This post must one of the few I’ve done 4 days after baking the cupcakes. Most of the time, after I cook or bake something that I plan to blog about, and I get around to writing my post and editing the photographs its about 2 weeks at least!
It was about 4 days back in the morning that I was wondering what to make for tea. When you have a growing and almost always hungry teenager in the house, you cook more than 3 times a day – breakfast, lunch, dinner as well as elevenses (for want of a better word) and tea-time snacks. Still pondering the choice of an evening snack, I sat down at my desktop with a steaming hot cup of morning tea.
I opened my mail box to see a post from David Lebovitz there, with just the thing for my evening tea. In the days before I became savvy, I used to subscribe to some blogs by e-mail. Then I discovered aggregators but stopped having the time to go through all the posts. I eventually unsubscribed from e-mail versions of most of those blogs, but still hang on to a few.
So to get back to David’s post, it was one for Nutty Magdalenas. My first thought was this was about some tribe of batty women, because you never know with David’s quirky sense of humour but Magdalenas turned out to be some cupcakes. I dislike cupcakes topped with cloyingly sweet frosting, but Magdalenas are never frosted, and David’s version is topped with chopped nuts which make them even better.
Magdalenas are small, lemon-scented Spanish sponge cakes, somewhere between a cupcake and a muffin. They are somewhat like the French madeleines. Magdalenas are supposed to have been the invention of the impoverished Magdalen nuns of Aragón in the northern part of Spain. The nuns, who were famed for their baking skills, made and sold them to raise money.
Magdalenas are traditionally made with oil and not butter and this lends a moistness which is characteristic of these little cakes. There is much debate as to whether Magdalenas are cakes or muffins.
To my mind, even though part of the method involves mixing dry and wet ingredients like for muffin batter, the first step involves creaming/ whipping eggs and sugar which is more a method involved in making cakes.
Cupcakes are generally used to refer to small cakes which are top heavy with frosting but to me, they’re just cakes in paper cups!
Cupcakes or muffins, these little cakes have me converted, and I’m someone who doesn’t really like cakes! The fact that they disappeared pretty quickly after baking should tell you something. No, I did not eat them all!
In Spain, Magdalenas are typically eaten for breakfast with café con leche (milky coffee) or hot chocolate or at “merienda” or tea time as a snack.
If you’re making them, then the oil to use would be a mildly flavoured olive oil. I didn’t do so for two reasons, the first being that we still haven’t acquired a taste for olive oil beyond what would go into a salad dressing. The second being that olive oil is imported here and can be pretty expensive, so I used my regular cooking oil.
David**’s recipe also uses a mix of flour and powdered nuts/ nut-meal unlike other all flour Magdalena recipe. I happened to have exactly 2/3 cup of hazelnuts (the last of my stash) the recipe called for, but the author of the original recipe suggests one could use any kind of nut you have on hand – hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds, or a combination of them.
I also cut down the sugar to 3/4 cup but you might want to use 1 cup if you prefer your cakes a little sweeter.
One thing that bothered me in the original recipe was that it called for 1 tbsp of baking powder. Since we don’t get aluminium free baking powder here which David suggested I could use, I cut it down to 1 1/2 tsp and also the eggs by one.
I also used some cake flour to lighten the cakes. And since a Magdalena isn’t quite one without lemon (lime in my case), I added some lemon zest as well.
An interesting tip I found online was to place the eggs in mildly hot water for a couple of minutes to warm them slightly (helps to increase volume), before breaking them. Please note I said, hot water and boiling water or you will end up with soft boiled eggs!