The last time that I made watermelon cupcakes, I lamented the fact that the watermelon flavor wasn’t strong enough. Even though I had used my homemade watermelon syrup and watermelon butter in the cupcakes (both of which had vibrant, fresh fruity flavors), the cupcakes themselves were severely lacking. I asked one of the best sources of information I know (my readers) for help. How could I make true watermelon-flavored cupcakes? Some of you said it couldn’t be done and I would have to resort to artificial flavors (you should have known that I would never believe you), while others filled the post’s comments with ideas.
The idea that resonated the most with me was from the very first commenter, JodieMo of Eatin’ On the Cheap:
Once I got my heart set on using a watermelon jam or jelly, I immediately thought of my friend Marisa of Food In Jars. If anyone would know how to make a superb watermelon jelly, I knew it would be she. Marisa responded that she had never made watermelon jelly before, but she was up for the challenge (she’s a woman after my own heart). She not only agreed to make some watermelon jelly and post the watermelon jelly recipe on Food in Jars, but she offered to send me a jar! She’s the best – really! Go read her blog!
I have to assume that most of you have never tried watermelon jelly. I’ve never seen it for sale locally or even online. You might think (as I thought at first) that perhaps there is a reason that no one sells it – maybe watermelon jelly is no good. Wrong!
Watermelon jelly is spreadable Summer that you can use long after the first frost to conjure up memories of spitting seeds in the yard and gossiping with the neighbors. Its flavor is true to the melon with no chemicals needed, and the fact that you have to either make it yourself or know someone who will lovingly make it for you makes it all the more special.
Did Marisa’s Jelly Make For a True Watermelon-Flavored Cupcake?
After watermelon cupcake attempt one, I was a bit gun-shy. I wondered if the commenters who directed me toward artificial flavors might be right and I was wasting my time looking for a watermelon holy grail. I worried that if I baked the jelly into the cupcake, its flavor would fade away – and I only had the one jar. What if my new cupcake recipe were a failure and the precious jelly became a Cupcake Project sacrifice? I couldn’t let that happen!
I decided on two things:
- My watermelon cupcake recipe had to prominently feature the jelly.
- I needed a second flavor that would complement the watermelon and add a level of complexity to the cupcake.
To that end, I made a jelly roll of sorts – a yeasty basil cupcake with watermelon jelly rolled inside.
I couldn’t have been happier about my decision to add basil. Basil and watermelon may seem like an unlikely couple. But, once you get to know them, you’ll want to take them with you everywhere. Your turkey sandwich will thank you for adding basil olive oil and watermelon jelly to it – trust me!
And yes, with the watermelon jelly rolled throughout, the cupcakes did taste watermelony. My only regret is that the cupcakes were way too dry – like bread that needs to be buttered. I’d strongly advise that you slather some extra basil olive oil and watermelon jelly on top (in fact, I’d even recommend dunking bits of the cupcake in the jelly as you eat). Also, as with any drier cake or bread, these are best enjoyed in the morning with a hot beverage.
Will There Be a Watermelon Cupcake Attempt 3?
I felt really close on attempt 2, but I’m not quite there yet. Jonathan says that the dryness could be a plus (like a morning scone), but I want moisture. Maybe, now that I have Marisa’s jelly recipe, I’ll make some jelly of my own and try again.
Watermelon Cupcake Attempt 2 Recipe
Loosely based on Yeasted Olive Oil Plum Cake from Wild Yeast
Watermelon Cupcakes – Attempt Two (This Time With Jelly)
- 1 C olive oil
- 1 C fresh basil washed and tightly packed
- 2 3/4 C flour
- 1/3 C milk
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 2/3 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 C sugar
- 1 C watermelon jelly + extra for topping and dipping
Muddle basil leaves in olive oil and let sit for at least two hours.
Using a sieve, remove the basil leaves. (You've just made basil-infused olive oil. It's so good and so easy that you will want to make it all of the time.)
In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle, combine the flour, milk, yeast, salt, and eggs. Mix at low speed until incorporated. The dough will be stiff at this point.
Replace the mixer paddle with a dough hook. At medium speed, gradually add the sugar in 5 or 6 increments, mixing for about two minutes between each addition.
Continue mixing at medium speed until the dough starts to come together around the hook.
Change back to the mixer paddle. Add 1/2 cup of the basil-infused olive oil and mix at low speed until it is incorporated. This will take a while.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Cover and let sit for 2 hours in a warm location.
Roll the dough out to a 1/4" thick oval.
Spread the jelly on the dough, leaving about a 1/2" empty on all sides.
Starting with the long side of the oval, roll the dough over the jam to form a log.
Cut the log into 12 even pieces.
Shove the pieces into the cupcake wrappers however you want. Notice from the photo at the top of this post that I did this lots of different ways. They all look different and they all look pretty.
Cover the cupcake tin and let rise in a warm place for another two hours.
Bake at 400 F for 20 minutes.
If desired, drizzle with olive oil and spread watermelon jelly on top.
One Last Thing
Fans of watermelon should note that my favorite cupcake blog (other than my own), Cupcake Bakeshop, recently made watermelon chocolate ice cream cupcakes that look divine! She didn’t try to bake any watermelon into the cake (perhaps she wisely believed the rhetoric that you can’t make a cake taste like watermelon). Instead, her cupcakes derive their watermelon flavor from a watermelon buttercream and a watermelon sorbet.