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Forget April; August is surely the cruelest month. Sartorially speaking, of course. Irish weather has been having an indecisive moment of late, and it’s wreaking havoc with wardrobe choices and causing all kinds of mood swings.

And what to eat amid all of this confusion? It’s too grey and overcast to really enjoy ice-cream, too warm and humid to indulge in wintery desserts, try though we may. This is where the cupcake comes in, namely a cupcake that is both sweet and salty, a cupcake that is the perfect antidote for a summer that barely arrived before it was already gone.

The cupcake & La Rousee Gastronomique © Ciara Norton

The cupcake & La Rousse Gastronomique © Ciara Norton

This week I baked vanilla cupcakes wth a rhubarb compote filling, topped with vanilla icing and salted pistachios. Rhubarb, like last week’s raspberries, is in season at the moment and is one of my favourite things to eat during the summer months. The compote filling can be eaten alone or with ice-cream, and can be made and stored in the fridge for a few days. As it’s so sweet it is a perfect accompaniment to the salty pistachios atop the cupcakes, sort of like mixing your popcorn and chocolate at the cinema but far, far, classier.

Vanilla cupcakes with rhubarb compote filling, vanilla icing and pistachio topping © Ciara Norton

Vanilla cupcakes with rhubarb compote filling, vanilla icing and pistachio topping © Ciara Norton

Ingredients: Makes 6 big cupcakes:

Rhubarb Compote:

  • 250g Rhubarb, cut into 5mm pieces
  • 75g Caster Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract


  • 1 Vanilla Pod
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
  • 125g Butter
  • 125g Caster Sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 150g Plain Flour
  • ¼ tsp Baking Powder

Vanilla Icing:

  • 50g Butter
  • 100g Icing Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Cream
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Vanilla Pod
  • Shelled salted pistachio nuts
Chopped Rhubarb © Ciara Norton

Chopped Rhubarb © Ciara Norton



1)Put the rhubarb, sugar and vanilla extract in a saucepan to boil. Stir to help dissolve the sugar.

2)Cover the pan and simmer for four minutes. Uncover and heat until the fruit is just soft, but not falling apart.

3)Allow to cool, and place in the refrigerator until needed.


1)Preheat your oven to 180˚C and line a muffin tray with cases

2)Cream the butter in a large bowl until soft. Add the sugar and vanilla pod scrapings and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy TIP: If you’re not a big fan of vanilla or feel like something different you can add the grated zest of half a lemon here for lemon cupcakes.

3)Gradually add the beaten eggs then sift in the flour and baking powder and fold into the mixture.

4)Divide your batter among the paper cases and place into the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until risen and golden and a fork inserted into them comes out clean.


1)Cream the butter until soft

2)Add the icing sugar gradually and beat into butter

3)Add the vanilla extract (or zest of half a lemon if you want lemon favoured icing) and blend into the icing along with the cream.

4)If you find the consistency of the icing is off add more icing sugar or cream, depending on whether it’s not soft or too hard.

5)You can substitute the cream for crème fraiche for a slightly different, but still delicious, taste.

To construct the cupcakes:

1)Wait until the cupcakes have cooled and using a sharp knife cut a hole in the top of them that leaves enough space to insert the compote. Use the instructions on this website to guide you.

2)After replacing the top of the cupcake cover with a layer of icing and sprinkle over the salted pistachios.

3)Eat and enjoy!

If you’re not a big rhubarb fan you can change the filling to whatever you like or not use a filling at all. The toppings can change too, I used Cadbury’s Crunchie here instead of nuts.

Recipe by Ciara Norton from The Crazy is Catching with inspiration, as always, from The Cupcaketologist



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