As part of my commitment to bake 52 cupcakes, I baked cupcake #3 this week: Pistachio Rosewater. For some reason, pistachio rosewater cupcakes seem romantic. Maybe it’s the mixed smell of roses and cake as it bakes in the oven, or perhaps it’s the sweet rosewater glaze with chopped pistachios that reminds me of love. Either way, Valentine’s Day is coming up and this recipe seemed like the perfect one to try next.
The cupcake base is tender and sweet and similar to that of a vanilla cupcake, except instead of a warm vanilla flavour there’s a light, floral taste that is not at all unpleasant. The icing is simple and sweet, the perfect complement to the cake. Pistachios are scattered throughout the batter and topping the icing, which add an extra texture that is similar to that of cashews with a deep nutty flavour that’s stronger than that of pecans.
Baking this cupcake was interesting not only because it allowed me to experiment with rosewater, but also because the batter incorporated vanilla soy yogurt. Although yogurt is not typically used in most cake recipes, it is becoming a more common ingredient in baking cookbooks. Or at least, it sure seems to be used quite often in my favourite cupcake book.
If you’re anything like me you’re probably wondering what on earth it’s doing in a cupcake. The answer is fairly simple. This particular recipe is completely vegan, which means no butter or lard. Recipes that omit butter, shortening and margarine – which normally provide flavour, fat, and air pockets that help the cake to rise – need something else to produce similar chemical reactions. Yogurt, whether it’s dairy or soy based, is an excellent alternative due to its flavour, fat and moisture content, and level of acidity. The sugar, fat and moisture in the yogurt cooperates with the white sugar and vegetable oil by making the cake tender, moist and sweet.
Most important, however, is the fact that yogurt is acidic and can therefore be used as a leavening agent. The acidity is necessary to produce a reaction with the alkaline pH of baking powders and sodas; this chemical reaction causes the cake to rise. The overall texture of the cupcake is different from that of a cake baked with butter or margarine. It still rises, perhaps a bit lower than other cakes, yet produces a crumb that holds extra moisture which is nice for those who prefer a somewhat dense cake.
Other ingredients can be used in a similar manner in baking. For example, sour cream and buttermilk have the same chemical properties as yogurt and are sometimes used in cake recipes. It’s also possible to create vegan “buttermilk” by combining apple cider vinegar with soy milk to produce curdled milk. Some recipes are more complex and use a combination of leavening agents such as butter, sour cream and eggs.
The science behind baking can be helpful to know when choosing between cake recipes, as the overall texture and height of the cake will be affected by the type of leavening agent used. There are other types of agents besides yogurt and butter, such as eggs or milk froth, but that’s another subject for a different post.
Thanks for stopping by today,