Posts Tagged ‘Spices’


C is for Chinese Five Spice and Cupcakes

January 14, 2011

I apologize for the delay in posting – I started my last semester of classes this week, and am having bittersweet mixed feelings.  On top of which, I already have a ton of homework (yuck!) but plan to get back on track now because I don’t like waiting a week between posts.  Well, I’m surprised to say we’re 3 for 3 on our ingredient/recipe alliteration (Chinese five spice/cupcakes).  Interesting coincidence.  I wonder how long that trend will continue.

So you’re all aware, I make no bones about the fact that I detest the flavor of licorice.  Whether in candy like Good n’ Plenty or black Twizzlers (which I’m pretty sure are marketed exclusively to old people), or the shots of Jagermeister I’ve rather reluctantly choked down with RedBull at parties—I just can’t stand the stuff.

So, naturally I was apprehensive when Erik turned up with Ingredient C:  Chinese Five Spice (particularly as I could smell the putrid pungency of anise trailing from his overnight bag before he was barely through the door).  The blend encompasses the five tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty) usually in a combination of cinnamon, cloves, anise, star anise, and Szechuan pepper and is apparently very common in – you guessed it – Chinese cuisine.  (Some versions, including McCormick, have ginger instead of the pepper, but we used the Williams-Sonoma version which has the classic five flavors).

We decided to make Chinese Five Spice Cupcakes with a Maple Buttercream Frosting, which turned out to be surprisingly delicious despite my reluctance.  My advice to those of you who have never tried this, or are wary of its potency and complexity:  try it anyway.  It reminds me of a spice cake (such as you’d get using pumpkin or apple pie spice blends, etc.) but with more of an exotic depth of flavor from the anise and pepper.  And the maple from the frosting only enhances the experience.  I hate to admit when I’m wrong about something, but I must admit I certainly misjudged Chinese Five Spice.  So, the recipe:

Yum so pretty!

Chinese Five Spice Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream


  • 2/3 c. soy milk
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar (or white or apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 ¼ c all purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1½-2 tsp chinese five spice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch (or arrowroot powder)
  • ½ c maple syrup (REAL maple syrup, the Log Cabin stuff won’t work)
  • 1/3 c canola oil
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 drops Lorann maple oil (or 2 tsp maple flavoring)

In small bowl, combine soy milk and vinegar and let stand for 5 minutes, allowing the soy milk to curdle slightly.  Once curdled add oil, syrup, sugar and flavorings to milk.  In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients.  Whisk wet ingredients to dry.  Pour into cupcake liners.  Bake at 350 for 18-20 min.

Woot for single bowl recipes!


  • ¾ c. margarine or butter
  • ¼ c. shortening
  • 3 ½ c. powdered sugar
  • 2 drops Lorann Maple oil (or 2 tsp maple flavoring)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

In electric stand mixer, cream margarine (or butter) and shortening with extracts.  Add sugar, beating until blended and fluffy.  Frost cooled cupcakes and sprinkle lightly with five spice if desired.  Nom.

Fun Fact:  If you use margarine instead of butter in the frosting, this recipe is 100% vegan!



Let it Snowcake!

December 14, 2010

Last week I was asked to make a cake by my friend Ashley for her mom’s birthday. Woot woot!

From a lot of baking and tweaking I’ve finally come up with what I think to be the best Pumpkin Spice cake. It was this cake that I had made for Ashley’s Birthday back in October and she requested for her mom’s cake as well. It has a warm spiciness of ginger and sweet cinnamon accompanied by a pleasant citrus zing.

For Ashley’s cake I had focused on making it very fall via warm colors and making some chocolate leaves. So when she asked me to winterize her cake, I ended up making some royal icing snowflakes and iced the cake in a pale blue. I also included some cupcakes in her order, as she was hinting she wanted some pre-party cake. Here are the results and the recipe for my pumpkin cake.


-I usually don’t do the whole product placement dance but I do love pampered chef cinnamon plus for a few reasons. 1.) I’m not the biggest fan of cinnamon as I feel it is overused a lot. 2.) This blend is pretty tasty as the cinnamony-ness has been cut with ginger, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and orange peel. 3.) I could only think of two reasons. You could replace it with pumpkin pie spice.

-A classic cream cheese icing would be just as well.

Yah Autumn!

Half of the royal icing many. snowflakes.

Extra mini-snowcakes (Ashley was fearful she would snack on the cake during her commute).

Pumpkin Spice Cake Laced with Citrus

For Cake:

  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon plus
  • ½ tsp fresh nutmeg (I’m kinda in love with fresh nutmeg)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Zest of ½ orange
  • 1 ½ c granulated sugar
  • ¾ c vegetable oil (or canola)
  • ½ c unsweetened applesauce
  • 15 oz. can pumpkin
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs

For Frosting:

  • 1 ½ stick cream cheese
  • ½ stick butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon plus
  • ¼ tsp fresh nutmeg
  • Zest of ½ orange

To make cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease and flour 2-8” or 9” pans. In a bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg.

In another bowl mix together the oil, applesauce, and the sugar. Using an electric mixer on low beat in the pumpkin, orange zest, and vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Now gradually add the flour mixture on low speed, beating until just combined.

Spread the batter into the baking pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 min then flip onto a wire rack. Cool completely before frosting or else you’ll have a sad melty cake.

Cake prior to frosting.

Love that color contrast: orange cake + blue frosting = ❤

To make the icing:

In a mixing bowl put the room temperature cream cheese and butter. Beat together until creamy. When they are incorporated add the orange zest, cinnamon, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Blend together until it is a good spreading consistency. Add more powdered sugar if too thin; add some milk if too thick. Frost cake and decorate to your desires. Enjoy!

The finished cake yah!

~Erik <(^_^)>