Can I start with a rant about Valentine’s Day?
The floor is yours, m’lady.
I’ve long been a supporter of Valentine’s Day, even—or especially—for people who aren’t in a relationship. We as a society put so much emphasis on ~romance~ and finding “The One” and the idea that if you’re not coupled up, you’re somehow less than a full person. Which is, frankly, ridiculous. There are SO MANY WAYS to be a person and only some of them involve finding a single partner, falling in love with them, and spending the rest of your life together.
I suggested cupcakes this week because I think Valentine’s Day should be about all kinds of love. Love for your friends. Love for your family. Love for your cheerful next-door neighbor and for your coworker who shares memes with you on bad days and for your dog. (Just don’t give your dog cupcakes.)
When we were growing up, for Valentine’s Day the THING in our house was to make candy to bring to school and share with your friends/teachers/whoever you wanted. And as the sister who has been single for literally every Valentine’s Day of her life, that’s my primary association with the day.
(Except that I tend to forget about actual Valentine’s Day, because February 14th is also the day that Oregon became a state and I’m very pumped about that every year. Happy Birthday Oregon!)
To me—and, I suspect, to Kitra too—there aren’t many better ways to show you care than by making something. I loved making handmade Valentines in elementary school, and when I was in college I would send Kitra Valentine’s Day care packages covered in stickers and filled with silly things.
And I love making cookies shaped like Oregon, and a banner… shaped like Oregon. But also yes, bringing food for my friends and laughing at whatever Jordan came up with that year.
These cupcakes are made to be shared, both because it’s Valentine’s Day and it’s nice to share things, but also because they’re delicious. We made this almond cake as a sheet cake back in the pre-blog days, and it’s just as good in a smaller form.
And because we love a good themed decoration, we added raspberries for taste and color. Even though nothing says love like sprinkles—the glitter of the food world—we went with crushed raspberries stenciled into hearts on top because hot damn it’s cute. And tasty.
The frosting is an almond buttercream, and it all works very well together. Make these cupcakes for whoever you love this week, or any week.
Almond Cupcakes with Raspberry Filling and Marzipan Buttercream
Makes 18 cupcakes
If you’re looking for a specific cupcake height, we recommend doing a test cupcake to figure out just how much batter you need in each. We filled these about ⅔ full for a relatively flat cake or ¾ full for a slightly domed cake.
We found that the frosting could be made entirely in a food processor, which is what we did here. If you think your food processor might be overheating, or if you have a very small one, you can follow Molly Yeh’s original directions and move to a mixer after you make the nut butter. If you don’t have a food processor at all (or if yours isn’t very powerful), you can try using store-bought almond butter (or, to keep the light color and cleaner taste, almond paste and a smaller amount of powdered sugar) and doing the whole thing in an electric mixer.
The frosting recipe will make more than you need (unless you are a VERY enthusiastic cupcake-froster) but a standard-sized food processor will have trouble making nut butter out of a smaller batch. If you have a small food processor, or are doing the whole thing in a mixer, feel free to make a two-thirds batch.
If you want to stencil hearts like we did, just cut a heart out of a piece of cardboard. Frost each cupcake with a very smooth layer of frosting, place the stencil on top, and dust crushed raspberries over top in as even a layer as possible. Remove the stencil very carefully so that you don’t dump the excess powder back on the cupcake.
2 ¼ cups (270g) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ cup (1 stick, 4 oz) butter, at room temperature
1 ⅓ cups (267g) sugar
½ teaspoon almond extract
¾ cup milk
⅓ cup (35g) almond flour or meal
Preheat your oven to 350° and line a muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour and baking powder and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well, followed by the almond extract.
Add ¼ cup of milk and mix to combine, followed by a third of the flour mixture; repeat until you’ve added all of the milk and flour and the batter is cohesive. Mix in the almond flour.
Fill each cupcake liner ⅔ to ¾ of the way with batter, smoothing the top of each with the back of a spoon. Bake cupcakes 20-22 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Once they are cool enough to handle, move cupcakes to a cooling rack to cool completely before filling and frosting.
6 oz (about 1 ½ cups) frozen raspberries
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup sugar
In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring and crushing raspberries with the back of your spoon or spatula to help them break them down. Cook until the sauce has thickened; it should thickly coat the back of a spoon, and when you scrape down the middle of the pan, you should see the bottom of the pan for a second or so before the sauce has a chance to fill back in. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature before filling cupcakes.
1 cup (128g) blanched almonds
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups (480g) powdered sugar
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
¼ cup heavy cream
Add almonds to a food processor and process on high until they become a soft, creamy nut butter, about 5 minutes. You’ll need to stop and scrape down the sides every so often.
Add butter to food processor and blend until the butter and almonds are smooth and well combined. Add powdered sugar in two batches, processing until smooth and creamy. Add salt, vanilla and almond extracts, and heavy cream and continue blending until the frosting is light and fluffy. You may need to but the frosting in the fridge for a few minutes at this point if it’s too soft to handle, but we didn’t find it to be unmanageable.
Using a sharp paring knife, carefully cut a circle out of the top of each cupcake and set it aside. Use a small spoon (we used a ¾ teaspoon) to scoop out a bit of the center. You want the hole to go about halfway down and be about ¾ of an inch wide.
Use a small spoon or piping bag to fill the hole most of the way with raspberry filling and replace the cake circle you removed earlier. (This gives you an even surface to frost on.) Top with frosting and crushed freeze-dried raspberries, if desired.