Marzipan & Pear Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream

Pear & Marzipan Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians! I’m not completely sure how it became October, but I’ll take it. Last week was a busy one with some special cake projects on the go, including a fresh & summery cake for Wedding Bells magazine (that will be out in the new year, so I’ll be sure to share!). I was so immersed in summery inspiration boards and colour-palettes, that I almost forgot it was briskly turning to autumn. I have to admit that this is my favourite time of year for many reasons, but my autumnal association with caramel is right up there on the list. Well, that and Oktoberfest in my German-rooted hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo, but since I haven’t been able to attend that craziness since I was in my 20s, I’ve moved on to the ever-comforting and endless list of caramel-ly recipes that call my name at this time of year.

I also tend to crave desserts with a bit more texture and depth of flavour, and these almond and pear cupcakes seemed like the way to go. Marzipan (or almond paste) gives the cupcakes a classic almond flavour and some additional ground almonds and bits of ripe pear add some wonderful texture. I decided to top them with some caramel Swiss meringue buttercream, because I think pear, almond and caramel taste incredible together and, well, caramel Swiss meringue buttercream is never a bad idea. You may remember it from this cake, with which I salted the caramel with sea salt, and since that too is never a bad idea, feel free to add some to the caramel if you wish.

Pear & Marzipan Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

I first learned of the sweet almond-y goodness that is marzipan, back when I worked at my first job at Cafe Mozart–a German bakery in Kitchener, Ontario. Along with incorporating marzipan into some of the authentic baked goods, the pastry chefs would tint and shape the most adorable marzipan fruits and we would sell little clear cellophane gift bags of them tied with gold ribbon. The fact that this intrigued me as a teenager, should have been my first clue that I would have ended up here, but that’s another story. Sure they looked cute, but how good could a little hardened marzipan orange or banana taste? Well, if you like almonds and sweetness, pretty great. Who knew?

That being said, marzipan is a wonderful ingredient to create almond cake and cupcakes from, among other almond-based treats. You can typically interchange almond paste and marzipan, depending on what you have on hand. The main difference between the two is that marzipan contains more sugar than almonds, and almond paste contains more almonds than sugar, but the consistency is very similar. It’s a soft-but-dense paste that can be kneaded, coloured, shaped, rolled, or, as with these cupcakes, included into the batter itself.

I usually buy mine ready-made, but you can definitely make your own, as there are many recipes out there. I love the consistency of Odense brand marzipan, and I love that I can buy it at my regular grocer (baking section in a 200 gram package). I decided to create some gilded marzipan pears as cupcake toppers because I have a thing for making fruit and veggies out of sugar pastes, and I’m still smitten with the cuteness of mini marzipan fruit. In this case, I used a small bit of florist tape rolled into a stem and glittered it with non-toxic gold sparkles, because at the time I couldn’t find anything on hand to use that was edible, but since you want to be able to eat those little pear toppers, you could use a little piece of clove for the stem or anything else you may have that you feel would work well. I made these on a whim, so I wasn’t prepared for edible mini pear stems. Bad baking blogger. Bad.

Pear & Marzipan Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

These treats were a nice change from my much-cherished vanilla cake and chocolate cake fixes, and I love the layers of flavour and natural tones. I hope you love them too.

Marzipan & Pear Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream

Yield: 24 standard cupcakes

Ingredients

    For the Cupcakes:
  • 1 cup + 2 teaspoons (240 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • 240 g (8 oz.) marzipan, such as Odense Marzipan
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup + 1 tablespoon (140 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (4 g)
  • 1/4 cup (60 g) ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup diced pear
  • For the Buttercream:
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 1-1/2 cups (340 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 large egg whites (120 g)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • For the Marzipan Pears:
  • 240 g (8 oz.) marzipan
  • Gold luster dust
  • Gold non-toxic glitter (aka disco dust), optional
  • Clove for stem, optional

