Thursday, April 12, 2012

Cherry blossoms for me

Just the other day I was talking to my Granny (my mom's mom, who is pictured below with me on Easter; we all wore the tie-dyed shirts we made at my mom's birthday party last September, as per her request) about the lovely cherry blossoms in bloom right now. The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade is scheduled to take place this weekend, but the trees started blooming early this year. I guess their blooms definitely won't be around for my birthday (April 30th; I can't believe I'm turning 36).

When I was little, I thought cherry blossoms were my birthday flower, due to the beautiful photo of them on a calender my Granny had on her desk. Certainly, if the cherry blossoms were featured on the month of April, they must be my birth flower.

Later, I discovered that my real birth flower is a sweet pea (so sweet; love those, too), and that the cherry blossoms were no longer blooming by the time I'd be celebrating my birthday (although my hubby jokes that I like to celebrate my whole birth month). Still, I feel connected to the pretty pink (my favorite color to this day) blossoms.

So, if I am going to celebrate my birth month, I thought a cherry blossom-inspired Rawdorable cupcake would be the perfect way to start. To infuse it with a sweet cherry flavor, I'd substitute the date paste for cherry paste (like when I swapped the date paste out for sun-dried tomato paste in this pizza cupcake).

Lately, I've been referring to my cupcakes as Rawdorable cupcakes, which refers to my personal style of unbaking. Sometimes they are raw and other times include non-raw elements. No matter what, they are delicious and fun to make.

Today's cupcake is more of the hybrid variety (a mix of raw and non-raw ingredients), due to my spontaneous decision to make it. I had hoped to pick up dried cherries at the grocery store. Unfortunately, there weren't any, but Hayden found a package of a brand I wouldn't normally purchase with the word "cherry" on the front.

At closer inspection (when I already purchased them and brought them home), I realized they were actually dried cranberries flavored with cherry juice. Determined to still make my cupcake (I'm a Taurus, so I'm determined, although most people would refer to us as stubborn), I soaked a large handful of the dried berries in water for a couple hours (reserving the soaking water for another step), in hopes of blending them into a paste after picking Jacob up from the bus stop (I know better than to get too involved in these things right before bus stop time).

When Jacob got home, I blended the soaked berries in my Magic Bullet blender to a slightly chunky paste, which speckled the formed unfrosted cupcake. So pretty.

As for the icing, although I did have some "butterdream" leftover in the freezer, I opted to use some whipped canned coconut milk instead. I happened to already have a can chilling in the fridge (I was going to use it to make one of Chef Chloe's recipes), so I opened it, took a couple spoonfuls from the top (when it sets unshaken like that in the fridge, the "cream" rises to the top) and whipped it up in my Tribest personal blender. I guess I could have added some sweetener, rose water and/or vanilla, but I thought it was perfect as is.

It was a lovely canvas for my cherry blossom decorations made out of dried cherry cranberries, large coconut flakes soaked in the leftover cherry cranberry soaking liquid and a quick and easy chocolate icing piped branch. If you didn't follow all of that, here's the recipe:

Cherry Blossom Cupcake

*Makes one cherry blossom-inspired cupcake
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. cherry cranberry paste (dried cherry-flavored cranberries soaked and blended into a paste; can also use plain dried cherries to make the paste)
  • 1 tsp. rose water
  • dash of sea salt
  • *"Butterdream" or whipped canned coconut milk "cream" for frosting
  • *quick and easy chocolate icing (cocoa powder mixed with pure maple syrup or liquid sweetener of choice to create a quick and easy icing) for piping a branch on top
  • a few dried cherry-flavored cranberries or cherries, and large coconut flakes soaked in the cherry cranberry soaking liquid for garnish
In a mini food processor or blender, grind the almonds (you can also substitute some of the almonds for leftover nut pulp from making nutmilk to result in a lighter cake texture), coconut flakes and ground ginger into a flour-like consistency, and transfer the "flour" to a bowl.

Next, add the cherry cranberry (or just cherry) paste, rose water and sea salt. Whisk to combine (a whisk helps keep the "batter" fluffier). The batter should be moist, but not so damp that it requires "baking" in a dehydrator (although you could if you desire).

Form the batter into a cupcake shape, using a reusable silicone liner or small ramekin. Frost the cupcake with "Butterdream" icing or whipped coconut milk "cream" (allow a can of coconut milk to set unshaken in the fridge until chilled and the "cream" has separated to the top. Remove the "cream" and whip to a fluffy consistency). Then, garnish with a piped quick and easy chocolate icing branch and cherry blossoms formed out of dried cherry cranberries (or just cherries) and large coconut flakes soaked in the cherry cranberry soaking liquid. Pretty!


Speaking of pretty, did you notice the cherry blossom art in the background? Hayden and I collected a bunch of petals on our walk back from the bus stop to make this project. When I was little, we would make cherry blossom pictures with tissue paper flowers, but I just had to use fresh petals when I saw the ground covered with them, as they fell like pink fluffy snow from the neighbors flowering tree (that's about the only kind of "snow" I can expect to find on my birthday, but I do remember it snowing once or twice in the beginning of April).

To make this project, all you have to do is draw or paint some bare branches and then glue on some fresh pink flower petals to look like cherry blossoms. As I mentioned already, you could use pink tissue paper instead, but I prefer this more natural technique.

I also remember making these with black or brown construction paper cutouts shaped like hands (trace around your hands or your kid's hands and then cut out the tracings) to represent the branches. Too cute. I should have done that with Hayden and Jacob. There is still time.

To make the picture extra special, we made this one on Melissa & Doug picture frame paper. It comes in a large pad with a variety of printed on frames. I selected the mock cherry wood frame, which was just right for this project. What do you think?

Anyone going to see the cherry blossoms or have gone to see them in the past? They really are gorgeous :-)