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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Ube Cupcakes with Bubble Buttercream

ube cupcake with bubble buttercream and topped with crushed peanuts and salt

This is definitely an experimental recipe... one that ended up tasting great, but, trust me, looked a bit funky.

I got introduced to Ube in the form of ice cream from Mitchell's Ice Cream here in San Francisco. I was ready to finally try an Ube cupcake recipe, so I went to Pacific Super, an awesome Asian grocery on Alemany Street not too far from where I live, and bought nearly everything Ube.

I reconstituted Ube powder per the instructions on the packet, but didn't like the taste very much at all. I boiled and mashed some fresh purple yams and they tasted much better. It was an easy decision to skip the powdered and go with the fresh.

One thing I didn't do, that I noticed the few recipes on the net did, is add food coloring. After my red velvet experience, I have been anti-food-coloring-in-batter. In this case, I think I would have been better off to relax my newfound prejudice...

The yams were a deep purple blue, which was great, but when mixed with the yellow egg yolks and other ingredients, the batter ended up a ghastly green. Maybe a little red food coloring would have balanced it out. On the other hand, I can say that the ghastly green is natural! Maybe a half cup of smashed beets might do the trick, if anyone cares to experiment even further.

One definite keeper for me is the topping of peanuts crushed with a good amount of salt. This is something I stole from a caterer friend. The salty-sweet taste is very satisfying.

Ube Cupcakes
24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

3-4 small to medium purple yams (ube)
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil, grapeseed or vegetable
1/2 cup macapuno, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk milk

1. Peel and slice the yams into inch thick slices. Transfer into a medium pan, rinse, then cover with cool water. Bring to boil and simmer until tender. Mash with a fork
2. Crack eggs into a large bowl. Beat with a whisk until yellows and whites are combined.
3. Gradually add sugar and whisk until combined.
4. Add oil and whisk until combined. Add chopped macapuno and vanilla and stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
5. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in another bowl.
6. Add about a third of the flour mixture to the wet mixture and mix to combine.
7. Add about one half of the buttermilk and mix to combined.
8. Repeat above, alternating flour and buttermilk and ending with the flour mixture.
9. Scoop into cupcake papers about half to two-thirds full (depending on whether you want flat or domed cupcakes. Note that these cupcakes will don't shrink. Two-thirds full will result in domed cupcakes.)
10. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

fresh ube (aka purple yam)
cooked ube

ube cupcake batter
ube cupcake batter

baked ube cupcake
baked ube cupcake

Bubble Buttercream

3 cups water
1/4 cup tapioca balls
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
5-6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Boil the water in a medium saucepan (I used the water from the yams).
2. Add the balls to the boiling water and boil for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Turn off heat and let the balls steep in the water for another 30 minutes.
4. Transfer balls to a sieve and rinse with cool water to remove starch. Transfer to a bowl and cover with cold water until ready to use.
5. Beat butter in an electric mixer until soft.
6. Add 3 cups of the sifted sugar and beat until combined.
7. Drain tapioca balls and measure out 1/2 cup. Fold into the frosting.
8. Add remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, stirring until combined.

Note: This frosting was very soft and almost looked a little curdled. It definitely has a not so pretty texture, but it tasted fine. The tapioca balls are a novelty and perhaps not necessary. There is the added interest of the chewy texture, but I am not sure it’s worth the sacrifice in the visual appeal. If you are looking for something picture perfect, definitely skip this recipe. It needs work.

tapioca balls
tapioca balls

1. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes.
2. Crush about a 1/3 cup of unsalted peanuts with about a teaspoon of salt. Sprinkle over cupcakes.


Blogger McAuliflower said...

I wonder if playing with the pH of your batter would affect the color (oh... just now checkin gyour link:like in your red velvet cake experiments)?

I like being able to read your inspiration in this cupcake! One of my favorite bubble tea flavors is the taro... :)

making soda flavored cupcakes would be a fun run of plays too (Yum- I'm thinking Big Red!).

6/11/2006 11:35 PM  
Anonymous Tessera said...

Aweee... I moved to BC 4 yrs ago and you cant get Big Red. I had forgotten all about it, now I am going to have a craving from hell lol. MMmmmm soda flavoured cupcakes yum. I used to make a chocolate cola cake. It was made with coke and had the texture of a wacky cake but tasted even better. Hmm I wonder where that darn recipe is...

6/11/2006 11:57 PM  
Anonymous risingsunofnihon said...

I never dreamed of ube cupcakes, you are one very creative baker! The green colour was initially somewhat shocking, but it's not that offensive. It could be a little surprise for everyone who takes a bite!

