Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The perils and flavors of novice recipe creations

Our kitchen became pawpaw central during the weekend when I challenged myself to create my
own pawpaw cupcake recipe. After all, I had made good cupcakes before. Earlier in the year I conquered my fear of heavy cakes by learning I had to spend more time with the blending. And I’ve created main and side dishes that have drawn good reviews.

But baking, as I’ve heard said more than once, is more of an exacting science. And science has never been my best subject.

The first thing to do when baking with pawpaws is to cut open the pawpaws, extract the seeds (using a spoon helps), discard the skin and put the pulp into a food processor or blender to puree. The next thing I had to do for cupcakes was to determine what the pawpaws could substitute for. I’ve seen fruit used to cut down on fat in recipes, so it seemed important to keep that in mind. In addition, pawpaws are sweet so I wanted to lessen the amount of sugar.

I started with a recipe I have for butternut squash muffins that become imitation cupcakes when topped with a light cream cheese frosting. I’ve played around enough with cream cheese frosting that I felt satisfied with one batch of my idea for it. The muffins, though, defied my pawpaw substitutions and alterations. The end product still tasted like muffins—flavorful and moist, but not what I was looking for.

Next I went to the book called Ratios, by Michael Ruhlman, and read the section on cake batter. Sponge cake or pound cake? I think of pound cakes as heavy so I went for sponge cake. It was either the wrong choice or I again made incorrect alterations. I’m not sure what didn't work, but the cupcakes sunk in the middle and didn’t have anything close to the consistency that I wanted, even though tasters liked them.

Next, I consulted the pound cake ratios and gave it a try with alterations. My challenge was how to incorporate the pawpaws for a good flavor. I wrote down my guesses for the recipe and baked again.

Too dry.

I could have given up. I had promised to take a pawpaw dessert to a meeting and I have a great pawpaw cheesecake pie that always turns out well. However, my determination (or stubbornness) pushed me onward.

One more attempt. I decided to increase the amount of butter and use a small bit of oil as well. I also added more eggs and pawpaw pulp. The result? It’s good. Not spectacular. I would make a few more alterations the next time. However, I did come up with something that tasters compared favorably to carrot cake and spice cake. And I learned it takes many tries for a novice baking recipe creator to finally succeed.

Pawpaw Cupcakes
Preheat oven to 375. Blend ½ cup butter and 1 cup pawpaw puree until light, 2-3 minutes. Pour in ½ cup oil and blend thoroughly. Next, blend in 1 cup sugar and 1 tsp. salt. Add 4 eggs, 1 tsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. vanilla and blend. With spatula, lightly but thoroughly fold in 1 cup flour and 1 tsp. baking powder. Bake 20 -  25 minutes. Top with a piece of pawpaw and in-season berries.

Pawpaw Cream Cheese Frosting
Set out 1 bar of low-fat cream cheese and 3 TBSP unsalted butter to soften.  Meanwhile, gather 2 cups sugar, ½ tsp. vanilla, ¼ tsp. vanilla, 1 TBSP sour cream and 2 TBSP pawpaw puree. When cheese is soften, blend until fluffy with butter. Add other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Makes enough frosting for about 2 dozen cupcakes.


  1. These sound delicious! If you do ice cream, pawpaw ice cream is beyond unbelievable.

    1. Yes, I do love the ice cream, too. We have a little in the freezer now. If you have any good recipes to share, please feel free. I have lots of puree in the freezer to experiment with.