Growing up, certain foods became the norm for me, even though I was oblivious that other people didn’t eat the same things I did. A prime example is of the vegetables we usually had on hand. Bittermelon (ampalaya), sweet potato tops (camote leaves), taro (gabi), swamp cabbage (kangkong), purple yams (ube) and opo squash were very common vegetables you’d find in our home kitchen. But my favorite produce of them all was calamansi.
Calamansi is a small citrus fruit mainly seen and used in Southeast Asia, especially in the Philippines. This was an ingredient used mainly for cooking and as a simple condiment. I guess if I were to describe it’s use, it would be like the lime is to Mexican cuisine, the calamansi is to Filipino cuisine. As one might assume, the calamansi has a citrusy sour flavor but the actual peel is slightly sweet. It has a flavor of lemon lime, with a subtle hint of orange notes. We use the calamansi juice as a way to brighten up the flavors of our ethnic dishes such as pancit, or we combine the juice with an anchovy paste (bagoong) or soy sauce for a salty-sour condiment to flavor our rice.
Living in Chicago means I don’t have the luxury of finding fresh calamansi very often, since this fruit is grown best in consistently warm climates. However when my friend CC and her family came to visit from California, she surprised me with a large bag of fresh calamansi. This was such a great, great gift! Usually if I need calamansi, I have to resort to frozen juice packets… but the purist I am (when it comes to calamansi) would rather not use it at all if it’s not the real thing.
The calamansi were pretty ripe, since they were a bright orange, so I needed to use them up somehow. I happened to have a dessert event I attended last night (which I’ll be posting about soon!) so I wanted to use the calamansi in a sweet application, rather than as a condiment I normally would use it for. Everyone loves cupcakes so why not a calamansi cupcake?
I used another recipe as a guide and tweaked it a bit to make it my own with the increased amount of flour, addition of dried orange peels and sour cream, and substitution of canola oil. Now if you don’t have calamansi where you are, you can still make the recipe and use any citrus juice you’d like including lemon, orange, grapefruit, etc. To finish these cupcakes off, I made a calamansi cream cheese frosting and garnished with just the tops of the calamansi fruit.
original Joelen recipe
3 cups all purpose
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsweetened butter, softened
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup fresh calamansi juice (or substitute with any citrus juice – lemon, grapefruit, orange, etc)
1/2 teaspoon dried orange peels, soaked 1 teaspoon hot water (or grated citrus rind to match the juice)
6 oz plain Greek yogurt
2 oz sour cream
Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line your muffin pan with paper liners; set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the softened butter with canola oil until fluffy with an electric mixer or in your stand mixer. Slowly beat in the sugar 1/4 cup at a time.
Next, add your eggs one at a time, followed by the calamansi juice while you continue to beat.
Slowly fold in the dry ingredients into the batter until fully incorporated.
Add the yogurt and sour cream and continue to fold in.
Using a scoop or spoon, fill your prepared muffin pan 3/4 full with batter. This makes roughly 20 standard sized cupcakes.
Bake your cupcakes for 15-17 minutes in the preheated oven or until the edges start to turn brown. Remove the cupcakes from the pan and allow to cool on a wired rack before frosting.
original Joelen recipe
1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup fresh calamansi juice (or 1 teaspoon lemon extract)
4-6 cups confectioners or powdered sugar
2-4 tablespoons of half & half
In a large mixing bowl, beat the softened butter and cream cheese together until fluffy; add calamansi juice and beat until fully incorporated.
Slowly add confectioners or powdered sugar into the bowl, 1/2 cup at a time and beating after each addition. Continue adding the sugar until you have a thick frosting of your preferred consistency. If it becomes too thick, add a tablespoon of half & half to thin out.
* A special thanks to Lisa of Lisa is Cooking, for the pretty and colorful plate used to showcase my cupcake in the first photo of this post! She sent this plate, along with another similar one to use for photographing my food. It was a fun PlateSwap event hosted by Cheryl of Tiger in the Kitchen!
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