6/12/2006 1:12 AM  
Anonymous Stéphane said...

I love that color! In Paris we have the "pomme de terre Vitelotte" which is purple too, but it seems we can't find purple yam... anyway I think it should be possible to try a potato cupcake don't you? Thank your for this recipe!

6/12/2006 1:32 AM  
Anonymous aida said...

wow this is interesting.
i'm from asia, and i think ube is spelled as ubi here.

6/12/2006 11:04 AM  
Anonymous chochotte said...

You know, I quite like that green colour. It's not too yellow-ish greeny, which would be really sickly: perhaps it wasn't quite what you were aiming for but hey, maybe you could develop the theme. Are there any green things which would have a complementary flavour? I have never tasted ube, so I can't think of anything myself!

6/12/2006 12:06 PM  
Blogger aliastriona said...

You have such amazing and creative ideas and recipes.

I have to make Ube Cupcakes...I love things that are weird and unexpected colors.

6/12/2006 1:21 PM  
Blogger Garrett said...

Looks interesting, though I don't think I've seen a place in the Davis / Sacramento area (farmer's markets included so far this season) selling Ube. I suppose the mutant coconut I can scour a few places for.

6/12/2006 3:30 PM  
Blogger chockylit said...

I was surprised today. I brought the cupcakes to work expecting people to be turned off by the looks of them, but they were a big hit. I think the cake part wasn't too sweet (which people liked), the frosting was very sweet, and the salty, crushed peanuts balanced it well...

Seems like most of you are open to the green color as well!

6/12/2006 11:24 PM  
Blogger pj said...

hi! I'm from Asia too--the Philippines, to be exact--and we have ube cakes at a lot of bakeshops here, but they mostly use purple food coloring to keep it, well, purple. Thanks for sharing this recipe! We have a coconut tree in our backyard, and we're running out of ideas for using macapuno. I'm seriously thinking of trying this recipe soon. :)

6/12/2006 11:38 PM  
Blogger jenjen said...

Like PJ im from the Philippines too and ube is a popular flavour there. I miss it quite a bit because you can't get it everywhere here in Sydney.

What an awesome idea to make ube cupcakes though, im just thinking of the taste and its making me drool.

6/13/2006 4:03 AM  
Blogger caitlinvb said...

I have used beets in cupcakes before to try to get around the food coloring issue...unfortunately the batter is an awesome fuscia/neon pink color, but it fades into not much of anything as it bakes...ph balancing would probably help the color, but that's past my level...annd bright green is still a novel color for a cupcake ;)

6/13/2006 7:22 AM  
Blogger iamchanelle said...

hi chockylit!
garrett just pointed me to your site and WOW, what a TREAT!!! i love the end result of your green ube cupcakes! very fun!

what an amazing site! love it! i look forward to catching up on all your archives....

6/13/2006 7:41 AM  
Blogger aingeal is said...

Hi :) Since you mentioned that tapioca was unsightly as a frosting ingredient, perhaps you can consider it as a filling? A chinese bakery nearby has taro paste and egg pudding as an option. Something to consider~

6/13/2006 8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm from the bay area, Filipino and love Ube. Thank you for trying this recipe! I emailed you awhile back to ask you if you'd tried these flavors (macapuno, ube) and so excited to see you did. I can't wait to try out this recipe. Thanks!

6/13/2006 8:15 AM  
Anonymous kittee said...

hey, these look neat.
one of the above posters mentioned the ph level of your batter. i bet this is it. i know that blues in nature are very unstable colors...they cook out right away.

i used to make a violet syrup from fresh picked wild violets. the liquid turns to green, but when a tiny bit of lemon juice is added, teh purple comes right back...

maybe worth a try?

6/13/2006 4:27 PM  
Blogger chockylit said...

I added buttermilk (which is acidic) partly for that reason. I think that could come into play, but I also think its simple color wheel stuff. Egg yolks are very yellow and there were four of them in there. The ube is blue-purple. I have to believe the yolks were a factor. In addition, every recipe I saw used food coloring, I am assuming to compensate for this. It would be easy enough to test if someone was planning to make these.

If you do, let us know!

6/13/2006 5:22 PM  
Blogger sheryl said...

One idea might be to reverse ingredients: maybe a macapuno cake, with an ube frosting. Ube halaya (ube jam) could probably be incorporated into a frosting while still maintaining its natural gorgeous purple color and its strong ube flavor.

6/14/2006 7:35 AM  
Blogger miss cupcake said...

