My contribution to the feast was dessert. Naturally there is a back story to it, so you'd better get comfy - or skip straight to the recipe links. This back story starts in a Chinese restaurant in Pasadena, veers into a Chinese supermarket in Coventry, backtracks into a spring roll (sounds messy), and finally ended in cupcakes. The Pasadena part is from my visit to Tracy (who I am seeing tomorrow - yay!) a few years ago. She ordered us some bean paste dumplings for dessert at lunch on my last day and they were delicious (though we were probably too full to do them full justice!). The veer into Coventry happened a few months ago when we we there for some reason or other and stopped into a Chinese supermarket opportunistically for some shingshao wine. I spotted a tin of red bean paste, remembered those dumplings and picked it up. I regretted this somewhat after it had sat in the cupboard for quite a long time, but then I noticed a recipe for banana and red bean paste spring rolls in a cookbook I found in a charity shop. I'd thought about buying this book before so was very pleased to find it for 50p. I have to admit that I'm glad I didn't pay full price as there aren't too many veggie recipes and there's a limit to how many times you can sub more veggies or tofu for different types of meat. But this recipe was a winner and I made it to take to Vicki and Paul's house for dinner. You just get some filo (or spring roll wrappers), spray some oil over them, spread some paste over it, slice some banana over the top and fold up. They could be fried but we baked them because the oven was already on. They were amazing - the bean paste went all melty and nutella-like.
Bean paste added, ready for more batter over the top. Note Chinese new year red cupcake liners
But that wasn't the end of the bean paste and so when the Chinese new year meetup was announced I knew exactly what I was making, and even what recipe. For the cakes I went to Chockylit, and for the frosting, to Cupcake Project - my two favourite cupcake blogs. The cakes were just vanilla with bean paste in the middle (mine sank to the bottom as I think my cakes were a bit larger but shallower than Chockylit's). I reduced the sugar quite a lot as well as my paste was from a tin, whereas Chockylit had made her own and made it less sweet. I went down to a bit over half what was in the recipe. The frosting Chockylit used was a cream cheese one though and I'm trying to avoid using dairy in my baking now too, so I went for Stef's red bean paste buttercream, using vegan margarine again. She has a Chinese new year cupcake to go with it, but it involved glutinous rice flour which I wasn't sure I could get without more advanced planning.
I almost forgot about the cupcakes as we were having such a good natter after the dumplings, but luckily I remembered in time to share them out. Everyone said nice things about them, though I thought they were a bit dense when I tried one later, and The Scientist, while liking the cake, said they could do without the bean paste. What does he know?? We've agreed that vegan marge is no less disgusting than ordinary marge now though, so he should be less traumatised than last time to realise that's what he was eating :)
Whew - long story, good cupcakes, happy Chinese New Year.
Chinese new year cupcake recipe here (I halved it and then almost halved the sugar as well)
Chinese new year cupcake frosting here