Taro cupcakes

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I have been busy making Chinese New Year treats and dishes for the past few weeks, as you may know from following my blog.  Taro is one of my favorite ingredients to cook with for Chinese style eats, both sweet and savory.  Therefore, I couldn’t miss out on making something with taro to put on my cooking list for this month.  The taro I used is the small

Taro cake is rather an ambiguous item.  When you hear the word “cake”, you might think about the usual sweet baked dessert with soft texture topped with icing or cream frosting.  And no doubt there are taro cakes as such, with sweet taro filling and purple taro flavored whipped cream.  But this is not to be confused with the taro cake (芋頭糕, “yu tou gao”) originating from South China made with rice flour, with a denser texture and a savory taste from the taro vegetable.  These taro cakes are popular snacks in Hong Kong, but are also served in restaurants as part of a main course appetizer in Chinese cuisine.  They are also a large part of the Chinese New Year list of things to eat.

In traditional Chinese medicine, taro is used to strengthen the stomach, spleen, and pancreas.  It is also used to treat a loss of appetite and fatigue due to a weak digestion.  Taro has a high energy value, and can be a substitution for potatoes to create a more energizing dish.  It is also believed that regular consumption of taro can prevent cancer and improve beauty because of its detoxifying properties.

This week I wanted to make the dessert type of taro cake (芋頭蛋糕 “yu tou dan gao”) with real sweet taro filling and a purple taro cream cheese frosting.  Better yet, I decided to make it more exciting and turn them into cupcakes, filling each one with taro stuffing for a burst of flavor upon biting.  I have to admit, my first attempt at developing this recipe was an epic fail; the cupcakes rose in the oven and then sunk again creating a big crater down the middle.  They tasted great though, so I re-developed my recipe and found success the second time around!

This recipe uses the small taro root variety, which still has a slight purple tinge when cooked.  They turned out to be absolutely delicious; I must say I surprised myself!  It is a unique fusion of the Chinese style taro cake dessert with the Western style of cream cheese frosting.  This taro filling is a traditional Chinese recipe for another cultural dessert made simply with steamed taro and sugar.  I made the cupcake itself not as sweet to offset the sweetness from the taro filling and the frosting.  But if you prefer not to have a filling that is too sweet, you can add less sugar to the taro filling.  These cupcakes will go into my list of unique recipes that I must make again!

(Makes 15 to 18 cupcakes)

Taro cupcakes  Taro cupcakes

Grocery list

12 tbsp (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
6 egg whites, at room temperature
1 vanilla bean
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp baking powder
Large pinch salt

Taro filling

440 g taro root
50 ml half and half or milk
1/2 cup sugar (or if you don’t want it to be too sweet, take away 2 tbsp sugar)
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Taro cream cheese frosting

1 8-oz package cream cheese
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tsp milk
1/2 cup taro powder
Taro powder
5 to 5 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

To make the taro filling:  Peel taro root and wash thoroughly under running cold water.  Cut taro into thick slices and steam until softened and cooked.

Taro cupcakes  Taro cupcakes  Taro cupcakes

Mash the taro slices finely.  Mix in the creamer, sugar, and butter while the taro is still hot.  Set aside to let cool.

Taro cupcakes  Taro cupcakes

Begin by preheating the oven to 350°F.  Line muffin pans with paper liners and set aside.

Using a sharp paring knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the blade’s edge.  Reserved the seeds.

Taro cupcakes

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, egg whites, vanilla seeds and vanilla extract.

Taro cupcakes

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on medium speed.  Reduce the speed to low and add the 12 tbsp butter, one piece at a time, while beating until the mixture resembles moist crumbs.

Taro cupcakes  Taro cupcakes

Add all but 1/2 cup of the milk mixture and beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy (about 1 1/2 minutes).

Taro cupcakes  Taro cupcakes

Reduce the speed to low and add the remaining 1/2 cup of the milk mixture.  Scrape the sides of the bowl, increase the speed to medium, and beat for 30 seconds more.  Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pan, filling each muffin pan to about 3/4 full.

Taro cupcakes  Taro cupcakes  Taro cupcakes

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with a few crumbs attached.  Cool on the muffin pan for 10 minutes before transferring the muffins onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

To make the taro frosting:  Allow cream cheese and butter to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  In a bowl of a stand mixer combine the the cream cheese, butter, milk, and the taro powder.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  The color should be a consistent purple.  Gradually beat in the powdered sugar, beating on medium speed, until the icing reaches a spreadable consistency.

