Monday, September 22, 2008

Iron Cupcake: BASIL

Yes, that's right. Basil. "What" you say? "Basil in a cupcake?!" Yes my friends, it's true and without further ado, here is my cupcake submission for this month's Iron Cupcake competition:

I have to admit, I was a bit stumped when I first heard basil. It's not that I didn't think you could successfully put basil in a cupcake, it's more that I could only think of three possible basil/sweet combinations:

1. Anything with citrus
2. Anything with berries
3. Chocolate

So, I spent most of the month trying to figure out a unique way to make basil blend with something in an unexpected way. I finally gave up trying to be a culinary pioneer in basil taste pairings and just went with my gut instinct; citrus. After that, it all just seemed to flow and I finally came up with this. It tastes like one big bite of summertime. There's a lot of steps, but it's worth it!


2 1/4 C. flour
1 1/2 C. sugar
3/4 C. butter
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 eggs
1/2 C. fresh squeezed key lime juice
1 TBS zest
3/4 C. buttermilk

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup basil leaves
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup sugar
2 TBS cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1 TBS zest
1/4 cup fresh key lime juice
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1 TBS butter
pinch salt

White Chocolate Basil Buttercream
1 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
6 oz melted white chocolate
1 TBS minced basil
3 TBS milk or cream

I knew I wanted to to have a bit of a nod to a key lime pie, and for that I needed a graham cracker bottom and tart pucker filling. I got to work on those first. I knew they needed to have the basil taste in them, but I didn't want anyone to be overwhelmed by the basil at all. So I came up with infusing basil in both of these by way of heating it up with the ingredients and then straining out the basil leaves before incorporating into the cupcake.

For the crust, melt the butter slowly on the stovetop with the basil and then strain out before you add to the graham cracker and sugar. Mix all together and spoon a small amount into each cupcake liner. Take a small cup and press down
the crumb mixture down into the bottom so it's firmly packed down.

Next, I made the filling. In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients on the filling list and slowly bring to a boil stirring constantly. Let boil for one minute and remove from heat. While it is still hot and liquidy, strain into a small bowl in order to remove basil leave and large zest pieces.
It will be a translucent color and almost seem like half set jello. Place in fridge to chill, it will become a nice creamy consistency, but will retain it's translucence.

Now it was on to the actual cake. I didn't want basil in the cake proper, I thought it would be too much. I did, however want a really good and distinct lime flavor and pucker. For this, I dug out an old standby lemon cake recipe and modified it a bit for my needs this time. First I changed the lemon to lime and then I decided I wanted buttermilk instead of regular milk for that extra richness and tang. Because of this, I needed to modify the baking powder and soda ratios.
For the cake, mix all the dry ingredients together, then add all the wet and mix for about 2 minutes until creamy. Place about an 1/8 of a cup into the cupcake liners on top of the pressed graham mixture and bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 20-24 minutes. The tops should be just barely risen and spring back to the touch. Don't expect a rising explosion, these are a very dense cupcake.

My trusty kitchen helper seemed to have a blast with this one. From helping stir the batter to squeezing the limes for me. (Okay-- at this point I have a confession-- these aren't key limes I'm using. Some of you probably figured it out by now. This recipe is made for key limes, but if you can't get them where you are or, like me, missed the last crop at the market by two weeks, you can use a Persian lime. It still turned out FABULOUS, but keep in mind, what I really wanted was that true key lime pucker.) And yes, once again I am exploiting the cuteness of my kitchen helper to win your votes... She really wants mommy to win...

Finally on to the finishing touches. When the cupcakes are cool. Fill each one with about a tablespoon of filling using a filling piping tip and a pastry bag. The cupcake is pretty dense, so you'll need to use the tip to make room for the filling by inserting it and pushing the cake around a little. When filled, they should look like this. Making the buttercream is simple. It's your standard white chocolate, but with added basil for some extra interest. I melted the chocolate and then pulsed the basil in a food processor until I got the finest mince I could. Next just incorporate the butter and white chocolate together and then start adding the powdered sugar one half cup at a time until you get the right consistency. Last, add your minced basil and whip the frosting for about 3 minutes. I always let my white chocolate frosting set for about 10 minutes just to let the white chocolate completely cool before I frost my cupcakes.

I garnished these cupcakes with a small sugared basil piece and a little slice of lime. Even the sugared basil is delicious! Here's an inside look at all the layers.
The cupcakes turned out great. There is a definite basil taste, but it's not overwhelming. It's almost more of an aroma around the cupcakes. They are sweet and rich, but not cloying and taste like a big refreshing bite of summer. I think they would the be perfect ending to a backyard barbeque or summertime crab boil.

Now for the nitty gritty. The voting for this (and all the other) iron cupcake will open on Sunday, September 28th. And I'm begging for your vote. This will go on every month this year, but I want it BAD this month. For one, I think this cupcake is a real contender and for second, look what I can win!
On top of the prize package that will stay the same month to month, this month's awesome extra prize is this phenomenal cupcake ring by the artist Metal Sugar.

Here's a list of all the other great prizes up for grabs each month:
* A super cute Jessica Steele Apron
* Taste of Home Cookbook
* The Bestselling book Hello Cupcake
* A Cupcake Courier cupcake caddy
* Fiesta Products awesome line of silicone utensils

I'll post a reminder on the blog to make sure you all go and vote (and tell all your friends to go vote, too!) Lastly, any ladies from recipe club out there, I hope you come hungry tomorrow, because I bringing these bad boys with me. You can't expect me to eat 2 dozen basil cupcakes by myself do you?

Don't forget to vote!!


joanna said...

I LOVE BASIL. These look delicious!

joanna said...

I can't figure out how to vote...her website is confusing!

Vanessa Contessa said...

I'll make sure to explain how to vote when I post a reminder. The voting poll isn't even up yet, so stay tuned!!

Jamieanne said...

This is definitely a winner! They look so amazing! :)

RhondaLThomas said...

You, my dear cousin, are an absolute GENIUS!

Debbie said...

These are AMAZING everyone. I indulged in one last night, and the basil is scrumptous. GO VOTE!!! They are beautiful too!

Sara Walker said...

Tried one last night, absolutely delicious!!

allyn said...

okay, these sound so absolutely delicious that i might fly out to california just to steal one from the evil genius. there is no way that i would attempt to make such a thing. i would ruin it completely. your pictures are so perfect they made me salivate over the subject.
i will vote. give me a reminder note, please.

Swede said...

This cupcake is really good. You are a genius.

The Guiness Family said...

It looks so yummy... I have voted!

Adrianne said...

Hmm... Basil in a cupcake sounds a bit like "beef in a Trifle" to me, but you should win just because they are pretty! They look awesome. I'll tell everyone in Oakton to vote for you.

Joeli said...

Because these look do-able and edible, you've got my vote! Plus I like that they are a bit outside the box. Very well done indeed--I hope you win!

Bethany said...

I am in the process of making these as part of a Thanksgiving backing experiment. They just came out of the oven and they look and smell AMAZING. I can't wait to frost and eat them.