strawberry & pink peppercorn cupcakes

© Lydia,

I've always been intrigued by pink peppercorns, having an intense love for pepper in general, but have never had the opportunity to try some. On Gloucester Road in Bristol, there's this amazing little store that sells an amazing array of flours, wheat germs, herbs, spices and breakfast cereals from "help yourself" bins. And they had pink peppercorns. So I bought what I thought was a modest amount, but actually was a reasonably hefty amount. Oops, I guess.

Not knowing what something tastes like is a bit of a problem when trying to figure out what other flavour best to pair it with, and while I could have easily tried some it seemed to make more sense to bring it up at a party and gather suggestions. Nicola suggested strawberries, I loved the idea, and so the strawberry and pink peppercorn cupcake was born (Thanks Nic!).

I know strawbs are no longer in season, to be honest I made this back before strawberry season and it's taken me this long to get back into photo processing so I missed the season completely, but no matter, they're delicious. Nicely strawberry-y with a spicy kick, and actually I was convinced I'd messed up by using too much pepper - the buttercream is overly peppery on its own, but with the cake itself it mellows out nicely and works rather well.

Interestingly, pink peppercorns aren't actually related to black pepper, but were so named after their appearance and flavour. Personally I'm not sure I believe that wikipedia entry even if the BBC does seem to back it up, but I'm too lazy to go and look it up properly.

© Lydia,

Lydia's Strawberry and Pink Peppercorn Cupcakes (makes 12)
200g (~8oz) strawberries
~50ml (just under ¼ cup) plain yogurt
60g (slightly more than ½ stick, 3.88oz) unsalted butter
150g (⅔ cup) caster sugar
1 egg
150g (1 cup) plain flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1½ tsp white wine vinegar

175g (1 sticks, ¾ cup) unsalted butter
300g (1½ cups) icing sugar
¼ tsp crushed pink peppercorns

Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F, Gas mark 3), and line a cupcake pan with 12 cases.

Puree the strawberries and reserve 2-3 tsp of the juice for the frosting. Top the rest with enough yogurt to bring it to 120ml (½ cups).

Whisk the butter and the sugar till pale and creamy.

Still beating, add the egg.

Leaving the baking soda out for the time being, fold in the rest of the dry ingredients in 2-3 goes, alternating with your strawberry yogurt.

Finally tip in the bicarb, add the vinegar and quickly fold them in, ensuring they have been fully incorporated.

Immediately divide among your 12 cases and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and you can hear them fizzing.

© Lydia,

For the buttercream, combine the butter and icing sugar, then beat until very light and fluffy. 

Still beating, add a teaspoon of the reserved strawberry puree and check it has incorporated well without the mixture separating - the puree is quite acidic and will react with the butter to give an unappetising curdled appearance if too much is added, so err on the side of caution!

Add the rest of your puree a smidge at a time until you think the mixture can't take any more acidity. The tipping point for me was only 2tsp.

Finally fold in your crushed peppercorns (they're probably too wet to grind in a pepper grinder so use a pestle and mortar or crush them under the flat of a large knife) and once your cupcakes have cooled completely, pipe or spread this fiery deliciousness onto your strawberry bases.


© Lydia,

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