Indian Cupcakes: Rose Cake with Orange Cardamom Frosting

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I’m not sure all of you know this or not but I am not a fan of Indian desserts. They’re either too sweet – as the case with kaju burfi or the texture is too different for me – such as ras malai.

Since I usually pass on desserts when at an Indian restaurant or at <3M’s family’s home, I wanted to create a dessert that still had Indian flavors but catered more to my taste and texture preference while still make it something <3M would enjoy and associate with home.

In all, this cupcake was truly inspired by <3M. Indian desserts are something I would never make myself but I wanted to treat him to a Indian sweet of my own and thus I was inspired to merge an American favorite (cupcakes!) with Indian flavors.

The idea for rose cupcakes had been floating around in my mind for months. Now, in all honesty, I don’t even care for rose!
I’m not a fan of it in perfume, I don’t like it in a lassi or kulfi but the thought of it as a cupcake appealed to me – maybe because I knew I could control the depth of the rose flavor if I myself were making it.

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Now, the rose cupcake idea was easy, it was the frosting that had me stuck for a while. I have always loved Orange Cardamom cupcakes. The flavors are unique – it has a citrusy sweet touch from the orange and a slight spiciness from the cardamom. Since cardamom is a prominent flavor in Indian foods, I wanted to incorporate it into the cupcake in some way.

How they’d pair with rose, I wasn’t quite sure. I was hopefully though that the delicate rose would off se the spice that cardamom brought and decided to wing it.

I initially searched online for a cupcake recipe within the rose & orange cardamom spectrum but was unable to find one. There were lots of rose vanilla cupcake recipes out there but after reviewing the recipes, they didn’t fit with my baking preferences. Most used a rose extract which I thought would be too strong or too fake tasting.

In my mind, I was set on using rose water. Rose water itself is slightly diluted but fragrant. And after tasting these cupcakes, I knew my intuition was correct – using rose water was perfect. The cake itself doesn’t have a strong flavor of rose but the scent is there and because eating is a multi-sensual experience, you believe you truly are eating a rose flavored cupcake – but it’s enjoyable without the flowery potent taste one tends to associate with rose.

As for the frosting, again – that citrusy sweet, spice combination pairs perfectly with the delicate rose. And there’s the added crumble of pistachios on top for a bit of texture to balance the light fluffy cake and the creamy frosting.

If you decide to make them, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

ROSE CUPCAKES WITH ORANGE CARDAMOM FROSTING

1 and 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 egg whites
1/4 cup greek yogurt
1/2 cup milk (any kind – almond, coconut, cow..)
1/4 cup rose water
2-3 drops red food coloring (if you wish cupcakes to be pink)

ORANGE CARDAMOM FROSTING

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 – 3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons half and half
1 tablespoon orange juice (fresh or bottled)
zest from 1/2 orange
2 teaspoons cardamom
1/4 cup pistachios, finely chopped
**If you care to color your frosting orange, follow your food coloring’s directions for doing so. My coloring was 7 drops yellow to 1 drop red.


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line muffin tin with 12-15 cupcake liners. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and sugar. Once combined, whisk in the egg whites, yogurt, milk, and rose water until combined.

Slowly add the dry ingredients into the butter, egg, milk mixture ingredients until well combined.  If using food coloring, add it at this time.

Divide batter among 12-15 cupcake liners (or 24-30 mini) and bake for 14-17 minutes.  Meanwhile, make the frosting.

To make the frosting, beat softened butter on medium speed with a stand mixer until smooth and creamy (at least a minute)

Add 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, half and half, orange juice, orange zest, cardamom. Increase to speed and beat for 1-2 additional minutes. At this time add the food coloring (if using) and additional powdered sugar if the frosting is too thick – or more cream if the frosting is too thick.

Chill frosting for 15 minutes prior to using.

Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with pistachios.

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Cooking for the Family

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So I’ve been gone for a few weeks but as I mentioned earlier, it’s because I was in India getting married – no big deal.

We had a great wedding, my parents thoroughly enjoyed all the Indian wedding traditions, we were able to visit with some of my new Arora family members, and were even swept away for a mini honeymoon to Udaipur – where we got to ride a camel and relax a bit, just the two of us, before heading back to the States!

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Ramu the Camel

In India, after the marriage, it’s tradition for the new wife to cook for her husband’s family for the first time.  Which isn’t a problem, because obviously, I love to cook! But prior to our travels, <3M had mentioned to his family that I had made a healthified version of Dal Makhni and THIS was the meal they requested me to make. It doesn’t sound like that big of a deal but I had only made it once before…in the States…using a crockpot…with proper measuring tools.

My first time making healthified Dal Makhni, <3M doubted my ability to make the traditional, creamy dish – as Dal Makhni translates to Butter Lentils.  He even refused to call it Dal Makhni when I told him I was making it, saying lets just call it “dal” [aka lentils] so I didn’t set false expectations.

