Orange Miso Buttermilk Bundt Cake

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A little twist never hurt anyone.

Here we have an orange miso buttermilk bundt cake, brushed with warm marmalade, tiger-striped with an orange miso buttermilk icing. Sunday respite indeed, friends. 

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‘Miso? That’s weird. But cool.’

My hesitant sister picked at the top of the cake (which is actually the bottom) in wonder. I pinched a bit off myself and heaved a sigh of relief. At both the final crumb, and the flavours present. One would think pairing two tangy ingredients wouldn’t do much for either of the two star flavours here, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. . In each bite, you get the fragrant tang of orange, and the more sharply, savoury-dish-salty punch of miso. The ultimate hit of umami, only partially disguised by the sweet, light background of fluff. On a side note, I only recently discovered that miso is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a peculiar-sounding fungus (Aspergillus oryzae). Soy has taken a backseat in my experimental repertoire, but it’s making a furious comeback, and one that I welcome, at that.

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It’s more of a pound cake than anything. Dense yet fluffy, which I attribute to the cake flour used. I did debate using normal all-purpose flour, and you can go ahead and try substituting that for the cake flour here, but it does make all the difference in producing a fairytale crumb. The best bit, in my humble opinion, is the outer crust, which is both robust and partially caramelised. The crust sings strength, so much so that I needn’t have to bother with cutting the top, for the firm bottom meant it could rest flat on the cake stand without unduly collapsing. The rise from the oven did produce some cracks, air pushing through a firm golden canvas, but these only helped the penetration of marmalade when it was warmed through and brushed on post-bake. What I was most happy with was that glaze– of stronger miso flavour than the cake itself, adding a bite that would otherwise be too pronounced in just the cake. The marmalade glaze is optional, but it added to the citrus theme, and the slivers of rind looked a picture on top of the crumbs and brown.

Just now I sat down to a thin sliver of the stuff, and discovered the burst of savoury flavour enveloped in a smooth, sweet body of cake goes perfectly with a simple scoop of plain vanilla ice cream. Family helped mop it all up. Yesterday I made a cake, and it was simple, and so so good. Not much else (aside from a very well-written paper or book or walk) makes me just as happy and satisfied.

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Orange Miso Buttermilk Bundt Cake (makes one standard bundt cake)

Ingredients

For the cake:

226g (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

330g (3 cups) cake flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 heaping tbsp white miso

560g (2 1/2 cups) white caster sugar

4 eggs

zest+ juice of 1 orange, reserve 1 tsp orange juice for the icing later

1/4 cup marmalade (optional)

120ml buttermilk, homemade or store-bought (to make: add a tbsp of white vinegar to your measuring cup or beaker, then fill to the 120ml mark with milk, and let sit for 5 minutes to let the acidity work its magic)

 

For the icing:

135g icing sugar, sifted

1 tsp buttermilk

1 tsp orange juice (from the one orange you juiced earlier for the cake)

1 tsp white miso

 

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350F (177C) and grease a bundt pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, rub the zest into the sugar. Add the softened butter, and use an electrical whisk to cream the butter and sugar mixture until light, white and fluffy, about a minute. Beat in the eggs. Add the flour, buttermilk and orange juice, and beat until you get a uniform, pale mixture. It should have a thick, dropping consistency. Finally, beat in the miso. Pour into the greased bundt pan and bake for 60-65 minutes. Mine was done at the hour-mark.

While it is baking, whisk together the ingredients for the icing and set aside. Once the cake is done, poke a few holes in the top, then brush the surface with marmalade that’s been warmed in the microwave. Leave the cake to cool for half an hour, before turning it over onto a cake stand, and drizzling (however you like) with the glaze.

Nut Butter Stuffed Matcha Cupcakes (updated)

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*.

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almond butter stuffed; topped with salted caramel cream cheese frosting and speculoos biscuit
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pistachio butter stuffed; topped with matcha buttercream and chopped pistachios

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.

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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

pinch salt

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.

Matcha buttercream:

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.