I love shopping at Asian markets. Along with my usual haul of coconut milk, curry sauces, and agave, I like to pick up a few items I’ve never used before… and in some cases haven’t heard of before. On my most recent trip to my favorite market, I picked up a can of mangosteen, a bottle of rose water, and a jar of ube (purple yam). I intended to use all three to make cupcakes for my birthday, but it didn’t happen. I finally got around to it when my friends Kevin & Kerith came for a visit while my mom was in town.

I was familiar with ube. I’d purchased ube flavored snack cakes at the grocery store, I’d poked at the refrigerated and bright purple ube rolls in various international markets, but I’d never used it. I was drawn to the intense purple color of the pureed yam in its jar, and had hoped that the color would show up in a cake. I’m not sure which recipe I used, but it was an applesauce cake recipe. Instead of applesauce, I used equal parts ube and coconut milk. After baking, I filled the cupcakes with an ube and cream cheese filling & topped with coconut frosting. I had initially attempted to make the frosting with too much coconut milk, resulting in a very pretty, but gooey cupcake (the one without purple sprinkles).

These cakes did not take on any color, and I’ve since read that ube will offer a very pale color, as it did to the delicious filling. When using ube, it seems customary to add food coloring to intensify the color. I prefer to not add color to things and these were amazingly tasty without being purple. They had a subtle ube flavor with coconut tones that were nice without overpowering the cake. I had to keep myself from eating them all up before our company had arrived!

I felt like the ube cupcake was a great success. My next trial will be with either mangosteen, which I intend to use as a straight substitute for applesauce (after pureeing) or rose water and rose hips, but I haven’t really figured out how to work rose water into a recipe that uses so little water.


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