Sunday, September 1, 2013

Lemongrass Butter Cupcakes

My grandfather used to faithfully fly the Malaysian flag outside his house every year when Hari Merdeka (Malaysia's independence day) approached. He was a patriot, my grandfather - having lived through the Japanese and British occupation in Malaysia, he valued the country's independence and was never remiss in reminding himself (and us) how precious freedom is. My grandfather passed away just months short of his 100th birthday and he used to, until the final years of his life when he wasn't too well, correspond via snail mail to the country's first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, who hailed from Kedah, the same northern state as my grandad. He was extremely proud of the fact that the statesman actually replied his letters a couple of times. 

I don't fly the flag outside my house nor on my car (as many of my countryman/women do). But to celebrate Merdeka this year, I decided to eat an array of my favourite Malaysian dishes! Why not? After all, food is one of the many reasons I love living in Malaysia. 

Listing out the food fest I had over the weekend would be embarrassing. Suffice to say I haven't eaten so much in a long while and am thoroughly guilt-ridden now. 

But I do want to highlight these cupcakes I made which were infused with a lemongrass syrup and topped with strawberry and lemongrass compote.

Lemongrass is one of my favourite Malaysian ingredients and though it is used primarily in cooking curries and savoury dishes, it lends a nice flavour to desserts and drinks too.

For the cupcakes, I used a basic butter cake batter that was flavoured with lemon zest and extract.

Once baked, the cakes are then infused with a lemongrass syrup which soaks into the cupcakes making them not only moist but giving them the unmistakable punch of the lemongrass. 

The strawberry compote is also flavoured with lemongrass: I cooked the fresh strawberries in water and some of the lemongrass syrup that I used for the cake. I wasn't sure if strawberries and lemongrass go well together but I am happy to report that they do :)

Lemongrass infused Butter Cupcakes
For the cake
175g self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
175g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1 lemon, zested and then sliced

For the syrup *
180ml water
200g sugar
3 stalks fresh lemongrass, crushed and cut into pieces
3 slices lemon

For the compote
1 cup strawberries
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup syrup*

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and keep aside.

Rub the lemon zest into the sugar until the lemon is well infused and the sugar is fragrant. Cream the butter and the lemon-flavoured sugar until light and creamy. add the eggs (one at a time) until well incorporated into the butter and then add the lemon extract.

Add the flour mixture in three installments, making sure it is well combined before adding more.

Remove and spoon the batter into the cupcake liners and bake for 18-20 mins or until a tester comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, make the syrup. Put the water to boil and then add the sugar, lemongrass and lemon slices in. Once the mixture boils, turn the heat low and allow to simmer for about 15 mins.

Once the cakes are done, use a toothpick (I didn't have any so I used the small, sharp end of a chopstick) and poke holes all over the surface of the cupcakes. Spoon the syrup carefully over the surface, allowing it to seep into the cupcakes through the holes.

Leave to infuse for 10 mins and the repeat.

To make the compote, hull and cube the strawberries. Add the strawberries, the water and the syrup in a small saucepan and cook, under low heat, until the berries start to soften and the mixture starts to thicken.  Spoon the compote over the cupcakes once they are cool.

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