Baked Sunday Mornings: Almond Green Tea Cupcakes

This week's Baked Sunday Mornings recipe is Almond Green Tea Cupcakes. I baked these cupcakes in 2009, not long after I first got a copy of Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. Back then I was a Baked neophyte and I definitely did not yet have the hang of the gentlemen bakers' cooked flour frosting; you can read my previous post on the recipe here. Now that I am an old pro at this style of frosting, I welcomed the chance to revisit the recipe and make the cupcakes again.

The cupcake recipe is straightforward. You beat softened butter and shortening until creamy; add sugar, vanilla, and almond extract; add an egg; alternately add the sifted dry ingredients (cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) and ice water; fold in egg whites that have been beaten with cream of tartar to soft peaks; and incorporate ground almonds. I divided the batter between two 12-cavity cupcake pans to bake. The baked cupcakes were on the small side.
For the frosting, you cook flour, sugar, milk, heavy cream, and matcha powder together until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens; transfer the roux to a mixing bowl (I didn't bother straining it) and beat it until completely cooled; gradually add soft butter; beat until light and fluffy; and add vanilla. After having made variations of this frosting many, many times over the years, I will share the two tips that I find are most critical for success. First, make sure that the roux is completely cooled before adding the butter. After transferring the roux to the mixing bowl, I put my stand mixer on high, set a timer for 15 minutes, and walk away and do something else until the timer goes off. Second, if the frosting looks curdled or too thin while you're adding the butter, just keep beating it. I find that it always comes together if I keep running the mixer and wait.
My frosting came out perfectly creamy, light, and fluffy -- definitely a significant improvement over my first attempt in 2009. I thought that the almond cupcakes were okay. They had a nice almond flavor but I didn't love their slightly crumbly texture; they were easier to eat off of a plate with a fork than out of hand. But the matcha frosting was insanely good. I used Ito En Matcha Love Culinary Matcha, which is relatively inexpensive. The clean, lightly grassy, sweet matcha flavor of the frosting was so lovely without any trace of bitterness.

And despite my complaints about the cupcake texture, these cupcakes were hugely popular with my tasters, who quickly dispelled my fears that the combination of almond and matcha would be too niche to have widespread appeal.

Recipe: "Almond Green Tea Cupcakes" from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Reanto Poliafito, recipe available here at Baked Sunday Mornings.

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