leaf.

This is my Iron Cupcake Earth:Basil entry. You can vote for the best cupcake on Sunday, September 28th at No one puts cupcake in a corner. Voting ends Thursday, October 1st at 12 noon. This month's prizes are from Metal Sugar, Feista Products, Hello Cupcake, Jessie Steele, Cupcake Courier, and Taste of Home.

In other cupcake related news, I consoled myself over losing the previous Iron Cupcake challenge by commissioning a custom dog hill watercolor from Jessie Olson of Cakespy. I loved the watercolor she made of our two dogs, Karmal and Roxy, on a hill with a family of cupcakes. Thanks again Jessie! You can get your own Cakespy art at her Etsy shop.