Yuzu Sunshine Cupcakes … layering flavour like fragrance

I love how you can layer a flavour in a cake in much the same way as you can layer fragrance.  You know, you use the scented bodywash, the matching body lotion and then top it all off with a spritz of the concentrated perfume?  That kind of thing.  Works beautifully with food too, especially cakes and pastries.

We’ve had some gloriously sunny and warm days this week in Melbourne.  Beautiful balmy autumn days to make up for what has been a lacklustre summer this year.  The kind of weather that makes you yearn for something bright and sunny, as you hang on to the last remnants of the season.  This week I’ve also been looking at a lot of cupcake pics and a little voice inside my head started:  It’s been a while since you made cupcakes, Vivi-spice … imagine layering a flavour through a cupcake, like a fragrance … something sunny and bright.   Hey, hang on … yuzu.

Oh come on, you know, the voice of inspiration … not a sudden need for a lithium patch!

I bought a bottle of yuzu juice a while ago, not quite sure what I was going to make with it at the time.  I just wanted to play around and experiment.  It’s rather expensive though so I didn’t want to waste it on any wacky, crazy ideas to which I might suddenly succumb!   An all too likely scenario.  Usually ends in strong language and occasionally tears.   If you are not familiar with it, yuzu is a citrus fruit native to Japan.  It has a lot in common with lemons but I’d say the taste is less sour, much more tangy, and really bright and fresh.  Lemony at first, a little hint of orange lingers?

So these cupcakes are also a little tribute to Japan, at a time when sunshine and cupcakes are probably the furthest things from the minds of most Japanese.

The idea was to layer the flavour, so I incorporated it into the cupcake batter, the yuzu curd, and into the frosting.  Using the fragrance analogy, the yuzu curd is like the concentrated perfume in this cake.  The cake is like the bodywash, lightly scented.  The frosting is like the body lotion, rich with a slightly stronger scent.

I have to say yuzu curd is now my all time FAVOURITE curd EVER.  I love citrus curd that’s not too sweet and really tangy and yuzu delivers in spades, in yuzus even!  If you make nothing else, make the curd.  It’s sunshine and rainbows and butterflies all rolled into one … and tangy!  Happiness.

I made a cream cheese frosting and used the curd in that too.  It’s light, easy to pipe, not too sweet or buttery, and totally delicious.  Because I don’t like to pile frosting on to cupcakes, I had a little left over.  It’s good on its own, eaten with a spoon but would also be great on freshly baked scones or French toast.  Ditto the curd.  Actually the curd would be great with anything.  Really and truly.  I’m putting the leftovers on my toast tomorrow.  I’ll just work a bit harder at the gym later 😀

The cupcakes themselves are super moist.  There’s nothing worse than a dry cupcake relying on its frosting to stop you totally gagging, is there?  The cakes would be great even on their own.   This recipe couldn’t be easier and it’s easily adapted to other citrus flavours, if you can’t find yuzu juice.  I hope you like the way the yuzu flavour runs through all the elements that make up the cake without being overpowering.  It really does taste as though it’s been subtly layered.

Makes 18 cupcakes

Small sugar flowers for decoration – I used white and yellow just because they looked sunny 🙂

Yuzu Cupcakes
220 grams sugar
200 grams unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs
3 tablespoons yuzu juice
220 grams plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder

Yuzu Curd
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup yuzu juice (strained)
140 grams sugar
150 grams unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Yuzu Frosting
125 grams icing sugar
250 grams cream cheese
80 grams unsalted butter, melted & cooled
3/4 cup Yuzu Curd (recipe above)

To make the cupcakes
Preheat oven to 180C (175C in a fan-forced oven).   Place the sugar and butter into the bowl of a mixer and beat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is light.  Add the eggs and yuzu juice and beat until smooth.  Sift the flour and baking powder together, add to the batter mixture and beat until the batter is smooth and light.  Divide the mixture between 18 cupcake liners.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until risen and golden.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack before frosting.

To make the curd
Place the egg yolks, sugar, and yuzu juice into a saucepan and mix well.  Stir the mixture over a low to medium heat, until it starts to thicken.  Don’t let the mixture boil.  Reduce the heat if necessary.  When thickened so it coats the back of a spoon, remove from the heat.  It should take about 6 – 8 minutes. Gradually whisk in the butter in three or four batches until the mixture is smooth and shiny.  Pour into a bowl.  Cover with a layer of cling film on the surface of the curd and refrigerate until required.

Reserve 3/4 cup of the curd for the frosting.

When the cupcakes have cooled, fit a small piping bag with a small plain tip and half-fill the bag with curd.  Insert the tip about 2 centimetres into each cupcake and pipe a small amount of curd into each cake (removing the tip from each cupcake as you pipe in the curd).  Set aside, ready for frosting.

To make the frosting
Whisk the cream cheese until smooth.  Sift the icing sugar and add to the cream cheese.  Whisk until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is light and creamy.  Add the chilled yuzu curd and whisk until light.

Whisk the cooled butter until slightly thickened and add it to the cream cheese mixture.  Whisk the frosting until light.  If making ahead, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  I find it pipes more easily if chilled.

Fit a piping bag with a plain or decorative tip, depending on your preference.  I used a plain one because I prefer it with the flowers on top.  Fill the bag with the frosting and pipe a little frosting on each cupcake.  If you don’t feel confident piping the frosting, just swirl it on to the top of each cupcake with an offset palette knife.

Place a sugared flower on top of each cupcake.  There you have it … sunshine and heaven in fresh and yummy yuzu cupcakes!

The sun disappeared this morning and now it’s cold and raining, with no promise of warm, balmy days in the coming week.   I’m not sure I’m ready to say goodbye to the sun just yet.   At least I have my cupcakes … nom nom!

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