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Semi-proud half-Pinoy (or, Ube-Macapuno Cupcakes)

July 22, 2009

So, I understand that in theory it’s a good idea to post things in a timely fashion . . . but I’m new here. First day and all (unless you’re counting the days since these cupcakes were actually baked). Anyway . . . .

Last Monday my lovely friend and neighbor came over “for coffee” and ended up bundling me out of the house and over to a local Asian grocery. I am actually half Filipina, but as I frequently say, I’m the whitest little Asian girl you ever did meet. Growing up, my mom was the only other Filipina in a 50-mile radius (at least), and I wasn’t all brimming with curiosity about, well, anything she had to say. Suffice it to say I’m not exactly an authority on Filipino culture. I do, however, vividly remember the one and only time I saw and tasted ube cake.

<flashback> It was at a cousin’s wedding – ironically, in Chicago. I’ve blocked out most of the event due to an unfortunate wardrobe selection (1989. pouf skirt. gah.) but I remember the cake. Underneath the standard wedding-white buttercream was a layer cake in the most vividly shocking shade of purple I could imagine. The layers were somehow moist and yet light, with a mildly sweet, delicate flavor I couldn’t place or describe (then again, I was only 11). </flashback>

It was years later before I’d discover that ube is a purple yam. And unexpectedly hard to come by. They have ube powder, they have purple yam jam (heh. yam jam.) but I’ve never found fresh ube before. So when we happened across them in the store last week, it was time to attempt an ube cupcake creation.

Ube, in the flesh

Ube, in the flesh.



Boiled & "mashed."

Boiled & "mashed."

I’ve seen some ube cake recipes, but they all called for 6-7 eggs and a lot of violet food coloring. I had 4 eggs in the fridge, no violet food coloring, and no red food coloring – blue, yellow and green, but no red due to last month’s red velvet cupcake extravaganza, and I just got BACK from the store, dammit – so I found a recipe for sweet potato cake and changed it up a bit. The ube doesn’t seem to mash up like a regular potato or sweet potato; it sort of broke down into sticky clumps and refused to smooth out, even after multiple threats. I forged ahead anyway, using a cup of white sugar and substituting the corn syrup with pureed macapuno string (my one self-proclaimed stroke of genius, that. I used to eat the stuff by the spoonful when I was a kid. Macapuno is, per the label, “gelatinous mutant coconut.” Really, it is so much better than it sounds . . . think firm coconut jelly, if that helps, which it probably doesn’t).

Batter up.

Batter up.

The cake batter did lack that vibrant purple hue I remembered so well, but it tasted good  (yes, I taste the batter even though it has raw egg in it. I’m a maverick).



The cupcakes went in at 350°F for 22 minutes, with a pan rotation at 15 minutes. I sampled them pre-frosting and was pleased with the flavor; definitely ube, with a little coconut from the macapuno, but not too sweet.

For the frosting, I creamed 8 ounces of cream cheese with a stick of unsalted butter and 3 tablespoons yam jam before adding in about 3 cups of powdered sugar. This was definitely a disappointment, though . . . the jam, although seemingly firm, thinned out the frosting’s consistency to the point of ooziness.  The frosting tasted great after 2 cups of powdered sugar but was too sweet and still not stiff enough to pipe even after an additional cup. Next time, I’ll either reduce or eliminate the jam and use ube powder instead. Regardless, I topped the frosted cupcakes off with a macapuno ball and, because the recipe churned out over 2 dozen, we’ve been eating them ever since.

Ube-macapuno cupcakes with ube frosting and a macapuno ball

Ube-macapuno cupcakes with ube frosting and a macapuno ball

Stay tuned; tomorrow I’m recreating the original 1upcake, minted green tea with white chocolate mousse filling. Of course, I can’t guarantee they’ll actually get posted tomorrow, but they’ll get here eventually.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 24, 2009 9:03 am

    That was very educational for me. I had never even heard of Ube before, much less known where I could purchase it. The colour when boiled and then mashed is gorgeous and I think I will use it as a side dish this Thanksgiving.

  2. Carissa permalink*
    September 24, 2009 9:36 am

    Glad you found it interesting! The color is definitely unique; hard to believe it occurs naturally. Ube flavor is a little different from the everyday sweet potato, so I recommend a trial run before the holiday. Let me know how it goes, and thanks for visiting!

  3. precious permalink
    May 24, 2010 5:26 am

    im a cupcake lover and i cant wait to try this…..hmmmmm it looks really yummy.thanks for such a genius idea.

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