“Vanilla” is often associated with “boring.” Au contraire. Vanilla is anything but boring, as tonight’s baking will prove. Vanilla is so versatile that it allows for almost anything to be added to it and whatever you add to it often gets complimented by the vanilla flavoring in the background. Background, but important nonetheless. Boring, you say? Perish the thought! Vanilla is the white canvas against which bakers add color (sometimes literally) to create works of edible art.
Tonight I took a vanilla bean cupcake recipe I once found on Nigella Lawson’s web site and made vanilla apple cinnamon cupcakes. I’d made the vanilla cupcakes as-is before, and filled them with a peanut butter cream cheese filling and chocolate cream cheese frosting. The inspiration this time came from not wanting to waste an apple I’d originally prepared for use in a banana bread that instead became banana oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.
There wasn’t much thinking involved in deciding how to “invent” this recipe, really. All I did was add about a cup of chopped apple (which is about 1 apple, peeled, cored and sliced into small cubes) and half a teaspoon of cinnamon. I thought that maybe the amount of cinnamon I added wouldn’t be enough, but it was just right. I also baked for 25 minutes instead of 20, as the apple added extra moisture to the cupcakes.
I thought I would frost these cupcakes with some leftover chocolate cream cheese frosting I had from the birthday cake last week, but after tasting one of these babies, I decided they were best au naturel, without any kind of additional embellishment or decoration (kind of like me sometimes when I decide that my face looks good enough without any concealer and I happen to be having a “good face day”). The sweet, fluffy inside of the cupcake is contrasted in texture by the somewhat crunchy (even after baking) apple bits that add a little surprise to your taste buds with their sweet, slightly tart taste. And then there’s the hint of cinnamon, apple’s long-time partner in crime.