Flavor Extraction: The Mulling Spice Cupcake

Some months ago a friend shared an awesome discovery she made on Sullivan Street in New York City.  The Sullivan Street Tea and Spice Company.  Just listening to her emphatic description of the place and the awesome stuff she found, among them vanilla sugar (which she raved about), I knew I wanted to go there and find something to make into a cupcake.

So on one cold day a few weeks ago, I journeyed to The Sullivan Street Tea and Spice Company on a mission.  Just walking into the store is a tad bit overwhelming with well over 100 herbs, teas, spices and more. After spending about an hour in the store sampling some of their awesome hot tea and being intoxicated by all of the awesome tea aromas, while perusing their collection of salts, peppers, organic soaps, jars of spices, rubs, honey and honey soaked nuts, I got  some help from the Store Clerk : Jessie in picking a blend of Mulling Spice for my first experiment of the year.

The Mulling Spice Cupcake with Honey Walnut Frosting
Photo Editing by Followdon.com 

Last week I posted the picture below on Facebook and asked what the ingredients were. See some of the interesting guesses I received: http://goo.gl/VpKJI 

What was actually in the jars?
  •  Jar on the left = Mulling Spice = Cinnamon + Clove+ All spice + Orange peels 
  •  Jar on the right = Honey + Walnuts

Since all of the mulling spice ingredients were dried I knew I had to perform an extraction to obtain the flavors. In the lab, extractions are a common practice between two liquids or two solids, provided that at least one of them are soluble, and is commonly used as a separating technique. In the case of the Mulling Spice, I needed to get the flavors from each of the spices...  But how do you dissolve an orange peel or a stick of clove for that matter? So there was my challenge... 

First I decided that I would boil the spices in water and then add sugar to create a simple Mulling Spice Syrup; however, I quickly stopped that experiment as soon as I began soaking the spices. One of my goals in each experiment is to avoid making my concoctions over sweet... So adding unnecessary sugar was out the question.  While I could have later reduced the amount of sugar in the cake to make up for the Mulling Spice Syrup, water doesn't really add much flavor to a cake even if it is loaded with spices. With that in mind, I turned to the next best thing... Milk.

Extracting Mulling Spice Flavor
0.5 cup water
1 cup milk (Any type of milk can be used including soy... I used half evaporated and half buttermilk)
3 tbs Mulling Spice 

Add all ingredients to a sauce pan and heat on low for 30 mins. Let cool to room temperature, mix and filter out the large chunks of spices. If you see globules of cream in the residue try to add as much as possible to your filtrate without the pieces of spices. You should have about 1 cup of mulling spice milk /cream at the end.

Mulling Spice Cupcakes right out of the oven.
Making the Cake
0.5 tsp 5 spice powder
0.5 teaspoon vanilla essence 
0.75 cups  Self Rising flour
1 cup Mulling Spice Milk
0.5 cup sugar
0.5 cup oil / butter/ butter substitute 
2 eggs

Mix oil, sugar and vanilla essence, then add eggs one at a time until well blended. Add 5 spice powder to flour and sift. Add 0.33 cup of flour mixture to the egg mixture and fold until well blended. Add 0.5 cup of the Mulling Spice milk and fold until well blended. Alternate flour and milk until all ingredients are combined. Bake until pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. About 25mins.
Chopped Honey Walnuts
Making the Frosting

0.25 cup chopped honey walnuts
0.125 cup honey
8 tbs vegetable oil spread or butter
2 .5 cups confectioners sugar
4 tsp of water/ milk

Cream vegetable oil spread and water until well blended, add honey and walnuts, then mix until evenly distributed. Add powdered sugar 0.5 cup at a time, blending after each addition. Cream for 30 mins or until desired consistency, after all of the sugar is added.

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