Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Success - Finally!

I love cupcakes.  I love ice cream.  So when I read about the 2011 Ice Cream Cupcake Contest sponsored by the Cupcake Project and Scoopalicious, I was enthralled. 

When I first read about it on the Cupcake Project blog, mango sorbet immediately popped into my head.  But what to go with it?  I kicked around the idea of sort of a mango tres leches cupcake with a spicy ancho chile kick to it (I may still make these - they sound so good to me), but I’ve really been fascinated with Indian cooking lately, so I decided to let those flavors be my inspiration.  Thinking about coconut rice pudding, masala chai tea and mango lassies conjured up A Taste of India Cupcakes with Mango Sorbet. 

Round One
In my first attempt, the coconut in the coconut chai cupcakes was too dominant over the chai flavors.  They were good – just not what I was looking for in terms of flavor.  The saffron buttercream I made to go with them turned out pretty well, but maybe just a bit too much saffron.  It amazes me that something so small packs such a punch! 

The second go at the cupcakes yielded more of the flavor I was looking for, but they were dry, dry, dry.  Not even brushing them with a chai tea simple syrup could resurrect them.  For quality control purposes, they went to the trash.  I was beginning to feel defeat creeping in.   The second round of buttercream kept that at bay though. 

While lying in bed wide awake at some unholy hour, the idea popped into my head to use some melted mango sorbet in my buttercream.  I wondered about the effect of replacing the milk in the recipe with the sorbet since there is no dairy in the sorbet.  I compromised and added a couple of tablespoons of milk to the melted sorbet.  Eureka!

But the contest deadline was looming and my cupcakes were still not to my satisfaction.  Time for round three.  I went back to the first recipe but reduced the amount of coconut.  Then, instead of using a combination ground spices, I used a bag of Celestial Seasoning’s India Spice Chai.  It worked.

Sunny-side up cupcake?
The assembly got a little messy.  I started by just placing a scoop of sorbet on top of the cupcakes.  They sort of looked like they had a bad fried egg on top.  After softening the sorbet a bit, I attempted piping rosettes.  A common problem I have with piping is that my hands seem to radiate heat.  Not great for buttercream, even worse for sorbet.  By the time I had one ready for its close up, the sorbet was already dripping down the side. 

And I was okay with that.  I snapped some pics, grabbed a fork and enjoyed some cake and sorbet bliss.  The cupcakes finally had the taste and texture I wanted:  a balance of coconut and chai, moist but not falling apart, and chewy little bits of coconut.  The sweet/tart of the mango sorbet is perfect to cut through the richness of the buttercream.  Even though the buttercream has sorbet in it, you smell it more than you taste it.  It just sort of adds to the mango experience.  

As is often the case for me, the third time’s a charm.  My lucky number 3 didn’t let me down.  I now have a recipe I'm not embarrassed to share, and half a pint of mango sorbet at my disposal.  It would have been great to make my own mango sorbet, but there is a reason I don't own an ice cream maker.  As I said, I do love ice cream.

Taste of India Cupcakes with Mango Sorbet
Coconut Chai Cupcakes

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsweetened, finely shredded, dried coconut
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 bag chai tea (I used Celestial Seasoning’s India Spice Chai)
1/2 cup + 2 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup Greek-style yogurt
1/4 cup milk
Mango sorbet for assembly (I like Häagen Dazs)

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line cupcake tins with paper or foil liners.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and dried coconut together in a large bowl.  Set aside. 

Combine one tablespoon of the sugar and the contents of the tea bag in a clean coffee/spice grinder and process until nearly powdered.  Add to the remaining sugar.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about five minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the paddle and the bowl.  Reduce the speed to medium and slowly drizzle in the beaten egg, no more than a tablespoon at a time, incorporating thoroughly after each addition.  Stop and scrape the paddle and bowl about halfway through, and again after all of the egg is incorporated.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add one third of the flour mixture.  Mix briefly, then add the yogurt.  Add another third of the flour followed by the milk, then the remaining flour.  Mix only until combined.

Use an ice cream scoop to portion into prepared pan(s).  Bake 18 – 20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Immediately remove the cupcakes from the pan to a wire rack to cool.  Cool completely before icing with mango-saffron buttercream and topping with mango sorbet.

Makes approximately 18 cupcakes.

Mango-Saffron Buttercream

3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
pinch of saffron (I used exactly 10 threads)
1/8 tsp turmeric
6 Tbs melted mango sorbet (melt, then measure)
2 Tbs milk
1 Tbs all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbs heavy whipping cream, cold
1-1/4 cups unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature

Combine one tablespoon of sugar, the saffron and the turmeric in a small bowl and grind with the back of a spoon (a mortar and pestle works much better if you have one) until the saffron is crushed.

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar mixture with the remaining sugar, the melted mango sorbet and the milk.  Heat on medium-low until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Gradually sift in the flour while whisking and whisk vigorously until completely incorporated. 

Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whisk on medium-high speed until the bowl is cool to the touch.  This may take up to 10 minutes, depending on the ambient temperature. 

It gets better - trust me.
When the mixture is cool, switch to the paddle attachment.  Add the vanilla and whipping cream and mix briefly just to combine.  Add the butter all at once.  Begin on low speed and gradually increase the speed to medium-high.  Don’t worry if the buttercream looks curdled – just keep going.  Beat on medium-high for 8 – 10 minutes or until the buttercream is smooth and creamy.  

Almost there.

If you’re not using the buttercream  immediately, store in the refrigerator for up to three days or up to two months in the freezer.  Thaw frozen buttercream in the refrigerator.  Allow it to come to room temperature and then re-beat before using.

Makes approximately one quart.

Made it!


Place the buttercream in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.  I like Wilton’s 1M cupcake icing tip, but Ateco 824 also works well.  Pipe a border around the edge of the cupcake (plain or fancy - it's just to keep the ice cream contained), leaving space in the center for a small scoop of mango sorbet.  Add the sorbet just before serving.  You can also try piping some softened sorbet in the center, but that didn’t really work out so well for me. 

Devour immediately.


  1. That scoop of mango sorbet looks so beautiful just slightly melted in the center of that cupcake!

  2. Thanks, Katie! It started out as a swirl, but by the time I got the shot . . . but I sort of like how the melted sorbet is streaming down the channels of the buttercream.

    And I love your recipes, by the way. Those truffles are totally on my radar!

  3. This sounds delicious! Love the combination of chai tea and mango sorbet...yummy!


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