As I’ve started my hectic school year after more than a year off, I’m feeling very nostalgic this week for some of the lovely, more peaceful moments spent in Israel last Fall. While it was a tough time in some ways, very little in suburban USA holds a candle to a Tel Aviv sunset or a pillowy pita stuffed with the world’s best falafel and tahini sauce. It’s been rather surreal to jump back into parts of my old life, and of course my favorite thing is getting back into my baking groove! For about six months from the winter through early summer, I didn’t have my own kitchen to bake in, meaning that until my current apartment, my last kitchen was in Israel. I did manage to do a decent amount of baking, though I inexplicably did not manage to blog very much. Therefore, I have a handful of recipes that I photographed and documented, but they never made it here. This week Baked Sunday Mornings is making Green Tea Smoothies, and since I rarely post beverages on this blog, I felt that it was the perfect opportunity to finally get back to these Almond Cupcakes with Green Tea Frosting from BAKED: New Frontiers in Baking, which the group made last year. (I’m also mourning the beautiful natural light in my Israeli kitchen. My current kitchen is pretty much disastrous for photography, so I might have to suspend process photos indefinitely…)
I was initially not super excited for this recipe because I love neither almond flavor nor matcha. But as I looked more closely at the recipe, I realized that it was quite easy to omit the small amount of almond extract (almond nuts and flour have a complete different flavor, which I’m perfectly fine with), and I figured that matcha frosting wouldn’t be terrible, especially paired with said almond cake. I am soooo glad that I went ahead and tried the recipe because they are wicked delicious and one of the most unique cupcake flavors that I’ve made.
While the list of ingredients is on the long side for cupcakes, I promise it’s well worth the effort. First off, the recipe calls for pulverizing almonds to a flour texture. I presume that the recipe was trying to get us to make almond flour, which was maybe not as easy to find when the book was published a decade ago. Nowadays it’s everywhere, and since I had brought I giant bag with me to Israel, I simply used that. Since ½ cup of sliced almonds weighs a little over 40 grams, I simply weighed out that much almond flour and it worked perfectly– no need to grind almonds!
Beyond that, it was a pretty standard white cake formula. I creamed the butter and shortening in my stand mixer, then added sugar and a slightly increased quantity of vanilla bean paste (I like the vanilla seed flecks visible in white batter), since I omitted the ¼ teaspoon almond extract. Next came an egg, followed by the pre-mixed dry ingredients (cake + all-purpose flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt), alternating with additions of ice water. By the way, I didn’t have cake flour, but I successfully subbed all-purpose flour + corn starch according to this easy formula. Almost done– I whipped egg whites with cream of tartar to soft peaks and folded them into the batter to lighten it, and finally folded in the almond flour.
Baking in my Israeli oven was often an adventure. It was a brand-new oven, so there were no inherited problems, but my baking times were all over the place for some recipes. These cupcakes are supposed to bake for 20-25 minutes, but they took somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-14 minutes, and even then I worried that they were overbaked! Fortunately they came out just right with lovely, flat golden tops.
BAKED’s cooked buttercream frosting is also often an adventure, and while I still hold my breath just a weeeee bit when I make it, it’s gotten pretty consistent. The process here is the same as their other flavor variations, with the addition of matcha powder. I cooked flour, sugar, matcha, milk, and heavy cream to a thick, bubbling brew, then poured that into the mixer to beat until cooled to room temperature. (You’re supposed to strain this mixture, but based on my photos, it looks like I forgot that step; fortunately it didn’t matter.) I then added 3 sticks’ worth of butter cubes gradually and kept mixing until the soupy stuff magically turned into a gorgeous cloud of green fluff (…which doesn’t sound that appetizing, but I assure you it was delicious). Lastly, beat in the vanilla, and voilà, you have green tea buttercream! It came out beautifully without any issues– I thought it was going to separate oh-so-slightly, but it seemed to stabilize itself and was lovely. I’d probably cut about ½ stick of butter next time to stabilize it further, as the BAKED frosting formula is verrrrry buttery.
I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to locate fortune cookies in Israel, but since there are Chinese restaurants, there surely are fortune cookies to be had, and actually it wasn’t difficult at all. Of course they were in Hebrew! I can’t quite understand what my fortune said, but through Google Translate I was able to make out something about honesty, humanity, and character morality?? Sounds legit. Anyway, I dipped these in melted white chocolate and nestled them atop crowns of matcha frosting, which I thought was a beautiful garnish.
I could not have been happier with these cupcakes– the cake was plush and flavorful, and the light matcha taste of the frosting served as a natural pairing for the almond cake. These would be perfect for any sort of happy occasion when you want to wish someone good fortune– I will definitely be making these again over and over! You can find the recipe for Almond Green Tea Cupcakes over at Baked Sunday Mornings, and also check out this week’s Green Tea Smoothies if you’re feeling in a matcha mood. 🙂
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2019.