Hi Chockylit,

You are a genius!! I have a deep deep love for ube and bubble tea, as I am Asian it was accessible until I moved. Unfortunately, I now live in Buenos Aires, Nutella is about as exotic as it gets. For your Arabian Night Cupcakes (oop, I've renamed them in my mind)I have to make my own pistachio cream from scratch. For this recipe would you approve of using taro instead? (They are smaller and the flesh is light grey) My other problem is of course the mutant coconut - looking at the picture I think it is flesh from young green coconuts. Needless to say, I need a substitute...please, any suggestion? Very helpless

6/14/2006 4:07 PM  
Blogger chockylit said...

miss cupcake - you could totally use taro. i am fairly certain it would work fine. i am not sure about the mutant coconut. i think you could skip it (i barely noticed it in the recipe).

6/15/2006 9:38 AM  
Anonymous learningtofly said...

is there another frosting that you could suggest?? I can't seem to find tapioca balls anywhere!! Unless I buy bubble tea and save the balls!! =) I love your blog BTW!!

6/16/2006 11:18 PM  
Anonymous learningtofly said...

Am I supposed to drain the ube and then mash it?? My batter looks a little thick??!!

6/16/2006 11:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

chockylit??!!!!! !!!!???!?!?!?!!! !?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! & !!!!!!!!!!!!!?

6/17/2006 8:59 AM  
Blogger chockylit said...


you should be draining and mashing the ube. my batter wasn't very thick. are you sure you measured out everything correctly?

you can completely skip the tapioca balls and you will end up with buttercream, which trust me, will be fine. like i mentioned in the post, the tapioca balls are purely gratuitous.

6/17/2006 9:21 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Sigh, Mitchell's Ice Cream is one of the things I miss about SF. When we lived in Glen Park we were down there practically every week in the summer.

6/19/2006 8:35 AM  
Blogger Lera said...


I just found your blog--ery cool. I have a question for you--I noticed that you use soufle cups for cupcake papers. Could you please tell me what size you use? Thank you!

6/20/2006 11:41 AM  
Blogger chockylit said...

3.25 ounce for the regular size.

6/20/2006 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Fabbys said...

¿Qué te puedo decir? Son increiblemente maravillosos! Estoy fascinada con todas tus recetas y estoy por comenzar a hacer los de zanahoria con naranja. Felicidades!! Muy buen trabajo!

6/21/2006 11:54 AM  
Blogger chockylit said...

¡Gracias! Me adulan. Y buena suerte con los cupcakes de la naranja de la zanahoria.

6/21/2006 9:15 PM  
Blogger cupcakoligist said...

So much fun!!!

As a chef and a devoted cupcake fanatic, I love to experiment with unusual flavor pairings (strawberry /basil; lemon/thyme/lavender; avocado/lime, classic rose/raspberry..I enjoy your site a great deal. I would like to try this with egg whites only and increase the fat content..possibly using organic coconut oil ( also, asian)....However, I love the green color of your final product, could you make a slightly sweet Ube filling for the cupcake?? Imagine the color combination! We make a sweet potato filling using Fromage Blanc and vanilla sugar...hhmm so many possiblities. If it works, I will be sure to sing your praises...

6/22/2006 6:45 PM  
Anonymous Anna M. Rosete said...

Hi! This is actually a very common Filipino dessert. Filipinos have ube cupcakes and ube cakes in their dessert repertoire. You may be able to do better by omiting the ube powder all together, and using ube jam. You can get this at Filipino or other Aisan stores. THis will make your cake very moist. Good luck!

7/28/2006 12:58 PM  
Blogger Jules said...

better yet, go to goldilocks bakery (filipino bakery) and ask for their ube-macapuno cake...

saves a lot of trouble...

the martian green cupcake of yours is really hilarious (in a good way)... don't give up!

cheering you from manila!

7/30/2006 12:34 PM  
Blogger Rusti said...

I am into cupcakes recently have been logging back to your blog so often. It is really an inspiration to me. Keep up the fantastic job.

Regarding the Ube, I had the same encounter as you did. I made some muffins and was shocked that the Ube turned green immediately on being added to the batter. After baking, I was contemplating whether to eat them as they look like Incredible Hulks in disguise. I threw every single one out without tasting them. Yup it is definitely the pH. I did a test of mashed Ube with baking powder and bicarbonate soda. Both samples turned a ghastly green.

7/31/2006 1:00 AM  
Blogger belledame222 said...

ohman. that is wild! this is reminding me of playing with a chemistry set as a kid. only a lot tastier I presume...

great blog! cheers

8/02/2006 3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if you guys wanna taste ube cake, i suggest going to red ribbon bakery or goldilocks bakery. ube is a staple in filipino dessert. just google the bakeries to find their locations. ube is to die for. =P

8/03/2006 10:52 PM  

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