Greetings! Happy Spring! Happy St. Patrick’s Day! If you’ve been following me for a few years, this might look a little familiar. The only difference is that this time I’m making them look more like cupcakes, so I’m not calling them Moss Muffins, lol. But yeah, you could say I have a fondness for moss. Unfortunately, I was limited on time when I took these, otherwise I would have chosen the more mossy parts of my morning walk. I quickly snapped these pics before the rain started. This is about a mile away from where I live and is part of a 14-mile stretch of a shared cycling and walking trail known as the Interurban. Over the past year, I’ve been trying to spend more time outdoors, and the Interurban has become my go-to place to “get back to nature”. I’m grateful to live so close by, and it’s also where I foraged for Italian plums to make a cobbler, rosehips to make a tea cake, and even ponderosa pinecones to make a wreath for Christmas.
So what can I say about these cupcakes? They are incredibly rich and the recipe for the cake portion was sort of an accident in that I did not realize that I added two kinds of fat–-butter and oil! Being that they are pistachio cream cupcakes, I did feel justified in adding them both in. The resulting cupcake seems to hold up pretty well and doesn’t seem to be as heavy or greasy as one would expect. I was also planning on filling them up with more frosting, but after tasting these as shown, I felt that the cake-to-frosting ratio was spot on and with any more frosting, you’d sort of be missing the cake part. So you may need to cut frosting recipe in half if you don’t fill the cupcakes with frosting, or just pipe more frosting on their tops! I’m not usually a fan of cupcakes, but I really am surprised how much I like the cake part of these! The pistachio oil adds a subtle nutty flavor as well as to help keep them moist.
One word about pistachios in baked goods. Other than getting the nutty texture from the nuts themselves, it’s really difficult to use only natural products to get what your mind and taste buds would recognize as pistachio flavor, and so I resorted to buying a small bottle of “pistachio flavor”, which is labeled as containing propylene glycol, water, alcohol, plus “a blend of natural and artificial flavors”. I suspect the artificial flavors do have more formal chemical names that have numbers attached with them, but that probably wouldn’t clarify to anyone except for maybe a food scientist or chemist on where, how, or why those flavors have come to be associated with pistachios. Also, a little goes a long way, which is why I suggest a “scant” 1/2 teaspoon for the cake part, and only 1/4 teaspoon mixed in with 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract for the frosting part. The brand I used is called Lorann Pistachio Super Strength Flavor.
pistachio cream cupcakes
140 grams (10 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
125 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
45 ml (3 Tablespoons) pistachio oil
scant 1/2 teaspoon pistachio flavor
130 grams (1 cup) cake flour
4 grams (3/4 teaspoon) baking powder
1.5 grams (1/4 teaspoon) salt
60 ml (1/4 cup) whole milk (or milk substitute), room temperature
4 ounces (112 grams) shelled pistachios, for decoration *see note below
For the pistachio cream frosting (this makes a lot more frosting than you need, so cut recipe by a third to a half):
1/4 cup whipping cream
128 grams (4.5 ounces) chopped white chocolate, melted
224 grams (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
112 grams (4 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon pistachio flavor
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
130 grams (1 cup) confectioners sugar
pinch of salt
*To blanch the shelled pistachios, heat about 2 cups of water in a medium pot or saucepan and when the water reaches a boil, drop all the shelled pistachios into the water and wait for the water to reach a second boil. As soon as this happens, drain the pistachios and dry them of excess water with paper towels. Most of the skins should come right off, but some might have to be peeled off. After cleaning them all off, spread them on a parchment lined baking sheet to dry for a few hours to overnight, then toast them in an oven set for 325 degrees F. for about 4-5 minutes. Reserve the greenest 12 pistachios for topping the 12 cupcakes and process the rest in a food processor almost to a powder, putting it through a sieve after processing to make the granules uniform in size. Repurpose the larger granules in other things. Set aside.
Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Line 12 muffin or cupcake tins. Set aside.
Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, into a bowl and stir with a whisk several times until sufficiently mixed together. Set aside.
Cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one by one, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the pistachio oil in a steady stream while continuing to beat or whisk until oil is incorporated. Add the pistachio extract and mix again briefly.
Alternate adding the flour mixture with the milk, in small increments, scraping down the sides and bottom as needed again, until all the ingredients are added and batter is smooth.
Divide batter evenly between the 12 moulds. Bake for about 22-24 minutes until golden brown and not wet in the middle and a toothpick stuck in the centers comes out clean or with few crumbs.
Apply frosting to top each cupcake, either by using a piping bag with a star tip, or just manually frosting with a small offset spatula or knife. Sprinkle the pulverized or ground up pistachios and one whole pistachio.
For the frosting:
Melt the white chocolate over a bain marie, or using a microwave to heat in increments until melted. Set aside.
Get butter to room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized portions. Set aside.
Cream the cream cheese and add the white chocolate and mix on medium to high until all white chocolate has been incorporated with the cream cheese. Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, while mixing on high until butter is incorporated with the cream cheese and white chocolate. Continue beating until there are no more chunks of butter and frosting looks smooth and creamy.
Add the heavy cream, vanilla extract, pistachio flavor, powdered sugar, and salt and beat on high until frosting looks creamy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl as needed. If it looks too warm and like it won’t hold shape when piped, place in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes. If frosting is too hard to pipe after being refrigerated, let it sit out a little at room temperature to soften it before piping.