Saturday, March 24, 2012

olive oil & fennel seed cupcakes with citrus buttercream frosting

Why such infrequent posting these days, especially since I admittedly had a backlog of recipes to share? Two reasons, but the short answer is school. Final projects. Brain is mush. Can't look at computer anymore without having a psychedelic experience. This is the point where I would probably say something along the lines of how cupcakes are a pretty good consolation prize when you're up to your eyeballs in schoolwork. They can keep you motivated ... just one more hour of moving pixels around and then I get to have a cupcake! ... but the reality is that I baked these like 2 weeks ago for my other final project. So no cupcakes in the squirrel household for me to truthfully segue into my topic from.

The cake part of these cupcakes really blew me away. The olive oil played a dual role in both flavour and fat. It's one of those think-outside-the-box scenarios; at first you may think that olive oil isn't meant to have a starring role a cupcake of all things, but you will come around once the shock wears off. I really, really think I could eat olive oil cake all day. Add in fennel seed, top with orange buttercream frosting and BAM, you're in weird-but-awesome cupcake heaven.

I feel I should add that the frosting itself wasn't necessarily the frosting recipe that I would have used (or, if I did, I would have frosted them much less). I baked these cupcakes for a photography final project and I used enough sugar to ensure that it was sturdy. I've included the recipe below because, as I said, with a much smaller amount of frosting it would be okay. It is a pretty standard buttercream recipe so it will be just fine for many. But for those who find frosting to be too sweet (like me), either cut waaaay back on the amount of frosting you use on the cupcakes or use your own citrus frosting recipe. The citrus though - that's key. 

olive oil & fennel seed cupcakes
Adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

Makes 12 cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons whole fennel seed, pounded in a mortar & pestle
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs, separated
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

citrus buttercream frosting
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1/4 cup milk

  • Preheat your oven to 350ºF and line a muffin tin.
  • In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and fennel seed. Set aside.
  • In a second medium bowl, beat the olive oil with 3/4 cup of the sugar until it is light and creamy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, continuing to beat well for approximately 5-7 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as you go. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric beater until they get foamy. Add in the last 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until the egg whites form soft peaks. 
  • Add the dry ingredients into the egg yolk mixture and stir to incorporate. Add in the orange juice without overmixing.
  • Gently fold the egg white mixture in with the batter.
  • Fill liners approximately 2/3 full and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  • Allow cupcakes to cool entirely. While they are cooling, prepare the frosting
  • In a medium sized bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.
  • When cupcakes are cool, frost them and enjoy!

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