I’m trying to make the most of the sakura season at the moment since it has come very late this year (we still have daffodils here and it is May!) and I desperately wanted to add a few more cherry blossom recipes to this blog to keep in my repertoire. There is something quite special about these cupcakes and I cannot quite put my finger on it. It might be because these were my first ever attempt at making buttercream roses, which I am very proud of. Or it might be because the flavours are so wonderfully harmonious. Let me explain.
This year, I decided to play around with sakura, to see how it would work as a main ingredient (hello, sakura mochi), how wonderful it tastes paired with classic combinations (matcha and sakura are incredible together) and how it works in conjunction with other flavours such as strawberries and rhubarb. Today, I’m sharing one of my favourite pairings yet, a somewhat cupcake culinary fusion incorporating the sweet hay aromas of tonka beans, the nuttiness of Argan oil, almonds, and the star ingredient in the cake batter: mahleb.
If you have never heard of mahleb, it is a Middle Eastern spice made from the grounds of sour cherry kernels (Prunus Mahaleb) and, what may come as a surprise, tastes only hintly of cherries (and I mean, hintly). Instead, when freshly ground, the powder has somewhat floral, marzipany, fruity (sour cherry) and even yeasty notes with a slight bitter ending. To me, it is a pretty sophisticated spice that can only be used in very small doses (a little goes a long way) but somehow it is able to bring a completely new dimension to baked goods that cannot be expressed in words.
And then, there is the filling. I have been (attempting) to clean out my freezer last week and came across my frozen raspberries from last summer. Since I didn’t want to throw them away unnecessarily and only had a small amount of them anyway, I decided to use them here. Sakura works so beautifully with these soft fruits along with the spicy sweetness of the pink peppercorns and the floral rosewater (a nod to the Middle Eastern influence on my cupcake) that I could not resist pairing them all together to create a subtle complexity of flavour.
Cooking time: 30 minutes plus cooling
Makes: 12 cupcakes
To make the buttercream roses, I watched a wonderful tutorial video by Cuppy & Cake.
175g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
2tsp mahleb (ground)
1 tonka bean, finely grated
1/4tsp cinnamon, ground
1/4tsp almond extract
30ml argan oil
1/8tsp vanilla bean, grated
150g plain flour minus 2tbsp
2tbsp corn flour
1tsp baking powder
5tbsp plain yoghurt
Preheat the oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan-assisted) 350ºF. Sieve the plain flour, corn flour and baking powder together and set aside.Mix the sugar, mahleb, grated tonka bean, cinnamon and ground almonds together. Add the eggs, one by one until a batter is formed. Add the argan oil, almond extract, vanilla and yoghurt into the mixture. Stir until combined. Place the cupcake holders on to an oven tray. Equally distribute the batter into the holders and place in the oven for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Take out and allow to cool completely.
Using a knife, cut out a hole in the middle of the cupcake (for the filling). First, spoon 1tsp of the jelly into the centre. Then, using a pipping bag, squeeze in the raspberry whipped cream (on top of the jelly) until the centre is filled.
Pipe the the buttercream on top to decorate as desired. Eat within 3 days.
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Makes: enough for 12 cupcakes
2 gelatine sheets
100g raspberries, frozen
1/4tsp pink peppercorns, ground
3 pickled sakura leaves
100ml heavy cream
Place the gelatine sheets in cold water for 10 minutes. Rinse the sakura leaves and set aside. Take the frozen raspberries and blend until smooth. Place the blended raspberries in a saucepan over a medium heat, along with the sakura leaves, ground pink peppercorns and rosewater. Stir until the sauce comes to a simmer. Take off the heat and stir in the gelatine and allow to cool completely.
Add the jelly sauce to the cupcakes at this point.
Whip the heavy cream until thick and peaks have formed and pour into the leftover raspberry sauce. Stir until combined and then place in a pipping bag.
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Makes: enough for 12 large buttercream roses
3tsp sakura leaf powder
600g confectionary sugar
450g butter, room temperature
3tsp beetroot powder
3tbsp whole milk
Cream the sugar and the butter together in a bowl until creamy. Add the sakura leaf powder and milk into the buttercream. Mix until combined before adding the beetroot powder one teaspoon at a time or until the desired colour is reached. Place in a pipping bag to pipe over the cupcakes.
Thank you for reading.