Instructions

    For the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F and line standard cupcake pan with cupcake/muffin liners of choice.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift dry ingredients together, whisk and set aside.
  3. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium speed, cream the butter, sugar and marzipan until light, fluffy, and smooth--about 3 minutes. Add vanilla extract and for another moment until blended.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, scraping side of bowl with spatula between additions, and mix on medium-low speed until incorporated. Add dry mixture and beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then medium speed for 2 minutes.
  5. Add ground almonds and diced pear (or puree) and mix by hand until incorporated.
  6. Divide batter evenly among cupcake liners, no more than 2/3 full, and bake in middle of oven until tops turn golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out just clean (a few crumbs is okay), about 18 minutes. Remove pan from oven and carefully remove cupcakes from tray onto cooling rack. Let cool completely before frosting.
  7. For the Buttercream:
  8. The first step is making the salted caramel (you can also do a non-salted caramel by omitting the sea salt), to set aside to cool while you make the Swiss Buttercream. You then add the cooled caramel sauce it to the buttercream as the very last step. I haven’t tried buying ready-made gourmet caramel sauce and adding it, but I suspect it would taste nothing short of awesome.
  9. Place 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (130 g) of the sugar and the water in a medium saucepan to a boil over medium heat. Brush down the sides of the pot with a dampened pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Stop stirring and cook until caramel is dark amber, gently swirling from time to time. Remove from heat, and slowly add cream, whisking by hand until smooth. It will be splatter, so be careful. Let cool.
  10. Place butter in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (flat beater) and beat on medium speed (I use #4 on my mixer), until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
  11. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer clean with lemon juice, and place egg whites and remaining sugar into bowl over a pot of simmering (not boiling–you don’t want to cook the eggs). Whisk occasionally and gently until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160°F on a candy thermometer.
  12. Remove the bowl from heat, and place back onto the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 5-6 minutes. Once the bottom of the bowl is neutral and no longer warm to the touch, reduce speed to medium-low, and add beaten butter, one cup at a time, whisking well after each addition.
  13. Switch to paddle attachment. With mixer on low speed, add cooled caramel and salt and beat until smooth, about 3-5 minutes.
  14. Prepare to taste the most incredible buttercream you will ever encounter.
  15. For the Marzipan Pears:
  16. Divide the marzipan or almond paste into 24 equal pieces or weigh each at 10 g for ease. Knead each piece to soften, then roll into ball and create pear shape using your fingers and make a small indent at the top and bottom of pear.
  17. Dust the pears with gold luster dust using a dry paintbrush you've designated for food and add a small bit of clove (or anything you desire for stem) and sprinkle the tops with gold non-toxic glitter (aka disco dust), if desired.
  18. Let sit loosely covered at room temperature for a few hours and place atop frosted cupcakes before serving.

Notes

*I used Ateco tip #887 in a large pastry bag to frost cupcakes.

**Store finished cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days, but be sure they are completely cool first. Best enjoyed day 1.

***You could easily make quick, simple and lovely marzipan pears without any luster dust.

****Marzipan toppers can become soggy if left in airtight container atop cupcakes--try to place them on right before serving or ahead of time if they won't be in container.

http://sweetapolita.com/2011/10/marzipan-pear-cupcakes-with-caramel-buttercream/

[caramel buttercream adapted from Martha Stewart’s Caramel Buttercream]

If you love the idea of pear and caramel, and let’s be honest, what’s not to love, here are a few other fabulous recipes from some friends around the web:

Pear and Caramel Bundt Cake from Cake Duchess

Ginger Pear Cupcakes with Miso Salted Caramel from Cupcake Project

Caramel Pear Pudding from Taste of Home Recipes

Good luck & enjoy!

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Comments

  1. says

    At first glance I actually believed those pears to be real! You are such an artist and I really enjoyed this post. The cupcakes sound as amazing as they look!

  2. Alba says

    These cupcakes are so gorgeous, I can’t even… oh my! My fav. things are on here: pears+caramel+cupcakes+cuteness. Really beautiful, love everytime you post something new, it makes my day! (:

  3. Shakila says

    Uh-mazing as always.. I usually don’t comment on blogs and as a matter of fact this is the first time I’ve done this actually :-) but I just had to tell you that your cakes are amazing. You’ve made a baker out of me. I tried the vanilla and rainbow doodle cake and the recipes were just perfect! Love your work and how generously you share your secrets (information) Please never stop :-)

  4. Amanda says

    Another beautiful creation! I love anything almond so I tried this recipe, and well, yours looks MUCH better than mine! Not sure why they sank down so low after baking.. Also, do you have any hints to blending the marzipan? Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. says

    Thanks, guys! Just a note that I have made a few corrections on the recipe–there were some quantity typos in the cupcake portion of this recipe, but it’s correct now. So sorry for any inconvenience!

  6. Lora @cakeduchess says

    Hi Rosie-These cupcakes are gorgeous like every thing you create. You reminded me how much I love pear and caramel. Thank you so much for linking to my cake! You’re a sweetheart. xo

  7. says

    It is, indeed, coming to the end of a year. October is here… Soon, it will be November. And suddenly, i feel teary. Anyway, once again you produced something so amazing! Pear has been used so little when it actually enhances this sweetness that sugar can never produce!

  8. says

    I love marzipan and find it hard to believe that some people think it’s an ‘acquired taste.’ Your cupcakes look absolutely gorgeous!

  9. says

    Oktoberfest — ever since I moved from KW, we haven’t been back for Oktoberfest. You’ve just reminded me that it was that time again — boy, do I miss the schnitzel!

    These are beautiful cupcakes and I can’t believe that you made those adorable pears from marzipan. Stunning!

  10. Aimee says

    Cafe Mozart? I haven’t thought about that yummy place in years! We used to go there all the time for their sweet treats! They had one dessert there that was my favourite. It was almonds and nuget oon a cookie base dipped in chocolate. Mmmm. Being from the KW area you can’t help but notice the signs of fall rolling in each year…Oktoberfest, pumpkin patches, the return of the University students!

