August. The beginning of the end. The sun starts to set a little earlier, the first shades of brown set in on the trees and the local Target is flooded with parents carrying pencils and binders. Autumn is my favorite season of the year with its crisp air and warm fluffy sweaters, but couldn't it just wait a little?
Mushi-pan is a Japanese-style steamed cupcake, light, spongy and beautifully moist (leave me alone; I like the word) from its time in the steamer. Without the oven, the cupcake loses that golden crust of a baked good, but the soft, stretchy-chewy thin skin that forms in its place more than makes up for it. The inner-textures of steamed cupcakes also differ quite a bit from their baked counterparts; while baked cupcakes tend to be sturdy and tender, these guys are fluffy, airy and bouncy. Thanks to plenty of fresh strawberry puree and a simplistic ingredient list, the strawberry flavor shines through beautifully (and renders the batter a lovely baby pink!). A bite into one of these unassuming little cakes brings to mind bare feet, nostalgia and long, hazy days.
The process is quite simple, a one-bowl-dirtied affair that involves nothing more than dumping and stirring and results in a plateful of these beauties in less than half an hour. If you do not own a steamer, have no fear- I've included some options in the recipe notes below. For those who, like me, are trying desperately to wring out every last ounce of summer from the time we have left, making these sweet, fragrant cupcakes should be the first course of action.
yield: 20 cupcakes
time: 15 minutes prep+ 8 minutes steaming: 23 minutes total
For those of you who do not have steamers, check out Nami's recipe for her beautiful steamed cupcakes- she steams hers in a frying pan! You could also try this Food52 article on makeshift steamer options- the second method seems like it could work for this recipe, though I have never tested it out!
In order to keep my cupcakes round while steaming, I put each filled cupcake wrapper inside of a silicone cupcake liner. If you don't own these, you can put them in ramekins like Nami does, or you can use multiple layers of cupcake wrapper. Either way, beauty is not one of these cupcakes' assets- they will still be delicious whatever you do ;)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberry puree
1/2 cup oil (I used canola, but any mildly flavored oil should work)
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fill the bottom of your steamer with 2 inches of water. Place it on medium high heat.
Prepare 20 cupcake wrappers as desired (see recipe note above) and place them on a steamer basket. Set them aside for later- do not put the basket on the steamer base yet.
Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Put the sugar, puree, eggs, oil, milk and vanilla in a large bowl and beat until well combined.
Dump the dry ingredients into the strawberry mixture and mix gently until relatively smooth. Pour the batter into the cupcake wrappers, filling them about 2/3 of the way.
Once the water in the steamer base has reached a rolling boil, carefully place the steamer basket and cupcakes onto the base and cover. Steam for 8 minutes and turn off the heat, but wait for a minute or so to take off the cover- we don't want the sudden change in pressure to cause the cupcakes to fall. When you do take off the cover, do so gradually.
If you placed the cupcakes in ramekins or silicone liners, be careful not to wait too long before removing the cupcakes from their containers, as the water from the steamer tends to pool inside of them, leading to soggy-bottoms.
Let the cakes cool off a bit, and enjoy warm! For best results, leftovers should be taken to picnics, beaches or other essential summery settings. :)