M<3 was skeptical because to him, Dal Makhni is a signature dish. It’s the dish that he judges all Indian restaurants on. He believes that the quality of a restaurant’s Dal resonates to the quality of the restaurant overall.  So for him – Dal Makhni is a BIG DEAL.

So when he tasted my healthier version of Dal Makhni, he [and our friend Punit who also came to judge] were pleasently surprised to find that I did in fact make a traditional Dal Makhni – maintaining its authentic buttery and creamy flavor without all the actual butter and cream.  To them, that night, I was a food hero – making them homemade Dal Makhni – the same Dal which they recalled eating at home in India.

So really, making my healthier Dal Makhni is truly no big deal but having to make it in India WAS a big deal.  Not only was I cooking in a kitchen I wasn’t quite used to,  I’d be making this meal without measuring tools, hoping the ingredients in America translate to the same thing in India, cooking it on a stovetop rather than a crockpot, and on top of everything else – when we arrived, I found out that the family had a professional chef cooking for them that week to lessen the household chores.

This was just the icing on the cake – not only was I cooking for the family for the first time but I had to do it in front of a professional chef who would undoubtedly be watching me and judging my Indian cooking skills with skepticism.

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The Professional Chef

In my family, my Mother, Grandmothers, and Aunts are all wonderful cooks.  Cooking is our thing. It’s how we show our love to the people close to us.  It’s how we show we’re the caretakers.  To me, cooking a wonderful dish for <3M’s family for the first time was significant.  It was proof to them that I’d take care of him forever and always, and that he’d be well fed and forever loved.  Because as I mentioned, to me, in my family, Food = Love.

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Since failure was not an option, I prepared for my cooking adventure prior to packing for India – by ensuring I packed two basic measuring tools that I knew could get me through cooking for the family the first time. My tools of choice were a measuring cup – a bright orange, Tupperware quarter cup and a stainless steel measuring spoon – the 1 teaspoon to be exact [both belonged to my Grandma Greene – so I was stacking the the deck by bringing good cooking ju-ju with me]!  With these two tools, my knowledge of cooking, and by writing a detailed grocery list, I set out to cook Healthified Dal Makhni for the family!

And it was a success [or at least they told me it was!].

Everyone said they loved it, the professional chef even signed off on my Dal Makhni, complimenting me saying even home cooks and Indian chefs have trouble making an authentic Dal Makhni the way I did.

So here it is, here’s healthified Dal Makhni [the crockpot version].  It has the same creamy, buttery, rich, savory flavors as traditional Dal Makhni but with less than a quarter of the fat and calories of the original [I ran the nutritionals!]. It’s the perfect comfort food served atop some rice [I prefer brown]!

Crockpot Dal Makhni
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients

■ 2 cup urad saboot [black lentils]
■ 15 oz red kidney beans [I used canned]
■ 2 tbsp butter
■ 1½ tsp salt
■ 3 cups vegetable broth [or water]
■ 1 cup tomato puree [2 large tomatoes, roasted & pureed or used canned]
■ 3/4 tsp nutmeg powder
■ 1/2tsp garam masala
■ 3 tsp roasted cumin powder
■ 4 tbsp kasoori methi [dried fenugreek leaves]
■ 1 tsp ground fenugreek powder
■ ½ tsp red chile powder
■ 1 ½ tsp aamchoor powder
■ 1 tsp kati salt [black salt]
■ 2 ½ tsp ground coriander
■ ½ tsp cinnamon

Grind to a Paste

■ 2 dry, whole red chile
■ 1 tbsp ginger
■ 4 medium to large cloves garlic

To Add Later

■ 1/3 cup fat free half and half
■ 2-3 tbsp more unsalted butter

Make the tomato puree:
If roasting your own tomatoes, pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.  Place tomatoes upside down on a baking sheet and score and “x” on the bottom of both.  Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes.  Let cool, peel away skin, and puree until smooth.

Par-cook the lentils:
Bring water to boil. Add lentils and boil 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for roughly 30 minutes. Drain lentils & set aside.

Prep the chile-garlic-ginger paste:
Make the chile-garlic-ginger paste by grinding together with a mortar & pestle.  Set aside.

Once everything is prepped, the crockpot comes in to play to do the remaining work:
Add the par-cooked lentils & 3 cups vegetable broth [or water] to crockpot with first 2 tbsp butter, and the chile-garlic-ginger paste. Add in spices [salt, nutmeg, garam masala, cumin,fenugreek leaves & powder, chile powder, aamchoor powder, kati salt, coriander & cinnamon] and tomato puree.

Let everything cook on high for 4 hours [or on low for 6-8 hours]. Before serving, add red kidney beans, half & half and additional butter. If you like your dal a little less thick, stir in an additional ½ to 1 cup vegetable broth [or water]. Let cook another 20-30 minutes before serving.

Serve over rice & garnish with cilantro and a cool size of yogurt.

Adapted from: http://www.novicehousewife.com/2013/10/22/garam-
masala-tuesdays-slow-cooker-dal-makhani/