Finally fruity cake – Vanilla cupcakes with passion fruit curd filling and coconut frosting


Years ago, my friend Naomi and I went to Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium and the surrounding gardens on the same day she got her tongue pierced. Her tongue was swollen, and she could barely talk. She needed ice cream to soothe it.

We stopped at an ice cream place in Tacoma (not always the nicest city in the world), and a guy came charging into the store asking – nay, demanding – that the staff at the ice cream store provide him with “fruity cake” for his son’s birthday. He, after all, he exclaimed: had just been sprung from prison and wanted to take a “fruity cake” to his son after not seeing him for a few years.

He did not make clear what exactly “fruity cake” is. First of all, this place only offered ice cream cakes – not exactly what he wanted. They offered something that had a kind of gooey lemon filling, and the man was having nothing of it. “No, my son wants fruity cake…” – he was hoping there was some kind of strawberry cake – but it was unclear as to whether the cake itself was meant to be strawberry flavored or whether he wanted a kind of strawberry jelly or curd filling. I don’t remember the outcome. I just hear this demand for fruity cake banging around in my head now and then.

Now I have made possibly the fruitiest cake I have ever made – at least in the way I would define as “fruity cake”. Vanilla cupcakes, hollowed out to contain a generous dollop of freshly made passion fruit curd… topped with an experimental coconut milk frosting. Actually to be honest it was all experimental for me – but the frosting was the part I was most dubious about.

Keep reading for the recipe

Passion fruit curd (Can be made a couple of days in advance and kept refrigerated)
10 fresh passion fruit
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
7 tablespoons unsalted butter

Put the seeded pulp of 10 passion fruit into a food processor and blend just to loosen the seeds. Strain into a bowl.

Beat the eggs, egg yolks and sugar together.

Melt the butter over a low heat in a sauce pan. When melted, stir in the sugar-egg mixture and the passion fruit juice, and keep cooking gently, stirring constantly, until thickened.

Remove from heat, whisk in the pulp – seeds and all – of the remaining passion fruit, let cool slightly, then pour into a jar or bowl. Keep in the fridge with cling film placed directly on top of the curd (so skin does not form).

Vanilla cupcakes
1 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 tablespoons or 3/4 cups butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature

Preheat an oven to 375°F/180°C. Place liners in a cupcake pan.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the cream and vanilla.

Using a stand mixer on low speed, beat together the butter and sugar until blended, then raise the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add in the eggs, 1 at a time. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternately with the cream mixture in 2 batches. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Raise the mixer speed to medium-high and beat for 1 additional minute.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake until the centers spring back when pressed lightly with a fingertip, about 20 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Once completely cool, use a sharp paring knife or a cupcake holing tool to hollow out the middle of the cupcake to ready it for the fruity filling!

Experimental coconut frosting
8 tablespoons or 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
(1 teaspoon coconut extract)

Optional toppings:
1/2 cup finely chopped macadamia nuts
Toasted coconut

I searched for a recipe for this and found something like what is above – I did not have coconut extract so just used coconut milk, thinking that might be coconutty enough. I don’t know if it was, but I used toasted coconut as the topping just to ensure a good coconut flavor/influence.

To make: Using a stand mixer on medium-low, beat the butter with half of the powdered sugar. Add the remaining powdered sugar and beat until powdery, about 1 minute. Start blending in the coconut milk (if you have and decide to use coconut extract, mix together the extract and coconut milk prior to this step). With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add the coconut milk (mixture) and beat until blended. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.

Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with toasted coconut or finely chopped macadamia nuts or both!

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