I always try to keep it real here at SGCC. Sometimes, that means sharing my flops as well as my successes – and believe me, there are quite a few flops!
Remember this? 
How about this? 
Yessiree, things don’t always flow smoothly in my kitchen! But, that’s okay. We learn from our mistakes. And if that’s true, dear readers, I must be the smartest person on earth!
So when things didn’t turn out quite as planned while making these cupcakes, I decided to tell you about them anyway. Because they were still delicious. Because s*%t happens. And, because the truth will set you free. Here’s how it went down.
A few months ago, I “liked” Dolce Nonna’s fan page  on Facebook . Dolce Nonna  produces a line of artisanal food products, including marinated peppers, string beans and eggplant. The products are all natural and made by hand. They reminded me of the “giardiniera ” that my grandmother used to make. She would take a mix of fresh vegetables, simmer them in vinegar, sugar, water and spices until crisp-tender, and jar them. Her giardiniera was wonderful on an antipasto  tray or as a complement to any meal.
Before I ever got around to ordering any of Dolce Nonna’s products, I got an email from her letting me know that I been selected to receive a gift of her newest product – Succulent Spiced Pears. Woo hoo! Since I never win anything, I usually don’t bother to even try for giveaways. This time, I didn’t have to do a thing – and I won!
About a week later, the FedEx guy arrived at my door bearing three jars of Dolce Nonna’s Succulent Spiced Pears. After I gave him a big kiss (not really, but I wanted to), I opened up a jar and fished out a few slices to try. I liked them. I really, really liked them! They were sweet and spicy and just the tiniest bit “herby”. Peering into the jar, I saw chunks of fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks and anise seeds. Nice!
I served the rest of the jar alongside some grilled pork chops that night. A perfect combination! I saved one jar for snacking. And, I made these Succulent Spiced Pear Streusel Cupcakes with the third. I thought about giving one jar away, but they were too good to share.
To make the cupcakes, I mixed and matched a few different recipes and then added my own touches. For the cake and streusel filling, I used a coffee cake recipe  from the King Arthur Flour  web site. For the crumb topping , I used an old recipe from the New York Times . And, for the spiced pear filling, I used my imagination. None if these steps was very difficult. Except the using my imagination part. That one kind of hurt my head a little.
The first thing you need to do is make all of the different cupcake components.
Here’s the crumb topping. I could eat it with a spoon.
I chopped up the pears and added some raisins to them, just because I felt like it. I’m crazy like that.
Here’s how you build your cupcakes.
Fill each cupcake cup about one quarter full with cake batter.
Sprinkle on some streusel and fruit filling.
Then, pour some more cake batter over each one and put a generous handful of crumb topping on top.
And finally, bake them.
Well, this certainly wasn’t what I had in mind!
Not even my prettiest cake stand and ten Hail Marys could save these.
This one was the best of the bunch. It only had one big, gaping hole in it.
So, where did I go wrong? First of all, I was being lazy and I didn’t want to take the trouble to butter and flour my cupcake pan. I also couldn’t be bothered to walk the ten steps to my baking cabinet and fish out some cupcake liners. Luckily, I was able to reach my nonstick cooking spray without stretching my arm too far, so I sprayed the pan with that. It was one of those fancy, expensive, gold nonstick cupcake pans from Williams-Sonoma, so I figured it would be okay. Big, big, big mistake! Those cupcakes stuck to that pan like it was lined with Super Glue! I had to pry them out of the cups in chunks! I also forgot to mix a little flour in with the fruit, and it sank to the bottom of the cupcakes like spicy little lead balloons. On top of all that, I overfilled my cupcake cups and the batter bubbled up and oozed all over to rival Mt. Vesuvius.
Oh, how I wish that these had turned out better! Because if they looked pretty, you would most certainly be inspired to try them – and I so much want for you to try them.
So, do as I say and not as I do. Butter and flour your cupcake pans. Or better yet, use cupcake liners. Toss a little flour in with your pears and raisins. And, don’t overfill the pan. But, please, please, please, make. these. cupcakes! You will love, love, love them!
Succulent Spiced Pear Streusel Cupcakes
for the streusel: (adapted from King Arthur Flour  web site):
- 1 cup brown sugar, light or dark
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch-process or natural (optional)
for the crumb topping: (adapted from the New York Times )
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 1 3/4-2 cups all purpose flour
for the pear filling:
- 1 jar Dolce Nonna’s Succulent Spiced Pears
- 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup raisins
for the cupcakes (adapted from King Arthur Flour  web site):
- 3/4 cup butter
- 1 teaspoon salt (1 ¼ teaspoons if you use unsalted butter)
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
- 1 1/4 cups milk (anything from skim to whole)
- 3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 12-cup cupcake pan or insert a paper liner into each cup.
- To make the streusel: Mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa powder in a small bowl. Note that the cocoa powder is used strictly for color, not flavor. Leave it out if you like. Set aside.
- To make the crumb topping: In a large bowl, whisk together sugars, spices, salt and butter until smooth. Stir in flour with a spatula. Press mixture together. It will look like a solid dough. When ready to use, break topping mixture into big crumbs with your fingers, about 1/4 to 1/2- inch in size. They do not have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size.
- To make the pear filling: Drain the pears and reserve the liquid from the jar in a small bowl. Pat the pears dry and dice into small chunks. Place the diced pears in another small and toss with a tablespoon of flour. Set aside.
- Add the raisins to the reserved pear liquid and let it sit for about 5 minutes or until the raisins plump up a little. Drain and add raisins to the pears. Set aside.
- To make the cupcakes: In a large bowl, beat together the butter, salt, sugars, baking powder, and vanilla until well combined and smooth.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream or yogurt and milk till well combined. It’s okay if the batter is a little lumpy.
- Add the flour to the butter mixture alternately with the milk/sour cream mixture, beating gently to combine.
- Pour approximately 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of the batter into each cupcake cup (about 1/4 full). Then, sprinkle about a teaspoon of streusel filling and 1 tablespoon of pear filling on top of the batter. Add more batter to the cups until each is about two thirds full. Then, top each cup with some of the crumb topping.
- Bake about 30-35 minutes or until lightly golden and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Remove the cupcakes from the oven and cool on a wire rack for about 15-20 minutes before removing and serving.
Makes 12-15 cupcakes.