I’ve been playing around with my spice shelf again. There’s something incredibly satisfying about coming up with a new or unexpected group of spices that work. This time of year screams for cinnamon. The colder weather pushes me indoors and nothing cozies me up more than the smell of cinnamon. Then add the other winter spices; ginger, cloves, nutmeg and mace and a holiday potpourri is wafting through the house. While I was writing this recipe, I had a thought. Given that the spices I just mentioned are associated with heat as much as they inspire thoughts of winter – many ethnic foods like Moroccan, Vietnamese and Jamaican rely on these spices for the hot in their cooking – why wouldn’t ground black pepper, which is often combined with these spices in savoury dishes, work in something sweet? I couldn’t come up with any reason it wouldn’t work so into the cupcakes it went…
To balance the snappy flavour of the cake, I topped the cupcakes with a brown-sugar cream-cheese frosting. Warm and spicy dressed up with rich and creamy. I took the cupcakes to friends of ours for dessert without testing one only because they love to try new foods so would take no issue with my quirky spice combination. I arrived with eight cupcakes and left with an empty plate. They were a hit!
spicy applesauce cupcakes with brown-sugar cream-cheese frosting
Preheat oven 350*F
makes 20 medium cupcakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon mace
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, pepper and spices and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until light and airy. Slowly blend in the applesauce, oil and vanilla until smooth. if you use a CHUNKY applesauce don’t blend out the chunks of apple
Using a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients.
Spoon the batter into cupcake papers 3/4 full and bake for about 23 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
Cool the cakes on a rack completely before icing
Brown-Sugar Cream-Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
In a medium-sized bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar until smooth and creamy.
Divide between cupcakes.
Store cupcakes covered in the refrigerator.