Elisa’s “From Scratch” Baking Experiment: Savory Fig and Goat Cheese Cupcakes

Learning and growing as a cupcake baker this past year has been really fun. I feel more confident in my cupcake-making abilities and achieved my goal of making from scratch cupcakes that were also filled. (Yay for keeping one resolution of 2012!) Finding a new challenge for 2013 was easy. The Crusaders have already tried our hands at savory cupcakes (read Crusader Jenn’s Pot Pie review) and I knew after talking it over with them that I wanted to challenge myself with filled savory cupcakes!

My first savory cupcake flavor combination was inspired by the fig and goat cheese cupcake that Fraiche had on their menu when we visited them this past October. Figs and goat cheese are favorite foods of mine, and I couldn’t imagine not liking a cupcake that included them both.

After my usual scouring of the internet for recipes, I ended up not finding anything that was perfect for my savory idea, so I came up with my own combination of walnut cake, fig compote filling, goat cheese frosting, balsamic reduction drizzle and fresh cracked black pepper. Modifying recipes used to scare me, but this time around I let my cooking sense take over and tweaked things where it felt necessary. For the cake, I added more walnuts to the batter, as well as adding clementine zest for a citrus balance. For the fig compote I added orange juice to replace the zest, added 1/2 cup of honey and a bit of flour to thicken it (note: you must be sure to cook it thoroughly or your filling will taste like flour). I only used 1/2 a cup of confectioners sugar in the frosting because I didn’t want it to be too sweet and I wanted the cheese to stand out.

After baking the cupcakes and making the filling, I let them both cool while I made the balsamic reduction and frosting. It was interesting making the reduction, as it is something that I have eaten out quite a bit and never realized was so easy to make. Once everything was ready and cooled I filled the cupcakes with the very yummy fig filling (with my very tiny spoon).

FigFilling

I drizzled the balsamic reduction, and tasted… but something was missing. Something spicy, or hot, or… peppery! I cracked some pepper onto one of the pieces and tasted it. Yes – that’s just what it was missing! I was shocked at how many flavors unfolded as I ate the rest of it.

FigGoatCheese

The next day I took them to work and had my co-workers (aka: my tasting team) give me their feedback. Other than the cake being a bit on the dense side, all of the feedback was positive. Even people who don’t usually like goat cheese found it impossible not to finish every bite. And they commented on how delicious the fig filling was and how smooth the frosting turned out. (I swear I don’t pay them to say these things.)

FigGoatCheeseCUT

This cupcake really was quite a success, from the not-sweet walnutty cake all the way to the cracked pepper sprinkles. It might not be a cupcake for everyone, but it is definitely my kind of savory!

Recipes modified from:
Cake: Bite Delite
Filling: Food Network
Frosting: Cupcake Project
Drizzle: YumSugar

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Elisa (Baltimore, MD)

Très “Fraîche” et délicieuse!

The Crusaders love the opportunity to review new places – not only do we get to eat cupcakes, but we also get to visit new shops! Recently, we all trekked to Bethesda, MD to Fraîche Cupcakery to spend some time together and taste some cupcakes. We even had a chance to meet our friend Joel, from Josie’s Confections. Thanks for meeting up with us Joel!

Fraîche Cupcakery (“fresh” in French – for those who don’t know) has been on our “to try” list for quite a while, and we love their dedication to being all natural and eco-friendly. Using all-natural and local ingredients, as well as recycled materials in their shop and display signs and packaging, already scores points with the Crusaders, as we all three try to watch our environmental impact.

After checking out the beautiful, clean, and contemporary shop we reviewed our flavor options and discovered they had mini cupcakes in almost every flavor. Minis are great because it meant we could order more flavors to try, so after selecting our flavors we sat down for our first bite of Fraîche cupcakes. No one was more excited to get to the cupcakes than our littlest Crusader, Jenn’s daughter, Leah – she was so excited to see cupcakes and very anxious to eat them. Below are our flavor picks and thoughts:

Chocolate Green Tea (Sept 26 – Oct 2 Special flavor – full-size cupcake)

Interesting flavor combos always intrigue and inspire us, so we knew we had to try this cupcake. When Crusader Jenn and I initially tasted the frosting we liked its punch of tea flavor, but then tasting it with the cake made us all look at each other quizzically. We just didn’t like the two flavors together. The cake flavor itself was ok, but the texture was off and reminded us of a cake/brownie mix. The frosting alone tasted exactly like green tea, but had a very sweet aftertaste that I didn’t care for. Joel also didn’t like this flavor combination, and didn’t finish this cupcake. While this might not have been our favorite cupcake, it did spark discussion of what kind of flavors might work better and might have inspired my next baking experiment flavor!

Red Velvet mini

Being the “Red Velvet Crusader” I am very particular, but this cupcake did not disappoint. Cake with a crunchy top isn’t always a good thing, but it was one of the many reasons I loved this cupcake. The cake had amazing flavor and the frosting was smooth with a well balanced cream cheese frosting. Crusader Stacy and I really enjoyed this mini and next time I’ll need to order a full-size Red Velvet.

Blueberry Pancake mini

Pancake in cupcake form? Yes please. While this cake was a bit on the dense side, it tasted exactly like a blueberry pancake. The subtle maple flavor of the buttercream frosting added just the right amount of “syrup” on top. Crusader Stacy said it best, “This is awesome.”

Cinnamon mini

Cinn-fully delicious! Wow, did this cupcake pack a cinnamon flavor explosion. We all enjoyed the generous dusting of cinnamon on top. And with the perfect sweet, moist cake and creamy frosting balance, this cupcake was a great fall treat.

Raspberry Almond mini

Almond is a favorite flavor profile of the Crusaders and this cupcake was the perfect balance of tangy raspberry and almond flavors. The cake was on the dense side, but that didn’t bother us as we dove in and devoured this mini. The frosting wasn’t too sweet and the sliced almonds on top added a fantastic crunch of texture.

Mocha mini

Jenn took this one home and enjoyed it, here are her thoughts: This cupcake had tons of coffee/espresso flavor in the frosting, but the cake had the same weird texture as the Chocolate Green Tea cupcake.

Joel picked a couple of flavors that we didn’t try, including Lemon Almond and Carrot Cake. He agreed that the cakes were dense and a bit too dry for his liking. He also thought the carrot cake tasted more like a plain yellow cake with carrots in it, missing the spices that are typical for carrot cake flavor.

Overall we enjoyed Fraîche Cupcakery’s cupcakes, and while the Green Tea cupcake wasn’t a favorite, it did inspire flavor discussions and baking ideas. All of the cake was on the dense side, but that didn’t take away from their fantastic flavors. Their friendly staff, great flavor options, and dedication to the environment will keep us coming back when we are in the Bethesda area. The Weekly Savory Specials in October (available on Sat and Sun) include: Rosemary Fig (Oct 6-7), Baked Potato (Oct 13-14) and Chips & Salsa (Oct 20-21) and are all flavors that make us want to stop in on the upcoming weekends – oh if only we lived closer!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Elisa (Baltimore, MD)