Vanilla Cupcakes with Saffron Rosewater Buttercream and Pistachios

Legend has it that King Jamshid of Persia discovered sugar on Nowruz (Persian New Year), so it only seems fitting that I should post something sweet for the holidays. Now, I’m sure that cupcakes aren’t your traditional Nowruz dessert, but I think after you try these they will be.

I adore cupcakes. A couple years ago I took a baking course purely devoted to cupcakes. In fact, for a short time I considered starting a cupcake business……because that’s what Toronto needs more of, cupcake shops. Anyway, during that period there were a lot of cupcakes baked in my house and this particular cupcake was one of my creations. I remember thinking that these would be a perfect, modern Persian New Year dessert.

The base of these cupcakes are adapted from  a recipe by New York’s famous Magnolia Bakery. My cupcakes have the same delicious vanilla base but it’s the icing which sets these confections apart. Creamy and delicious, the flavours of saffron, rosewater and pistachios distinctly remind me of Persian ice cream. As a child I was not a huge fan of Persian Ice Cream (what child likes the taste of rosewater!) but now I enjoy its sophisticated flavours and love them even more in cupcake format.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Saffron Rosewater Buttercream & Pistachios
Makes 1 dozen

3/4 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup sugar
2 egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
Rosewater Saffron Icing (recipe to follow)
3 tbsp chopped salted pistachios

Using an electric mixer cream the butter. When the butter looks smooth, add the sugar and beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes. The mixture should look fluffy.

Add one egg and beat the mixture. Add the second egg and beat until incorporated.

In a separate bowl mix the two flours. In another bowl mix the milk and vanilla. Add one-third of the flour to the egg sugar mixture. Beat until incorporated. Make sure to start at a slow speed or the flour will go flying everywhere. Also, make sure to not overbeat….just until incorporated. Add half of the milk mixture into the batter and beat until incorporated. Make sure to use a spatula to scrape down any batter at the sides of the bowl. Add another third of the flour and beat. Add the rest of the mix and beat till incorporated. Finish with the last of the flour and beat until well blended.

Line your muffin tin with cupcake wrappers and fill each one about 3/4 full (I like to use an ice cream scooper to drop the batter). Pop them into a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes (a tooth pick put into the centre should come out clean). Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Saffron Rosewater Buttercream

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp rosewater
1/8 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbsp boiling water (cooled)

Cream the butter until smooth. Add two cups of icing sugar and the milk. Beat on medium speed for about 4 minutes. The icing should be smooth.

Add the cooled saffron water, the rosewater and the rest of the icing sugar. Beat for 2 minutes until creamy. If the icing seems too thin you can add in more icing sugar. If it’s too thick, you can add a touch more milk.

To ice the cupcakes, you can either use of spatula and simply spread the icing on the cupcakes or you can use a piping bag for a more decorative effect by swirling the icing on top.

Sprinkle a little bit of the chopped pistachios on each cupcake.



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