Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fresh chamomile cupcakes

There are many desserts I haven’t made before in my life. Doughnuts, tarte tatin, black forest cake, are just a few of them. What I have made many times is cupcakes.

I’ve told you about this before, I don’t get wildly excited about cupcakes, why go small when you can go big, right? Having said that, there is the time and place for a cupcake or two in my life and, when I was in Greece a couple of weeks ago, an opportunity to make and eat them presented itself.

Sometimes individual portions have a certain allure, especially when they come in the form of a fresh chamomile mini cake with a “anthomelo” (Greek flower honey) glaze.

I found fresh chamomile at the farmer’s market in Greece and I was extremely excited about it. Really, I began jumping up and down when I spotted it. People were staring, but I didn’t care one bit. I just love the stuff.

I began thinking about all the things I could make with it and I concluded that I wanted, nay needed, to use it in dessert.

I considered a simple pound cake flavored with the sweet-smelling flowers, then I thought about ice cream but my mom doesn’t have an ice cream machine and then, out of all the people, my grandmother came up with a perfect idea as she asked me to make cupcakes for her. I remembered Joy’s chamomile cupcakes, found in her book, and that was it. Cupcakes it was.

And they were divine, both in appearance and in flavor. It was the first time I had ever used fresh chamomile in a dessert and even though I was scared that it was going to taste grassy or too intense, it was the complete opposite. The chamomile flavor was subtle and paired harmoniously with the floral accents of the Greek flower honey I used.

The small cakes were fluffy and soft, the glaze was silky smooth and sticky in all the right ways, and they were devoured within a few hours which is the best kind of praise a baker can get.

P.S. The use of edible flowers reminded me of this dish with dried lavender that I make all the time and that’s one of my favorite chicken dishes. I actually made it again today.

Fresh Chamomile Cupcakes with Flower Honey Glaze
Adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook

The original recipe calls for dried chamomile which you can also use, but I find that the fresh chamomile is so much better tasting. I also omitted the baking soda as I don’t particularly enjoy the flavor it imparts to desserts.
I found that the amount of icing sugar in the glaze was a bit too much for my liking, so next time I will add a little less sugar or add less glaze on top of each cupcake.

Yield: 12 cupcakes


for the cupcakes
120 ml fresh whole milk
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract)
60 g unsalted butter, softened, cut into small pieces
150 g granulated sugar
125 g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh chamomile (flower heads only, not stems)

for the glaze
165 g icing sugar
1 Tbsp flower honey (must be clear and runny)
75 ml (5 Tbsp) heavy cream, full fat (35%)
Pinch of salt

Fresh chamomile flower heads, to decorate

Special ingredients: stand or hand-held mixer, a 12-cup cupcake pan, paper liners


for the cupcakes
Line your cupcake pan with paper liners.
Preheat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius / 325 Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl, add the milk, the egg and the vanilla and using a hand whisk, mix the ingredients together.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl), add the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and chopped chamomile flowers and beat, using the paddle attachment (or with your hand-held mixer), on medium speed until you have a mixture that resembles sand. It will take 4-5 minutes.

Pour half of the milk mixture into the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated. Pour in the rest of the milk mixture and beat on medium-high speed until well blended, for about 1 minute. You will have a creamy and slightly runny batter.

Empty the batter into the lined cupcake pan, filling each cup by 3/4.

Place the cupcake pan on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake for 17-19 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Once the cupcakes have slightly cooled, remove them carefully from the pan and onto the wire rack to cool. They need to be completely cool before you frost them, otherwise the glaze will melt.
Cut the pointy tops of the cupcakes off if necessary.

for the glaze
In a medium-sized bowl, add the icing sugar, honey, cream and salt and using a hand wire whisk, whisk until you have a smooth glaze.

Glaze the cupcakes and decorate with a couple of fresh chamomile flower heads.

You can keep the cupcakes for a couple of days, covered, at room temperature. If you don’t plan on eating them straight away, don’t decorate them with the fresh chamomile.


  1. I can totally see you jumping up and down when you spotted the chamomile: I do that often when I see things I like, regardless of being in a public space. And I to dislike the flavor of baking soda, so I always try to avoid using it.
    The cupcakes look wonderful, so know I'll be on the look out for fresh chamomile on my local market :)
    I'm soooo going to bake these!

  2. I remember being surprised at the abundance of dried chamomile in Greek kitchens. I've never thought of using it in baked goods—I like the idea of sleepy herbal cupcakes!

  3. I used to grow chamomile when I lived in the Northeast - I wonder if it can be grown in the desert. Would love to try these with fresh chamomile... ~ David

  4. how poetic! love this idea; do these cupcakes relax you as well? here one can find them in the fields!

  5. I have to confess I hate chamomile, but it might be that it is only because I only had it as a drink. I will try baking with it. Could it be that I fall in love with it and strat enjoying it as much as my BF does?

  6. I have never considered using Chamomile in this way. I make tea from it and enjoy it soothing qualities but your cupcakes are just the best idea ever. Beautifully done.

  7. I am with you on the cupcake making enthusiasm, but sometimes, you just have to! Your Greek -chamomile version look awesome! I would be jumping at the laiki too. Nice work!

  8. I love chamomile, but have never considered it in cupcakes. SUCH a great idea!