Ras Malai Cupcakes

I can’t believe that Ramadan is almost over and we’re down to the last few nights! I usually go out of town to my aunt’s house to celebrate the holiday with them, and of course, holidays call for food. After a month of abstaining from food and drink, everyone pulls out all the stops on Eid with meals… and desserts!

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Awhile back, The New York Times posted a recipe for a Cardamom Cream Cake, essentially riffing off of a South Asian dessert called Ras Malai. Traditionally, Ras Malai is a flattened creamy cheese balls soaked in clotted cream (malai) and flavored with cardamom. This is often served on holidays, such as Eid, or at wedding functions. It’s one of my dad’s favorite desserts, so I was really intrigued by the NYT’s fusion attempt. But me being me, I switched it up a little and made it into Ras Malai cupcakes! I also divided the recipe by 3, hence the weird measurements, heh.

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Ras Malai Cupcakes*

RICOTTA FILLING:

  • 5/6 cups fresh whole milk ricotta
  • 5/8 cups heavy cream
  • 3/16 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon rose water, or to taste

MILK SYRUP:

  • 1/2 cup milliliters whole milk
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/8 teaspoons rose water

CAKE:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon rose water
  • 3/8 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/16 teaspoon fine sea salt

MASCARPONE:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon rose water
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 cup cold mascarpone
  • 1/16 cup cold Greek yogurt
  • 1/12 cup/12.5 grams pistachios, toasted and chopped
  • Pink sprinkles, for decoration (optional)

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1. Drain the ricotta in a fine mesh sieve placed in a large bowl for 1 to 2 hours until very thick. If you’ve bought very thick, very freshly made ricotta from a specialty shop (not the supermarket), you can skip this step.

2. Meanwhile, make the milk syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the milk and cardamom pods. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer the milk until it reduces by half, 30 to 45 minutes. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves, then continue to simmer until the mixture thickens to the texture of half and half, about 10 minutes longer. Let cool, strain the mixture to get rid of the cardamom and any coagulated milk, then stir in the rose water. (Syrup can be prepared up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated.)

3. Making the cupcakes: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Insert cupcake liners into the cupcake pan.

4. In a medium bowl, lightly whisk together the egg whites, milk, vanilla and rose water.

5. Using an electric mixer, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, cardamom and salt, and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and about a third of the milk-egg white mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for a minute or so until everything is very smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

6. Add the remaining milk mixture in 3 batches, beating well between additions. Scrape down the sides.

7. Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center, 25 to 35 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool in the pans on racks for 20 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely.

8. Make the ricotta filling: Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the ricotta, cream and confectioners’ sugar until quite smooth, about 30 seconds. Beat in rose water to taste. Beat on medium-high speed for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. The mixture will thicken.

7. Make the mascarpone frosting: Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, confectioners’ sugar, rose water and cardamom until fluffy, about 2 minutes. On low speed, beat in mascarpone and yogurt until the mixture is just combined and looks smooth. Do not overbeat or the mixture may curdle.

8. When the cakes have cooled, and the ricotta filling is ready, fill up a piping bag (that has a sharp tip) with the filling. Lightly brush the tops of the cupcakes with the milk syrup. Then, taking one cupcake at a time, insert the piping bag into the cupcake to inject the cupcake with the ricotta filling.

9. Using another piping bag, fill it with the mascarpone frosting and frost each cupcake. Top with chopped pistachios and optional pink sprinkles. I had large sprinkles, so I crushed those too. Chill until ready to serve.

*Recipe is heavily adapted from The New York TImes, I do not take major credit aside from switching it up to cupcakes!

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These were a surprise hit at my house! We had our reservations about turning Ras Malai into a cake, but it came out very well. The ricotta filling is what really gives it that familiar feel and taste to the cheese balls in the traditional version. I also err on the side of caution with Rose Syrup, hence the small amounts in the recipe, bit if you like that floral taste, then feel free to add more!

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I really think these would be a hit for Eid. It’s a small portion and easy to eat, and it’s something everyone will enjoy, regardless of their age. It’s a fun, new twist on a classic South Asian dessert.

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