Orange Cardamom Cupcakes

Orange Cardamom Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

While in Gainesville, Florida visiting my sister with my family, she took us to Sweet Dreams Homemade Ice Cream. They had a variety of interesting flavors, including a peanut butter curry ice cream. I ordered the orange cardamom ice cream. I immediately loved the flavor combination and thought to myself that orange-cardamom would make a great cupcake. Cardamom is one of my favorite spices because it is extremely versatile. It has a spicy warmness that complements both sweet and savory dishes. You can use cardamom with meats, roasted potatoes, roasted vegetables, chili, pies (I highly recommend adding cardamom to these pies), chocolate, ice cream, and of course, cupcakes. Just use it sparingly since it is somewhat expensive and a little goes a long way. Too much cardamom can give things a slightly metallic or medicinal flavor. To make orange cardamom cupcakes, you need the following ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons Cointreau
  • 1/2 cup milk
Fresh Orange Zest from Florida-Grown Oranges
Fresh Orange Zest from Florida-Grown Oranges

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with paper baking cups. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cardamom, orange zest, and salt) together in a mixing bowl. In a separate mixing bowl, cream the sugar with the room temperature butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and add the Cointreau. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients. Once the dry ingredients are incorporated, slowly mix in the milk. Pour the cupcake batter into the baking cups, filling them about 3/4 full, and bake for 20 to 23 minutes, until they are a golden color and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the cupcake. This recipe makes a dozen regular-sized cupcakes. If there is any batter left over, you can to make a few mini-cupcakes; just bake the mini-cupcakes for 18 to 20 minutes.

These cupcakes can be eaten without any frosting and taste amazing. But who doesn’t like a little frosting on their cupcake? For these cupcakes, make this cream cheese frosting, but add in the zest of one orange (about a teaspoon), a pinch of cardamom (about 1/4 teaspoon), and a splash of vanilla (about 1/2 teaspoon).

Jill frosting Orange Cardamom Cupcakes
Jill frosting Orange Cardamom Cupcakes
Orange Cardamom Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Orange Cardamom Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Coffee from Seattle

Grinding coffee beans

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine from college asked for some thoughts on urbanism. He went to Florida State with me, but now resides in Seattle (you can read about his experiences with walkable living and in Seattle here). So, I sent him two books that I think capture the essence of what’s gone wrong with America’s cities and what we should do to improve our quality of life: Suburban Nation and Walkable City. A few days later, this arrived in my mailbox:

Bag of coffee beans
Coffee Beans

I briefly debated what method to use for brewing the coffee, but quickly decided to use the classic French press. I like this method of brewing because of its simplicity and because of the richness of the coffee it brews.

One of the keys to making great coffee in a French press is coarsely grinding the coffee beans. Use a small, manual ceramic burr grinder to get a medium-coarse grind from the beans. A grind that is too fine will result in coffee sludge.

Grinding coffee beans
Freshly ground coffee

Water temperature is also important. Use an electric kettle to bring water just to a boil. Wait about five seconds and pour some of the hot water (about 1/8 cup) into a 32 oz French press and swirl it around to heat up the glass. Empty the water from the press, add six heaping tablespoons of the coffee, and fill the press with hot water to about an inch from the top. Using a small spatula, gently stir the coffee. Place the plunger assembly on the press pot and wait four minutes. Slowly press the plunger down. This should take about 20-25 seconds. Pour the coffee from the French press (coffee that remains in the press will continue to brew and will become too strong) and enjoy.

Carefully brewed cup of coffee
Carefully brewed cup of coffee

I typically use a standard drip coffeemaker to brew my coffee every morning, but when I get a special gift or splurge on a bag of higher quality beans, I try to take a little extra care in brewing it. I enjoyed my cup of coffee and thought about how I should plan a visit to Seattle one day.

Cream Cheese Frosting 101

When it comes to cupcakes, Artie and I pack a one-two punch: he makes a delicious cupcake and I make a mean frosting. To be honest, my real favorite part is the frosting. I could probably (okay, I have!) eat frosting with a spoon.

