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Cupcake Crusader 2: Halva Cupcakes

 And we’re back. Per my post from earlier this week, I was tasked with developing recipes for a couple of the cupcakes mentioned in this NYT article. While I was kind of captivated by the “Blind Date” cupcake–by name alone, really–the request was for pomegranate cupcakes and for halva cupcakes. 

halva cupcakesAnd, though I’m not a huge fan of halva itself, I think the resulting cupcakes are pretty good.  They carry the scent and flavor of nuts and sesame with a hint of warm spice, and while the cake is nicely moist, the almond flour and tahini gives it an authentic touch of grit.  The saffron buttercream was slightly less successful, being rather pale in color and flavor. The textural contrast between the cake and the buttercream is really delightful, though, so maybe I just need to find a better way to extract color and flavor from the saffron.

Halva Cupcakes
(Base Recipe: Golden Almond Cake, Rose Levy Beranbaum, The Cake Bible)
Makes 24 mini or ~16 regular cupcakes

2 large eggs + 1 egg white
1/2 c tahini
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 2/3 c sifted cake flour
1/3 c finely ground almonds
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
10 tbs unsalted butter, softened
1 tbs toasted sesame oil

Saffron Buttercream
chopped pistachios

Center rack in over and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour muffin tins or line with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, lightly combine the eggs, egg white, almond extract, and 1/4 of the tahini.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and remaining tahini. Mix on low speed till the dry ingredients are moistened.  Increase to medium speed (high if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake’s structure. Scrape down the sides.  Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides. Scrape the batter into prepared pans.

Bake 22-26 minutes, rotating the pan front to back halfway through baking. A skewer inserted into the center of a cupcake will come out clean.

Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove fron tin and cool completely on rack. When cool, frost with saffron buttercream and sprinkle with chopped pistachios.

Neoclassic Buttercream
Rose Levy Beranbaum, The Cake Bible

6 large egg yolks
3/4 c sugar
2 c unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp saffron
2 tbs boiling water

[Crush the saffron to a powder and mix with boiling water. Set aside.]

Have ready a greased 1-cup heatproof glass measure near the range

In a bowl beat the egg yolks with an electric mixer until light in color. Meanwhile, combine the sugar and the corn syrup in a small saucepan (perferrably with a nonstick lining) and heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup comes to a rolling boil. (The entire surface will be covered with large bubbles.) Immediately transfer the syrup to the glass measure to stop the cooking.

If using an electric hand-held mixer, beat the syrup into the yolks in a steady stream. Don’t allow the syrup to to fall on the beaters or they will spin in onto the sides of the bowl. If using a stand mixer, pour a small amount of syrup over the yolks with the mixer turned off. Immediately beat at high speed for 5 seconds. Stop the mixer and add a larger amount of syrup. Beat at high speed for 5 seconds. Continue with the remaining syrup.  FOr the last addition, use a rubber scraper to remove they syrup clinging to the glass measure. Continue beating until completely cool.

Gradually beat in the butter and, if desired, any optional flavoring (page 231). [You do. Remove half of the buttercream from the bowl and reserve for another use. Add the saffron liquid to the remaining buttercream and beat at low speed to combine. Color will be faint.] Place in an airtight bowl. Bring to room temperature before using. Rebeat to restore texture.

Beranbaum, Rose Levy. The Cake Bible. (New York: Willam Morrow Cookbooks) 1988.

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