One of the many things that I love about Australia is its native wildlife – kangaroos, emus, koalas, echidnas, bandicoots, wallabies, cockatoos and much more. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some of these animals in their natural habitats while driving through the Outback in 1999 and 2002, and every day I hear the sound of cockatoos screeching past our windows. Australia is such a beautiful place with so many interesting and extreme places. I’m so glad to be living here.
Being a foodie, I also really love Australia’s native herbs and spices, such as wattleseed, lemon myrtle, mountain pepper and bush tomato, to name a few. I’ve never cooked with any of these native spices before but now that I’m here for good I would really love to experience these herbs and spices that you can only find in Australia.
Luckily, my husband grows a variety of plants in the garden, including a lemon myrtle tree. He picked some leaves from the tree earlier this week for my first experiment in baking with Australian native spices.
I thought I’d have to wait weeks for the leaves to dry, but I found a very helpful post from Simple Daily Recipes on how to dry basil in the microwave. It looked so easy and quick that I decided to try this on the lemon myrtle leaves.
All you need to do is wash and dry the leaves, lay them in a single layer on a paper towel straight on the microwave’s glass plate, cover the leaves with another paper towel, then microwave on high for one minute. Check the leaves for brittleness, then microwave at intervals of 20-30 seconds until they break with gentle pressure. For more detailed instructions, visit Simple Daily Recipes.
Next you’ll need to ground the leaves into a very fine powder. For this I recommend a mortar and pestle. The smell of the lemon myrtle while doing this is wonderful and very lemony. Not all of the leaves ground down very well, so I sifted the powder through a fine mesh colander to separate the bigger pieces that didn’t grind down.
After finishing up the lemon myrtle, I started on the cupcakes. I chose the flavor of coconut to accompany the lemon myrtle. The cake recipe is one I have used before from Ina Garten:
And they are the same ones that you see in the photo of me on the “About” page. What I did differently was add 2 teaspoons of ground lemon myrtle to the flour mixture.
I must take this opportunity to state how much I miss my KitchenAid stand mixer. I have a Breville stand mixer here, and it’s good, but it is NOT a KitchenAid. Most of all, I miss my Beater Blade. I have to constantly stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl; how annoying!
Anyway, I made a lemon myrtle sugar syrup to drizzle on the top of each cupcake. I poked holes in the tops of the cupcakes with a fork to make sure the syrup would drip down inside of the cupcake. I decided to make the sugar syrup because I wasn’t totally sure about how strong (or not strong) the lemon flavor would be in the cake.
To frost the lemon myrtle cupcakes, I wanted a coconut cream cheese frosting that had coconut milk or cream. I found just what I wanted at Good Eats ‘n Sweet Treats. After frosting the cupcakes, I coated each one in sweetened, shredded coconut.
I couldn’t wait to taste these! They are really nice and not too sweet. It’s not a cupcake for kids; it’s the sort of cupcake you’d serve with tea or coffee for a morning or afternoon snack with a friend, if that makes any sense! The lemon myrtle taste isn’t too strong; it’s more of a hint of lemon, while the coconut is actually the stronger flavor.
Overall, these are some lovely cupcakes and a great effort for my first baking experience with an Australian native spice! I invited the neighbors over for morning tea to sample of these cupcakes and they really enjoyed them. I even sent them home with the leftovers!
- For the cupcakes:
- 170g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 extra-large eggs, room temperature
- ¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¾ teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1½ cups flour
- 2 teaspoons ground lemon myrtle
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 100g sweetened, shredded coconut
- For the lemon myrtle syrup:
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ½-3/4 teaspoons ground lemon myrtle
- juice from half of a lemon
- For the coconut frosting:
- 340g cream cheese, room temperature
- ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons coconut cream
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 325F (160C).
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, lemon myrtle, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in coconut.
- Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner evenly with batter. Bake for 20-25, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.
- For the lemon myrtle syrup: Bring all ingredients to the boil stirring until sugar is dissolved. Strain lemon myrtle from syrup. Poke holes into the cupcakes with a fork, then either dip cupcakes into syrup or spoon the syrup over the cupcakes. This is best done when the cupcakes and syrup are still warm.
- For the coconut frosting: Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a large bowl on medium-high speed about 1 minute. Add the whipping cream, coconut cream, and salt; beat until combined. Frost cupcakes when they are completely cool.