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
2 eggs
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...

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Pre-heat your oven to 180C.
  5. In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients.  Once sifted, mix them together to combine.
  6. Lightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl & add to the dry ingredients.  Next add the milk & the oil.
  7. Finely chop the spinach & add to the mixture along with the onions.  Mix everything until combined.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Leave the cupcakes in the tins for around 20 minutes to cool slightly before removing them to a wire cooling rack.
  11. Take the cream cheese out of the fridge & leave at room temp to soften.
  12. 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!)
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.   

Enjoy! x


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