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Rooibos Earl Grey Passion Fruit Cupcakes


I'm finally writing again! This is a long overdue post due to busyness, but here I am at last.

Three weeks ago, I made these Rooibos Earl Grey Passion Fruit Cupcakes (whew, what a mouthful!). I'm sure most people are familiar with Earl Grey tea, which is a black tea blend flavoured with bergamot oil. I love Earl Grey, although I actually cannot drink too much caffeine (I would get heart palpitations, feel jittery, and I wouldn't be able to sleep at night - talk about potent!). However, Rooibos is a less common tea. For the unacquainted, Rooibos, or red bush, is a type flower tea that originates from South Africa. It is fruity, aromatic and slightly tart. I first stumbled upon Rooibos tea a few years back, when I had a pleasant time catching up with a friend and mentor. She brewed me a cup of Rooibos tea with honey, and I fell in love with its flavour. I thought to myself, "These would taste amazing in cake form!" So shortly after, I made Rooibos honey cupcakes (no photos of those because that was many years ago).

For these cupcakes, I used Rooibos Earl Grey tea, which is yet another unique blend of tea. Unlike the classic Earl Grey, it is not black tea flavoured with bergamot oil. Instead, it is actually Rooibos tea flavoured with bergamot oil. I bought this particular blend of tea from McIver's Coffee and Tea Merchants at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne last June (and speaking of Melbourne, I really want to visit again! I love Melbourne.). I bought it because I like both Rooibos and Earl Grey, so why not try a combination of both?

Until recently, this bag of tea had been sitting on the table, unopened, unused, untasted. I knew that I wanted to put the tea to good use, so one day, I took a whiff of the tea through the paper bag's enclosed seam. Instantly, the tea's fruity, floral and slightly citrus notes hit my nose, and I knew that passion fruit would go well with the flavour profile of the tea. So, these cupcakes were born.

Let's talk a bit about passion fruit. Passion fruit is not very easy to find here (Singapore), and so when I did find them in the supermarket, I was delighted! I love passion fruit and I especially love passion fruit curd (and lemon curd, mmm). I decided that I would make and add the passion fruit curd into the cupcakes as a filling and also drizzle it on top of the finished cupcakes. However, the curd failed the first time as I didn't cook it long enough, and so its consistency was way too runny to be used as a filling. Disheartened but determined, I tried making the curd again the following week and finally got it right! The curd is so, so good; I could just eat it on its own.

Passion fruit with Rooibos Earl Grey tea is indeed a beautiful union of flavours. Sweet, floral, fruity, tart – it screams of summer. I would definitely make these again, and I hope you would try it out too.

 

Note: This cupcake has three components, which might seem like a lot to get done. Thankfully, you can spread out the baking over a few days. For instance, you can make the passion fruit curd in advance. To me, baking is about planning ahead, so make a plan and get baking!

Rooibos Earl Grey Passion Fruit Cupcakes

Yields 24 cupcakes

Ingredients

For the passion fruit curd (adapted from The Brick Kitchen):

  • 200 ml (3/4 cup) passion fruit pulp (1/2 cup when strained + 2 tablespoons seeds reserved)

  • 2 Tbs lemon juice

  • 150 g (3/4 cup) caster sugar

  • 2 eggs

  • 2 egg yolks

  • 110 g butter, cubed

For the vanilla Ermine frosting:

  • 45 g (1/3 cup) flour

  • 150 g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar

  • 3/4 tsp salt

  • 250 ml (1 cup) milk

  • 226 g unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

For the cupcakes:

  • 250 ml (1 cup) milk

  • 8 Tbs Rooibos Earl Grey tea leaves

  • 340 g (approx. 3 cups) all-purpose flour

  • 2 ½ tsp baking powder

  • ½ tsp baking soda

  • ¾ tsp salt

  • 170 g unsalted butter, softened

  • 60 g vegetable oil

  • 340 g (approx. 1 1/2 cup + 2 Tbs) caster sugar

  • 4 large eggs

  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste

Method

For the passion fruit curd:

  1. Strain the passion fruit pulp through a fine sieve, using a spoon to break up all the fibrous bits and get out as much liquid as you can. Reserve the liquid (which should be roughly 1/2 a cup) and 2 tablespoons of seeds (or no seeds if you prefer).