Taro cupcakes  Taro cupcakes  Taro cupcakes  Taro cupcakes

Using a sharp paring knife, core the cupcake by cutting a circle through the cupcake tops 1 to 1 1/2 cm from the edge.  Cut the circle about 3/4 of the way into the cupcake, being careful not to plunge the knife all the way down to the bottom of the cupcake. Carefully remove the top and set aside.

Taro cupcakes  Taro cupcakes

Spoon the taro filling into the cupcakes.  Trim the bottoms of the cupcake tops to about 1/4 their original height and replace the tops.

Taro cupcakes  Taro cupcakes

The cupcake top should be sitting level with the rest of the cupcake, with the taro filling underneath.

Taro cupcakes

Pipe the taro cream cheese frosting over top.  Load a piping bag with the star tip #2D.  Start by squeezing out the icing to form a star with the tip barely touching the cupcake surface.

Taro cupcakes

Without releasing pressure, raise the tip slightly and move the tip either clockwise or anti-clockwise around the star.

Taro cupcakes

Make one complete rotation, and finish the design by moving the tip back to the starting position on top of the original star.  Pull the tip away vertically to finish with a higher star on top.

Taro cupcakes  Taro cupcakes  Taro cupcakes

Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days.  Unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen in the single layer in a sealed airtight bag for up to 1 month.  When you are ready to decorate them, simply defrost completely at room temperature.  Unused icing can be frozen for up to 1 month.  Enjoy!

Taro cupcakes  Taro cupcakes



Related posts:

  1. Three Layer Carrot Cake
  2. German chocolate cake with coconut pecan frosting
  3. Peanut butter sandwich cookies
  4. Honey sugar cookies
  5. Chinese New Year red date cake 紅棗年糕
13 Responses to Taro cupcakes
  1. TK
    February 2, 2012 | 9:09 am

    Did you make your own Taro powder? Or where did you buy it? Thanks!! Those cupcakes looks really YUM! I always love TARO!

    • Dr. Grace
      February 2, 2012 | 1:13 pm

      I bought the taro powder from an Asian supermarket. The powder is purple, and the same type of powder restaurants use to make taro flavored cold drinks. Hope this helps! I love taro too! Stay tuned for other taro recipes coming up!

      • Mandy
        February 4, 2012 | 9:57 pm

        I love Asian food, and I know an Asian supermarket near my home I hope they have Taro powder cause I can´t wait to try this dessert.

        • Dr. Grace
          February 4, 2012 | 10:57 pm

          If that Asian restaurant doesn’t have taro powder, you can try to incorporate the taro filling to make the taro frosting. I don’t think you’ll have a problem finding it though, since taro powder is rather popular!

  2. Misty
    February 8, 2012 | 7:16 pm

    Hi! I was just looking at the recipe and reading the comments and just got the urge to try this recipe out. It is amazing that this kind of food brings tons of health complements. Do you think that I could make some tea with the taro root? I think it would go great with the cupcakes, what do you think?

    • Dr. Grace
      February 8, 2012 | 9:33 pm

      Taro flavored tea would go very well with the cupcakes! Just cook some grated taro root in boiling water, add texture with evaporated milk, then sweeten! You could even add some different flavors, like Angostura bitters to give it that “tea” taste.

  3. ATasteOfMadness
    April 8, 2012 | 8:44 pm

    I love taro! This looks perfect!

  4. Hong
    April 18, 2012 | 7:07 am

    In the section for Taro Frosting, there is a half cup of Taro Powder. Can you please post the picture of the Taro Powder? plus you did not say anthing about Taro Powder adds in in the Taro Frosting’s instruction? Please advise.

    • Dr. Grace
      April 19, 2012 | 2:17 am

      Hi Hong, thanks for your question! No problem, I will take a photo of the taro powder I used and post it shortly. Sorry about that, I have amended my instructions for the taro frosting! Thanks for correcting me!

  5. koko
    April 20, 2012 | 12:25 pm

    hi! i would like to make these for my parents’ anniversary as my mom loves taro. i just want to make sure if this recipe makes 12 cupcakes? thanks a lot!

    • Dr. Grace
      April 23, 2012 | 12:04 am

      Great idea for an anniversary gift! I was able to get about 17 standard sized cupcakes from my recipe. Hope this helps!

  6. Cecille
    May 26, 2013 | 1:15 pm

    What is the temperature to bake this?

    • Dr. Grace
      May 26, 2013 | 5:13 pm

      I baked at 350 F

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