I’ve reached the place in the list of 52 Ingredients where I’m seriously challenged. Challenged both in finding the ingredients and in coming up with ways to use them. This week’s ingredient, prickly pear cactus, was really tough to locate in my and even trickier to incorporate into a Sweet but I found a way. It is so tasty I know you’ll want to try it.*
There are two edible forms of prickly pear cactus, the pink and red fruit that is often used in candies, jellies and cocktails and the paddles, called nopales. I incorporated both into this week’s Sweet. On my recent trip to Jungle Jim’s, I found nopales among the variety of cactus for sale in their product department. On-line I ordered prickly pear cactus applesauce.
The resulting cupcakes are a bit like an applesauce cake with a tangy kick, topped with an intensely lime buttercream frosting. While my husband always eats the Sweets I bake, he couldn’t stay away from these. It was definitely one of the most interesting flavor combinations of the Sweets I have baked this year, one I would try again!
*For those of you thinking, “I’ll never cook with prickly pear cactus,” just replace the prickly pear cactus applesauce in this recipe with regular applesauce. Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg to make a delicious fall-inspired cupcake. Top with caramel or dulce de leche frosting.
Prickly Pear Cactus Cupcakes (Makes 12 Cupcakes)
6 T. Earth Balance vegan butter-y sticks (or butter if you use dairy)
1 cup coconut crystals or brown sugar
2 eggs (I use farm fresh eggs that weigh an average of 50g each in the shell)
1 t. vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 cups of my favorite gluten-free flour blend
1/2 t. salt
1 cup prickly pear cactus applesauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tin with 12 papers.
In bowl of stand mixer, cream butter and coconut crystals or brown sugar together until well-incorporated. Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla bean paste.
Sift flour blend and salt together. Add into butter and sugar mix, blending until incorporated. Slowly add in prickly pear cactus applesauce.
Add batter to cupcake tins, filling each with a scant 1/3 cup of batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-22 minutes. When tested with a toothpick or cake tester, a large crumb will appear. Delicious, moist cake!
Lime Buttercream Frosting
1 stick Earth Balance vegan butter-y stick (or butter if you use dairy)
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Zest of 1 lime
3 to 4 T. fresh squeezed lime juice
In bowl of stand mixer, beat butter for 2 to 3 minutes with lime zest until it is smooth. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time. This will be very stiff, don’t panic. Add lime juice 1 T. at a time until a creamy consistency is reached. With mixer on high, beat for an additional 3 to 4 minutes to incorporate air and make this frosting a little lighter.
Candied Grilled Nopales (optional, for garnish)
1/4 cup agave nectar
Clean the cactus paddles using a large knife. Scrape gently to remove any needles that might remain. The ones I purchased were already pretty well cleaned, only a few needles needed to be removed. Proceed with caution though!
Place on hot grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Brush one side with agave, flip on grill and brush other side. Allow them to grill for a couple of minutes on each side. Cut into 1/2 wide by 3″ long strips to insert into frosting on cupcakes for garnish.