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There are lots of great types of frosting you can make, but cream cheese frosting is one of my favorites and also one of the easiest to prepare. And it tastes delicious.

The ingredients include:

  • 8-ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 8-ounces butter, softened
  • 16-ounces powdered sugar, sifted
  • Flavorings, as desired

In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream together butter and cream cheese. Add powdered sugar and beat slowly until incorporated. Once incorporated, increase the speed of the mixer and beat frosting until smooth and fluffy. Add any flavorings you desire and mix until fully incorporated.

For Artie’s cardamom and orange cupcakes, I used the zest of an orange, a splash of cointreau, and a splash of vanilla. For my pumpkin whoopie pies, I used a healthy shake of cinnamon. Experiment with your favorite flavors and have fun coming up with tasty new combinations.

IMG_0005Frost cupcakes with a pastry bag or a spatula. Store leftover frosting (if there is any!) in a container in the refrigerator.

This is a great go-to frosting that requires relatively few ingredients and is very versatile. Enjoy!

Local Favorites

When I don’t feel like cooking (for shame, I know!) and I’m looking for something good to eat, there are lots of good, local Tallahassee restaurants where I can turn for a quick, delicious, usually-healthy bite. Here are some of my favorites:

Gaines Street Pies: Figure Four (half ham/half eggplant) and Southern Style Greek salad. Artie and I often split the small pie and a salad on a Friday night when neither of us feel like cooking.

Wild Greens Cafe: Wild Greens burger with potato salad and collard greens (plus sweet potato biscuits – the best!). I’ve been eating at Wild Greens regularly for the past year and I’ve yet to try anything else. The veggie burger is that good. [So, since I wrote this post, Wild Greens closed their doors. Boo! Hopefully something good will open in that space soon!]

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Sweet Pea Cafe: Buffalo Fried Tofu sandwich with hummus and raw veggies. Spicy and satisfying. Their hummus is the creamiest. When I’m looking for something lighter, I go for the Black Bean Burger.

Siam Sushi: mild tofu green curry with broth rice and wonton soup. Best. Curry. Ever. I also really like the Tom Kha soup with tofu and the broccoli with garlic.

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Paisley Cafe: Roasted Vegetable Sandwich with Tomato Bisque. The chicken salad croissant is also good. Paisley is a good lunch spot with tasty sandwiches.

If you are looking for good, local food in Tallahassee, I would recommend checking out one of these places.

Pimento Cheese Love

I should probably start by saying that this post is not sponsored by Sweet Grass Dairy and I did not receive any products from them for this endorsement. I just really like their cheese and thought I would share some of my favorite ways to serve it.

Pimento cheese. Not normally something I would say I like. Growing up, those sandwiches with the bright yellow/orange filling and the little red bits weirded me out. I also don’t really like mayonnaise. It wasn’t until I (reluctantly) tried the pimento cheese at Sweet Grass Dairy that I fell in love.

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The first time I tried this pimento cheese was at a wine and cheese tasting. It was tucked into a deviled egg. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like it, but I didn’t want to say so until I gave it a try. And I was pleasantly surprised.

The pimento cheese at Sweet Grass Dairy has great texture and flavor. It is creamy, tangy, and slightly spicy with just enough mayo to hold together the delicious Thomasville Tomme cheese and Piquillo peppers. Oh my. This pimento cheese is perfect on crackers, on crusty bread, in a deviled egg, or by itself on a spoon (don’t judge!). More than once, I’ve gone to a potluck with a tub of this cheese and a sleeve of crackers and there is never any leftover at the end of the night.

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Our favorite way to eat Sweet Grass Dairy pimento cheese is on bread, open-faced and topped with a pickled green tomato slice. We serve these yummy open-faced sammies alongside a simple salad dressed with olive oil and vinegar.

I highly doubt I would like any pimento cheese other than this one. We try to get up to Thomasville every few weeks and you can be sure whenever we are there, I come home with a tub of this cheese and plans for a simple, delicious dinner.

If you are interested in trying this yummy cheese and don’t like anywhere near Thomasville, you can order it online here: http://sweetgrassdairy.com/products.