    Your cupcakes are lovely. I love the marzipan pears on top. Cute, and yummy, toppers! I love all of your creations and as a cake maker I have looked to your blog for inspiration from time to time.

    • says

      Yes! I loved those so much. It was 20 years ago for me, but I’m sure they were called “almond rings” or “nougat rings.” Oh, I wish I could remember–it’s going to drive me crazy! Thanks for the sweet words, Aimee. :)

      • Aimee says

        Nougat rings….yes…the Stone Crock in St. Jacobs has an “ok” version of them…not quite the same but a decent substitute! I should try making them sometime…ah-ha…there is my next challenge…re-creating the Cafe Mozart Nougat Ring!

  11. says

    I used to love Cafe Mozart!! These cupcakes are so pretty and I’m sure they taste even more amazing! I will have to try them. They would even make a super cute shower favor, or even a wedding favor {I’ve seen lots of “perfect pair” themes happening lately}

  12. says

    So when can I come visit? To tell you the truth as much as I would love to eat your perfect, delectible goodies I want to learn how to decorate from you!! Can I? These are stunning!

  13. Michelle Pitcher says

    Hi Rosie, I was taken with this recipe as soon as I read it and saw the photos! They will be the perfect, elegant, little cake for my friend’s engagement – a gorgeous green and white affair – fresh colours to remind us it is now spring here in Australia. Naturally I have done a practice run of the cakes, and while they were totally delicious – they were more dense than I expected and didn’t look as fluffy as your picture of the cake cut in half. They also dropped after taking them from the oven and they really shrunk from their wrapper after having cooled. Have I done something incorrect? If you have a suggestion, please let me know. Ideally I want them to fill out the cupcake wrapper nicely in both height and width – should they have done that?
    Look forward to your advice! Thanks, Michelle x

    • says

      Hi Michelle,
      I hope I can help in some way! I read your comment earlier tonight and I was curious to try it again to check for any red flags, just to be sure. Since my littlest girl loved them so much, I just made a batch of the dozen, minus the buttercream. Now, mine were pretty consistent with the last time I made them. Last time I made them, I made twice the batter, but know that readers prefer single dozen cupcake recipes, which is why I included that way, but I can’t say that these look much different. Let’s see if we can figure out what happened to your batch. Here are a few notes about what I did, and hopefully it will solve the dilemma! I did the one dozen cupcakes using eggs, marzipan, and butter at room temperature. I used a 45mL scoop to fill the cupcake liners, and the cupcakes bake up to fill the height of the liner. I don’t open the oven at all before 18 minutes, then set the timer for 2 minute intervals if they aren’t ready. The tops of the cupcakes should be light golden brown. Does this sound consistent with the steps you took? Please let me know, as I agree they’d be a wonderful addition to your friend’s engagement!

      • Michelle Pitcher says

        Thanks for the tips, Rosie. I am going to try again and make sure I follow the recipe to the letter. I will be sure to let you know the outcome. Thanks again, Michelle x

  14. says

    Love love love these cupcakes Rosie! They are hands down the most delicious that I have ever made. The salted caramel buttercream is I think what puts it over the top. Thanks so much for sharing all of your amazing confections, you are so inspiring!!!

  15. says

    Hi Rosie,

    Thanks for the recipe! The cake was delicious but I had a lot of trouble with the buttercream.

    I had challenges combining the egg whites with the butter. The two never came together and I ended up with a mystery liquid and pebbles of sweetened butter. I’ve had lots of success with the standard swiss meringue buttercream, but I noticed for this recipe that my egg whites and sugar were not as glossy as normal. Any ideas?

  16. Cristina says

    I want these to work out soooooo bad because the flavor profile is lovely. But when I made them they came out far too wet. I puréed the pear & maybe I should have just chopped it. & I used almond meal which is ground almonds. Oh, I also used almond paste instead of the marzipan. However, maybe it was the pear that made it too wet. Other than that little issue they were DELICIOUS. I’m going to try them again right now.

  17. Cristina says

    Okay so I tried them again and I realized I put the entire pear in the recipe instead of just a quarter cup. Once I fixed my little mistake, they were perfect, the buttercream was great, and it was so fun to make the caramel. Thank you!

  18. Sarah says

    What beautiful little cakes!

    I was just wondering if this is this the perfect amount of icing for 12 cupcakes? So to use it to ice 24 would doubling it be the right amount?

    Thanks :)

  19. Jenn says

    Hi Sweetapolita!

    I have some gourmet caramel sauce in my pantry and I want to use it to make your caramel buttercream. Any idea how much sauce I should add (1/2 cup? 3/4 cup?) to the standard recipe?

  20. brooke says

    Hi Rosie,
    What a divine combination! I was hoping to make a single cake version of this recipe for my fathers birthday. Would this mixture fit into a 9” cake pan or would i need to double the mixture?
    Thanks x

  21. Hala says

    Are you sure we need the marzipam in the batter? it’s my first time to come across such recipe.
    Thanks

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