This is the first-ever Iron Cupcake Earth challenge, and when I saw that our challenge ingredient was Chili, I was immediately transported from my provençial French home to the warm, lush city of Guadalajara, Mexico. (Ok, I don’t have some sort of monopoly on teleportation, I meant in my mind.) During my graduate work at the University of Arizona I promised myself I’d participate in their Summer in Guadalajara program where you get to hang out in one of the most beautiful and cosmopolitan cities in the gorgeous country of Mexico, take in the culture by living with a host family, and hablo & estudiar by taking Spanish classes. After a few years of living near the Mexican boarder and taking the odd Spanish class I was really excited to actually experience Mexico in an authentic way, rather than just heading with friends Puerto Peñasco and hanging out at the taco stand & lounging on the beach all weekend…
I lucked out and lived with a really lovely family for six weeks, soaking up all the culture & cuisine possible. My family had four daughters, ranging in ages from 10 to 24 and they were as diverse as could be and made my time with their family truly memorable. One of our favourite snacks when I was there was squirting fresh lime or orange juice onto watermelon hunks, then dusting with chili powder. It was heavenly. We would also do this with a very dense sort of a corn-flour lightly-sweetened chocolate cake which my Señora said was just a mistake she once made making a traditional cake but became a family favourite. I didn’t ask her for the recipe – don’t forget, up until about 2 years ago I didn’t even have a stove! I didn’t cook or bake, so I didn’t yet have that reflex. I hadn’t thought of those chili-spicy-sweet-tangy snacks in forever, and knew my mission was to embody the spirit of that délice in my cupcake.
I can’t get masa flour here in France, and it is a very special day when I can find real cornmeal, so I was a little stumped on how to recreate the texture of my host-Señora’s chocolate cakes, but looked up and saw a jar of almond meal on my shelves and had a moment of union with the universe! I started jotting down the draft for the cupcake recipe, but how to infuse it with the sweet tang of the citrus? Well, let’s get zesty! With my trusty zester in hand I got giggy with some limes & oranges, but a piece of the equation was missing… des orangettes! Or candied oranges or oranges confits! However you say it, it’s what I had in my imagination. I’d never even thought of trying to make something like that, but I did have a big, beautiful bowl of oranges on my kitchen table…
The Iron Cupcake Challenge really became a true challenge for me. I have but rarely created a pastry recipe, generally relying on my favourites from my cookbooks. I felt like some sort of vegan pastry explorer and it was thrilling. I also really got my kicks making the orangettes – if someone a few years ago told me I’d be hootin’ it up on a Friday night making candied oranges I’d have said “balderdash!”, but there you go. It was surprisingly gratifying seeing how well they turned out, and how easy they were to make. I was as giddy as a teenager who sees her high school crush (this could have been from the Saint Emilion I was sipping though…). I am thrilled to say in all sincerity that these cupcakes were (cause they are so gone) amazing, some of the best I’ve ever, ever made. I did end up making two batches to try to get the right amount of chili pepper taste, but both batches were delicious – the first one only had the slightest hint of heat. It was the texture that really had me bluffed – the almond meal gave these cakes this wonderful mouth-feel that allowed for a very light and airy crumb, but a more toothsome bite. The frosting was also just perfect (if you love chocolate…). They have a very complex flavour, but not a “bite”. My 3-year-old loved them and wasn’t overwhelmed by the spice at all.
Following are the recipes you need to recreate this deliciousness. After that is some voting info if you’d like to vote me into the upper-class of Iron Cupcake Challengeness & help me maybe win a prize. The prizes are pretty sweet : the talented CAKESPY is contributing, as is JESSIE STEELE APRONS, CUPCAKE COURIER, and TASTE OF HOME. I really like prizes, just sayin’…
Chili-Citrus Cupcakes con Orange Confit
1 batch Candied Oranges for garnish. The recipe I used is here. I blanched the orange zest three times. Reserve 2 tbsp of your syrup for frosting.
1 batch Double-Chocolate Chili-Citrus Frosting (see below)
1 C. AP flour
1/2 C. Almond Meal
1/2 C. Dutch Processed Coco
1/4 C. Brown Sugar
1/4 C. Xylitol
1/2 C. Sugar
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
2 teaspoons Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Cardamom
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon Salt
Up to 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne (a 1/4 teaspoon will still give you a little a good dose of chili spirit)
1 tablespoon Lime Zest
1 tablespoon Orange Zest
3 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer
1 Cup Soymilk
1/3 Cup plus 2 tablespoons Canola Oil
1 teaspoon Almond extract
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
* Using an electric mixer, blend the egg replacer until well-blended and frothy, about 2 minutes. Set aside.
* Sift all the dry ingredients EXCEPT the almond meal in a large mixing bowl. After sifted, stir in the almond meal.
*Add the remaining wet ingredients and the citrus zests to the egg replacer and mix well, then add the dry ingredients in two or three batches and mix until well blended.
*Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full and bake for about 15 to 20 mins. at 350F. Watch carefully if you use the Xylitol because it can be sneaky and burn up on you.
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated, non-dairy margarine, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cups Dutch Processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon Cayenne (opt.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon lime zest
2 tablespoons orange sugar syrup (from candied oranges)
1 or 2 tablespoons water or non-dairy milk, as needed to thin frosting
*Sift the powdered sugar, cocoa, and Cayenne together and set aside. Cream the butter until light and fluffy, then add the sugar mixture in two or three batches until fluffyness has been regained. Then add your extracts, syrup, and milk/water if necessary.
*Frost cupcakes, decorate with the orangettes, and lightly dust with cinnamon.