Basil My HeartPosted: October 23, 2010
A few days back I was thinking I really wanted basil in something sweet and I wanted to try a basil buttercream. It’s probably one too many episodes of Top Chef: Just Desserts rubbing off on me but it sounded really delicious.
One of the most obvious choices for a cupcake to me was something citrus flavoured. Inspired, I thought to myself I’d just make my usual cupcake recipe but add lemon zest in and I’d fill it in with lemon curd.
Just grab any vanilla cupcake recipe (there are 20 million versions out there) and add the zest of a whole lemon to it. I also swapped out the vanilla extract and used the seeds of a whole vanilla pod instead because I wanted to be fancy. And also because I have a whole lot of vanilla pods waiting to be used up from a past project.
The lemon curd recipe is an Alton Brown recipe but I stumbled on a few problems whilst making it. I’ve never made lemon curd before so I was really going in blind on this. My lemon curd just didn’t have the right consistency to it, even after adding in the butter. Instead of throwing it out, I just popped it back on the double boiler, chucked in another egg yolk and cooked it for another 10 minutes or so until it really thickened up, then I took it off and added even more butter (guesstimation!) and just stopped when it felt right.
It’s pretty cool being able to save lemon curd based on feel.
I added the lemon curd using the “cone method”, which is basically cutting a top out of a cupcake with the knife angled inwards as to create a “cone” shape, lifting the top out, putting your filling in, then top it again with the cake piece.
For the buttercream, I made my favourite type of buttercream, French buttercream! Click here for the recipe. It’s definitely more labour intensive than a regular buttercream but it’s so worth the extra effort. It’s light, fluffy, rich and yet not disgustingly sweet. It’s my kind of buttercream where it really feels like buttery goodness and not just a cavity-inducing load of sugar. I especially hate grainy buttercreams that a lot of cupcake stores top their cupcakes with. HATE!
It starts with making syrup but watching the temperature very closely that it doesn’t go over 118˚C. It has to hit 118˚C but it can’t go over that or you run a risk of having to start all over again so I was standing over the stove like a hawk with my insta-read thermometer (my baby!) and I took it off the heat the moment the thermometer registered 118˚C.
My incorporation of basil into the buttercream began with the syrup. I chopped up a handful of basil leaves and put them in the syrup to let it infuse into the syrup while it cooked. To be honest, I didn’t find that the basil was too well infused into the buttercream so I think in the future, I may actually pack the chopped basil leaves with the sugar in a vacuumed bag for a few days to let it fully perfume the sugar before boiling it with another handful of basil leaves. But that’s what all this fun experimentation is for, right? Discovery and rectification of methods to get the best possible results.
It’s still great this time around but much too subtle that you couldn’t really tell immediately it was basil you were tasting. Also because the lemon curd was really amazing so it kinda stole the show away from the basil buttercream. Maybe there’s a way to infuse basil in my cupcake?
But the greatest thing about these cupcakes?
When sliced in half, the curd actually formed a heart within the cake due to the “cone method” of filling. Isn’t that just precious? Love curd filling, aww!
To quote Sheena, who has been on the receiving end of many cupcakes from me, this may quite possibly be one of the best, if not the best, cupcake I ever made.
I have to say, I agree. I really adored this and it was, as always, so fun to conceptualise and then watch it materialise.