Initially, I was set on making a tomato spice cake, featured in the Joy of Cooking, and popularized by poet Sylvia Plath, but somehow it morphed into cupcakes! With a basil frosting! Funny how that happens, huh?
Much has been written about Sylvia’s obsession with baking, and how it was therapeutic for her to bake and cook. I think I can understand that, although it’s hard to know exactly how my obsession compares with hers.
I feel that baking is definitely therapeutic for me, because it takes my mind off of problems and worries, and makes me focus on things that I can control, where the outcome is usually known, achievable, and rewarding.
And even when things go wrong, I feel like it’s no big deal, because I then learn something. And that then helps me to apply looking at life the same way. That we sometimes make mistakes, learn something, and move on.
I do feel incredibly lucky and fortunate to be able to bake what I want, usually. Baking definitely puts me in a good mood. It is such a luxury.
And so, for this recipe, as I thought about using a can of Campbell’s condensed tomato soup, what caused me to change the recipe was looking at the ingredient list and noticing that the main ingredients are basically tomato paste, high fructose corn syrup and water. And I thought, why not just make a cake using tomato paste, and adding sun-dried tomatoes? So that’s exactly what I did.
And also, since I was adding sun-dried tomatoes, including some of the olive oil it was packed in, I thought, why not just use olive oil as the fat for the cake? It might be healthier, and also keep the cake moist. So this is actually an olive oil tomato spice cake, made into cupcakes. And I think it worked!
Lastly, I thought, since we’re adding tomatoes and olive oil, why not add basil? So I decided to steep some basil into a cup of heavy cream, and then made a white chocolate ganache using that cream.
Anyways, thanks for stopping by and I hope you have a great week ahead.
tomato cupcakes with basil frosting (very loosely based on Tomato soup cake à la Sylvia Plath)
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
4 ounces tomato paste, from can
6 ounces sun dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, pureed first
1/2 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
Place paper liners for 18 cupcake molds. Set aside.
Sift the first six ingredients into a large bowl, and stir thoroughly with a whisk to blend. Set aside.
In another medium bowl, add the oil and sugar together and blend with a hand-held mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl and blending, as needed, then adding vanilla, and blending again.
Add tomato paste and pureed sun-dried tomatoes, blending until incorporated.
Add about one-third of the flour mixture, blend, scrape down the sides of the bowl with the spatula, and add half of the buttermilk. Repeat, then add the final third of the flour mixture. Blend thoroughly.
Fill cupcake liners in molds about 3/4 full. It helps to use a measuring cup or scoop to ensure each mold is filled to the same level for uniformity. I like my cupcakes to have a “muffin top”, but if you prefer lee full cupcakes, you could probably make 24 cupcakes. Bake for about 20-22 minutes, until toothpick test comes out clean in the center of cupcake.
This can be made into a cake, using two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans.
basil white chocolate frosting
1 cup heavy whipping cream**
1 cup fresh basil leaves, tightly packed, chopped
8 ounces white chocolate, chopped
8 ounces (1 package Philadelphia brand) cream cheese, room temperature
8 ounces (two sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
Coarsely chop up white chocolate and place in heat-resistant bowl. Set aside.
On stove top place whipping cream and chopped basil. Heat on medium-heat until just barely boiling, being careful not to burn the cream. Remove from heat and cover. Place in refrigerator when cooled to room temperature and let steep for at least 1.5 hours.
After the whipping cream/basil mixture has cooled and steeped, pass the cream and basil leaves through a sieve into another bowl to remove basil leaves and place the leaves in a blender. Add about 1/4 cup of the cream to the blender. Blend to almost a puree, then pass through a sieve again to let the cream pour back into the bowl, squeezing as much of the whipping cream from the basil leaves. Some of the smaller leaves might go into the whipping cream, which is fine, because it creates little specks of basil in the frosting. Discard leaves that remain in the sieve.
Heat up cream again, on medium high, until barely a boil. Remove from heat and pour 3/4 cup over white chocolate.(**I only suggest 1 cup whipping cream to start, just in case you lose some of the cream in the process of steeping and putting through a sieve with the basil leaves.) Let sit, undisturbed for a few minutes, then stir gently with a wooden spoon or whisk, being careful not to get white chocolate too hot, but blending to smooth it out. It will be somewhat too thin. Do not worry. Place in the refrigerator, stirring every half hour or so, for about 2 hours, until ganache mixture is cool and thickened.
Meanwhile, get butter and cream cheese to room temperature. Place in a bowl and blend. When white chocolate ganache is thickened, add slowly to cream cheese/butter mixture until blended and spreadable. If mixture looks grainy, try blending slowly. If still looks too liquid to spread or pipe, place back in refrigerator.
Place into piping bag with a star tip and frost swirls on tops of cupcakes, if desired.