Growing up in southern California, I must admit that I took for granted the exotic produce that sprouted like weeds across the arid terrain. An orange grove in every park (free for snacking), a lime tree on every apartment patio (to accompany Corona), and a lemon tree in every backyard (beware the thorns!). I truly did not understand the treasure chest that was the avocado tree, ever heavy with fruit, in my own front yard.
Of course, every region has it’s own amazing gifts from the ground. In the Northwest we have apples, and I certainly didn’t appreciate the divine pleasure of a perfectly ripe, perfectly crisp, perfect fresh heirloom apple, until I lived here. Back home I ate over bred apples out of supermarket bins and considered them mundane, such a boring fruit. But here! Here is where I experienced the near-religious bliss that accompanies the first crunch of a Honeycrisp apple, fresh from the orchard. Marvelous!
So I have traded avocados for apples and I fancy that fair, but boy, I do miss the citrus. Those familiar warm hues that whisper ‘hey, there’s a bright light at the end of this cold tunnel’. Citrus season comes in the dead of winter, and what relief it is to savor that juicy flesh that hints at sun and summertime. I think I appreciate citrus more here, in its scarcity, than I ever did back home when it was everywhere. Such is the quirk of life, I suppose.
Tangerines are always my top citrus pick. For these cupcakes, I wanted to offer an enlivening winter dessert, and add an unexpected, earthy element to the palate. Tangerine for tradition, with a hint of cumin that perfectly anchors the acid of the mandarin and the sweetness of the icing. These turned out beautifully, and were a resounding hit at the annual Winter Solstice party. I expect they’ll become a seasonal staple in the Rebhal household.
Tangerine Cumin Cupcakes
Basic cupcake formula adapted from Isa’s Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World
1 cup soymilk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons fresh tangerine juice
2-4 tablespoons tangerine zest (as much as possible)
Preheat the oven to 350º. Whisk together the soymilk and vinegar in a small bowl, and set aside to curdle. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cumin, and salt, mixing thoroughly. In a separate bowl, beat the oil, sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract, and tangerine juice. Add in the soymilk solution and mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and gently process until no large lumps remain. Fold in the tangerine zest, reserving enough to decorate. Fill an oiled or lined cupcake pan, evenly distributed, and bake 20-25 minutes. Makes 12 cupcakes.
For the Icing:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons softened vegan butter
All juice and all zest from one lemon
Beat all of these furiously in a bowl until you get a nice whipped frosting. If too runny, add more sugar. If too solid, add more lemon or a splash of soymilk. Spread over completely cooled cupcakes, sprinkling with cumin and zest.
Then, let the dogs help with the clean up.