  2. In a medium metal bowl, combine the passionfruit liquid and 2 tablespoons of seeds, lemon juice and sugar. Whisk in the eggs and egg yolks until the sugar has dissolved.

  3. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (making sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water). Alternatively, cook the mixture directly over the stove top, on low heat. Stir the mixture continuously, scraping around the sides and bottom of the bowl, until it starts to thicken (10-15 minutes).

  4. As soon as it has thickened, remove from heat. Add the cubed butter and stir until smooth.

  5. Strain the curd again into a separate, cold bowl to ensure that all the eggy bits are removed.

  6. Refrigerated in an airtight container or jar. This curd will keep for a couple of weeks.

For the Ermine frosting:

  1. Add the flour, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Whisk to combine.

  2. Pour in the milk and whisk together to combine and break up the lumps of flour.

  3. Cook the mixture over a medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened to the consistency of paste.

  4. Remove from heat and strain the mixture through a sieve to remove any lumps of flour. Set aside to cool completely.

  5. In a separate large bowl, using a hand-held whisk or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, whip the softened butter until slightly pale.

  6. Add the cooled paste (the cooked milk mixture) one tablespoon at a time, whipping to incorporate the paste after each addition. The frosting will lighten in colour and become fluffy, like whipped cream. Add vanilla and whip to incorporate.

  7. Use the frosting immediately or store in the freezer in an airtight container for up to one week. If freezing for later, let it thaw at room temperature and re-whip the frosting before using.

For the cupcakes:

  1. Add tea leaves to the milk and heat over the stove top until almost boiling. Remove from heat and let the tea steep for at least 5 minutes.

  2. Strain the milk tea through a fine sieve, using the back of a spoon to press out as liquid from the tea leaves as possible. Set aside to cool completely.

  3. Set the oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 170°C/330°F.

  4. In a medium-sized bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

  5. In a separate larger bowl, cream together butter, oil and sugar until pale and fluffy using a hand-held whisk or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, for 5 minutes.

  6. Add in the eggs, one at a time, whipping each time. Let the egg fully incorporate into the butter-sugar mixture before adding the next egg.

  7. Add one-third of dry ingredients into the butter-sugar-egg mixture and fold to combine using using the mixer on the lowest speed. Then, add half of the milk tea and stir it in to combine. Continue this process of alternately adding the dry and wet ingredients, ending with the dry ingredients until all the ingredients are incorporated and well-combined. Do not over-mix.

  8. Using a tablespoon or ice cream scoop (for more uniform cupcakes), fill the cupcakes tins lined with cupcake liners until two-thirds full. Do not fill the cupcake liners more than two-thirds, or else the batter would overflow while baking.

  9. Bake at 170°C/330°F for 15-17 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cupcakes come out clean.

  10. Let the cupcakes cool in the cupcake tin for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from the tin and place them on a wire rack to cool completely.

Assembly:

  1. Core the centre of the cupcakes using a corer (or like me, if you don't have a corer, use a round piping tip). Fill a piping bag with passion fruit curd and pipe the curd into the cored cupcakes. Alternatively, if you don't want to lose too much cake, you can use a filling piping nozzle (an example would be Wilton's 230 nozzle). Simply fit the piping bag with the nozzle, fill the piping bag with curd, and inject the cupcakes with curd.

  2. Fit a Wilton 1M piping tip (it is an open star nozzle) into another large piping bag and fill it with the vanilla Ermine frosting. Applying even pressure, pipe the frosting onto the cupcake, starting from the middle and going around and out towards the edge of the cupcake. Repeat until all twenty four cupcakes are filled and frosted.

  3. Enjoy the fruit (pun intended) of your labour. ☺

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