Even if, like me, you claim to dislike messing around with fire, you have to admit that it's pretty fun in controlled situations. I don't really consider alcohol and an open flame to fall into that category (it seems to me like a good way to lose eyebrow hairs), but I still had a blast making these cupcakes.
They're inspired by the classic pineapple upside-down cake, with an exciting blazing twist. What we have is an almond cake (made with actual ground almonds!) filled with DELICIOUS flambeed pineapple innards and topped with a lightly-flavored almond buttercream. The texture of the cupcakes was surprisingly delicate considering the presence of the ground almonds in the batter and the fact that the cakes get saturated with amaretto when they come out of the oven.
All in all, these go down as one of my favorite batches of cupcakes to date, and that's almost entirely to do with the filling. There's no doubt in my mind that I'll find other places in which to use it and frankly, I wouldn't be above making it and eating it with a little bit of ice cream on the side.
Pineapple Inside-Out Cupcakes
(makes 12 cupcakes)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unblanched almonds, finely ground in a food processor
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup amaretto (almond flavored liqueur)
1 cup heavy cream
8 slices pineapple
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup amaretto
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and reserved, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2-3 tablespoons milk, room temperature
2-3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line muffin tins with papers and lightly spray.
Whisk together flour, ground almonds, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Mix in extracts. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and mixing until just combined.
Divide batter among prepared cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks; immediately poke holes all over tops of cupcakes with a toothpick. Pour amaretto evenly on top; let cool completely before removing from tins.
To make the filling, first stack the pineapple slices and cut into quarters, then into a small dice. Heat sugar in a large skillet over medium-high, stirring, until sugar melts and turns golden brown. Add pineapple; toss. Carefully pour in amaretto; immediately tilt skillet slight to ignite alcohol. (If using an electric stove, use a long match to ignite alcohol.) When flames subside and caramel melts, carefully stir in cream, orange juice, and vanilla-bean seeds. Reduce heat to medium; boil, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely before using or storing.
To make the frosting, beat the butter with an electric mixer for a few minutes. Add the extract and milk and briefly blend. Add the powdered sugar gradually until the frosting is thick enough to spread easily. If the frosting is too dry, add additional milk until the desired consistency is reached.
To fill the cupcakes, carve out a cone-shaped hole (and immediately eat the cone)(after schmearing it with filling and/or frosting, of course) and carefully spoon the pineapple innards into the hole. Apply frosting generously to cupcakes, sprinkle with toasted almonds, and devour.