One of the things that I love most about working in China is that I get the chance to celebrate the Spring Festival with my extended family. This year, when both sides have asked that I bring some western style baked goods to lunch/dinner (maternal side for lunch/paternal side for dinner), I was more than happy to oblige. I wasn’t too concerned with my time restriction (a day’s notice), but I severely underestimated the demand for red food coloring in the days leading up to the Lunar New Year.
Fortunately, I’m a child of two cultures 🙂 ::brain shift:: I picked up a basket of fresh strawberries, a pack of cream cheese and decided to make Valentine’s Day Cupcakes, instead. At its core, Lunar New Year celebrations are really all about and spending time with your family and loved ones, so these cupcakes are perfectly acceptable. Plus this post comes at an excellent time for my readers back in the West! Get ready to be blown away by some deliciously airy, dark chocolate espresso sponge-cupcakes filled with strawberry preserves and topped with pink strawberry cheesecake frosting and a strawberry heart!
Disclaimer: my decorating skills were completely lacking today and I totally forgot my Canon EOS 60D at my apartment (traveling), so you’ll have to suffer through some subpar phone pics and MORE AFTER THE JUMP
The Dark Chocolate Espresso Sponge-Cupcake
- four small eggs, separated
- one large apple, “sauced” with cinnamon (for taste and aromatherapy)
- one bar of dark chocolate (gently melted in a double broiler style method of your own choosing)
- two tablespoons of instant coffee
- and extra quarter of a teaspoon each of baking soda and baking powder
- your own favorite chocolate cake mix, ignore instructions on the back if boxed(I used the recipe in my Faux-stess Cupcakes post)
First, let’s start preparing the apple sauce and egg whites. Peel, core and slice up your apple before tossing them in a small saucepan, adding a thin layer of water and sprinkling in some cinnamon. Let the apple cook on medium heat until easily mashable with a fork. Add just enough cinnamon for some aromatherapy in the kitchen. You may want to to continue to let the apple simmer for a while on low heat to let some of the water evaporate if appears to watery. Remove the sauced apple from the heat so it can cool prior to mixing it with the batter.
And now the secret to this awesome cupcake: the real reason this cupcake is so airy and spongey in texture is that I like to separate my eggs and beat the whites to stiff peaks before folding them gently into my cake batter. It really makes a difference! So get beating!
Combine your dry ingredients and slow start folding the powder into the applesauce, melted chocolate and egg yolks. Add in milk a tablespoon at a time while you’re adding in the dry ingredients to keep the batter from getting too stiff. Once everything is combined, gently fold in your egg whites, one third at a time.
Ladle the cake batter into silicon baking cups (this recipe yields roughly 20 cupcakes by the way) and put them into an oven preheated to 160C/325F for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the center of the cupcake passes the toothpick test. While the cupcakes are baking, start working on the frosting!
The Strawberry Cheesecake Frosting
- three tablespoons of sugar (preferably powdered and feel free to use less)
- one block of softened low calorie cream cheese
- three tablespoons of unsalted margarine
- half a teaspoon vanilla extract
- fresh strawberries for the decor later
- a small jar of strawberry preserves (only use ones that contains strawberries and sugar. If it has anything else in it, PASS!)
In a large mixing bowl, beat the margarine and softened cream cheese with powered sugar until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract and add in four tablespoons of strawberry preserves with four drops of pink food coloring. Scoop the frosting in a piping bag and set it in the fridge to chill.
Once the cupcakes are removed from the oven, they’ll need to be fully cooled before you can do anything with them. So while you’re waiting for your frosting to chill and your cupcakes to firm up, you’ll have some time for yourself. I recommend heading over to my new guilty pleasure, Cheekybingo, for a quick game hehe.
Half an hour later…
To fill the cupcakes with strawberry preserves (approximately half a tablespoon per cupcake), I used my Faux-stess Cupcake method: cut off the top, core the middle, scoop in some preserves and cover the hole with a pinch of fluffy cake.
Pipe on the frosting in a circular pattern (I was usb eating as I was decorating…which explains my sloppy swirls and missing cupcakes ::guilty face::) and top the cupcakes with a strawberry heart!
To make the strawberry hearts, remove the stem with a V cut before slicing.
And now a handy dandy storage tip: set the cupcakes on the LID of your storage container and used the bottom as a TOP. Makes for an easy removal later 🙂
Refrigerate the cupcakes until you’re ready to serve and ENJOY! Happy early Lunar New Year, Spring Festival, Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day!