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Flour Girl: Cupcakes With a Tomato Blush

Red velvet? Nope; tomato spice. (Leigh Lambert -- The Washington Post)

I love to play with unusual ingredients and can't resist a novelty. After exploring avocado in my chocolate cupcakes, I have turned my attention to summer's round red fruit as the next cupcake ingredient. You could say it's in honor of Top Tomato week here in the Food section.

The practice of putting tomato in baked goods goes way back. Tomato soup showed up in the Campbell Soup Co.'s Mystery Cake recipe circa 1925. The canned stuff became a serious ingredient, along with many things boxed and packaged, in the '50s and '60s, when back-of-the-box recipes were all the rage.

Recipe Included

If you stop to read the back of Campbell's classic tomato soup, though, you'll find you're also getting high fructose corn syrup, salt and "flavoring" (whatever that includes).

So I was interested to see Akasha Richmond's take on a recipe for spiced cupcakes. She went the next logical step and used canned tomatoes instead of tomato soup. With it being the season and all, I thought of using fresh tomatoes. But the cooking process they go through before canning helps to concentrate the flavors and gives a balanced ratio between flesh and juice -- not to mention the ease of having it in your pantry ready to go any time.

I did take liberties with the original recipe and used real cream cheese in place of the tofu cream cheese and butter in place of the vegetable shortening for the frosting. (Of course, you could sub those ingredients back in if you are watching your sat fats.) It makes a luscious topping and a cupcake with no apologies, rather than something you have to explain before people take the first bite.

-- Leigh Lambert

Tomato-Spice Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes

MAKE AHEAD: Frosted cupcakes can be stored for 1 day at room temperature or refrigerated (covered) for up to 3 days.

Adapted from "Hollywood Dish," by Akasha Richmond (Avery, 2006).

For the cupcakes
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
14 ounces canned no-salt diced tomatoes, pureed in a blender until smooth

For the frosting
1/2 cup (4 ounces) low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more as needed
Pinch fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Fill a 12-cup muffin pan with paper baking liners.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg and cloves onto a sheet of waxed paper.

Whisk together the oil, egg, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl, until the mixture is emulsified.

Lightly whisk together the baking soda and pureed tomatoes in a separate bowl.

Place a third of the flour mixture in a mixing bowl, then add half of the oil-egg mixture, stirring lightly to incorporate. In the following order, add a third of the flour mixture, half of the tomato puree mixture, the remaining oil-egg mixture, the remaining tomato puree mixture and the remaining flour mixture, stirring lightly after each addition.

Use an ice cream scoop to fill each paper baking cup two-thirds full. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of each cupcake comes out clean. Transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting: Combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of standing mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed for 1 minute, then add the confectioners' sugar and salt; beat for 4 minutes until the frosting reaches a spreadable consistency. Stop to add the vanilla extract; beat on low speed just to combine. Add confectioners' sugar as needed.

Frost the cooled cupcakes. Store at room temperature for a day or covered in the refrigerator up to 3 days.

Per cupcake: 293 calories, 4g protein, 35g carbohydrates, 15g fat, 5g saturated fat, 33mg cholesterol, 280mg sodium, 1g dietary fiber, 18g sugar

By Leigh Lambert  |  August 13, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Flour Girl , Recipes  | Tags: Leigh Lambert, cupcakes  
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