Caramelised red onion & spinach cupcakes with a cream cheese & sweet chilli topping
Here's to my first ever savoury cupcake recipe!
The origin of this recipe is (funnily enough!) a muffin recipe which I found in my 'Muffin Bible' which is a Penguin book in a series of several baking bibles. I've tweaked the recipe slightly & transformed it into a savoury cupcake recipe.
My husband's first comment after he tasted one was, "it's definitely not a muffin". Phew.
The cake itself is quite moist thanks to the caramelised onions & moisture from the spinach. The cream cheese & sweet chilli topping or 'icing' if we stick with cupcake lingo, is just that. Cream cheese & sweet chilli sauce which not only adds flavour, it also thins the cream cheese slightly to reach a piping consistency. The toasted pine nuts on the top add some nice crunch & flavour.
I think you could describe these cupcakes as being a little bit posh... for some reason I felt quite daring & imaginative toasting some pine nuts & sprinkling them over the top... ;)
Here's the recipe...
Makes around 15 cupcakes
Ingredients for the cake-part
2 red onions finely diced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
60 gram bag of spinach
2.5 cups plain flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup milk
2/3 cup vegetable oil
Ingredients for the 'icing'
250 grams cream cheese (I used a 250g block of Philadelphia cream cheese)
2 teaspoons of sweet chilli sauce
A handful of pine nuts for toasting
What to do...
- Line some muffin tins with cupcake liners. My mixture made 15 cupcakes so if you happen to have two tins, put a couple extra cupcake liners in another tin.
- Cook the onions slowly in a frying pan over a medium-high heat & once they are are very soft & have just started to brown a little, add the balsamic vinegar & brown sugar which will start the caramelisation process. Be patient with this. It's not like frying up some onions as you would normally do. The onions will need a little more cooking time & the important thing is to not burn the onions. You want them to reach a rich, caramelised consistency. Once you have this, place the onions on a plate & leave aside to cool.
- Add the spinach to the frying pan & return to the heat until the leaves have wilted completely. Remove from the heat, place on a plate & leave aside to cool.
- Pre-heat your oven to 180C.
- In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients. Once sifted, mix them together to combine.
- Lightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl & add to the dry ingredients. Next add the milk & the oil.
- Finely chop the spinach & add to the mixture along with the onions. Mix everything until combined.
- Scoop the batter into your cupcake liners, filling them around 2/3 full. I used an ice cream scoop for this which helps to ensure the cupcakes are all the same size. Just make sure you level off each scoop of mixture.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cupcakes spring back when you press lightly in the middle. If you're unsure, insert a skewer into the centre & if it comes out clean, they're cooked. Otherwise, pop them back in the oven for a couple more minutes.
- Leave the cupcakes in the tins for around 20 minutes to cool slightly before removing them to a wire cooling rack.
- Take the cream cheese out of the fridge & leave at room temp to soften.
- Once the cupcakes are completely cool it's time to ice them (a good test for ensuring they are cool enough to ice is to pick up a cupcake & place the bottom of it on the top of your hand. If it feels cool, they're ready to be iced. Never ice a cupcake that still feels a bit warm as you run the risk of the icing melting!)
- Toast the pine nuts over a medium-high heat without any oil until they are nice & golden. Shake the pan or stir them to prevent them from burning. Remove from the heat & allow to cool.
- Mix the cream cheese & sweet chilli sauce together to get a nice piping consistency. Using a medium sized piping bag with a larger, star tipped nozzle (or just whatever you have around but make sure its a larger nozzle to prevent bits of chilli getting stuck when you go to pipe the icing onto the cupcake) pipe a little 'blob' of icing onto each cupcake. I would say you are looking for around a heaped tablespoon worth of icing, but I'll leave the exact amount to your judgement.
- Finish the cupcakes with a little sprinkle of the toasted pine nuts.
Unless you're eating the cupcakes straight away, because of the cream cheese icing you'll need to keep them in a container the fridge to be on the safe side. When you're ready to devour them, just remove from the fridge & leave at room temperature for 30 minutes or so to warm them a little.