Growing up, I was a picky eater, especially when it came to tree nuts. I avoided them during my childhood and teenage years simply because they looked "gross" to me. Each Christmas, my father would get a jar of mixed nuts wrapped up in a bow. He'd offer them to me to give a try and I'd turn him down. Though nuts were frequently found in the cupboards and in desserts at family get-togethers, I was so frustratingly picky I wouldn't give them a chance.
Not a single one.
I visited an allergist for the first time after my tongue swelled up like a balloon after eating fresh kiwi in a middle school Beginning Foods course. As long as we were there, my mother and I decided to test for a slew of random foods, animals, and plants. Most notable was my allergy for cats (already known) and, surprisingly, tree nuts. In fact, my arm grew so angry red and swollen, the allergist immediately wrote me out a prescription for adrenaline. I was severely allergic to most tree nuts and never knew it.
Since that day, I've landed myself in the emergency room ICU from a single, accidental bite of an "oatmeal raisin" (macadamia nut) cookie. I've developed the early symptoms of an allergic reaction when I'm in a room where other people are eating pecans just from breathing in the microscopic pieces hovering in the air. I've interrogated many bakers and cooks what exactly is in the food they make hoping that, unlike a particular lady and a "chocolate cake" incident (Oh, hazelnuts are a nut? Whoops.), they'll let me know what to avoid.
In a twisted piece of fate, the fact that I was such a frustratingly picky eater growing up may have saved my life.
Even so, I've always been inexplicably drawn to almonds. I remember moments of guilty pleasures when I'd sneak a few chocolate covered almonds from the cupboard before my parents came home from work. Though I am supposed to avoid all tree nuts as a precaution towards cross contamination, I am technically (and oddly) not allergic to almonds. If you pay attention to the sheer number of almond recipes on this website, you may think of me as either rebellious or an unnecessary risk taker.
However, if I wasn't a bit of a rebel, these cupcakes wouldn't exist and oh boy am I glad they exist.
Almond Butter Cupcakes with Mocha Buttercream are dark, gorgeous, and unexpected. The cupcakes are made with almond butter, which lends a texture to the cupcake that is both light and dense, while just barely sticking to the roof of your mouth. Frosted with a rich mocha buttercream, the flavors compliment one another immensely, making it impossible to eat just one. The almond flavor in these cupcakes is very real (no almond extract involved), which sets them apart from other almond cupcake recipes.
Almond Butter Cupcakes with Mocha Buttercream
Yields 1 dozen cupcakes
Almond Butter Cupcakes
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white vinegar (or lemon juice)
1/2 cup smooth almond butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line a cupcake tin with baking cups.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the milk, oil, vanilla extract, vinegar, and almond butter until smooth.
Divide batter evenly between baking cups, filling about 3/4 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool to room temperature before frosting.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
In a bowl, beat together the butter, espresso powder, cocoa powder, and salt until smooth and uniform. Beat in the powdered sugar and milk. If buttercream is too soft, add more powdered sugar until it reaches the spreadable consistency. Likewise, if the buttercream is too stiff, add more milk until it reaches the spreadable consistency.
Spread buttercream on top of cooled cupcakes and serve.