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The Batter Thickens: Pistachio Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting

Monday, June 17, 2013

Pistachio Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting

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Being abroad is an inspiring experience. You're exposed to new places, new sights, new experiences, new beliefs...and new baked goods. Two weeks home now, I continue to be inspired by my time in London. Case in point, this recipe, which was born from an afternoon's wandering around Shoreditch culminating in an impulsive afternoon tea.

In the mood for a sweet afternoon pick-me-up, and after poking my nose into several different cafes, scoping out their dessert counter, I stumbled on a most curious little flavor combination: pistachio lemon loaf cake. My interest piqued, I ordered a slice.

Have you ever had one of those experiences where you encounter two seemingly incongruous things that would never have occurred to you to pair together, but they are you just think, "Of course"? This was that. One bite in and I was totally smitten.

Pistachio is an uncommon enough flavor by itself, but paired with lemon is something I think I've never across before. That's too bad, because it is a revelatory experience. Its quirkiness makes it intriguing, tantalizing and stimulating your taste buds as they react to the unusual flavors gracing your tongue. The smooth nuttiness of the pistachio is brightened by the sweet tartness of the lemon. In many ways, the two flavors are opposites. But as opposites often do so well, they beautifully balance and round each other out.

I was so taken by the combination that before I had even finished my slice, my mind was already racing ahead to come up with other ways to pair the two flavors together. Just as quickly, I settled on cupcakes. They're just such a convenient way of combining two flavors without needing the scrupulous fine-tuning of flavor ratios that a recipe that truly blends the flavors would demand.

(That's a fancy way of saying that I love cupcakes and jump at any excuse to make some.)

To compile this recipe, I drew again on my Anglo-inspiration and returned to the Primrose wheelhouse. I had a recipe card for their vanilla cupcakes that I received when I took a two-hour cupcake frosting masterclass there in April, and used that as a starting place for my pistachio cupcake. I like the density the Primrose cupcake achieves while maintaining its moistness. For the pistachio transformation, I blended ground pistachio into the vanilla batter. And wah-la! Pistachio cupcakes. The lemon frosting is also a Primrose recipe, from their cookbook.

The pistachio lemon loaf I ate in Shoreditch was a heavy affair, moist but very dense. My cupcake adaptation is much lighter. Adding the extra moisture of the pistachios to the vanilla cupcake batter resulted in a fluffier, less dense crumb than the traditional Primrose cupcake, and the lemon frosting adds a delicate swirl of sweetness to the surface. The pistachio flavor is present but not overpowering, giving an earthy depth to the effervescent tanginess of the lemon.

Add the fact that I baked these babies in a mini cupcake pan and you get an extremely light, bite-size, and summery way to satisfy (temporarily, let's be real here) your sweet tooth.


- Molly

Pistachio Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting
Adapted from Primrose Bakery

For the cupcakes:

½ c butter, at room temperature
1 c super-fine sugar*
2 eggs
½ c self-rising flour
½ c plain flour
1 c ground pistachios
½ c skim milk
1 tsp. almond extract

*Can be made at home by grinding granulated in a food processor for a bit.

Cream butter and sugar until mixture is pale and smooth.

Add eggs, one at a time, mixing briefly after each addition. Add almond extract to milk in a measuring cup.

Combine the two flours and the pistachios in a separate bowl. Add 1/3 of the flours to the butter and sugar mixture and beat well. Pour in 1/3 of the milk and beat again. Repeat until all the flour and milk has been added.

Spoon the mixture evenly into the cupcake pan. Bake for approximately 25 minutes (regular sized) or 15 minutes (mini) until slightly raised and golden brown.

For the frosting:

½ butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. lemon zest
2 c powdered sugar

Beat butter, milk, lemon juice, zest, and half the powdered sugar until smooth. Gradually add remainder of sugar until your frosting reaches desired consistency.

1 comment:

  1. What fortuitous timing! There are groves and groves of pistachios around El Paso--this may be my first baking attempt when we find a house. Thanks!