Have you ever eaten custard apple? It’s also known as cherimoya and is primarily grown in South America and Australia. Currently in Barcelona these unusual-looking fruits are in season and are everywhere, so I decided to give them a go. They have an unusual appearance with a really lovely almost faceted pattern, although some are bumpier and less pretty!
The descriptions of their flavour that I found online take in everything from bananas and pineapple to vanilla and papaya. The best way I can think to describe it is as a sort of tropical custard. It’s got that light, sweet tropical flavour you find in pineapple and passion fruit, but then has a round comforting vanilla base to it. It’s pretty delicious and, apparently, if you eat them fresh where they are grown then they taste even better.
So I picked a couple up at the local market and tried to decide what to make. I knew I wanted to bake with them and thought I would be able to use them like an English apple, but their texture is very different.
To pick a ripe one you look for a similar consistency to an avocado or mango – something which is relatively firm, but with a good amount of give when you squeeze it. Then, when you chop it in half you have to kind of scoop out the flesh, rather than peel and chop it. Plus it is full of big black seeds and I found the easiest way to get rid of these was to press it through a sieve, which made it a bit more liquidy – in fact it would probably make a delicious ‘jus’!
I decided to give cupcakes a go as I thought they would benefit from that creamy custardy flavour and could have a nice tropical frosting to go with it. The experiment tasted great, but I learned a few important lessons which I will share at the end of this post for you.
So without further ado, here’s my recipe for you:
Custard Apple Tropical Cheesecake Cupcakes
- 115g butter (softened)
- 100g sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 140g plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- Pinch salt
- 140g custard apples
- 200g icing sugar, sifted
- 50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 125g cream cheese, cold
1/2 custard apple – sieved
- Lime zest – about 1/2 the lime if very fragrant, more if not.
- Preheat oven to 190/Gas 5
- Cream together butter, sugar and vanilla extract til pale and fluffy
- Add in the eggs bit by bit to avoid curdling
- Add in the custard apples – simply scoop out the insides and push it through a sieve. There are big black seeds so however you choose to add the cherimoya, just make sure there are no seeds accidentally included.
- Fold in the flour, salt and baking powder until just combined. If your mixture is very runny then pop a little extra flour into the mix – this will vary depending on how your flour responds and how ripe your custard apples are.
- Put into bun cases and bake for around 15 – 20 mins until golden and springy to the touch.
To make the frosting:
- Beat the icing sugar, lime zest and butter together until it goes pale.
- Add in the cream cheese all in one go and then beat on a high speed until fluffy. This usually takes around 5 mins, but my mixer broke half way through, so I can’t confirm that on this occasion!
- Add in the cherimoya liquid bit by bit and keep tasting along the way. When you feel that the balance of zing, sweetness and custard is right then stop. If it’s not sweet enough then add more icing sugar.
– If you’re putting them into a cake they are better when used as a liquid, otherwise you can get stringy bits in your bake
– They add too much liquid to make a solid frosting with them, so forget any dreams of piping and pretty designs! You can see I tried my best with some pink and yellow food colouring, but it wasn’t the most stylish frosting I’ve ever made.
– The flavour works really well with the zing of limes to lift it
– They need a tart accompaniment to stop them becoming sickly – I tried the frosting with and without lime and without was just overkill. I think they would work well with raspberries to cut through the sweetness
– They are really very sweet, you can cut down on sugar if you’re using these in a dessert. I’ve trimmed down the sugar in this cake mix a little and you could probably take another 25g out without hurting the flavour.
– Their period of perfect ripeness is short, so keep an eye on them – if the one you buy is a little hard then leave it to ripen, but beware because it can go too far quickly – like pears.
– They lose a lot of their flavour when heated, leaving mainly a vanilla sweetness in the cakes. Without the frosting you wouldn’t have tasted the cherimoya enough.
– I imagine they would be really very delicious in a fridge-set cheesecake!
Let me know if you decide to give cherimoya a go and whether you manage to make something delicious out of this unusual fruit!