Chicago has a growing number of cupcake shops, but there’s one in particular that my mom likes to go to when she visits. On our first visit there, she had a pear and almond cupcake that she loved. In fact, she loved it so much, she was willing to go back several times and pay $4 per cupcake repeatedly just to have one.
I’d been thinking about how to replicate the cupcakes, and then after I made the cranberry yogurt muffins, it hit me: I needed a puree to infuse the cupcake with pear flavor. And, I realized there were no chunks of almonds in the cupcake for the same reason: The shop had used ground almonds so the flavor would permeate the cake.
With those two ideas in mind, I got to work on a recipe. My thanks again to Michael Ruhlman, whose discussion of baking techniques, in particularly the creaming vs. sponge method was invaluable. The recipe below is a sponge cake, which is lighter and airier than a pound cake.
I made the cupcakes for mom’s birthday. I know she liked them because one day while I was visiting, she had one cupcake for breakfast and another before bed —which is NOT OK given that she’s on a low-sugar diet. But it was her birthday, and I’m glad she enjoyed it.
If you make these, make them close to the time they will be eaten as they begin to go stale fast. If you don’t plan to eat them all at once, freeze them and pull one or two out of the freezer when you want them.
8 ounces flour
8 ounces sugar
4 eggs (8 ounces)
4 ounces butter
12 ounces pear, pureed
2 ounces almonds, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon almond extract
Toast almonds in frying pan over medium heat until they are light brown. Grind them in a food processor until they are almost like cornmeal in texture. Set aside.
Peel, core and chop pears (about 2). Place chunks in a saucepan and heat until pears become soft and begin to break down. Puree in a food processor until they are the consistency of applesauce. Set aside.
Sift flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl. Set aside.
Melt butter. Set aside.
Put eggs into a mixing bowl and beat until they are fluffy. Add sugar and continue beating until mixture is fluffy.
Add flour mixture. Stir. Add pureed pear and ground almonds. Stir. Add almond extract and melted butter. Stir.
Spoon batter into cupcake tins with paper liners. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.
Makes about 18 cupcakes.
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-4 tablespoons milk
Melt butter in frying pan over medium-low heat. Continue cooking until butter starts to brown. Remove from heat immediately.
Stir 1 cup confectioners sugar into butter. Add vanilla and milk. Add remaining cup of sugar.
Use immediately as icing will harden as it cools.