I include two different nut butter options here– pistachio and almond. Oh yes, and two special frostings. I guess you have to read on if you want to know the specifics *annoying seductive winky face*.
The first time I made these cupcakes, I relied purely on instinct and an old, old recipe found deep in the recesses of my dusty and grainy mental archives. The second time round, I modified a recipe from Cupcake Jemma, and they turned out absolutely perfect. No really. I hate these sorts of exaggerations, all the ‘reallys’ and ‘trulys’, so I’m officially going against personal principle for the sake of emphasis and honesty. These are the lightest, fluffiest little things, and I adore how the flavour of green tea is pronounced, and not hidden like some odd side element.
Anyways, it was a lucky shot. I always start a baking experiment with some wild or novel idea, but the initial framework always ends up being littered with side details and spontaneous ‘wait, I should use this instead of that!’ moments. They speckle the total perfection, so whatever I end up with is never what I meant it to be. Take this, for instance. I’ve recently been on a slight matcha roll (note to self: try out matcha rolls) because of its subtle green tea flavour. The bitter aftertaste lingers on the back of your tongue, never quite overwhelming it, making whatever you’re tasting just that much more sophisticated. Almost healthful, and no, not just because of that deceiving light green hue. I could list all the healthy characteristics of a teaspoon of matcha powder, but let’s face it, we’re talking about cupcakes here. I guess it’s further redeemed by the soft, oozing, rich dollop of almond butter right in the centre, but I haven’t gotten on to the frosting yet. Life is about balance. This is balance.
I was a little afraid of making cupcakes for two reasons.
1. I’ve made them (well, everyone makes them a lot) so many times that I was afraid the repetition bug would strike out against me and unleash a sudden curse on my beauties. Call me deranged.
2. They could very well and most likely be sub-par cupcakes. People want astounding, not average things.
That second point got me thinking. So if I made a good cupcake, it has to be made even better by some novel pairing or ingredient.. we’ve all been down the red/blue/green velvet path at least once, or maybe tried that wonderful chocolate or vanilla buttercream frosting to up the ante a bit, but something an inch more atypical would work better. That’s when I thought of matcha and almond (not quite novel just yet)… topped with salted caramel cream cheese frosting, topped with crushed speculoos biscuits (Lotus biscuits as everyone knows them here) and drizzled with more salted caramel. Think soft matcha sponge encasing a large dollop of creamy, rich nut butter, topped with lightly salted caramel cream cheese swirls and light, cookie-based crunch on top, or, in another case, delicate swirls of thick and fluffy matcha buttercream. The crumb is soft and firm, and the best part of these cupcakes is that post-baking, you get this wonderful sugar-crusted, crumbly top, which breaks away easily when you want to stuff the little holes with nut butter. I do love this matcha and almond/pistachio pairing, the upper-class rigidity of the flavours totally offset by the playful done-it-before frosting options.
Nut Butter Stuffed Matcha Cupcakes
For the cupcakes (makes 10-12, adapted from Cupcake Jemma):
125g self-raising flour
135g soft, unsalted butter
125g white sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
quarter teaspoon bicarb soda
1 teaspoon matcha powder
Option 1: Matcha buttercream
270g icing sugar
150g softened, unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 teaspoon matcha powder, dissolved in a splash of whole milk
Option 2: Salted caramel cream cheese frosting (after many personal trial and error stints):
170g cream cheese, at room temperature
150g brown sugar
75g icing sugar
75g butter, softened
1 tbsp salted caramel sauce (store-bought or homemade)
for the topping: crushed speculoos biscuits and extra salted caramel sauce for drizzling
Preheat your oven to 170C (350F) and spray a muffin tin. In a large bowl and with a normal or electrical whisk, beat the butter and sugar together on high until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. In another smaller bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients- flour, bicarb, matcha powder and salt. Using a spatula, fold the flour and matcha mixture into the wet mixture.
Place the cupcake tin into the preheated oven and bake for 20-22 minutes. I took mine out at the 21-minute mark. Leave them to cool on a wire rack. The tops will be crusty and a light golden, and will look relatively flat. Leave to cool on a wire rack before removing to dig holes and stuff them silly.
Salted caramel cream cheese frosting:
Whilst they cool, make the frosting. Beat the brown sugar and butter together using a handheld electrical whisk, then beat in the cream cheese, icing sugar and salted caramel sauce. This is my favourite salted caramel cream cheese frosting which uses more brown rather than icing sugar, so it’s handy when you’re running low on icing sugar. Put the mix into the fridge until ready to use.
In a large bowl, beat together the icing sugar, softened butter, teaspoon of vanilla, and matcha/milk mix. Beat until visibly light, thick and fluffy. Stuff a piping bag with the mix and leave in a cool place (I put mine in the fridge overnight and let thaw for around 15 minutes the next morning) until ready to use.
When the cupcakes are mostly cool (around 15-20 minutes post-baking), take a teaspoon and dig right into the heart of the cupcake, before scooping out some cake. This part is mostly up to you; if you want more nut butter per mouthful (you lovely hedonists) then go ahead and dig deep, but if not, a teaspoonful of cake will suffice. Using another teaspoon, spoon in a heaped (or however much you want) of nut butter into the hole. I used homemade almond and pistachio butter; my mum makes batches in the kitchen all the time and it’s the most divine thing in the world. Using a large spoon or piping bag, frost the cupcakes with the salted caramel frosting or matcha buttercream. For the former, add crushed speculoos biscuits and more salted caramel drizzled on top. For the matcha buttercream, pipe the buttercream on top, whizz up some pistachios in a food processor and sprinkle on top. I also added salted caramel to this version because, well, why the heck not.