Monday, August 23, 2010

July's Cupcake of the Month: Lavender-Iced Brownie Cupcakes

[Yes, I know it's August. July got away from me. Let's see if I can finish another batch of cupcakes and a batch of cookie in the next week.]

Lavender, especially paired with chocolate, was a major flavor trend in 2009, and Martha Stewart's Cupcakes (published in 2009) is nothing if not trendy. Trendiness aside, I've been reading up on interesting flavor combinations in The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, so this month's Lavender-Iced Brownie Cupcakes intrigued me.

Of course, the clincher was that my local grocery store actually carries lavender in its bulk herbs section so I could purchase 1/2 teaspoon dried lavender quite easily. Then again, the ease with which I could purchase only the required amount of dried lavender was countered by the purchase of a tub of violet gel-paste food color that I will likely never use again (see June's Cupcake of the Month, re: the great Martha Stewart/Wilton kickback conspiracy).

Gastronomic Lavender Links Roundup:
Max Falkowitz posted about lavender in his Spice Hunting column over at Serious Eats.
Design*Sponge recently posted about harvesting lavender.
Cathy Erway posting on Mark Bittman's blog suggests making herbed butter with lavender.
Mike Hawley posting on Mark Bittman's blog suggests making limeade with lavender.
Angry Chicken made a lavender caramel tart with sliced banana and chopped almonds.
Carey Jones over at Serious Eats suggests making Rhubarb and Lavender Crumble.

A note regarding crystallized flowers. Martha Stewart's Cupcakes describes Martha's intensive flower crystallization procedure. It involves tweezers and a small paintbrush. It is one of the crazy ideas that initially attracted me to that Svengali that is Martha Stewart. But Momma didn't raise no fool. I bought Candied Violets on Amazon. O.K., my actual mother would think she did indeed raise a fool if she found out I spent $9.19 + $4.99 shipping for candied violets to put on top of cupcakes that taste like soap. But I did not waste days of my life trying to make crystallized flowers to put on top of cupcakes that taste like soap. So while I may be a fool, I feel like I could have been even more of a fool. That's got to count for something.
The original recipe claims to yield 24 cupcakes and says to, "Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each two-thirds full." There isn't enough batter to fill 24 cups two-thirds full. I actually aimed to fill the cups one-half full because I wanted to leave room for the icing to pool on top, which is impossible if the cupcakes rise too high in the cups, kind of like the Tres Leches Cupcakes. Even aiming to fill the cups only halfway I could only stretch the batter to eighteen cups. And despite my stinginess, most of the cupcakes rose too high and then collapsed, creating craters too large to fill with icing, as you can see on the left in the picture above. So the yield is inaccurate, and to be absolutely safe, you might want to aim for filling the cups only one-quarter full - which is about three tablespoons.
I finally had the opportunity to deploy my Snapware 2-Level Cupcake Storage Carrier, as recommended by Eartha in a comment to May's Cupcake of the Month: Strawberry Cupcakes.
The little cylindrical holders on the cupcake insert are perfect for holding these in place.

Said cupcake transport was deployed for a party on Saturday evening where an array of taste testers found the cupcakes "good and interesting." Even the admittedly adventuresome seven year old liked them. Though the three year old did not. I forgot to check whether the five year old liked hers. Honestly, I wasn't sure the adults would like them given the unique flavor combination. But the lavender was very subtle and the icing VERY sweet, so at least one taste tester found the sweetness so dominant that he hardly noticed the lavender. And the violet gel paste food coloring made the icing look a bit like blueberry yogurt, so one taste tester insisted it tasted of blueberries. Silly taste tester. I thought the lavender was really compelling and did not remind me of soap at all, which was my big fear. I was not a huge fan of the flavor or texture of the brownie cupcakes, so I might use the icing on something else, like a cherry clafoutis or a lemon pound cake.

Lavender-Iced Brownie Cupcakes adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes: 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone's Favorite Treat


  • 3/4 C plus 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 C plus 2 1/2 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
  • 3 1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 1/3 C sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 C milk
  • 1/2 t dried lavender
  • 3 C confectioner's sugar, sifted
  • Violet gel-paste food color
  • Crystallized Flowers

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.

2. Place the butter and chocolate in a medium bowl that fits quite snugly over a medium saucepan with about 1 inch of simmering water in it. Stir with a heat-safe rubber spatula or a wooden spoon until half the chocolate is melted, then remove the bowl from the heat and continue stirring until all the chocolate has melted. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

3. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat chocolate mixture and sugar until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture and beat until just combined.

4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each two-thirds full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely.

5. Bring milk and lavender just to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from heat and cover; let steep 10 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl and discard lavender. Whisk in confectioner's sugar until smooth. Strain again. Add food color, a little at a time, stirring until desired shade is achieved.

6. To finish, use a small spoon to coat cupcakes with icing, covering tops completely. Let set, about 1 hour. Top with crystallized flowers. Iced cupcakes can be stored up to 2 days at room temperature in airtight containers.

Previous Cupcakes of the Month:
January's Cupcake of the Month: Streusel Cupcakes
February's Cupcake of the Month: Martha's Meyer Lemon Cupcakes
March's Cupcake of the Month: Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes
April's Cupcake of the Month: Tres Leches Cupcakes
May's Cupcake of the Month: Strawberry Cupcakes
June's Cupcake of the Month: Flock of Sheep Cupcakes

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Eartha Zoƫ said...

Yay! I'm glad to hear the Snapware is working for you! And *squee!* I got a mention! ;-)
Hope you're having a wonderful summer!