Spring is officially here — Or, as most Arizonans think of it, “Summer: The Saga Begins”. It’s the time when ice creams and iced teas are coming back in vogue, and bakers are tucking away our rich, spicy, warming winter recipes and looking for something that blooms with more delicate characteristics.
Swiss meringue buttercream is perfect for springtime; simultaneously light and rich, with a silky texture and easy spreading/piping consistency. The addition of matcha powder balances out the sweetness and imbues it with a delicious green tea aesthetic.
Matcha pairs well with many different flavors of cake, especially bright and refreshing ones. In the picture above, I paired it with a ginger cupcake (my favorite), and topped it with a slice of candied ginger for a simple, elegant-looking dessert. By adding ginger to a vanilla cupcake instead of using the more popular gingerbread-style recipe (heavy with molasses and other spices), we can move this flavor out of winter and into the sunshine of April.
I would serve this cupcake with a clean, fresh-tasting tea that isn’t too sweet. Matcha is the obvious choice, but if you would rather complement the flavor than match it, some other good choices would be a stronger white or yellow tea (e.g. White Peony or Yellow Buds) or a flavorful green tea (e.g. Green Bamboo or Meng Ding Mao Feng).
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup egg whites (about 4)
- 1 lb. unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 tablespoon matcha powder
- Whisk sugar and egg whites together in a large, heat-proof bowl over simmering water, until hot to the touch and the sugar has dissolved. Make sure to whisk constantly and scrape the sides of the bowl, to avoid cooking the egg.
- Immediately pour this mixture into a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, or use a hand-held mixer. Whisk on high until barely warm and stiff peaks form.
- Add softened butter about 1/2 stick at a time, until completely smooth, scraping down the bowl after each addition.
- Once the mixture is smooth, add the matcha powder. If you want a strong green tea flavor, you may want to add an extra teaspoon or two.
- 8 oz. unsalted butter (2 sticks)
- 1/2 cup milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 8 oz. cake or all-purpose flour (about 1 3/4 cups)
- 1 oz. potato starch (scant 3 tbsp)
- 9 oz. sugar (about 1 cup + 2 tbsp)
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. ground ginger
- 3 tbsp. chopped candied ginger, plus more for decoration
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Line cupcake pan with cupcake papers.
- Heat butter and milk in a saucepan over medium heat just until butter has melted.
- Combine flour, potato starch, sugar, baking powder, salt, ground ginger, and candied ginger in a large bowl.
- Whisking quickly, add the egg yolks and egg into the hot milk and butter mixture one at a time. Add the vanilla.
- Whisk wet mixture into dry mixture just until completely incorporated; there should not be any lumps of flour, but do not overmix.
- Fill cupcake papers until about 2/3 full.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The surface of the cupcake should bounce back if pressed lightly.
- Cool completely, then frost with matcha buttercream.
For different flavors of cupcake, simply replace the ground and candied ginger with:
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 1 tsp. almond extract
- 1 tsp. coconut extract + 1/4 cup shredded coconut
- 1 tsp. rosewater
- 1 tbsp. dried lavender flowers
- 1-2 tbsp. matcha powder
- Double the vanilla
My grand scheme right now is to intersperse recipes with blog posts writing about food, so in the upcoming months you can expect to see cakes, cookies, scones, and (fingers crossed!) a video blog about eclairs, all starring some form of tea as an ingredient. As my knowledge of Chinese food traditions increases, I look forward to posting some recipes for more traditional Chinese fare, as well.
Next week: A look at one of the western world’s favorite teas, and its roots in China.