It seems like I am always late to the party. Just a few weeks ago, I was contacted by Ryan from POM Wonderful. Would I like to try out a case of POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice? Heck yes! And true to his word, a box of 8 of the cutest little bottles of pomegranate juice showed up at my door, no strings attached.
I was excited to experiment with my treasure. As it turned out, Pete was excited about the pomegranate juice, too. Reading all about the health benefits of this “superfood”, he couldn’t wait to try it himself and promptly drank all but two of my little bottles. I was just going to have to buy myself some additional product, but first I needed an idea.
The idea came to me a few days later like a lightning bolt---what about a POM Velvet Cupcake? I could swap out that awful red food coloring for the much healthier and tastier pomegranate juice. It would be lovely, in all of its pink glory, with fresh pomegranate arils strewn over the top. Why, I could even show how to seed a fresh pomegranate (this was a new feat that I was very proud of---the first time I tried to get the seeds out of a pomegranate was a messy nightmare). And so it was decided: POM Velvet Cupcakes.
One of the first things that I do when I set to inventing a new recipe is to search the Internet to see if it has been done and, lo and behold, there it was right on the POM Wonderful website, POM Velvet Cupcakes presented by Chef Ashley James. It looked to be a beauty of a cupcake alright, complete with the fresh pomegranate arils on top. I would have to change my strategy just a little. Since this cupcake was a chocolate version, mine would be a white cupcake flavored with pomegranate juice. I could still have my arils strewn on the top, right? Well, as it turns out, no.
We made our trek to the grocery store on the Saturday before the Super Bowl in search of a large bottle of pomegranate juice and one fresh pomegranate. The juice we found easily, sold in 60 oz bottles at Costco. I thought for sure Costco would have pomegranates, too, but after dodging what seemed like a gazillion people, all loaded down with snack food and large screen televisions, we gave up, bought the juice and went to the closest grocery store. No luck there either. According to the produce manager, pomegranates were out of season (didn’t I just buy one?). I did find a container of fresh pomegranate arils, but at nearly $7 for a small portion, I decided I was just going to have to make the frosting pretty all by itself. Here is the recipe I ultimately came up with:
Pink Pomegranate Cupcakes
2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup pomegranate molasses*
1 teaspoon vanilla
Several drops of red food coloring, optional
3 egg whites, room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 oz unsalted butter, softened
3 oz pomegranate molasses (1 ½ shot glasses full, for all of you cocktail hounds)
Several drops of red food coloring, optional
4-4 ½ cups powdered sugar
* I made my own pomegranate molasses with the help of Alton Brown and the Food Network. Here is a link to the recipe: Pomegranate Syrup or Molasses This is really easy to make and it keeps for six months in the refrigerator. You can use the molasses in all sorts of drink recipes (think tastier grenadine syrup) and/or in savory main dish recipes.
1. Preheat oven to 350 ° F. Line cupcake pans with liners.
I found these cute ones at Target--just in time for Valentine's Day!
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
I always spoon the flour into the cups. This avoids packing in too much flour.
3. Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Combine the pomegranate molasses and the vanilla with the milk. Alternately add the flour and the milk mixture to the creamed butter, ending with the milk. Beat until the batter is smooth. Stir in enough red food coloring to turn the batter pink.
Here's where I noticed that the pomegranate juice turned the milk brown. Yikes!! It looked like chocolate milk. It turns out that it does need a little food coloring for aesthetics.
4. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks appear. Gently fold into the cake batter.
5. Spoon batter into cupcake liners, filling cups about 2/3 full. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tops spring back when touched. Cool completely on cooling racks.
This has nothing to do with the cupcakes, except that I was taking pictures of them when I looked out the window to see someone cross country skiing on the lake. :)
I should have added more red food coloring. I still have brown cupcakes....
6. In a large bowl, cream together the softened cream cheese and the butter. Add the pomegranate molasses and enough of the powdered sugar to make a spreadable frosting. Stir in enough red food coloring to turn the frosting pink. Frost the cupcakes or use a pastry bag fitted with a round or star tip to pipe the frosting on the cupcakes.
I learned from my mistake and added a little more red food coloring to the frosting. ;)
I found some great disposable plastic pastry bags at a cooking store. It makes piping on the frosting really easy.
In conclusion, I think they turned out pretty good. The frosting is pomegranate sweet/tart and the cake, although I can't taste pomegranate, isn't dry like some homemade white cake recipes. It's a keeper.